Nhon Hoa Elephant Village

Information Nhon Hoa Elephant Village

Nguyen Tan Thanh, Director of the Gia Lai Tourism Service Company, is one of the builders of the famous brand “Nhon Hoa elephant village”, which is widely known by local and international visitors who come to the Central Highlands.


In 1993, provinces and cities in Vietnam began to seek ‘tourism specialities’ for themselves. At that time, the Gia Lai Tourism Service Company introduced a special tour: elephant riding – a unique tourism product that only the Central Highlands had.


Buying this tour, visitors could ride on elephants to go from Plei Lao through Nhon Hoa field to go deep into Lop forest to view the imposing Truong Son Mountains and then going to Nhia waterfall to take a rest.


Sixteen elephants of the village of Plei Lao, Plei Kia, Plei Tho Go were employed to serve tourists and the brand “Nhon Hoa elephant village” was created.


The brand of  “Nhon Hoa elephant village” contributed to nurture the tourism sector of Gia Lai province in its difficult days and it became a famous brand for many travel agents, mentioned in many languages on Vietnamese and foreign websites.


Each year Gia Lai welcomed tens of thousands of visitors and over half of them bought elephant tours.


However, since 2001, tourism activities in Gia Lai have come to a standstill for many reasons and elephant tours no longer exist.


The “Nhan Hoa elephant village” brand was famous and many travellers wanted to buy this tour. The Gia Lai Tourism Service Company, therefore, couldn’t give up this service so it bought three elephants at VND160 million (US$10,000) to serve tourists at Phu Cuong-Chu Prong waterfalls.


Now the three elephants are a burden for the company since the elephant tour is not attractive to tourists anymore. The company can sell the elephants to local people but they don’t have the heart to sell them because these elephants are the last tame elephants in the north of the Central Highlands.


Nhon Hoa is not the name of a village but the name of a commune. Nhon Hoa commune comprises many villages. Elephants used to serve tourists were brought from various villages so gradually visitors were familiar with “Nhon Hoa elephant village”. This brand is gradually disappearing.


When the elephant tour is unattractive, elephant owners lose income and elephants become their burden because elephants need to be controlled. Elephants are often playful and without man’s control, they can destroy crops or tease cattle.


Local farmers now use motorised vehicles to do field work and they are not permitted to freely go into the forest to cut down timber so elephants are not useful to them now. Meanwhile the forest is being narrowed, seriously affecting the living environment of Nhon Hoa elephants. Nhon Hoa people have sold all of their tame elephants.


Missing elephants


Village patriarch Nay Tor still remembers his elephant, named Thong Kham, a female elephant that he exchanged his 80 cows for nearly 40 years ago.


Thong Kham lived with his family for tens of years and shared many ups and down with the family. She went to the forest to pull trees to build houses, to hunt wild animals and went to the field to carry farm produce. The elephant was a very close friend of the family.


According to the old man, in the past only rich families could own an elephant and the owners of elephants were highly respected. That’s why families in Nhon Hoa tried to own at least one elephant. Those who were poor, the whole clan contributed money to buy one.


In 2002, when the Gia Lai Tourism Service Company bought an elephant, the company had to have 21 signatures because the elephant was owned by 21 families in a clan.


Jo Rai ethnic people in Nhon Hoa don’t have the skills to tame wild elephants like the people in Don Village but they have assets to exchange for elephants.


According to village patriarch Nay Tor, all villages in Nhon Hoa had elephants, between several to 40 elephants. Each elephant was worth 50-100 cows or buffaloes. Elephants were also named like humans and when they died, they were buried and worshipped respectfully.


Mr. Tay Nor is very sad that there are no elephants in Nhon Hoa now. However, it is good news that the Central Highlands still has elephants. Don Village in the Dak Lak province now has 38 elephants, including some that they bought from Nhon Hoa.


However, Mr. Tay Nor, the man who has lived with elephants for nearly the whole of his life is still worried because the living environment of elephants is being narrowed. Don Village has hunted only one wild elephant for taming in many years.


The old man said that based on the fast disappearance of elephants in Nhon Hoa, if the state didn’t take timely measures to preserve elephants, Vietnamese people would only know imported elephants in zoos in the near future.

Source: english.vietnamnet.vn

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