A place where “Elephants get to be elephants again”, the innovative Elephant Valley Project (elephantvalleyproject.org) was set up to create a haven for Cambodia’s increasingly threatened pachyderm population. The project is the complete antithesis of the usual tourist theme-park, with all the animal exploitation it inevitably entails. There are no elephant rides here (something the project actively discourages). Instead, visitors get the chance to shadow the project’s two resident elephant families, walking with them through the jungle and observing them at leisure in their natural environment, while learning about them from their Khmer mahouts.
The project is part of the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment NGO or ELIE, for short, which works to improve the welfare of domestic elephants in Mondulkiri, many of whom suffer overwork, malnutrition and abuse. ELIE runs several projects locally, including an elephant research and monitoring programme and a mobile vet service.