Elephants live in Vietnam, but your chance of seeing one in the wild is almost zero percent. At one time, Vietnam’s elephant population was bustling, but the country’s species’ existence has been drastically reduced since the turn of the century. During the 1990s, there were as many as 2,000 elephants left out in nature, but that number has shrunk down to about 150 in recent years.
Asian Elephants in Vietnam
The only type of elephant in the country is the Asian Elephant, an endangered species that can grow up to 9 feet tall and have an average weight of 8,800 pounds when mature. This variety is smaller than their African Elephant cousins, and only the males of this breed have tusks. Their life span is about 48 years.
While these animals are intelligent and avoid humans when approached in the wild, they can be unpredictable and will charge when threatened. The remaining elephants in the country live in a few known areas.
Yok Don National Park
Dak Lak Province used to be the most prominent hot spot for wild elephants in Vietnam, and now many of the ones left in the country live within Yok Don National Park.
At one time, elephants were domesticated in this area and worked for natives and tourists to the region. They have stopped using the animals in this way and released them into the park, where a “mahout” (personal elephant tender) watches out for them. As of 2018, Yok Don National Park offers guided tours into the natural environment where visitors may see an elephant.
Pu Mat National Park
A few elephants live in Pu Mat National Park, but it’s improbable that you’ll see them in their natural habitat. This park does offer an abundance of other natural wildlife and scenery that is enjoyable for a hike, but elephant sightings are scarce.
Quang Nam Province
Quang Nam Province is home to cities like Hoi An and Tam Ky, but it’s also the location of the 19,000-hectare Quang Nam Elephant Sanctuary. The sanctuary was opened in 2017 and is where a herd of at least eight Asian elephants live, but it’s off-limits to the public.
Elephant Rides in Vietnam
We strongly encourage you to avoid elephant rides as a tourist attraction, but they exist in Vietnam. Sadly, these animals are domesticated and abused by being forced to give rides to sightseers. The weight of humans is not suitable for the elephant’s backs either, so from a moral standpoint, it’s best to avoid engaging in this activity.
Conservation Efforts by the Vietnamese Government
Fortunately, the Vietnamese government is taking a more assertive approach to saving the elephants by creating the ECC (Elephant Conservation Centre) in 2011. There are two departments within the ECC, one dedicated to assisting elephants in the wild and the other assigned to those in captivity.
With financial assistance from the government, the goal of the ECC also includes protecting the welfare of all the elephants in the country and helping them repopulate. Since there are very few elephants in Vietnam right now, hopefully, the herds will grow in the future.