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DAY 3: Elephant Valley Project
The Elephant Valley Project (EVP) is an elephant sanctuary based out of Mondulkiri, Cambodia, roughly a seven-hour bus ride east of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city.
EVP works to rescue captive elephants from exploitation and labor throughout Cambodia. The sanctuary provides a rehabilitation and retirement home for working elephants, so they may live the rest of their days roaming freely.
What makes EVP a unique wildlife sanctuary is its work with indigenous people. The mission, to protect elephants, can only be achieved if the forests too are protected so the elephants have a place to live. These forests outside of Mondulkiri are lived in and owned by an indigenous tribe known as the Bunong and cannot be protected without them. So EVP uses the income earned from tourists and volunteers to provide healthcare, education, scholarships, and more for the Bunong. Additionally, out of a staff of 60 on site, only two are non-native, so EVP is also providing employment. By working with locals, the forests are protected and sustainably managed, which gives resources to the people and a home for rescued elephants.
I volunteered with EVP for a week in October 2017. The experience was fulfilling, invigorating, and exciting.
A typical week volunteering at EVP can take on many forms. Every day’s activities were subject to change, depending on weather, organizational needs, and even the elephants’ health or mood. The week I spent included rebuilding a pathway into the jungle to Base Camp where volunteers and visitors stay, building a bridge across a small river, uprooting and replanting sapling trees to be later used by the local indigenous tribe in buildings and structures, and harvesting banana trees. Mornings are reserved for volunteer work normally, while afternoons are spent conducting health checks on the elephants at the sanctuary.
For more on EVP, check out this promotional video I made following my time there.
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