Recently rescued elephant Kham Phanh is loving sanctuary life!

24 November 2021

As sociable, emotional and cognitively complex animals, elephants need their own kind, vast areas in which to roam and a rich, varied diet in order to thrive.

But for hundreds of elephants across the world, this is far from their reality.

Kham Phanh was one of these elephants. Born into captivity 46 years ago, she was forced to carry heavy logs and other agriculutral products for her human owners day in, day out, for years on end.

Can you imagine how lonely, bored and tired Kham Phanh must have been? 

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Kham Phanh’s life changes forever

After building a trusting and respectful relationship with Kham Phanh’s owners, they agreed to let Animals Asia move her to the Yok Don National Park.

We signed an agreement with the National Park to end elephant riding there and create an ethical elephant experience for tourists. 

Today, former riding elephants roam the vast forest, forage and take mud baths or swim in the lakes whenever the mood takes them. For the first time in their lives, they are free to make their own choices. They are free to simply be elephants. 

Kham Phanh is the latest elephant to join the other rescued elephants at the National Park. At first we weren’t sure how she would adapt, as she is an older elephant and had never had any freedoms.

But, we needn’t have worried. To our delight and relief, Kham Phanh adapted almost immediately to her new surroundings and struck up a friendship with H’Plo, a female elephant we rescued in 2020.

Water baby

A few months after arriving at Yok Don, Kham Phanh is the picture of happiness. Where before her freedom was curtailed she now walks as much or as little as she likes, stopping to munch on lush leaves or forage for tasty treats in the bushes. 

This week we received some amazing footage of her having the time of her life in one of the park’s lakes. Her mahout watched on in absolute joy as she threw herself around, splashing and squirting water into the air without a care in the world!

Ryan Hockley, Animals Asia Elephant Welfare Advisor said, “Kham Phanh is now under the care of the dedicated teams at the Elephant Conservation Centre, Animals Asia and the Yok Don National Park. It’s a huge collaborative effort to help rebuild her character, which has been hidden for so many years, and show who she is as an elephant.”

Improving elephant welfare and conservation in Vietnam

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare team in Vietnam has been campaigning and working for decades to improve elephant welfare, preserve the increasingly dwindling wild populations and end elephant riding tourism.

We are making great progress in these areas through our collaboration with the Elephant Conservation Centre, a government-run sanctuary, Yok Don National Park, and the local authorities and continue to work towards a kinder world for elephants. A world in which they are free to be who they were always meant to be. 

Read more:

Timeline of elephant welfare progress in Vietnam

Kham Phanh rescued from life of labour