About us

Why Yok Don is different

Yok Don has changed from elephant-riding to elephant-friendly tourism model for three years. We want the elephants to be happy and to live a good life they deserve to have.

Elephants in Yok Don National Park are allowed to roam free in their favorite places such as under the open canopy of dry deciduous dipterocarp forests or in the big grassland in the forests. On a daily basis, the mahouts come visit and take care of them.

Join our tour and you can go find elephants in the forests and watch them have a good time being themselves. You can see how elephants find and eat food. Most of the time, elephants eat bamboo leaves during rainy season. They also find bamboo shoots, forest crocus and green vegetation. You may see how they resourcefully remove soil and gravel out of the bunch of grass they have just taken from the ground, playfully play with their favorite new toy (a particular branch of bamboo leaves, for example) or attentively stick their ears out listening to any sound in the presence of something unusual. Here in Yok Don, elephants can eat and drink as much as they can and whenever they can. You can watch them being a skillful mud-and-water mixer and have a mud bath party. Additionally, you will be guided to know about natural behaviors of elephants, get to know characteristic personality traits of the elephants you observe, listen to interesting stories relating to wild elephants and captive elephants in Buon Don and in Dak Lak and identify some animal tracking if you happen to come across any.

The era of elephants being used as a beast of burden will be over soon. Elephants in Yok Don National Park are viewed as happy individuals, not a vehicle to carry people across the river or just to have a good view. They deserve to have a good time for the rest of their lives.

Yok Don National Park are proud to be the first one to change to this elephant-friendly tourism model in Vietnam. We expect to bring the best experience to our guests while doing no harm to the elephants. We also hope to set the trend for other elephant housing facilities.

Why we take this big step

Yok Don National Park, endeavor to bring the best experience to our visitors. Meanwhile, we wish our Vietnamese and foreign tourists to know more about elephants and view this species in a respectful way.

Captive elephants in Vietnam are found to be mainly in Dak Lak province, located in Buon Don, which is the cradle of elephant capture and taming in Vietnam, and Buon Jun (Lak Lake). Currently there are 45 captive elephants left in Dak Lak. (figures by 2018). Currently, most of captive elephants in Dak Lak are used in elephant-riding tourism. This causes serious damage to elephants’ health, welfare and life expectancy. Elephants who give rides often suffer from many diseases such as arthritis, foot problems, permanent spinal damage and skin problems. Additionally, they are restrained from the choice to have food, water, get rest whenever they want and to live socially with their groups.

 

Captive elephants in Dak Lak are getting older and older while there have been no baby elephants to be born (by 2018). Most of female elephants in Dak Lak are now too old to be fertile. Plus, it is rare for captive elephants to be pregnant. They may not have the choice to mate with the individuals they like due to the limited number of elephants in the village, the skewed ratio of female to male and the difference in social status and perspectives of elephant owners’ families. The unnatural habitat elephants are forced to live in, the burden and heavy workload they have to bear on a daily basis may also be contributors to the current situation.

 

As a National Park, it is our duty to promote conservation, to protect the scientific value of wildlife in the area. Additionally, we are responsible for utilising the landscape to develop ecotourism, assist local people in creating jobs, participate in tourism activities and improve living standards here. Plus, travellers all over the world tend to have more respect for nature and humane treatment towards animals. Therefore, taking such a big step – changing to an elephant-friendly tourism model – is a sound decision.

We are looking forward to having  your understanding for this decision. We wish to have your support to make the model work for the very first time in Vietnam.