Written by: David D'Angelo
Destination: Luang Prabang, Laos
Visited: February 2018
David D'Angelo is an award winning social entrepreneur who has been featured in Forbes. In 2015, he was recognized by Echoing Green as one of the world's most disruptive social entrepreneurs. David has run entrepreneurship programs for the International Rescue Committee, launched a solar venture in Nepal, started and sold a travel software company in the United States, and now helps with building a conservation project in Luang Prabang, Laos, under Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden.
In a society that drowns in consumption, giving back more to the environment than we take has become a moral imperative. We need to embrace a mentality that prioritizes giving over getting. And if we can do that with consistency, then we have a chance at winning the fight against ecosystem degradation. And if we listen to the world’s needs, then we have a chance of changing it.
Last month, I had the unique opportunity to learn from leading organizations that play roles in advancing conservation efforts in Laos. From elephant conservation to education classes on butterflies, I learned about the broad array of initiatives developed by stakeholders committed to conservation. I learned that there is something we all can do to drive the conservation movement forward.
I am always inspired when I have the chance to learn from pioneering individuals committed to protecting our planet. Here are some of their stories and background of the excellent work they are continuing to lead in Laos.
Photo by Robert Metz
Free The Bears: In the last few months, the Laos government intercepted an illegal container on its way to Luang Namtha from Southern China. Inside of the container were six red pandas. The Laos government quickly handed over the red pandas to Free The Bears; an Australian established INGO focused on protecting, preserving and enriching the lives of bears worldwide. This is the first time authorities have been able to recover animals of this species from traffickers. Unfortunately, only three of the red panda bears survived the transition. Worldwide, there are only 10,000 red panda bears left. Free The Bears is playing their part in stabilizing and increasing the population.
Photo by Matthew Kane
Free The Bears
5A Laga Court, Stirling, Australia
Tel: +61 8 9244 1096
Don't ride elephants
Elephant Conservation Center: Laos used to be recognized as the “land of a million elephants.” But today that population stands at 800. The survival of elephants is endangered by loss of natural habitat. Decreases in the population have motivated the ECC to safeguard the elephant population through the creation of a breeding program. With only 33 female elephants under the age of 20 in Laos, the future of the species is under threat. The existing work of the Elephant Conservation Center is creating the foundation necessary for ensuring a future with elephants in Laos is possible.
Elephant Conservation Center
Manthatoulat Road (Mekong riverside), Ban Pakham, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR
Tel : +856-20-96590665
Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden: When Rik Gadella purchased land previously used as a hunting range by the Royal Family, the establishment of a botanical garden on the other side of the Mekong was far from his mind. A year in, he recognized the lack of attention given to biodiversity conservation around the country. Today, over 1,200 plant species are protected, medicinal plants are showcased to display their relationship with Lao traditional culture, and thousands of children are being taught horticulture, botany, and ecology to ensure that Laos is prepared to conserve its biodiversity with local leadership.
Photo by Axel van der Donk
Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden
Nam Pho, Luang Prabang, Laos
Contact Pad Tad Ke Botanical
Tel: 071-261 000 or 030-28 66 000
Kuang Si Butterfly Park: Situation 300m before Kuang Si Waterfall, Kuang Si Butterfly Park is a project that was initiated in 2014 by a Dutch couple passionate about nature. Their mission? To create a research center that studies and publishes about Laos butterflies, host plants, and preservation to bring greater awareness to environmental issues in Laos. Carrying a strong focus on education means that the local children of Laos will receive more opportunities to learn about nature and the important role we can play in preserving it.
Photo by Boris Smokrovic
Kuang Si Butterfly Park
300 meters before entrance to Kuang Si Waterfalls, Luang Prabang,Laos
Kuang Si Butterfly Park on Facebook
Tel: +856 20 98 237 466
The next time you travel, I want you to seek out organizations committed to social good. I want you to focus on minimizing your environmental footprint. I want you to be intentional when deciding on your activities. Is it helping or harming the local community? Is it improving or worsening the environment? Ask yourself these questions. Stay close to a value system that prioritizes a world less obsessed with consumption and more obsessed with nature and environmental stewardship. The protection of our planet and the conservation efforts that drive that protection demand it. There is no greater time than now to commit to a system of thinking that prioritizes exactly that.
Feature Photo by: Eutah Mizushima