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Help at this unique elephant
sanctuary
in Cambodia

A 1,500-acre natural sanctuary in the Cambodian jungle

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  • Duration
    1-12 weeks
  • Accompanied age
    5+
  • Minimum age
    18+
  • Start dates
    Every Saturday
  • From
    £400
  • Duration
    1-12 weeks
  • Accompanied age
    5+
  • Minimum age
    18+
  • Start dates
    Every Saturday
  • From
    £400

Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary

Help elephants in their natural habitat at this unique elephant sanctuary located deep in the Cambodian jungle. Dedicated to helping rescued elephants, you’ll trek into the jungle every day to observe and care for the 10 Asian elephants that call this 1,500-acre forest home.

The 100% ethical and responsible sanctuary provides an alternative lifestyle for the rescued elephants as close to their natural living conditions as possible. You will get to experience elephants acting naturally, foraging and interacting together. The elephants can be seen bathing in the natural rivers and bulldozing trees to get to the best luscious leaves.

The project is based in the east of Cambodia in the Moldulkiri province, near the Vietnam border. See a side of Cambodia beyond most tourists’ itineraries, where you can learn about the local Bunong culture and explore the nearby waterfalls and tropical forests during your free time.

Volunteering with elephants

I volunteered in Cambodia for several months and saw first-hand the immense positive impact the programme has on the rescued elephants and the local indigenous Bunong community. No matter how long you go for, you will have the best time ever where you will learn about the elephants and the loc... Read More

Rebecca JohnsonDecember 2019

Background to the elephant programme

In a study undertaken in 2001, it was estimated that there were only between 400 and 600 wild elephants roaming Cambodia. For a country so rich in natural habitat and with a relatively small population, one would suspect that Cambodia would support a much larger population. However, elephants are being relentlessly hunted for ivory, meat and other products and their natural habitat is constantly being dwindled by forest mines and deforestation.

As human populations grow, new houses and farms are being developed and are encroaching on what was once the elephants natural home or pathway. This has resulted in an increase of human-elephant conflict, as elephants wander into farms and small towns and damage buildings or eat / ruin crops. This often results in retaliation, with many elephants getting injured or killed.

On top of this, elephants are still to this day being illegally captured and tamed to carry out work within the logging industry or to earn money by providing rides to the many thousands of tourists that flock to Cambodia each year. Captive elephants in Cambodia are usually owned by clans of the Phnong minority, who have a long history of elephant keeping.

Unfortunately, as with the case with most animals, captive elephants cannot be released into the wild. By being raised with close human contact, the elephants have little fear of people and they have also lost their natural instincts - putting them and the communities around them at risk. Not only this, but many wild elephants are sustaining serious injuries through snare traps or from fighting with local villagers, resulting in them not being healthy enough to survive in the wild.

This is where your help and funds can help make a major difference. Elephants can come to this dedicated and large sanctuary based in the dense jungles of Mondulkiri for short or long term rehabilitation and be assisted and looked after by a range of professionals. If needs must, elephants can even spend the rest of their life here roaming the 1,500 hectares in peace and safety - as nine elephants currently do.

Not only will your time on this rewarding programme help rehabilitate captive elephants, but working directly with the Department of Environment and the Wildlife Conservation Society, your money will support teams of local rangers and forest police to patrol the neighbouring forests where there are an estimated 140 wild elephants. By protecting the elephants natural habitat and to hopefully stop any illegal activities or conflict, we hope that wild populations can start to recover and thrive once again.

Where will I be volunteering?

Your time in Cambodia will be supporting the first and only true sanctuary in the country. Based in Mondulkiri province, the sanctuary is the largest captive elephant sanctuary in Asia with just over 1,500 hectares of forest, rivers, grassland and bamboo groves. 

The elephant sanctuary was founded in 2006 with the vision to improve the health and welfare of Cambodia's captive elephant population and to provide province-wide veterinary care and associated social support programs for the Bunong people. 

Over the past 15 years, the programme has protected more than 300,00 hectares of forests, supported over 2,000 people through employment or education and provided much needed vetinerary care and support to many captive elephants in the area.

There are currently 9 resident elephants within the sanctuary who are free to roam their natural habitat and who we will be sure you cannot wait to meet!

What is my role?

By volunteering, not only will you get an unforgettable jungle experience, but you’ll be helping the rescued elephants that are recuperating from their previous work lives of exploitation. This is done by taking a hands-off approach to the elephants and a hands-on approach to education and welfare improvement, working as much with the local community as with the elephants. Every day you will trek into the jungle in search of the elephants to make regular observations and health checks that are essential to ensuring the wellbeing of all elephants at the sanctuary.

Volunteer observations and health checks are vital in identifying any concerns regarding the elephants. You may also be involved in research tasks such as monitoring and recording the feeding habits and preferences of the elephants. This is important in guiding decisions as to which plant species should be grown for the elephants to feed on in the forest.

You will also support the upkeep of the sanctuary by working on jobs such as farming and construction. This can range from harvesting banana and pineapple trees for the elephants, supporting the nursery and reforestation project, farming and road / trail maintenance.

With the support of volunteers, the local team have the resources to work with the local Bunong community to discourage further domestication of wild elephants by demonstrating the value of elephants living freely in the forest.

What will a typical day look like?

You will work 5 days a week, from around 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. The daily schedule will differ and generally volunteers spend half of each day with the elephants, observing them or assisting with their health checks and the other half of the day assisting with tasks required by the sanctuary and the local community.

A typical day at the project will look like this:

7am - A delicious breakfast is served by the local kitchen staff in the group dining room overlooking the lush misty morning forest.

8am - You will either head out to visit the elephants in the forest or take part in some other volunteering work.

12pm - A delicious buffet lunch is served and you will have plenty of time to read or relax in a hammock. 

2pm - Following lunch you will either once again go out to see elephants or volunteer depending on the schedule.

5pm - After the days activities and a refreshing shower the evening is yours to relax and unwind with a beverage or a book in the beautiful lounge watching the sunset. The rest of the evening is free for you to do as you please, with plenty of games to play, movies to watch and time to socialise around with fire put with roasted marshmallows. 

Where will I be staying?

During your time in Cambodia, you will be staying within the volunteer accommodation that has been constructed in the traditional Bunong style and mainly from recycled materials. Located on the slopes of the valley, you can enjoy the stunning views over the surrounding forest where many varieties of birds can be seen. At the weekends, volunteers live in a guest house in the local town of Sen Monoron.

Other things to consider

Ethical sanctuary - The Mighty Roar was established to create and help promote only 100% ethical wildlife programmes. We regularly visit each and every programme we offer to ensure all of our expected high standards are continuously being met and that the programme's aims match our ethos. The elephant programme in Cambodia goes above and beyond our expected standards and you can volunteer with the peace and reassurance you are actually helping elephants, rather than harming them. Across Cambodia there are many so called sanctuaries that allow tourists/volunteers to ride elephants and to take part in other unethical practices. We recommend that everyone carry out their own research into these bad practices and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

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