Sebastien Duffillot graduated from Toulouse Business School MBA programme in 1994. After spending a year and a half at the French Embassy in Bangkok as assistant to the regional advisor for scientific and technical cooperation, he settled in Laos in 1996 where he created Kinnary Advertising, a graphic design studio in the capital, Vientiane.
In 2001, he co-founded ElefantAsia, a France-based non-profit to protect the endangered Asian elephants, primarily in Laos. In 2002, he organises the Elephant Caravan, a 1300km long march with 4 elephants across Laos, from Champassak in the South up to Luang Prabang in the North. The objective of the caravan was to raise local and international awareness about the plight of the elephants in a country once known as Lan Xang, the Land of a Million Elephants.
With ElefantAsia and the National health Center of the Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry, he implemented the first nation-wide census of captive elephants. Mobile clinics travelled the country to microchip and provide vet care to all working elephants while building up a statistical database providing vital information about the condition of the country’s remaining 450 elephants. Mahouts (elephant handlers) were taught first aid technics while provided with an ElefantAsia-FAO published Elephant Care Manual.
The team also created the Sayaboury Elephant Festival in 2007 and managed it until 2012 when it was handed over to the province’s government. ElefantAsia also raised awareness through a national environmental education campaign consisting of books, posters, movies and elephant mobile libraries aimed at schoolchildren living in and around elephant populated areas.
In 2010 He teams up with Inthy Deuansawan (Inthira Group, Green Discovery) and Jean-Fran_ois Reumaux (The Gibbon Experience) to create the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury. Starting with 1 elephant and 6 staff, the Center now shelters 14 elephants and employs 44 staff. It is set on the banks of the Nam Tien Lake on a 345 hectares protected forest.
In 2015, Sebastien organised a second elephant caravan from Sayaboury to Luang Prabang with 20 elephants to mark the importance of elephants as a defining component of Lao natural and cultural heritages. The caravan ended its journey in Luang Prabang as the city was celebrating its 20th anniversary as a world Heritage city.
Sebastien is now expanding the Conservation Center’s activities to include the conservation of wild elephants in the Nam Phouy National Park. The new reserve project is strongly focusing on community based tourism as a method to improve livelihoods and include local people in the conservation process.
Meanwhile the Center has development projects in Myanmar, a country where a significant number of elephants and their mahouts are now unemployed and in need of creative solutions to secure their future.