Annual elephant festival raises awareness on conservation
Xayaboury province: The 11th annual elephant festival in Xayaboury province opened for a parade of some 68 pachyderms at the provincial central stadium last Saturday morning.
The event was attended by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Xayaboury provincial Governor, Mr Phongsavanh Sitthavong who also gave the opening speech, officials and thousands of people including foreign visitors.
During his speech, Mr Phongsavanh Sitthavong represented provincial authorities and the festival organising committee to warmly welc ome the prime minister and all the assembled guests.
He also expressed his impressions on organising the festival, reviewed the history of the event and its importance, and blessed the audience and wished them a joyful time.
The opening ceremony featured various activities comprising a grand parade, art and culture performances; and the 21 programmes of the smart elephants' demonstrations and performances.
There was also the elephants' caravan holding the national flag and the festival emblem, various dance performances, Khaen playing, drum hitting, painting, playing football, a running competition, tug of war, flower presentation, elephant training, and other activities.
The ceremony ended with a large baci ceremony for the elephants during which the participants could give food and some banknotes to their favourite giant creature.
After the opening ceremony, various activities continued to run until Sunday and visitors enjoyed taking a part in riding on elephants' backs to enjoy the view around the town, feeding the elephants, watching the elephants bathing in the Houng River, witnessing them demonstrate their skills and the close relationship they have with their mahouts, taking photos with the elephants and other pursuits.
The festival ended meaningfully on Sunday with various activities such as the announcementof the results of the beautiful decoration award and smart elephant contest, as well as saying thank you to the elephants with a special buffet.
T his was the 11th elephant festival since it was first initiated, organised by Xayaboury provincial authorities.
The celebration started on February 13 featuring many activities including a vibrant street market featuring local products and goods from neighbouring countries, cultural performances, and elephant rehearsals.
The elephant festival is the biggest provincial festival for promoting elephant protection and preservation, tourism as well as local culture and products.
The event aims to raise awareness among members of the public on elephant preservation as well as promote the culture and livelihoods of Lao people, especially those in Xayaboury who work with elephants.
Elephants are a longstanding part of the nation's history and have been an integral part of Lao life since ancient times.
The festival greatly benefits the tourism sector, as well as the elephants, both directly and indirectly.
Meanwhile local villagers receive income directly from festival goers, while more income goes to the elephant camps, which have been increasing every year.
The festival seeks to highlight the past and present role that elephants play in Laos, and their importance in Lao history and lifestyle.
It also highlights the plight of these endangered animals, whose numbers are dwindling fast. The first elephant festival was held in 2007 in Hongsa district and it was subsequently held in Paklai district in 2008, and then 2009 in Xayaboury district.
After that it was organised in Xayaboury district again in 2012 and the event become recognised as a provincial celebration for promoting the local culture.
(Latest Update February 20, 2017)