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Holistic and Sustainable Conservation for the Endangered Asian Elephant

Meet Jack and Jemma!

Jack from Elephant Valley ParkJemma from Elephant Valley Park

Elephant whispers, jungle warriors and generally amazing people, these two are the core team leading Elephant Valley Project (EVP) and its surrounding area to conservation greatness! Established in 2007 as Mondulkiri’s only elephant sanctuary, EVP and its team does much more than provide a healthy, happy home for the endangered Asian elephant. EVP is also part of the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE) that focuses on providing a holistic and sustainable conservation approach rather than a strictly eco-tourism encounter!

ELIE has a Health Care Program for the local Bunong community, which provides support to families that cannot afford to pay for medical expenses. ELIE and EVP also have collaborated with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Forestry Administration to protect the surrounding population of wild elephants – the largest in Cambodia at around 120-140 elephants. They also work to prevent illegal forestry and development with their own crew of badass Forest Rangers. On top of it all, ELIE is also in the midst of an ITC land mapping and titling claim for the local Bunong community, which will serve to protect their indigenous land (part of which EVP rents for the sanctuary).

Of course, along with all of these amazing programs that are addressing sustainability issues for both the local land and people, ELIE and EVP are also caring for over 11 captive elephants that are either in need of rehabilitation from abuse, overwork, and/or sickness, or are settling into retirement at EVP and living out their golden years with ample amounts of food, water and loving!

With a spot-on mission and such amazing programs on the go, it’s no wonder OG wanted to join in! The Animal Conservation team arrived at EVP ready to contribute what help they could to the project! Our team got to clearing land for a future fruit forest that would work towards that sustainability model and produce food for staff and volunteers, the surrounding villages, and even to be sold at the market in town providing additional revenue for the local community. Battling jungle extremes of weather, bugs, and vengeful weeds, the group prepared the space for the fruit forest in no time at all. With such fast work EVP threw us another job – to dam up a part of the river that was seeing major erosion from rising waters during raining season. Insert OG’s human chain and stellar rock moving abilities and ta-da river be dammed!

elephant bathing

Getting down and dirty with these gentle giants


The reward for such hard work?  Oh, just hanging out with elephants is all! Over the course of the week, we got to know each of the elephants currently calling EVP home. We wandered through the jungle to watch and interact with each family of gentle giants. Jack and Jemma was there along the way to tell us each elephants’ story, heaps of information on the project, the animals and really just about anything we asked! We learned that Bob and Onion are lovers and only hangout together, which is extremely unusual for male and female elephants to do. We know that a low grumble is the main form of elephant communication, and that trumpets, whines and squeaks are for exclamation! We bathed the elephants, watched them effortlessly pull up entire trees to get to those delicious roots, felt their hairy faces and coarse trunks, and fed them tons of sweet, sweet banana trees.

The crew was sad to say goodbye to our new animal and people friends at EVP (however not the face-sized spiders that resided in our bungalows) but were excited to take off for our Independent Travel Time. Malaysia, Vietnam, southern Cambodia, and the beaches and rock walls of Thailand were all on the lists of to-do’s.

We’re excited to hear the stories when the group meets back up in Kanchanaburi, Thailand for disorientation!

Until then,
Sarah Rogers
Southeast Asia Animal Conservation Trip Leader

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