Wild elephants destroy homes and crops in northern Laos

Villagers have stopped working their farms in the evening out of fear the animals will return.
By RFA Lao
Wild elephants destroy homes and crops in northern Laos A herd of wild elephants invade a rice field in La district, Oudomxay province in 2019.
Credit: RFA Lao Service screenshot from Oudomxay TV.

A dozen wild elephants destroyed several homes in a village in northern Laos that borders protected forest land, causing extensive damage to rice fields and other crops, several villagers said. 

The rampage on Monday in Oudomxay province followed a similar incident in January when the elephants showed up just as the rice plants were growing tall, according to one resident of the province’s La district. They came again five days later to eat other crops in the area.

The elephants also wrecked a shelter at a nearby rubber plantation, the resident said, adding that villagers are now afraid to work their farms in the evening because the animals like to come after sunset.

A husband and wife said in a video clip on their Facebook page that their hut and rice fields were ruined in the Monday attack.

“They destroyed all of our property, including our clothes, kitchen wares, pots and dishes,” the couple said in a video clip on their Facebook page. “This time is the worst, they destroyed everything.”

Radio Free Asia attempted to contact the couple through Facebook, but didn’t immediately receive a response. 

The annual aggressive period

Elephants who eat farmers’ crops are simply looking for food, said a staff member at the Elephant Conservation Center in neighboring Xayaburi province. But if they destroy other property, like homes or trees, that’s an indication that male elephants are in their annual aggressive period, known as musth, the staff member said. 

A large stretch of forest land has been set aside for elephants where they can live and forage peacefully, an official with Oudomxay province’s Agriculture and Forestry Department said. There are about 20 wild elephants in La district, he said. 

“We’ve ordered people to move away from the habitat,” the official said. “We’ve also built some tree houses to monitor and watch the wild animal activities.”

District authorities paid some compensation to villagers who lost their homes in January that included the provision of lumber, corrugated sheets and nails. Eventually, provincial authorities want to develop the area as a tourist attraction where people can drive their cars to watch the elephants, the official said.

Laos has about 800 elephants, and half of those live in the wild, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


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