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Elephant Valley Project

Please don't ride elephants...

sunny 35 °C

We had heard about the Elephant Valley Project which works to rehabilitate elephants that have been used for work such as logging, transport and tourism, allowing them the opportunity to live and behave as an elephant should in natural surroundings. After volunteering with EHRA and wild elephants in Namibia I was interested to find out more about the work with captive Asian elephants and the different issues here.

We decided we wanted to visit for 4 days on the project where half the day was spent with the elephants and half the day volunteering, and we had an amazing time...it was great to be so close to these beautiful animals and a real eye opener not only on the treatment of captive elephants but also the problems that the local people face as well.

Jack and his team do a great job and it really is an inspiring project.

You can check out in more detail the project click here...

Here is a sum up of our time on the project...

Our journey to Sen Monorom was our first in one of Cambodias infamous mini buses, where they cram in everyone and everything that they can! We made sure we were there on time to get a good seat but then waited in the bus for an hour and half after it was meant to leave for it to fill up! The next 6 hours were not the most comfortable but the people in the bus were friendly and offered us some local snacks.

We were staying at the Greenhouse Guesthouse for one night before leaving in the morning for the project in Elephant Valley and the view from our room was not too shabby and we were definitely more remote. We tried to catch up with our blog but its tiring work!

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Arriving at the top of the Valley we were met by the team and started our walk down to 'elephant heaven' which is home to 5 of the 12 elephants here. Jack told us that the land used for this sanctuary is rented from the local people and the project provides them rice in return. They also provide jobs and healthcare for the local people as well which provides an incentive to preserve this area for elephants and other animals to live in rather than sell it off and allow further deforestation in the area.

Our first sighting...can you spot them?

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At the bottom of the valley is a river which the elephants come down to bathe in and get muddy. We were only too happy to help!

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Here is Onion, enjoying the mud but also marking her territory...

It really is a beautiful location and easy to see why it is called "Heaven". It was great to see the elephants emerging from the forest and to hear them trumpeting and rumbling to each other.

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We spent the rest of the morning walking with them, watching as they foraged in the forest and behaved as elephants should...

These elephants had all been working elephants and you could see the affects this had had on their bodies such as scars, pronounced spine and dropped rib cage from the pressure of the weight they would be carrying/pulling and ill fitting baskets. Jack told us that even though elephants are big animals they are not as strong as people think and can only carry 10% of their body weight, compare that to an ant that can carry several times its own body weight. Even carrying a couple of tourists around in a basket is heavy for them, and then take into the fact that they would give people rides all day as well. Elephants can make their owners a lot of money particularly from tourists wanting to ride them. If an elephant is ill or hurt they are made to keep working rather than being allowed to heal. This is because if the owner says the elephant can't work they lose out on a lot of money and potentially may not get work from that place again. It seems an impossible situation when you consider the average daily income is $2-5 but with an elephant it can be several hundred on a busy day. The project buys elephants when they can (but this costs $15,000 per elephant!) or rents them from the owners to bring them to the sanctuary to rest and heal, and sometimes they are left here when the owner can not look after them anymore.

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Each elephant has its own sad story of their time as a working elephant but I will tell you about one called Milot. You can see the scars on her back from the baskets she carried tourists in. She was also blind in one eye, they think from a misused hook. The end of her tail had been cut off as elephant hair is considered good luck and she also had skin cut from her vagina to be made into medicine for a woman who was having trouble getting pregnant. Now she can spend the rest of her days at the project, not being worked or mis treated. The Elephant Valley Project no longer allows visitors to ride the elephants which was an important factor in us choosing to visit here.

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After a great lunch (the food on the project is yum!) we were put to work whilst the day visitors went to wash the other elephants. As volunteers we helped wherever needed. Dan did some gardening whilst I sanded and varnished handrails at one of the lodges.

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The communal areas at the project were great especially the lounge area which was an incredible place to relax, listen to the sounds of the jungle and watch the sun go down.

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Here are some of the other creatures we shared the 4 days with...

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The next day we volunteered in the morning (varnishing furniture) which meant we would spend the afternoon washing elephants and walking with them on top of the hill. Many of the elephants come to the project not knowing how to throw mud or water on themselves. This is mainly because when they did it when they were younger they would be punished as it would go over the mahout. Armed with buckets, brushes and hoses we all got stuck in...

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I can not describe what it was like to be so close and actually touch elephants. They looked right at you in the eye as you washed their heads and gave them water to drink. We could see the muscles of their trunk rippling upwards as they sucked up the water and were sprayed when they put their trunks back down for more. Their skin is covered in course bristles and feels tough and smooth at the same time. Incredible!

We had 7 elephants to wash, some being more easy than others and we were all covered in mud and drenched by the time we followed them up the hill. It was great to walk with them and to see them roaming in such a large area.

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We alternated between volunteering in the morning and the afternoon over the next two days which meant we got to go back to 'heaven' and wash the elephants again.

It was a magical couple of days in a beautiful setting and highlighted how important it is to protect areas such as this from being sold off for deforestation as well as protecting elephants.

Safe travels to Jude, Daniel, Darcy, Emma, Robyn,Annie, Brydie and Wan.

Thanks to Jack, Trixie and Kay, keep up the good work!

Oh and the dogs

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 01:59 Archived in Cambodia

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