Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary

Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary Elephants Background in Cambodia

Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary

Elephants Background in Cambodia

Elephants are a species at risk in Cambodia. Habitat destruction, hunting, and being caught in traps have become a significant issue to care about. See here what is really important to know about the Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary!

Elephants have played a massive role in Cambodia’s culture. The large, heavy stones that were used to build the temples had been moved by the elephant.

Cambodia has about 75 captive elephants. About 50 of them live in the province of Mondulkiri and 14 for elephant tours in the temple of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

About 400 elephants survive in the forests of Cambodia. About 250 of them live in the province of Mondulkiri and there is another massive population in the Cardamom Mountains to the east.

As more infrastructure is built in Mondulkiri, the real world of elephants in Cambodia is further threatened by more logging and habitat destruction.

Cambodia can be a hard place to browse if you’re thinking about going to an elephant sanctuary. There are questions usually raised up. What are the legitimate shelters? Who’s there for the money? Here we are going to talk in the description of unique spots of elephant sanctuaries in Cambodia.

Mondulkiri Province of Cambodia

It’s driving 6 hours east of Phnom Penh and driving 8 hours southeast of Siem Reap. It borders eastward with Vietnam and northward with the province of Ratanakiri.

Not that many vacationers are coming to visit Mondulkiri so it’s a great place to get away from the crowds and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Sen Monorom is the biggest town in Mondulkiri province.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Sen Monorom is that the weather is much cooler than the rest of Cambodia because it’s 800 meters above sea level.

Visiting elephant sanctuary is the best thing to do on your trip to Mondulkiri. Waterfalls and jungle trekking are also prevalent pursuits. The area’s professions are coffee plantations and avocados.

The vast majority of the population in Mondulkiri is not Khmer, unlike many other parts of Cambodia. Instead, they are native local Bunong or hill tribes. They have family farms in the forests where they produce food for sale on Sen Monorom’s markets.

Elephant Sanctuary in Mondulkiri Cambodia

Mondulkiri province is well known to be habitat to many of Cambodia’s elephants. Elephants have been used as workers by local Bunong people for hundreds of years to help carry heavy items, farming, and logging.

Oversized loads and technology have nearly made working elephants outdated in recent years.

Currently, the use of elephants as tourist destinations is more feasible. The number of elephant sanctuaries and projects that have established in the past decade in Mondulkiri, near the town of Sen Monorom, is almost dizzying.

But here we’re going to figure through these places and help you select one where the elephants are well treated and cared for.

Not every sanctuary is the same. Sadly, to find out which ones put elephant wellbeing before profits can be really difficult for travelers.

However, it is a piece of great news, in Northern Cambodia, elephants are well protected in a deliberative way without any harassment. In essence, all the various initiatives seem to do their utmost elephants and raise money to finance the local community.

Nonetheless, it may be a piece of bad news for you, while you may have to spend lots for a visit to the elephant sanctuary. Elephants are pricey, and sanctuaries need to fundraise to look after them. No elephant in the sanctuary will live like a wild elephant.

Most of Mondulkiri’s elephants were locked up during the night or kept in bamboo night pens.

This is to avoid them from roaming around farmlands and other private property, getting trapped in the forest, or walking on the road.

Mahouts treat all the elephants so visitors can see them. Every day, for observation and in some cases feeding and cleaning, they are carried to certain places. The best way to raise funds for taking care of the elephants is to make the elephants open for viewing to visitors.

Elephants from the sanctuary will never live a full life like wild elephants. This is not the sanctuaries’ failure but the responsibility of the men who first abducted them.

Due to the information described above, aiding elephant sanctuaries as well as helping elephants in the wild is essential, by sponsoring organizations working to reduce habitat loss and stop illegal hunting.

What Elephant Projects and Sanctuaries are Available in Mondulkiri Cambodia?

Here Mondulkiri Cambodia, tourist spots to see elephant, are divided into two parts: elephant sanctuaries and Community elephant projects.

You will see elephants that used to reside and work in the community when you visit a sanctuary or project in Mondulkiri. Three ventures advertise themselves as sanctuaries for elephants.

Elephant Valley Project

The Elephant Valley Project has been invaluable in helping to transform how elephants are handled in Mondulkiri, and it is listed as the oldest Elephant Sanctuary in the area. The other ventures in the region, whether real or fake, have seen and attempted to replicate the EVP’s performance.

The Elephant Valley Project is like nothing else; you’re stepping into the natural jungle ecosystem of the elephant and seeing these fantastic animals themselves. It’s that quick and inherent; no riding, no tricks, no shows, and no tension.

Spend hours walking with them, read about their struggles, hardships, and fantastic tales. This is the spot for you if you love elephants and really care for their health and future.

They operated hard to maintain the best sanctuary in Cambodia for the care of captive elephants. Their aim is to propagate this model across South East Asia through creation or their founding philosophy and ethical practices.

They integrate conservation elephant care, local people sponsorship and development, and environmental protection and management of resources into one coherent model.

By just over 1,500 hectares of woodland, lakes, grasslands, with only 10 elephants, each elephant has more access to the outdoors freely in their natural habitat than any other elephant sanctuary.

They are approximately Asia’s most benevolent elephant sanctuary, with over 50% of the funds raised going straight to causes that they support outside of the care of the elephant.

Over 2,400 local people receive full health care coverage through the programs, and over 300 school children seek education, poor families receive food subsistence, and as a major employer in the region, local people have access to stable jobs with opportunities to move forward and grow.

It’s donations maintain everything to move on.

They are continually evolving new funding programs to support local communities, forests, and a herd of elephants, of course! Before and after your visit, you can also be a part of helping their cause!

Since you’re a budget traveler, the main disadvantage is that visiting the EVP is the most expensive sanctuary in the region. Jemma from the Elephant Valley Project said she suggests attending a local elephant project for travelers who can’t actually afford the cost.

These trips are usually much cheaper than any of the visits to the sanctuary.

If you need to do this and there are community-based tour elements that do not seem right to you, be sure to remind your guide.

Your comments could improve the care of elephants. But if you can handle the payment, you are strongly recommended to join with Elephant Valley Project.

Mondulkiri Project

The Mondulkiri Project is a licensed Cambodian Organization. Within the financial management in this elephant sanctuary, your money is used to conserve forests. Money is also used to purchase and hire elephants to keep them away from elephant rides and hard farm work so they can stay in this sanctuary.

The organization regularly finances wild elephant conservation and provides work, medicine, and food donations to local Bunong hill tribes.

Cambodian people own and run this service. By supplying them with work at the sanctuary, the venture empowers local people. Somehow, it might be a piece of good news for the idea that no Western tour guides or Western volunteers take paid job opportunities away from local people.

It may be considered as an excellent excuse to visit this elephant sanctuary due to the following information.

This sanctuary maybe a Cambodia’s top-rated Elephant Sanctuary. It is a registered Cambodian NGO saving forest and rescue elephants. Furthermore, you are allowed to feed and wash the elephants.

The organization has provided excellent service since the project was established. Last but not least, managers and staff here are Cambodian nationalities, not foreigners. The most important reason is that they donate their income to wild elephant conservation.

Mondulkiri Elephant & Wildlife Sanctuary

The Mondulkiri Elephant & Wildlife Sanctuary is a shielded forest area and wildlife conservation eco-tourism program near Sen Monorom, province of Mondulkiri, Cambodia.

The sanctuary is a non-profit community project that L.E.A.F Cambodia, an NGO for local preservation and environmental protection, has created and sponsored.

Here they bring several tour programs to the elephant sanctuary and surrounding protected community forests.

The activities are intended for tourists interested in tourism and the protection of moral wildlife. Those working elephant retirement programs, local forest conservation, and wildlife rescues are directly funded by visitor donations.

Throughout sanctuary excursions, overnight tours, and ethical elephant adventures, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the unique natural habitats and ethnic culture of Mondulkiri, learn about elephant treatment, get close and socialize with elephants, nourish them, bathe and groom them in the elephant pool of the Sanctuary rainforest.

Here, you have a chance to register for a volunteer job if you wish to engage yourself deeply with the community, elephant, and the forest.

Community Elephant Projects


Such ventures will be marketed in most Sen Monorom guesthouses and hotels. If, in addition to your elephant training, you are given a local village tour, you know that you are working with a group elephant campaign.

To grasp Mondulkiri’s community elephant programs, you need to learn a bit about how elephants were used in Cambodia.

Elephants were used for manual work, such as logging and delivering goods, before the era of decent roads, scooters, trucks, and other electrical equipment.

Yet elephants are difficult to come by and costly to own, as many households and several villages in the region have shared and held a single elephant.

Because now machines have replaced elephants, then this big species in Cambodia are rarely used for manual labor anymore. For elephants, that’s great, but it leaves an issue for their owners.

Elephants can survive for 60 years or more and are insanely expensive to provide caring.

Once owners learned that visitors might pay for watching, riding, and bathing their elephants, a new channel of revenue is revealed. Elephant tourism helps them to sustain and compensate for the care of their elephants, while also supporting community members.

Sadly, as there is a small number of elephants in Mondulkiri (just 43 protected elephants), this knowledge has also contributed to intense competition, with all grabbing a piece of profitable elephant tourism market.

How do the community elephant projects work?

Do you agree that the projects in the community sound good?

Isn’t it necessary to directly offer your money to the people who own the elephants?

Cut out the middle man and demonstrate the owners that you endorse their elephants’ welfare.

That’s not how things work, apparently.

If you reserve a tour with your Sen Monorom guesthouse or hotel, they plan to hire for the day from a few of the community’s elephants.

The elephant handler takes the elephant to the place where it is organized, and you can feed, bathe, and often ride the elephant in what seems to be their natural setting.

Renting an elephant is a flat task. So even if the tour operator brings 1 visitors or 20, the holders of the elephant always collect the same small fee, and the remainder goes into the pockets of the tour companies.

It can result in congested tours, where too many sightseers, all attempting to pull selfies, surround a few elephants. This condition can be elephant stressful and people risky.

This also implies that most of the money does not go to the holder of the elephant, so it doesn’t benefit the elephant directly.

How are the elephants in the community treated?

Although the owners usually love and cherish the elephants, for a few reasons their situation is not suitable, for instance:

  • They’re not being handled like wild animals. Alternatively, they are viewed more like cows or horses, even if they are not domesticated animals.
  • Shackled at night, elephants are almost definitely attached during the day when visitors are not amused by them.
  • Elephants might not obtain enough food, based on the community, and they have little or no chance of wandering through the jungle forging their own food as they do in the natural world.
  • Many community tours require the elephants to be bathed by tourists. It can result in too much water for the elephants and additional stress of being overwhelmed every day by various tourists.

Several projects also encourage tourists to ascend on the elephants in the water. For the elephants, this is stressful and can be risky for visitors. Furthermore, vet care has limited access for those elephants too.

Then, Should you visit a community elephant project in Mondulkiri?

Mondulkiri Project. Elephant Sanctuary & Jungle Treks

The answer to this question is tricky, while the protection of elephants is a very complicated matter.

Community projects are the lowest price elephant experiences in Mondulkiri, so they might be your best choice if you’re on a minimal budget.

If you happen to visit, you are encouraged to refuse to take a bath or ride the elephants and make sure you tell your guide you are not endorsing it. If enough visitors show their disappointment with these events, they will be entirely driven out.

Bear in mind that although a lot of money falls into the tour organizer’s wallet from these group tours, some remain with the elephant and the local Bunong people.

The cash also allows the communities to take care of their elephants, so attending the projects lets them get appropriate care.

The community owners can sell or rent their elephants to the local sanctuaries if this source of income starts to dry up. Moreover, they could sell their elephants to Siem Reap’s harmful elephant riding camps.

Essential Tips for a Safe visit with the Elephants

We can’t make assumptions on the travel schedule for you. It is up to you to be a responsible traveler and to ensure that the communities you visit benefit from your travel behaviors. So whatever elephant sanctuary you choose to visit in Cambodia, please follow these Elephant Welfare Instructions.

  • You are highly recommended not to ride an elephant. Elephants are not domestic animals, and using them for your amusement is not a good idea.
  • Shouldn’t swim or bathe with elephants. Although elephants need to bathe to avoid bacterial infections, their herdsmen, who have a healthy relationship of trust with them, should be the only person who washes them.
  • Tourists crowding through an elephant in the water are causing stress to the elephants, keeping them in the water longer than usual can lead to an endangering the tourists.
  • You should not use flash to take a photograph. Flash can also harm their sensitive eyes as well as spooking the elephants.
  • Evicting feeding of elephants. Make sure that there is a wall between you and the elephant if you are trying to give the food to elephants. When you feed them improperly, which is a volatile situation for yourself, elephants can get irritated.
  • Where does your cash go? This can be difficult to demonstrate as no sanctuary can disclose whether their income goes to personal benefit, but nevertheless ask the question. Whether you think the answer to that question is unclear, go ahead.
  • Be accountable for your photographs. You may need to get your picture with an elephant, of course! Watch your back (approximately 5 meters far) and don’t fire your camera in their face.
  • Look at the elephant owner. They can indicate when the elephant is happy or in a stressed condition. Follow the instructions from the owner so that you won’t get in trouble.

Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary in Siem Reap Cambodia

Siem Reap’s nearest elephant sanctuary is named the Cambodian Wildlife sanctuary. This wildlife sanctuary was established in 2004 in partnership with the Cambodian government by an American lawyer named David Casselman. This lawyer has also created an NGO called Elephant in Crisis to further his commitment to protecting the elephant’s lives in Cambodia.

The Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuary lay on a forest topography of over 4 hundred thousand hectares and a diverse wildlife population, including tigers, buffaloes, monkeys, and Asian elephants.

It is situated in a jointed location of Siem Reap, Preah Vihear, and Odor Mean Chey province. You will have to travel about 1 hour north of Angkor Wat. The Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuary is one of several fantastic projects operated by Lek Chailert from the Elephant Nature Park.

Rather than riding an elephant at the Angkor Wat site, you are suggested to do a challenge by exploring this elephant sanctuary. Moreover, the government has stated that the elephant riding will no longer be valid for tourists from 2020.

The official statement was released after the failure and death of 2 elephants bearing visitors on their backs, one in 2016 and another in 2018 due to exhaustion. Also, the announcement earned consent from most visitors who value the creature, as well as from elephants.

Nevertheless, tourists can still see the elephants in the rehabilitation and breeding center, and photography is allowed to conduct during the visit. We all hope to see the elephants to live as naturally as possible.

Tourists can engage in a seven-day volunteer program at Siem Reap elephant sanctuary. To adults, it requires $400 and has to be booked in the upfront. However, the kids will have to pay only half of the price that an adult does.

What will you do with your volunteering period?

You will contribute to restoring the forest habitat of the threatened Asian elephant by working at the Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia. Planting trees, gathering seeds and making trails are just some of the activities you will have. Not often that you will partake in a grass-roots-level campaign. There’s no more elephant swimming here.

What will you be provided?

You will live in pleasant housing on-site and kindly share with at least two other volunteers. Here you’re going to sleep in the forest sounds. Three tasty meals a day, prepared with the right combination of buffet theme. However, every menu is vegetarian, with unlimited access to drinking water. Transportation from Siem Reap or Chong Sa-Ngaam Checkpoint is offered.

What does the project need from volunteers?

  • A full passport is valid for the duration of your stay.
  • Insurance (covering your placement time and any planned independent travel).
  • Transport to Siem Reap or Border crossing.
  • Independent travel costs and return to the airport.
  • Any additional costs such as trips, snacks, entertainment (allow some US dollars or a few thousand Riel per day depending on lifestyle).
  • Depending on the length of your stay in Cambodia, a 30-day tourist visa is required.
  • No compulsory vaccinations are necessary just do check with your doctor to make sure polio, typhoid and Hepatitis A&B jabs are up to date.

Wild elephants in Cambodia

There is an estimation of the number of wild elephants in Cambodia stay between 400 and 600, with the largest population in south-western Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains and the eastern regions of Mondulkiri Province.

The Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group was set up in 2005 by Fauna and Flora International to protect the lives of the Asian elephant in Cambodia by stabilizing and raising wild elephant populations across the nation.

Illegal trade in wildlife is a serious threat to elephants around the world and in Cambodia. Recent surveys suggest that Cambodia is developing as an ivory gateway, freely sold in significant cities markets and shops.

See also!

Koh Rong Holidays A simple guide to the best locations

Siem Reap attractions and tours

The best trekking ideas visiting Siem Reap

A Complete Guide to Visit Kep

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