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25/02/2011

Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Laos (Lan Xang - Million Elephants - "The Kingdom of a Million Elephants")


This photo was taken in Laos.
The Asian or Asiatic Elephant (Elephas maximus), sometimes known by the name of one of its subspecies, the Indian Elephant, is one of the three living species of elephant, and the only living species of the genus Elephas. It is the largest living land animal in Asia. The species is found primarily in India, Sri Lanka, Burma and parts of Nepal and Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, China, Buthan and Sumatra. It is considered endangered due to habitat loss and poaching, with between 41,000 and 52,000 elephants left in the wild. Asian elephants are rather long-lived, with a maximum recorded life span of 86 years.
The elephant was symbolic of the ancient kingdom of Laos, known as "The Kingdom of a Million Elephants".
Historically Laos used to be called "Lan Xang", which translates to "The Land of A Million Elephants". The name was established in 1354 by King Fa Ngum because the old capital of the Kingdom was Luang Prabang and it was surrounded by large grazing pastures for wild herds of elephants. Also elephants were used as the principal engines of war and a transport for the Lao Royal Family back in ancient times.
Asian elephants loved Laos as their home because the country used to have extensive forest and crops and a sparse human population. However, due to modern day wars and bombs which have scared the elephants away as well as forests being cut down resulting in less food for them, the elephant population in Laos and our proud national heritage is dwindling fast.
Elephants were a dream for every elephant lover visiting Laos, but today they are scarce. Laos is now thought to have only 700 elephants left in the wild.
Elephants will always be an important part of history and appreciation to Lao people because these large beasts was a vehicle for transport and work for centuries. The 3 headed Elephants were contained in a Lao flag during the monarchial times that represented Lao unity between Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Champassak.

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