“Phou Khao Khouay” is the closest National Protected Area to the Vientiane, the capital of Laos, once proudly called “Lane Xang”, the “Land of One Million Elephants”. This park so close to Vientiane and of 2000 km² in size, though heavily degraded in earlier times, is home to some important wildlife in Laos such as tiger, clouded leopard, bears, and elephant. Especially to the south the park is surrounded by numerous human settlements with subsequent danger of encroachment to the park. Two hydro-power projects add to the problems wildlife faces with human interference. The latter may also have pushed elephants from the mountains to the outskirts, increasingly forcing them to raid nearby farmlands - surely not to the pleasure of the affected farmers. This arising conflict finally culminated in the killing of elephants, jail sentences and hefty fines. Calls for permanently eliminating the elephants were commonly heard.
A community-based tourism development project in Ban Na, only about 80 km east of Vientiane and the most affected village, has, with considerable success, achieved to mitigate this conflict and calls itself now the “elephant village”, where tourists from all over the world can watch wild elephants in their natural habitat from an observation tower.