The 2010 Elephant Festival, with 50 pachyderms attending has been scheduled for February 20-21 in Viengkeo village, Hongsa district, Sayaboury province, organized by Elefantasia, a nature conservation organization working to increase awareness about the endangered elephants. Elephant processions, bathing, rides, ceremonies, a logging demonstration, treks and an Elephant of the Year competition are expected.
Laos was once referred to as Prathet Lan Xang, the Realm of a Million Elephants, but hunting and deforestation have greatly reduced their numbers.
Wild elephants have less than 47% of the country to roam in and are in constant danger from hunters, particularly poachers from across the borders who want the elephants for their ivory, although it is technically illegal to trade in it. There may be fewer than 700 left in the wild today and only 570 who are known to be domesticated. This is a 20% drop from 10 years ago.
Some have even been victims of UXO, unexploded ordnance leftover from the war for Laos (1954-1975).