Elephant Valley Project-Mondulkiri

Trip Start Jan 31, 2013
Trip End Apr 17, 2013

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Flag of Cambodia  , Mondol Kiri,
Friday, February 22, 2013

Welcome to the elephant valley project! An elephant sanctuary that is more than just an elephant sanctuary. Based in Mondulkiri, a north east province of Cambodia, this sanctuary is home to 12 elephants. Each with a story of their own. All the elephants are either rented or have been bought from their Khmer owners by the project. The elephants have been badly treated ,overworked or neglected over the years. The aim of the project is to give the elephants a good 'rest f their lives' by giving their owners rental income - which they would have earned by working the elephants, either via tourism(elephant rides) or logging( stealing expensive wood out of the forest illegally)

This is why the project needs money- firstly to look after the elephants. But the project is more than just a sanctuary for elephants. It does amazing work with the locals. For example: the owners will come and live on the sanctuary with the elephants where they will be trained to look after their elephants in the correct manner. Ie use their voice and not a hook to direct the elephant in which direction to go. They get paid to be the mahout( elephant rider and trainer) and in return the EVP are assured the elephants are being treated well. The land that the project is using is also rented form the local Banong people. So that is a form of income for them.

In addition the project also does whatever they can to help the local community. For example: land registry project. The people form the cities have come up and just tried to claim land in Mondulkiri that has always been owned by the Banong people. After the Khmer Rouge- all paper work was lost, including land entitlement papers. So now the rich people form the cities have come up - burnt land parts of land, grown crops and then claim that eh have owners the land for years. They pay people in go cement off to give them the documentation and then that's its- the poor Banong people loose their land. So the EVP is currently in progress of helping the locals put the land on their names. It takes money to do this. And they ar helping. So there are loads of community based projects like this that ey do and for the they need money! And that is where the volunteering comes in.... We pay money which goes towards caring for the elephants as well as all these additional projects.

A typical day starts off with a 6:30am wake with breakfast being served at 7. Only the really brave ones chance a shower pre breakfast as the showers r cold ones, so it's best to shower in the afternoon after some hard volunteering manual labour work in 35 degree heat has made u hot n sweaty- when a cold shower is welcomed!

Generally half the day is spent watching, feeding, bathing and walking with various groups of elephants and the other half is spent spent volunteering. My session of volunteering was amazing yesterday. We were tasked with cutting down banana trees and the chopping them Up into pieces that the elephant can eat. It was pretty cool cos we knew exactly which elephant was going to eat the banana trees that we cut as one if the elephants injured herself whilst scratching her bum on a tree- so needed to be moved closer to us so they could keep an eye on her and give her her medication.

Next day volunteering was ho'Ing between the banana trees- this entails cutting out the weeds and grass from between r banana trees so they don't suck up the moisture that is needed by the banana trees during the dry season. I found another 'Ho' ....my roommate- Abbie to help out- what a great ho she is- I mean- she ho'd so well:)

Next day was spent levelling out the foundation for a room they were building. So we too a few spades and literally moved about a ton of soil with tiny buckets... It took hours but was quite rewarding when we cam back after lunch and all of a sudden a new room had appeared- with a door- and we contributed to making that.

Next day Abbie and I made some 'no smoking' sign for the general areas... Was fun but I can quite clearly see I have bugger all artistic talent in me:) but was fun...

Now - about the elephants.... I fed them, I washed them, I hugged them, I kissed them, and I watched them for hours. They are such graceful animals - it's quite sad to think that humans quite be so cruel to such big animals and get away with it. I've learnt so much at the EVP sanctuary. All those elephant rides that we go on.... Have we ever stopped to think or examine if the elephants r treated well? I learnt a few things.. Like.... Look at the elephants spine? If u can see it and the ribs are well below the spine, that means the elephant has had to carry so much weight on its back over the years that its entire rib cage has been pressed down!!!

And the scars on their heads??? Mahouts thought the only way to direct an elephant was to jab a metal spike to its head.... Very sad... Then there was one female elephant who had its female parts cut off because the local female were not able to have children so they thought that making traditional medicine with elephant female parts was gonna make them fertile. S sad.

The good news is that these people r doing an amazing job!!! They have transformed this province. Te elephants r happy. The locals r happy because of all the visitors coming to visit the sanctuary... The sanctuary is renting he land from the local people, they employ the locals in the sanctuary - either are mahouts, cleaners, tour guides, construction workings- it's amazing- they have just created a completely circular trade economy whilst looking after the elephants.

What's quite amazing is that this was all done by a now 30years old Englishman called Jack Highwood. He moved to Cambodia when he was in his early 20's but only started this when he was 24.....

What did you (and I) do between 24 and 30?????

Anyway- was a great week with the elephants- had fun- met some great people whom will be meeting up wi again later on my travels....

Over out kids....

Tomorrow off to Vietnam to meet James:)

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