Majestic elephant H’Non passes away peacefully and surrounded by love

22 April 2021

We are deeply saddened to share the news from our Ethical Elephant Experience of the passing of our beloved H’Non, who Animals Asia rescued in 2018.

Staff at the Yok Don National Park’s ethical elephant initiative found her on the ground one morning, unable to stand or sit up. They immediately alerted the local vet who tried to revive her. Sadly, H’Non decided she was ready to go and closed her eyes for the last time, surrounded by her beloved mahout, Wath, and the staff team who loved her dearly. 

H’Non was buried in the forest where she’d spent four happy, carefree years. The staff held a traditional farewell ceremony where they laid flowers, burned incense and said their private goodbyes. A small garden will be planted at her burial site so staff and visitors can remember her and pay their respects.

A tough life but carefree retirement

H’Non (meaning ‘Sleeping Lady’ in Vietnamese) was 58 years old when she died. Considering the hard life she’d led prior to being rescued this represents a full life. Captive elephants live for on average 40 years whereas in the wild an elephant can be expected to live for around 60 - 70 years. As many captive elephants in Vietnam and across Asia, she was used in the tourism industry, giving rides to paying customers as a means of income for her owner and his family.

Yet despite spending decades taking orders and being told what to do and when, H’Non wasted no time in expressing her strong personality as soon as she was rescued and arrived at Yok Don National Park.

H’Non the diva!

A fiercely intelligent elephant, H’Non was very particular about what she liked and made sure everyone knew it! From the temperature of her drinking water to the freshness of the grass she ate, everything had to be just right. 

A real water baby, H’Non would spend hours wallowing or splashing about in the river, where her friend - the recently rescued H’Plo - would often join her. 

She was very skilled at mixing mud and water, using her feet and trunk to get the right consistency to use; mud acts as a sunblock, insect repellent and moisturiser for elephants. 

Our ethical elephant initiative

Yok Don National Park is a huge, lush forest in which rescued elephants can roam, forage and play all day long. The National Park worked with Animals Asia to create the country’s first ethical elephant tourism model with the support of the Olsen Animal Trust.

Our ethical elephant initiative enables elephants to retire from the gruelling world of riding and offers them the opportunity to live happy, carefree lives while enabling local mahouts to earn a living. The project aims to create an ethical alternative tourism model to completely replace elephant riding and other elephant interaction models which have a detrimental effect on elephant welfare.

Tourists can now observe the elephants from a respectful distance and watch them display natural behaviours, all while going at the elephant’s pace.

This wonderful initiative, the first of its kind in Vietnam has so far helped rescue five elephants from the riding industry, and we are paving the way for a better world for captive elephants and tourism across the country.

Donate today in memory of H’Non, to support our work in bringing more elephants just like her to the forest, to live the rest of their lives in peace and free from the physical and mental constraints of riding. 

Read more:

Rescue of H’Plo

H’Plo’s story

Animals Asia’s ethical elephant initiative