I met the Mnong in two regions of Vietnam – Binh Phuoc, a few hours from Ho Chi Minh City, and Dak Lak in the Highlands. I visited the latter regularly between 2011 and 2018. They have a unique relationship with elephants, which is totally non-existent for the Mnong in Binh Phuoc. The Dak Lak Mnong capture and train the pachyderms for several months before introducing them to the village during a ceremony which makes them fully-fledged members of the community. From this crucial moment where the adoption by the group takes place, the elephants take part in all the village activities and follow the same rules as humans.
In recent years, this unique relationship has disappeared rapidly, and the number of elephants has been dramatically reduced to the point where there were only two left in the village that I visited. Only those who own an elephant continue to perpetuate this culture. I remain fascinated by the rituals and the beliefs that have linked the Mnong and the elephants for centuries.