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Posted Tue Aug 10 2010: from Guardian:
Conservationists warn of elephant extraction from Laos to China circuses
Once worshipped as gods, the animals are still considered sacred by many in Laos, but loss of habitat and tradition means there are now just 20 domesticated elephants under the age of 10 left in the country. The agreement with the circus company will see seven of these youngsters, along with four older animals of breeding age, exported from the remote Thongmixay district, in Laos's Sayaburi province, to southern China this autumn. Although Laos signed up in 2004 to the CITES international agreement against trading endangered wildlife, a loophole is being exploited. Elephants are being taken out of the country on "long-term loans" to zoos and circuses in foreign countries but are never returned. With the most recent government estimates suggesting there are now as few as 600 wild and only 480 domesticated elephants left in the country, hopes for the survival of the species in Laos are pinned on breeding programmes involving the domesticated population. The loss of so many young elephants will place that under threat, the NGO ElefantAsia has warned. The group has official responsibility for the animals, having been charged by Laos's department of livestock to manage the Laos Elephant Care and Management Programme.
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