Working with the Elephant Valley Project

Written by Brigid Greska, 2016 Southeast Asia: Animal Conservation

Last week, the Animal Conservation program had the pleasure of volunteering with the Elephant Valley Project. This, of course, involves learning about and watching elephants.

The first time our OG group saw elephants is an experience I will never forget. We hiked down to a valley aptly named Heaven while chatting and giggling about how amazing the elephants would be. We arrived at our observation location, conveniently marked with a log for sitting, but nobody could sit; we were so excited. Our guide told us each elephant’s story and some fantastic elephant jokes while we waited.


Program leaders Mike and Maija sneak a picture with an elephant

After what seemed like hours (but was probably just a few minutes), we heard a mahout call out, signalling that they were close. We were watching closely for any rustling leaves or branches.

Now, let me preface this by saying that this OG group is chatty. We have lots of stories and questions, but when that first elephant emerged from the trees and started crossing the river – silence.


Photo by Alex Arsenych-De Castro

Absolutely nothing could have prepared us for this. Even writing about it now has me tearing up. The four elephants lumbered across a small river and stood in the sunshine to evaluate their new visitors. They were huge, beautiful, and pretty calm. We stood about six meters away, which somehow made the experience purer by letting them be as natural as possible.

We saw all eight female elephants throughout the week, and trust me when I say that it absolutely never got old. These elephants have experienced some horrible things, but they will live at EVP happy, healthy, and adored for the rest of their lives. Thank you to the Elephant Valley Project for letting us come learn about all the amazing work you are doing!

*Header image by Amy Vanbarneveld.