Who doesn’t love an elephant? If you say you don’t, you’re obviously wrong.
In the last two days I’ve not only got to meet some elephants and hear their beautiful stories but I’ve but my heart and a lot of sweat into the Elephant Valley Project. This program is more amazing than I can possibly express and I am so honored to have played a hand in their work!
The first morning we got up nearly at dawn in order to eat breakfast, fill out some paperwork and head to the elephants! I didn’t really know what to expect but what we did was split into two teams to see two different groups of elephants. My group went with a leader named Ben (who was amazing) to see 2 elles, however, one had gotten off the chain in the night and went to terrorize a farm for some yummy bananas!
You may be wondering: Chain?? Terrorize?? It’s not all that bad. During the day the elephants get to roam around the 300,000 hectors of land owned by EVP, but during the night they need to be tied up on a 25 meter chain. Because this area of land is surrounded by farms and villages, it is very tempting for a hungry elephant to go towards the bananas that smell much tastier than the bamboo around them. They are wicked intelligent and find ways to get off these chains which isn’t so pleasant for the farmers. Don’t worry, Easyrider got back just fine and only ate a couple banana trees from the village chief’s farm!
The next morning we got to meet four more beautiful girls. It was fantastic watching these elles interact! Hearing their different calls, watching them comfort each other, and seeing them play in the river was fascinating. Although they didn’t know each other before they came to EVP, they created this beautiful network of family love that a couldn’t get enough of! I loved every minute of it (walking through spiky trees and prickly bushes and all)!
After visiting the elles in the morning, we got some lunch, took a nice rest and headed out to do some work around EVP.
Aside from being an elephant sanctuary, one of the other main goals of EVP is to stop deforestation and work on the process of REforestation. The amount of logging done in the Cambodian forrest is extremely high, one species of tree is almost completely extinct. There are still some left but not enough for the next generation to survive. What we found a lot of was outer sections of valuable trees because loggers would come in but only take the strong centers. This happens all too often in not just this area of land but all around Cambodia.
Our work for the first day was to carry these outer log pieces back up to the plant nursery so EVP could use them around their base camp and as handrails and steps for trails. Even though others had left it behind, it can still be of use and is better than buying wood from a village where you don’t know its origin. After this we helped replant some baby trees. The second day we helped clear some tall grasses from a banana and pineapple garden so they could have healthier crops.
Let me tell you, two days of this very hard manual labor in the hot sun and humidity took a lot out of me. I would come back drenched in sweat and dirt and even have a couple bruises. Also, those pineapple leaves are vicious and ants are not my friends! Being able to do something for such a great organization was beyond worth it though!
EVP is a non profit organization so the majority of their work is done through the help of volunteers and donations. Although we also made a monetary donation, being able to give my service physically was extremely rewarding.
Hearing the stories of these elephants and the alarming amount of deforestation broke my heart, but more than that, it lit a fire! This is not just a problem in Cambodia. It is happening everywhere and once you really see it, I don’t know how you can’t feel the need to do something about it.
My desire to do something has more than doubled. Whether it is working for an organization like EVP or helping to create something in my home, I can’t stand aside anymore. Will I, as an individual, be able to change the world? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try! And I’ll get to work with some amazing people on the way there.
It starts by talking. So here I am, ready to talk about it!
If you have any questions about EVP, the beautiful elephants I got the chance to meet, deforestation and some steps we can take to combat it, or anything else please, let’s talk!