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After 3-year Hiatus, The Lao Elephant Festival is to be Held in February


The event is meant to stress the traditional ties to animals and highlight their endangered status.

After a three-year suspension due to the COVID pandemic, Laos will hold its annual Elephant Festival in February with about 75 of the majestic animals taking part in a grand procession in an event meant to stress the cultural ties between the mammals and communities and to highlight their endangered status.

The Feb. 18-20 festival to be held in Xayabury province, in northwestern Laos near the Thai border, will focus on Asian elephant habitat and preservation during the day and feature concerts, performances and other entertainment for visitors, a tourist official said. Visitors will be able to ride elephants along a main street.

For Laotians, elephants are a symbol of power, especially in rural areas, where residents use them for transportation, tourism and as pack animals in logging, clearing land and farming. 

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The festival is meant to preserve and raise awareness about the animals, especially given a drastic decrease in the elephant population in the past three years because of hunters. The poachers kill the elephants for their ivory tusks and other parts to sell to Chinese and Vietnamese buyers who use them for traditional medicine.

Officials canceled the event in 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19.

A tour operator said that the holding of the event will please the tourism industry in Xayabury province and related sectors because most people who attend are Laotians.

Another tour operator said he did not have plans to take domestic tourists to the three-day festival this year because all the visitor buses are booked to travel someplace else during that time.

But he said it would be easier for visitors from other provinces and the capital Vientiane to reach the festival via the Laos-China high-speed railway and by bus. By car, the journey from Vientiane to Xayabury province takes seven or eight hours, he said.

“Now it’s convenient because the Lao-China railway from Luang Prabang to Xayabury takes only one hour and from Vientiane to Luang Prabang two hours, so altogether three hours,” the tour operator said.