The Central Highland province of Dak Lak is taking urgent measures to conserve local elephants amid a sharp plunge in the animal’s population, yet its efforts are encountering an array of problems.

The Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Centre has reported that the number of wild elephants has dropped to 60 – 70 individuals at present from over 550 in 1980, attributing it to deforestation and poaching for their tusks, hair and skin.

Meanwhile, the population of domesticated elephants has shrunk from 502 in 1980 to 49 now, down over 90 percent.

The herd is forecast to disappear in 20 – 30 years if the members do not reproduce.

Facing such a situation, the province in 2013 approved an urgent conservation project worth nearly 85 billion VND (4.05 million USD).

Director of the centre Huynh Trung Luan said 43 (19 male and 24 female) of the 49 domestic elephants are in the fertile age.

However, it’s not easy for them to reproduce since they are raised separately, and the centre is not large enough to keep them all together, he added.

From 2005 to 2012, 14,000 hectares of forest in Buon Don, Ea Sup and Ea H’lao districts, which used to be home to a large number of elephants, were destroyed. And poaching has also pushed the wide elephant population down even further.

Luan added that up to 60 percent of the fund is sourced from the State budget, but it has not been allocated to Dak Lak.

The province now only has enough money to pay salaries to its staff and cannot afford equipment necessary for the work.

Elephants are a specialty of Dak Lak’s tourism, and conserving the animal not only helps maintain a precious genetic source but also preserves the cultural identity of the region.-VNA