Monday, 26 March 2012

The Elephant Valley Project (EVP)

The EVP was established 5 years ago by a then 25 year old guy called Jack from the UK in order to rescue domesticated elephants who were used as farm labourers and often abused. Elephants, despite being huge animals, cannot carry more than 10% of their body weight. This means that carrying a guide plus a tourist, in addition to the heavy chair that the tourist sits on, is way too heavy. Often they are used for logging and have to either drag or carry wood, creating deformities in their spine. We saw elephants with scars from being shackled and beaten and one elephant called Onion even had a scar from a hook that was put into her forehead to drag her when she refused to walk.

On the way to the jungle

The EVP is located in a tropical jungle valley in Mondulkiri in the north east of Cambodia. It has plenty of lush green plants and trees and 2 streams, perfect for making mud and everything that an elephant needs, thus the name, elephant heaven or the elephant santuary as it is locally called.

 Elephants need to coat themselves in mud in order to protect themselves from mosquitoes and other insects. This mud has to be washed off regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria. Most of these elephants have been domesticated from a young age and thus never learned to wash themselves, thus washing the elephants are one of the tasks of the project.One of the elephants was a tourist elephant and was thus never allowed to be dirty. These days she makes quite a business of making a nice muddy paste and bathing herself in it.

Happy lucky coating herself with mud

The EVP has rescued 10 elephants to date. They have many human traits: Bob and Onion are a couple. Onion adores Bob and follows him everywhere and he just goes about his day and is a bit indifferent to her (typical, isnt it??). Below are Bob and Onion, never apart, even while being washed!

The other four are a bit of a clique and treat the newcomer, Ruby, with some bitchiness. Then the other 4 are made up of a granny elephant of 62 years, a stupid elephant and one who is the brains in the group. These elephants have mostly been bought from their owners. A few are rented when they are too expensive and the owners get money every month. The EVP also employs people in the banana plantations and in the back packers lodge. They provide funding to the children's hospital and finance some of the village kids to go to school, thus they are dependant on the money from volunteers who pay to visit there and work there as well as donors.

Happy Lucky scratching her ass


Elephant Valley

The elephants are looked after by local men called mahouts who walk and wash them. We were a group of 10 people and stayed in little bungalows overlooking the valley.

Ning Wan's nest: the name of our bungalow and also the name of one of the elephants

Our bungalow

Over the course of a week we joined the mahouts in walking and washing them and spent hours observing them and sitting watching them and feeding them bananas. After a while it became quite boring and we opted to do some volunteering. This included cutting the dead leaves from banana trees, weeding the path they are making for the villagers to use in the monsoon (back breaking work in the hot sun with a ton of ants and mosquitoes around) as well as carrying bricks and stones for the construction of more bungalows.

One of the lounges at the lodge of the Elephant project
Evenings were spent in the lounge of the lodge, sipping cold drinks, playing cards and watching the sunset and eating delicious meals prepared by our cambodian chef before heading to our bungalows to kill any insects or spiders and crawl under the mosquito net before the lights went out. We had a fun group which made the work more fun since we would laugh a lot and take too many breaks.

Sunset in Mondulkiri

All in all, a good experience. although we were a bit disappointed that we were not more involved with the elephants than were led to believe.

Its been awesome Asia, but we are now quite ready for South America!!!


  1. Elephants are such awesome animals, you so lucky to have spent some time with them, glad you guys could also get involved in the other chores, I mean I love ellies, but I think I would get bored as well, Love the last picture, so classic, can't wait to see the rest of the pics, you guys are so brave to be living in that jungle, enjoy the trip to South America. Miss you guys!!

  2. wat een belevenissen en ervaringen allemaal ! Ik was een beetje achter met alles te lezen, maar ben nu terug helemaal bij ! Onvergetelijke reis, waarschijnlijk !
    Veel plezier in het westen ! En zuid-amerika !

  3. Bedankt om ons mee te laten genieten via jullie blog. Echt schitterend. Mooie en leuke foto's en teksten. Ook ontroerend.
    Nog veel plezier en genot van jullie wereldreis!

  4. Wow the pics and posts are amazing and always very imformative. love and miss you guys very much.Must be awesome to be so up close and personal with the elephants. Enjoy South America. We miss and love you both very much. Safe travels.

  5. hey guys, looking good and the pics are awesome. missing you guys!

  6. it all seems so amazing - the good and bad - this is really the trip of a lifetime!
    loving the pics and info...
    missing you loads