Tusk of the matter: Le Van Thao poses with an elephant on his trip to the Central Highlands to photograph the last tamed ones. — File Photo
HA NOI — A recently released postcard book titled Nhung Nguoi Ban Lon (The Giant Friends) features 51 elephants that work with families living in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Dac Lac.
A photograph, biography and the characteristics of each elephant cover a double page colour spread, along with the slogan: "Don't let elephants become a memory".
Photographer Le Van Thao said: "The portraits of the animals pull out as postcards so people can send them to relatives and friends. One person's love for elephants can be multiplied 51 times."
Viet Nam Green Trip – a project carried out by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in the Central Highlands – witnessed the suffering of elephants in Dac Lac. Since 1985, their numbers have fallen to 52 from 500. Most were killed for their body parts while many that are still alive are missing tails, tusks and hairs, the latter of which are sold as good luck charms.
Duong Trung Quoc, a key contributor to the book and editor-in-chief of Past and Present magazine, said: "The slogan fits our ideas about the past and the present. To us, elephants are an integral part of our history. They have accompanied us in the process of protecting and developing the country.
Central Highland animals showcased in exhibit
Last Tamed Elephants in Central Highlands, an exhibition featuring photographs of 51 elephants, takes place from today until next Monday in the National Library of Viet Nam, 31 Trang Thi Street, Ha Noi.
A conference to look at ways to pull Vietnamese elephants back from the brink of extinction is also expected to attract the participation of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Dac Lac Province, along with scientists, writers and journalists.
Other countries have elephant conservation programmes, but in Viet Nam, they don't seem to be enforced," the National Assembly representative added.
The project also discovered that one animal was found dead with a total of 217 cuts to its body in Buon Don District, while another had been electrocuted and beaten with a large hammer until it had breathed its last in Lam Dong Province. Some families had slaughtered their own elephants. One owner in Da Lat city even appeared on television appealing for help after his elephants were slaughtered when he had actually committed the act himself, but most culprits are not caught.
"There is a paradox in Viet Nam today that dead elephants are more financially valuable than live ones, which is why their numbers have dropped so much. Do we have any way of preventing them from disappearing? Losing the elephants would be like losing part of our nation's history. I will present the book and send the questions to the National Assembly," historian Quoc said.
"Elephants are the largest land animals on the planet. It is a shame that while men grow, their ‘giant friends' are abandoned," he sighed. — VNS