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Myanmar looks to ecotourism to employ jobless elephants

Logging ban makes redundant huge animals that have toiled in the industry for generations

Elephants in training are taken to bathe in the river at the end of the day. (Photo by Fiona MacGregor)

PATHEIN, Myanmar "So, do you want to buy an elephant?" Soe Naing was laughing, but not entirely joking. He owns one of the 2,000 or so elephants facing redundancy since the Myanmar government clamped down last year on the logging industry, in which thousands of elephants have toiled for generations.

Mexican vets Rodrigo Salas, left, and Gerardo Martinez demonstrate positive reinforcement "target training" at the Chaungtha Elephant Camp in Pathein, Myanmar, on May 8. (Photo by Fiona MacGregor)

Soe Naing, from Taungoo in the Bago region a few hours' drive north of Yangon, was one of around 30 participants in a week-long workshop at the Chaungtha Elephant Camp in Pathein in the Irrawaddy River delta region focused on training elephants through positive reinforcement techniques. The system is new to the country, and organizers hope it will help end the more brutal practices that have traditionally been used to tame elephants in Asia.

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