A national park in Vietnam has launched an ethical elephant experience and abandoned elephant rides.

Yok Don National Park in Dak Lak province now offers ethical elephant tours, during which tourists can observe elephants from a distance, Lonely Planet reports. The Non-Government Organization (NGO) Animals Asa commended the move, saying “exploitation has been replaced with respect.”

In the past, all four of the elephants in the park were kept in chains and used for tourist rides, which prevented them from obtaining food when they wanted, drinking water when they were thirsty and interacting with other animals.

Olsen Animal Trust from the UK has provided funding to ensure the elephant owners can make ends meet in order for a more ethical approach to generate long-term dividends for all stakeholders.

The change has reportedly already brought positive change in the elephants’ behaviors. Animals Asia’s Dionne Slagter said the elephants at Yok Don now spend up to 18 hours a day foraging, just like elephants in the wild. She also said the elephants now look healthier and more confident in their movements.

Compared to its neighboring nations, Vietnam has lagged behind in terms of conservation. This has caused a sharp decrease in the elephant population, and means that there are fewer than 100 elephants left in the wild in Vietnam.

Yok Don National Park will continue this initiative until April 2023, setting an example for other elephant owners in the country to follow in their footsteps.

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