Volunteering in the jungle

Cambodia
6 May 2017 / By / , , , / Post a Comment

I wanted to begin my big journey by something important to me. Something I find helpful.

I’ve always been intrigued by wild animals, and I know that if we don’t do something about it, for the next generations they will be no more than a concept. Like dinosaurs. “Magic” animals, which disappeared. Because of us. Humanity.

Our cute friends in love

Elephants are majestic creatures. One of the only species left and next to which we can feel so tiny. I googled, I found the Elephant Nature Park organisation, and I decided that my first volunteering experience would take place in the Wildlife Sanctuary,100km north of Siem Reap. I was curious to see how my money (400€ a week) would be used. I was expecting something nice. It was way better.

This beautiful project is an initiative from Lek, which means “tiny” in thaï, but who is a great lady. I had the chance to meet her during my last night spent in the jungle. Her main and biggest park is in Chiang Mai, north Thaïlande. It is with this sanctuary that she began. Volunteer positions are booked months in advance, and the camp is really big. I wanted to help somewhere not to crowded yet, where they really needed some help. That’s how I arrived in Cambodia ! 🙂

Blessings by a monk, at the beginning of our week

We were 5 volunteers this week (against around 60 in Chiang Mai). The center is at human scale, we can really bond with people who work here. And we learn SO MUCH. Everyone is here because of their deep love for animals, of any kind. The meals are delicious and entirely vegetarian (even at 80% vegan)… even dogs don’t eat the rats which run around !

To be a volunteer at the sanctuary requires commitment and a real goodwill. We aren’t here to play with elephants and chill in a hammock all day long. Chores are hard, ask for strength and to be really dedicated to those amazing animals. So if you can’t picture yourself cleaning poop after breakfast under 40°C, or cut kilos of sugarcanes with a machete, this experience will not fit you 🙂

Starry sky, above the bathroom hut. And my pretty bed, little cocoon under my mosquito net.
Around 5/6am, I did a bit of meditation and yoga on my terrace. Dream life.

The week passed so fast. We had daily tasks : pick up elephants poops and use it as a compost on the morning, prepare their food and feed them on the afternoon… Every day we learnt a lot of things. The sanctuary hopes to become self-sufficient soon, so we plant banana trees, sugarcanes, chilies… and we recycle everything. We walk into the jungle beside elephants, we make paths all the way to the field borders. We also gave an english class in a school near by. The situation of people living around is very precarious and the sanctuary is trying to help them.

Volunteers and employees try to raise awareness about waste management and organic agriculture. In a lot of places in Cambodia, when you have a bin of garbages, you brun or bury it, thinking it makes everything disappear; meanwhile water get polluted, and people get sick. By trying to show them another way, we give them the opportunity to really choose.

The Elephant Nature Parks created by Lek have as a purpose to save animals and rehabilitate them in wildlife.

Unfortunately, once an animal grew up in captivity and was fed without developing its survival instincts, it’s hard for him to find it back as an adult. Sanctuary’s elephants were abused and exploited before being rescued. They were used to beg in the streets, walk around tourists (please just stop), play shows in circus… They keep very importants physical and psychological injuries and have troubles to trust human again after this… who can blame them !

In the parks, elephants take bath, walk around the jungle, and find food as they want. However, we keep an eye on them a little bit, to be sure that no one will came and take them to exploite them again, which still happens sometimes unfortunately.

This is where mahouts take place. They really fascinated me. Who are they ? Mahouts are men following and living very close to the elephants; they take care of them, guide them, and sometimes direct them. But here, they are “kind” masters. They help them making comfortable in their new environnement, to understand and use the world around them. They speak to them, really succeed to communicate, and a very strong bond links them.

Rangers in front of their hut

Elephants are not the only species saved here. Every park is a refuge for all kinf of animals : dogs, monkeys, tigers, snakes… Each living being is sacred there. And it’s something I really care about.

This week was amazing or me. All I expected for, but even better. It sound really cliché, but I learn about everything : nature, animals, work, others, et myself. People handling this project are awesome, and every cent is properly used to help animals and the wildlife. I can just advice you to do it. Whatever it is in Thaïlande or in Cambodia (even though the center near Siem Reap will need you more 😉 ). You can go just for a day, a week or two… for more informations, here is the link og Elephant Nature Park.

Last word… please, stop riding elephants for “fun”. For exotisme. Just STOP. No, they are not happy about it. They don’t have a great life. Would you like to carry people many hours a day under the sun and pick strikes ? Instead of wandering in the jungle with your pairs ? NO. With giving money and participating to this aberration, it’s like you agree with the fact they’re separate from their family, that we kill their parents, and that they are beaten until their spirits are killed and they are obedient. This ritual has a name : it’s called the phajaan. Please, think about this.

Be the voice of the elephants 

If you have any question, please don’t hesitate to ask ♥

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Hi, I'm AC : free, optimistic, curious about everything. I take pictures, I travel the world, I meditate, I dance for hours, and I'm laughing out loud. Hope you'll enjoy the ride... To know more, click on the drawing. Welcome in my world !

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