We would like to share some exceptional images that were made by visitors of the Elephant Conservation Center, Sayaboury, Laos.
The ECC has set up a breeding program which is unique to Laos. The females are kept together with a bull in their natural environment. We do this as often as possible to make sure they can get used to his presence. Females are more likely to present themselves to a sire when they are in estrus if they have been exposed to males often.
In the video below, you can see an attempt of Kham Ten to mount Mae Khian. Unfortunately, there was no penetration, but it is still good news that she feels comfortable letting him do this. Luckily, when there were no cameras he was more successful!
In order to ensure that the females don't get hurt by the bull, we tie a long chain to his front leg, which is not attached. In case he does start to act difficult, the mahout can tie him down, and the females can seek refuge.
You will notice the two other females walk back while the two others are occupied. When they have finished, they come closer to inspect not only the female, but the male too. This shows how comfortable they are with each other.
Elephants that are born at the Center will not be used to work or perform shows. If we wish to save the wild elephant population, we need a healthy captive population which can be reintroduced into the wild after careful planning. This is one of the main goals of the ECC.
Images like these can only be made if we let the elephants behave naturally, and we stay out of their way. The large area with observation platforms we have at the ECC offers a unique opportunity to witness situations like this.