Community Initiatives at the Elephant Conservation projectPROJECT & POD NEWS / 20 December 2017
The Elephant Conservation projects main aim is to improve the health and welfare of captive elephants and assists protection of the wild elephant population in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia.
Sadly the elephant population is under great threat, as the elephants’ forest habitat is being increasingly used for other land uses such as agriculture, rubber plantations, animal grazing and mining ventures. The wild elephant population is now unfortunately consequently concentrated to only a few pockets in Cambodia.
The sanctuary recognises that progress will be limited if they do not work with the local Bunong population and previous owners of the elephants (mahouts) to protect both wild and domestic elephants in the region.
The project works closely with the local Bunong community assisting them with health care, education, land protection and community development initiatives.
Through the education of the local community and visitors to the area, they discourage the further domestication of wild elephants and instead demonstrate the value of elephants living more freely in the forest. The project focuses greatly on welfare improvement and does not condone any conduct or action that may cause undue fear or stress to the domestic elephant.
The sanctuary also offers the option for local families to bring their elephant to the sanctuary for rest and recuperation. In exchange the owners receive monthly compensation, preferential working conditions and world-class elephant care. Elephants that are used to working in poor conditions in transportation, logging and tourism are able to spend their retirement,relaxing, exploring and enjoying the forest. A secondary benefit is that by sourcing and training mahouts from the local community, local employment is generated.
In addition to these the community development support is also provided to the villagers through assistance with land titling, community health care initiatives and school scholarship projects.
The work the Elephant Conservation project does with the local community is slow and difficult, and often comes against many years of learned behaviour and centuries old culture. However whilst the project acknowledges that domestic elephants is an integral part of the traditional life of the Bunong people, they discourage further domestication of wild elephants.
The project operates in such a way that is sensitive and compatible with Bunong culture and taboos about the breeding of elephants. As the team does not support the capture of wild elephants nor the breeding of elephants, the beautiful elephants currently retired and living at the sanctuary will be the last seen in the region. Therefore, the centre works to ensure that this last generation can live out their lives with as happily as possible.
The Elephant Conservation project has recently benefited from a grant from the Pod Charity, you can find out more on how it was used to support the project’s initiatives here.
We are currently looking for volunteers to support the Elephant Conservation project’s efforts to protect the wild elephant population and improve the welfare of domestic elephants in Cambodia. You can find out more on how to get involved here.