Ep. 39 Show Notes | Saving the Elephants of Laos with Michael Vogler

Hey, everyone! Welcome to Rewildology, the show all about conservation, travel, and rewilding the planet. I’m your host, Brooke Mitchell-Norman, conservation biologist and adventure traveler.

Elephants. We’ve chatted quite a bit about these animals on this podcast, everything from anti-aging research to human-elephant conflict. But there is one huge, controversial topic that we haven’t touched on before: elephant tourism. If you haven’t traveled to Southeast Asia, then maybe you’ve seen photos on Instagram or videos on YouTube of people traveling abroad and having experiences with elephants; everything from bathing elephants to riding them, to watching them do tricks in front of thousands of onlookers. Maybe you’ve seen elephants being used as beasts of burden for laborious jobs. And I have to ask; how did watching these interactions make you feel? 

Now, imagine you are traveling and witness firsthand elephants being treated in ways that you completely disagree with. What would you do?

That’s exactly what occurred with today’s guest, Michael Vogler. Michael grew up in the mountains of Colorado and while on a trip to Laos after college, saw elephant treatment that he couldn’t bear. He had previously been on several trips abroad working on various conservation programs and he wanted to start his own impactful project. So, he and his close friend partnered with locals Laotians to found MandaLao, a no-riding, sustainable elephant tourism experience. They immediately grew in popularity, but his road has been anything but easy.

This week’s question:
Have you participated in elephant tourism anywhere in the world? If so, what were your thoughts about the experience? Did Michael’s stories clarify the conundrum of captive elephants in Asian countries?

I’d love to hear your answer. Send me an email or post your comment on the Rewildologists Community Facebook Group!

Alright, everyone. Here is my conversation with Michael.

Ep. 39 | Saving the Elephants of Laos with Michael Vogler
Ep. 39 | Saving the Elephants of Laos with Michael Vogler

Watch this episode on YouTube.

Watch this episode on YouTube.

Key Takeaways & Highlights

🐘 Michael’s journey through childhood growing up in the mountains of Colorado
🐘 His moving conservation experiences abroad in and after college
🐘 The first time he traveled to Laos and saw the unacceptable conditions the elephants were being kept in
🐘 How he and his best friend co-founded MandaLao Elephant Conservation
🐘 The struggles he’s facing with COVID-19 and the pushback he’s received from changing the way elephants are treated in an entire country
🐘 His hopes for the future and open invite for all of us to visit their elephant facility

Links & Resources


MandaLao’s Website: https://mandalaotours.com/
MandaLao’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mandalao_elephants/
Donate through GoFundMe: https://gofund.me/a66069c1
Donate through Lao Elephant Initiative: https://www.laoelephantinitiative.org/
Donate through Katie Adamson Conservation Fund: https://www.katieadamsonconservationfund.org/

Contacting Michael

You can reach Michael by emailing him at michael@mandalaotours.com.

Join Rewildologists Today!

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Check out other Rewildology Episodes.

Ep. 38 Show Notes | The Snow Leopard: Conserving Himalayas’ Phantom Apex Predator with Rinzin Lama
Ep. 37 Show Notes | The (Im)Balance Between Life & Water with Charles van Rees, PhD
Ep. 36 Show Notes | Rescuing An Endangered Bat From the Edge of Extinction with Iroro Tanshi

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