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100 elephants expected to stomp to festival in Laos

More than 100 elephants are expected to take part in Laos ' third elephant festival to be held next year, according to organisers ElefantAsia.

The festival will take place on February 14 and 15 next year in Xayaboury town, Xayaboury province.

ElefantAsia Communications Officer, Ms Ingrid Suter, said the organisers loved elephants so much that Valentine's Day seemed like the perfect time to schedule the event.

“The festival will be a celebration of cultural and traditional ties between the local community and elephants, as well as drawing local and international attention to the endangered status of this charismatic species,” Ms Suter said.

“Xayaboury province is a great location because it is very picturesque with beautiful rivers and mountains.”

The festival will feature an elephant procession, mahout demonstrations, elephant bathing, an outdoor elephant museum, a traditional baci ceremony, fruit and flower offerings, monk blessings, live performances from local and foreign artists, and night markets.

A documentary film about elephants will be shown on a large outdoor screen and people will also be able to go for elephant rides in the neighbouring forest.

Organisers will award a motorbike to the mahout whose elephant is the healthiest and best-looking at the festival. The owner of every elephant that takes part in the festival will also receive a first-aid kit to use in the care of their elephant.

Visitors to the festival can choose from a range of accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses or camping.

“The 2008 festival was held in Paklay district of Xayaboury province and local people made a good income from offering reasonably-priced home-stay for visitors,” Ms Sutor said.

“People in Xayaboury town expect to do the same next year.”

Visitors can fly direct from Vientiane to Xayaboury in about 50 minutes. Travelling via hire car or local bus from Luang Prabang to Xayaboury province takes two to three hours or 10-12 hours from Vientiane .

ElefantAsia is a non-profit organisation which has been operating in Laos since 2001 and aims to protect the Asian elephant.

Ms Suter said there were about 1000 wild and 600 domesticated elephants in Laos .

The 2008 festival featured 70 elephants and attracted more than 50,000 people.

By Phonesavanh Sangsomboun

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