Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy
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New Pyin Oo Lwin Elephant Camp Opens to the Public

Zarni Mann The Irrawaddy

MANDALAY — Seeing colorful balloons and dozens of people at her new home is exciting Nyein Nang Moe, a 9-year-old female elephant.

Although she is obedient to her trainer, she is curious and tries to touch visitors with her trunk

“She is hungry but not eating because she is excited and wants to play,” said her keeper, as Nyein Nang Moe attempted to touch the mobile phone of one guest.

“She knows how to touch the touch screen of a mobile phone. She plays with it,” he added.

Nyein Nang Moe is one of the elephants that was transferred from the timber camps in Thabeikkyin Township, Mandalay Region, to the new elephant camp called Dee Doke, located in Pyin Oo Lwin Township, which opened to the public last week.

She and five other the elephants who became unemployed due to the declining use of elephants in timber log production, will spend their lives in this new sanctuary where they will be visited by nature lovers.

“Since we are not going to use them for work, we have to think of their livelihoods. Creating natural sanctuaries for them is better than keeping them in a zoo,” said U Nanda Soe, the assistant general manager of Mandalay Region’s Myanma Timber Enterprise, under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.

This new safe haven, located 25 miles east of Mandalay, is surrounded by two waterfalls, Wat Kar and Dee Doke. The Dee Doke blue lagoon is also nearby.

“The sanctuary is offering short and long trips, traveling on the backs of the elephants. Visitors can walk through the forest too. We are hoping to promote eco-tourism in the region while taking care of these elephants,” explained U Nanda Soe.

According to the Myanma Timber Enterprise, it is establishing more sanctuaries in Shan and Karen states and Bago Region, which could keep their elephants close to nature. Company statistics report 2940 elephants owned by the government and working around the country and under the care of the enterprise.

A new sanctuary in Pyay was also recently opened to attract travellers.

The enterprise already operated 17 elephant camps, including camps for retired elephants and camps where visitors can explore timber harvesting with elephants. An elephant hospital was also opened in Bago. In the near future, another sanctuary will open in Kalaw.

In the future, where there is no use for elephants in timber harvesting, these sanctuaries will become their homes where they will become promoters of eco-tourism, earning visitors’ interest and love.