Cambodian Elephant Conservation in Asia
Treatment of Domestic ElephantsThe Elephant Valley Project endeavours to encourage those working with elephants to understand that it is imperative that elephants throughtout the province of Mondulkiri have access to a good supply of food, water, rest and correct and humane treatment.
This project is the first of its kind in Cambodia and does not condone any conduct or action that at any point may cause any physical harm to a domestic elephant. This especially applies to any conduct or action that may cause undue fear or stress to a domestic elephant, hindering its welfare.
Livelihood of People
The project will acknowledge that the use of domestic elephants is an integral part of the traditional life of the Bunong people, however the NGO will discourage further domestication of wild elephants.
The project aims to assist the elephant owning Bunong people through increasing the worth of existing domesticated elephants to the Mahouts and their co-dependents by supplementing the Mahouts' wage through increased suitable employment as part-time employees of the project.
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Habitat of Domestic ElephantsThe project will support efforts that preserve forest adjacent to villages that are inhabited by people who own, rely on or use domestic elephants.
The project intends to promote the development of a new legal classification of forest - "Elephant Forest" Forest that is primarily for the use of a village’s domestic elephants.
These managed forests will be of a suitable area, contain enough foodstuffs, forest cover and sufficient water to cope with the needs of a village's domestic elephant population and give a domestic elephant daily time away from human activity.
Domestic Elephant Population
The Elephant Valley Project will not promote, support, encourage or participate in the capture of wild elephants in order to maintain the numbers of domestic elephant in Mondulkiri Province.
The Elephant Valley Project will not promote, support or encourage in the sale of elephants and will instead provide interest free loans and or alternative employment to those who are in difficult financial situations which is pressuring them to sell their elephants. The project will also discourage the transfer of ownership of domestic elephants from Bunong to any persons outside of their tribal communities.
The project will encourage local government departments to comply with the Cambodian government's acceptance of the CITES treaty.
The project will comply with all existing and new FA legislation and bylaws.
The project acknowledges that with the population of domestic elephants in Mondulkiri Province likely to decrease over the next few years and as a result some Phnong or Khmer may wish to breed elephants to maintain their way of life. We will not offer any financial incentive to promote breeding. However, should any elephants breed successfully and the owner approach for assistance, the NGO will offer veterinary support through the gestation period.The project will also assist with the registration of a newborn elephant to ensure that accurate and relevant documentation of the elephant is available.
The project will at all times operate in such a way that is compatible with and sensitive to Bunong culture and taboos about the breeding of elephants.
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The Plight of Elephants in Cambodia
Quite simply the Asian Elephants' main threat is Humans. Historically we have hunted them for 'luxurious' Ivory items, and consistently we encroach upon their traditional home grounds and cutting down their home forests for wood products, agriculture, and livestock grazing.
The Domestic Elephant population of Mondulkiri province, is in general quite mature, with many of the Domestic Elephants being in their 50's and 60's. This is due to the majority of younger cows being sold out of the province and to a halt to any breeding approximately 20 years ago. At this age, simply working too hard, not getting enough rest, or unsatisfactory access to nutritious food and water poses a threat to the individual's health. Let alone a poor standard of treatment which is common in provincial Cambodia.
Further to this, common activities such as hunting and logging (legal or otherwise) may threaten the health and well-being of elephants as these activities can lead to serious injury.
The Asian elephant is declining throughout its range and nearing extinction in the wild in many of the thirteen countries where it occurs and nowhere is this especially true as in Mondulkiri.
In the case of wild elephants, the threat of poaching, habitat loss and increasing cases of human/elephant conflict requires extensive investment into anti-poaching programs, government liaison, community education and the establishment of good practices to protect the second largest land animal from extinction.
Elephant Camps in AsiaAsia has a thriving tourism industry. Unfortunately this has been exploited by people wishing to make money by using elephants as ‘entertainment’ and every day hundreds of animals are suffering at the hands of humans purely to make a profit for their owners. Kept on chains 24 hours a day, these animals lose their dignity and freedom and merely exist as moneymaking commodities. The elephants are worked hard, often with out shade, and denied the much needed time for eating, drinking and bathing.
While camps are not present in Mondulkiri, the elephants used in tourism are treated badly due to the lack of knowledge about their care and the drive to earn the most tourist dollars possible.
Habitat loss and human encroachment
One of the biggest threats to Cambodia's elephant population is habitat destruction. In the past, elephants occurred all over Cambodia but with the spread of the human population and the subsequent destruction of forest, the wild elephant population is now concentrated in only a few areas of the country.
Rough estimates put the number of elephants in Cambodia as about 10,000 in 1969, 2,000 in 1983 and 250-600 at present (these figures quoted are no more than guesses as no systematic survey has been carried out). The traditional forests inhabited by elephants are being turned into other land uses such as slash and burn agriculture, large rubber concessions and mining ventures.
The Elephant Valley Project aims to start and to protect an area of "elephant forest" This will provide for and manage a forest of a suitable area, containing enough foodstuffs, forest cover and sufficient water to cope with the needs of any visiting local villager's elephant and more importantly give said elephant lots of daily time away from human activity.
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Projects at the CentreThe project has three programmes: A rest and recuperation programme for caring for and looking after sick and mistreated elephants, a school for teaching mahouts, children, villagers and local and international visitors about elephant care and husbandary and a guesthouse to house visitors and volunteers. In short the elephants need care and the local people need education and employment.
Started in January 2007 the project started DEETP by renting a small valley and promptly called it “Elephant Valley”. We have spent most days since slowly (and most things are slow in Cambodia) developing the site with the end goal of a completing our working rest and recuperation centre. Its has over 40 hectres of forest and 7 individual farms from which we can take our elephants too.
After two years of montioring the population of elephants in Mondulkiri province we identified that one the main goals that we had to aim for early on was to be able to provide mahouts and elephant owners with decent employment while their elephants receive food and medical treatment, just as much as providing the elephants with a break from their typically heavy workload. Guests to our guesthouse as well as visitors with the project are encouraged to simply spend time with the elephants getting involved in their daily routine of eating, walking, washing and resting.
The Elephant Valley Project is at its core community based, we actively encourage the involvement of local farmers and villagers. We have already seen that the alternative income generated benefits the tribal community as well as the elephants on site. Coupled with education and joint projects with other small local non government organisations we have been able to introduce alternative farming methods and seed stock as well as teaching people how to deal with crop raiding elephants.