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Elephant Dies of Exhaustion While Serving Tourists in Dak Lak: Report

On Sunday, authorities from Dak Lak Province announced that a 40-year-old elephant died suddenly while serving tourists at the Ban Don tourist area.

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According to Tuoi Tre, citing VietnamNet, the elephant died of exhaustion while carrying a group of tourists through a nearby forest.

The animal, worth VND700 million when it was alive, was given a traditional offering ceremony by its owner Y Ka Tuk following its death.

The number of tamed elephants in the area has declined sharply in recent years due to being overworked for tourism activities. This heavy physical toll and a shrinking natural environment have also stopped elephants from mating and giving birth.

Vietnam’s wild elephants aren’t faring any better than their domesticated counterparts.

By some estimates, in 1980, there were approximately 1,500 to 2,000 wild elephants in Vietnam. But unchecked development, weak environmental laws, logging, poaching and human-elephant conflicts have reduced this number to 70.

 “They’re right on the edge. And it will take a lot for them to recover. Not only a huge conservation shift but a huge cultural shift as well,” said Barney Long, Director of the Species Program at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2013.

Meenakshi Nagendran, a wildlife biologist and Program Officer with the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) said that if the population of elephants is indeed 70, “the number could bounce back” assuming land and protection policies were enforced.

But with poor population tracking, Nagendran isn’t confident in the stated population, “a lot of NGOs say there are only 10 to 15 wild elephants left in Vietnam.”

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