Lao Handovers Two Elephants as Gift for King Norodom Sihamoni

Linkham Duongsavanh (R), minister of Agriculture and Forestry in Lao, on May 12 presented the elephants to Dith Tina (L), minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries during a ceremony at Phnom Tamao Zoo where the elephants will reside. Photo: Soy Rathanakvisal

PHNOM PENH — The government of Lao PDR on May 12 handed over two elephant calves to Cambodia in a move to strengthen ties between the neighboring countries.



The two 3-year-old Asian elephants—the male Champa and the female Rumduol named after the respective national flowers of Lao and Cambodia—are a gift from Laotian President Thongloun Sisoulith to King Norodom Sihamoni, which had been mentioned during Sisoulith’s state visit to Cambodia in April 2024.



Linkham Duongsavanh, minister of Agriculture and Forestry in Lao, on May 12 presented the elephants to Dith Tina, minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries during a ceremony at Phnom Tamao Zoo where the elephants will reside.



As Linkham explained, the two elephants were transported from Xayaburi province in Laos to Takeo province, covering a distance of nearly 2,000 kilometers. He added that the elephant is the soul of the people of Xayaburi and of the Laotian people.



“I am confident that this pair of elephants can live peacefully in Cambodia, which has the same traditions as Laos from ancient times, and are an important symbol contributing to fostering the long-standing friendship and solidarity between the countries and its people,” he said.



Tina stressed that the elephants were meaningful presents from Lao to Cambodia as this animal has been present in both countries since ancient times and has played various roles in transportation and temple construction as well as war.



In Cambodia, Tina said, the presence of elephants in society can be seen at temples including Angkor Wat, and at the Terrace of the Elephants in the city of Angkor Thom.



Today, however, elephants are facing threats globally, and are on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) and in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Tina said. Cambodian law bans hunting, activities causing harm or domesticating elephants, he said.



Cambodia has 400-to-600 wild elephants and 75 domesticated elephants in captivity.  



“This gift turned another historical page in our history, especially the conservation of elephants,” the Cambodian minister said, adding that the two countries’ ties will be further strengthened through this.



The visit of Laotian Minister Linkham Duongsavanh to Cambodia includes an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace in the afternoon of May 12 to discuss the two elephants gifted by Laos.



Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture had prepared a large enclosure in Phnom Tamao Zoo for the pair of elephants including a pool suitable for the biological characteristics of Asian elephants living in the forest.



Two Laotian mahouts, or elephant keepers, will keep their eyes on the calves for six months along with the Cambodian staff members to assist with the food provision and health checks.



Phnom Tamao has four elephants: two females—Lucky, 25 years old, and Chamroeun, 35—and two males—Chhouk, 18 years old, and Sakor, 32. They will continue to be taken care of along with the new elephants.



According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Agriculture during the event, the elephants gifted by Lao will lead to an increase in the number of domestic elephants when they are able to, and replace older domestic elephants as Cambodia does not allow the capture of elephants in the wild anymore.


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