Why We Didn’t Do An Elephant Tour In Sen Monorom

Last updated on: 37 Comments
Elephant Tour Trek Sen Monorom Mondulkiri Cambodia Ayutthaya Thailand
An elephant ‘dancing’ for an onlooker in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

We had arrived in Sen Monorom, in the Mondulkiri province of Cambodia, with wide eyes and adventure activities in our sights. We had been researching things to do in the area and had come across a multitude of waterfalls, hikes and awesome motorcycle rides to take part in. However there was one thing that intrigued us the more we got closer to Sen Monorom – elephant tours.

We have always opted to not ride elephants due to our own personal beliefs (and scientific research) that shows this can be quite harmful for the creatures and promotes unsustainable tourism. We understand that elephants have been used by trainers, known as mahouts, for thousands of years for war, transportation and agriculture, but this is not our culture. For us as foreigners to ride an elephant, it is more about the ‘wow’ factor and to get some photos, ignoring any damage to sustainability and harm to the animals. We do not want to take part in any activity that could potentially be irresponsible, but we had heard about some different and unique experiences in Sen Monorom.

Elephant Tour Trek Sen Monorom Mondulkiri Cambodia View
The scenery around Sen Monorom in the Mondulkiri province, Cambodia.

Sen Monorom And Its Elephants

The area is famous for its elephant population. There are an estimated 83 captive elephants in Cambodia, and 54 of these are in the Mondulkiri province. There are approximately 260 elephants across the country.

The most famous organisation in Sen Monorom is the Elephant Valley Project, part of the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (E.L.I.E.) company. Started by Jack Highwood in 2005, the EVP has a great reputation for rescuing abused elephants from around the province and bringing them to their sanctuary. They also claim to help benefit the local Bunong communities by providing healthcare and high employment opportunities for the villagers. They don’t allow people to ride their elephants, instead only allowing you to view them from afar as they go about their daily business. This sounded exactly like the kind of eco-tourism organisation we wanted to check out. We planned to make the EVP one of our first destinations when we arrived in town.

Elephant Tour Trek Sen Monorom Mondulkiri Cambodia Bousra Falls
Bousra Falls near Sen Monorom.

There are now a number of companies in Sen Monorom all offering similar services, including being able to go on an elephant tour with a local mahout from the indigenous Bunong minority group. We started our on-the-ground research once we got to town, but quickly became jaded with what was (or wasn’t) happening between the companies in town.

Competition is fierce, and there is a huge smear campaign between all the restaurants, cafes and tour companies in Sen Monorom. One of the first things we had heard after parking our motorbikes at a coffee shop was how the Elephant Valley Project is destroying the livelihoods of the local ethnic people, rather than supporting them. Rumours of them ‘saving’ the same elephants since the day they opened were rife. We were even told of the expensive mansion the owner was building up in the mountains, funded by the high cost required to take part in a tour with them. Yet despite all of this we were never provided any concrete proof, outside of a few home made flyers and petitions.

Elephant Tour Trek Sen Monorom Mondulkiri Cambodia Pai Thailand
An elephant with two people riding bareback down the streets of Pai, Thailand.

Hearing all this, we then started asking about the other tour companies in town. We heard the exact same stories. It appeared that there was no support offered between anyone. Of course when there is competition, you may expect some unsavoury comments between opposing companies. But this was a part of what seemed to be the entire culture in Sen Monorom. No one wanted to work together. We couldn’t walk into a restaurant, bar, cafe or hotel without someone bad-mouthing an elephant tour company. It was leaving strong doubts in our mind.

Deciding we needed to hear the Elephant Valley Project’s side of the story, we stopped by their office. A very friendly Australian worker was more than happy to tell us all about their services, history and how the funds are dispersed. We enquired about the negative criticism they were receiving and she took the higher ground – refusing to throw back insults towards any other company. We admired this, and decided to join her for a coffee.

The price they were charging to spend a small amount of time with the elephants was incredibly high in comparison to similar tours in Thailand. However you could receive a small discount if you ‘volunteered’ there. The volunteer work involved farming and cutting down plants – actually spending less time with the elephants than a full-paid tour. She explained how the costs were divided, yet in our own minds it didn’t add up – especially for a non-profit organisation. We don’t mind paying more for a worthwhile enterprise, especially if it is a sustainable project, yet something wasn’t quite right. We left feeling better about the company, but still not entirely convinced.

Elephant Tour Trek Sen Monorom Mondulkiri Cambodia Angkor Wat Temple Tourists Riding
Tourists and a mahout riding an elephant in the Angkor complex in Cambodia.

The controversy kept coming for the rest of our time in Sen Monorom. There was no way we could confirm or deny any of the accusations of the lack of support to the indigenous Bunong people, or how sustainable any of the other organisations were, such as the Mondulkiri Project.

We spent our last two days checking out waterfalls and riding our motorcycles around, contemplating who to support. In the end we decided to not choose anyone. As much as we would have loved to spend some time with the elephants in their natural, yet somehow artificial environment, we couldn’t feel comfortable with who we would give our money too. Obviously some good work is being done by most of the companies involved in elephant tours in Sen Monorom, but how much irresponsible action really takes place? We didn’t want to fund a company where we couldn’t be sure of how ethical their intentions are.

Leaving Sen Monorom we can’t accurately confirm any of the negative and positive comments thrown around about the Elephant Valley Project, the Mondulkiri Project, or with any of the smaller tour companies in town. But we felt more comfortable not taking part in such a controversial and possibly unsustainable activity.

Update – Our good friends Jane and Stephen recently visited Sen Monorom and wrote about their own personal experiences with the elephant sanctuaries there. Read their article to get some new information.

Have you done an elephant tour in Sen Monorom, or anywhere else? What are your opinions on it?
Elephant Tour Trek Sen Monorom Mondulkiri Cambodia Thoms Pai Thailand
An elephant at Thom’s in Pai, Thailand. One of the seemingly happier elephants we have come across in SE Asia

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37 COMMENTS

  1. Hi,
    We visited Sen Monorom in April 2016 and spent a few days with Mr Tree. We had a real once in a lifetime experience, getting close to elephants without partaking in barbaric rides of these wonderful animals. Neither Mr Tree or any of his guides, at any time, bad mouthed other local companies and we got the impression a lot of good work is being done in the area. We paid an extremely reasonable price which enabled us to achieve the dream of getting close to an elephant, and for Mr Tree to continue to make money to support his good cause. At times it’s all too easy for us to criticise charities or people trying to do good, but ultimately they’re the ones out there making it happen. Well done for following your gut instinct with where to spend your money though!

    I’m just about to head to Sen Monorom, so interested to see what the situation was a few years ago. I’m hoping the negative atmosphere has improve but I doubt it. We found the same situation in Chiang Mai when we were there. Many locals were bad-mouthing the Elephant Nature Park, saying that they were charging volunteers so much money that they had to be making a profit. Of course, none of it was true, and meeting Lek and her staff who were so passionate about helping the hurt and broken elephants they protected was a highlight of my travels so far.

    I hope to find similar inspiration in Sen Monorom.

    I recently wrote a post about how to help elephants when you travel, which you can find here. I hope you guys don’t mind me sharing the link!

    http://www.myfiveacres.com/travel-tips/world-elephant-day/

    J

      Hi Jane, we can’t wait to hear what your experience is like. We are hoping it has all changed and there is no more negativity among the community. It is about protecting the elephants. Please keep in touch. Have a great time and happy travels.

    I know this is an old article but it is so upsetting reading it. I have visited EVP and I know Jack through volunteering to work and stay. What he provides is a priceless life experience. He also provides great accommodation, meals, transport and has to pay his staff AND the local Mahouts that work for him thus supporting families and providing health care and educational opportunities for local people.(as well) He has been doing this for 10 years! Way way before any Mr Tees or Mondulkiri Project ever came on to the scene to try and make money out of his sanctuary and elephant rescue projects. His ideas were for the purest reasons ( I don’t think you settle into such a remote region and sleep on the floor thinking you are going to get rich quick). I have helped pay for elephants rescues and hospital treatment for Mahouts and continue to support a man that has given up the comfort of an easy life back in England ( University private school educated). He has inspired and led others to copy what he does- even if they don’t do it as well. In a small town there will be jealously and has always been jealousy. Sad. But that does not mean keeping elephants or feeding and taking care of the health of elephants is free. Tours and volunteers pay money because it costs LOTS of money to provide a sanctuary for eleies. ( that includes lots of money paid to the Cambodian government because believe me they take a cut). With respect you need to visit EVP and Jack.

    Hi Guys,
    Interesting read. This gave us a lot to think about when we went to Mondulkiri a couple of weeks a go. I’m afraid there is still a lot of bashing going on between the sanctuaries and the community based projects in Mondulkiri. We ended up going on a tour with a community based project called Elephant Community Project. It was absolutely fantastic and we left confident it was a legitimate conservation effort. We wrote a post about our experience here: http://www.travelsometwosome.com/post/2017/01/17/elephant-conservation-projects-in-modulkiri-cambodia
    It might be useful for anyone else thinking of heading up there.
    Thanks,
    Mike

      Thank you so much for sharing Mike. Looks great. We are glad you found a responsible tour.

      Hi guys, just researching visiting one of the elephant parks in Son Monorom. This Elephant Valley Project you’re promoting…surely isn’t responsible/ethical if hundreds of random people every month are in such close physical proximity to the elephants. How is that a natural environment? It seems the only way to really see these creatures should be from afar. No touching/feeding/swimming with them. That seems to be the consensus from my limited research.
      I’m not having a go at anyone, just as we’re discussing where our funding goes, is this sanctuary you’re promoting actually something to be supported?
      EVP has amazing reviews, all saying it’s ethical, so have I got it wrong? It’s cool to be close enough for selfies with them?

        *I meant ECP – Elephant Community Project, sorry, not EVP -Elephant Valley Project.

    My family met Jack and all the beautiful elephants he and his dedicated staff were looking after, back in November 2010.

    We had travelled from Phnom Penh to a small town somewhere near the project and I do remember there was a little bit of bad mouthing going on about Jack from some of the people who lived and worked in and around the place; the bus had dropped us off in the town after a pretty long journey and we were greeted by tour guides who helped find us somewhere to stay and also offered alternative “elephanty” things to do.
    As lovely as they were, we stuck to our plans and were picked up by Jack the following morning.

    Now, I must admit, I was, by now, a little wary of this chap, who seemed to have a reputation for being extremely rude and arrogant (from the local motor bike boys and a certain cafe owner where we ate and drank much beer.)
    Jack got my back up from the off!! I was probably looking for it though.

    ” WELCOME TO SOMEWHERE!”

    Then, something absolutely beautiful happened. As he took my wife and I and our two children around the place and started to talk about how he’d set about leaving Essex to dedicate his life and soul to this amazing cause, all that other shit became irrelevant. Immediately.
    We were introduced to staff and shown around. Then he says, “you have to check this out!”
    There is a toilet up there, which has a sign, “Welcome to somewhere” and I still, on a weekly basis, think what it must be like to take a dump up there, with the shutters open, overlooking this jungle landscape, with these beautiful animals out there having a fucking nice life, away from carrying tourists needing a selfish selfie. He must have this experience every single day!

    Jack is an inspirational character. It really is not difficult to see this beautiful bloke for what he is, once you’ve spent an hour in his company, passionately talking about the individual elephants and all the little things that make them what they are. One of my biggest regrets, was turning down an offer to stay the night in one of the rooms there…we’d had a lovely lunch and it would have been amazing, but sadly I declined as we had other plans.

    He did make us all feel extremely ashamed that we’d ridden elephants the week before. We will none of us, ever do that again, just from what we learned from him in that one, very beautiful day. My kids learned a lot from this experience. The elephants are absolutely amazing and happily doing what they want to do.
    If, during your lucky travels, you are going to do anything at all involving these amazing animals, go see Jack. End of.

    Hi, I have been reading the discussion about elephant tours and I would like to add a comment.
    It is true there is a lot of competition between the different tours and it is difficult to know whom to support. I myself went on a tour with Mr. Tree, who is definitely very passionate about elephants and knows how to look after his customers. However, he is not a local man, and he rents and buys his elephants just like the other tour operators. Now there is a better option available, Vanny, is a local Bunong man from Putang village, and he has started to operate Mondulkiri Ethnic Project on behalf of his Bunong community. If you wish to support the local community, all proceeds from his tours go towards improving his community, who are the traditional owners of the elephants (he doesn’t need to rent or buy the elephants). In general there is a great awareness now amongst the local population, that it is not good to force elephants todo manual work or to let tourists ride the elephants, and I could not find a tour operator offering elephant rides in Sen Monorom.
    If you wish to find out more, visit http://www.mondulkiriethnicproject.org or contact Vanny at mondulkiriethnicproject@gmail.com or call 855(0)978269741.

    Hi Leah & Jessa, I cannot believe you go around the world giving negative comments on things you don’t visit. Hopefully, people will do their own research using comments from travellers like myself who only report on things I have first hand knowledge on, elephant valley project in Mondulkiri being one of them.I wish you luck on your travels as you will need it if you go around making comments on things which are actually just your unqualified opinions.

      Hi Sue, if you bothered to read the post (perhaps you would have got our names right at least) you would see that we simply gave our opinions on how we felt when we visited the office of the EVP, and when speaking to locals around Sen Monorom. We spent a few hours in the office speaking to a lovely lady, and even though she didn’t drop to the level of name-calling and bashing the way the locals did, she could not convince us that the money was going completely to a good cause. At the end of the dau we made our decision based on how we felt. Why would we do something we weren’t confident in? And rather than just banging on our blog, how about you give a thoughtful and factual comment based on your experiences? That would be more productive than giving your own unqualified opinion now wouldn’t it?

        Hi, I was interested to read all of the discussion about elephant tours in Mondulkiri. Yes, it is true that there is very fierce competition between all the different tour companies, and I think they all recognise that it’s not a policy to offer elephant rides anymore. Nearly all of them rent their elephants from the indigenous Bunong community and offer tours which include walking with the elephants, feeding them, swimming in the river and helping to wash them. While it’s true that Mr Tree is very passionate about saving the elephants, there is a better option available now. Vanny, a member of the local Bunong community, has set up the Mondulkiri Ethnic Project, on behalf of his Bunong Community in Putang village. The Bunong are the traditional owners of the elephants, and it would seem only fair that they should be the ones to benefit from tourism in their area. All proceeds from the Mondulkiri Ethnic Project go to help the whole Bunong community. If you wish to support the indigenous Bunong community, check out their website at http://www.mondulkiriethnicproject.org or contact Vanny at mondulkiriethnicproject@gmail.com.

    Interesting! Just arrived in Sen Monorom and excited to spend a day with elephants tomorrow with Mr Tree (Mondulkiri project). Until, one of the ladies working in the Green House Bar told us how it was a bad tour as he has 2 new cars and doesn’t support the local people. Hence this research and I have been reassured by the objective nature of the article and comments. The way I see it, we are supporting the people of the region by visiting, and, as far as my limited reserch goes, the elephants are well looked after and not abused in any way. Keeping an open mind at this point!

      Shame to hear that there is still some bashing going on in Sen Monorom. Please do let us know what you decided to do, and what your experiences were. Thanks Adele.

    Have just been to the Modulkiri Project last week. We had 3 guides in the two days we were there for and all of them seemed to have a really great relationship with the local bunoung people we came across. Mr Tree is one of the most passionate men I have ever heard speak.. Passionate both about helping the elephants and the local people. He made clear that his lodge ‘Tree lodge’ was how he made his money and that all money for the elephant treks went back into the project and helping local people. At current every couple of months they deliver supplies to the local people to try and prevent hunger. He also informed about the belief in ‘magic healing’ among the local people and how people are dying as they are sent to the forest to be healed instead of a hospital. He made clear this was both an issue with money and tradition. He wishes to educate and fund local people so they can recieve medical attention.

    I guess everyone needs to make their own mind up, but personally I feel is a very worthwhile project which I would recommend to anyone 🙂

      Glad to hear you had a good experience with Mr Tree. If we return to Mondulkiri we will definitely meet with him and have a chat about his project. Thanks for the comment.

    Hiya,

    Very sorry to read that you did not come and visit and that people continue to say bad things about us in Sen Monorom. We here at ELIE have been working here for a long time to look after elephants at our sanctuary and across Mondulkiri with our vet team (nearly ten years now) and have no desire or need to slander any other projects, programs or tours. Our main concern is the health and welfare of the elephants themselves and that people look after these precious and wonderful animals. ELIE is however a charity and not a company and while we all get paid a wage there is no profit that gets put back towards shareholders or an “owner”. I am glad you got to talk to one of my staff members and i must say that i too agree with you that this hostile environment towards visitors (that has developed over the last two years) is just not positive for Mondulkiri as a whole. We have had several meetings to discuss the issue but it had has made little difference. What would you suggest would be a good course of action?

    p.s I was very curious to read about this mansion? do you possibly have any more information about it? i myself live above our office in a few rooms and would love to go and live in a mansion. especially if it has my name on it! However in all seriousness though this is very amusing to read about!

      Hi Jack,

      Thanks so much for commenting on our article. As the owner of ELIE, you would have a better understanding than anyone about the situation in Sen Monorom. It is a shame that this kind of criticism is happening amongst companies in such a beautiful region.

      As we said, we did feel better about the EVP once we talked to your employee in the office (who was very friendly and honest), but we still left unconvinced of how the money was being dispersed.

      When it comes to your supposed mansion, this was just stories told to us from other people in the town. The negativity towards ELIE from many of the locals in town is quite upsetting. Hopefully this can be sorted soon.

      When we return to Cambodia, we will take the time to come up and meet you personally. Best of luck with everything, and I hope the people of the Mondulkiri region can start to work together in the near future, for the sake of the elephants as well as for business.

    Hey.
    Stumbled upon your article when reminiscing about the tour I did with the Mondulkiri Project over a year ago. I truly believe if you had taken the time to speak to Mr Tree, as you did with the Australian EVP guide, you would have had no shadow of a doubt that your money was contributing to a worthwhile locally owned project that supported the indigenous community. Mr Tree was one of the most passionate, kind and inspirational human beings I have ever had the good fortune of meeting. I did not feel he was lying nor attempting to fleece anyone. He taught each of us about the history of the land, the personal stories behind each elephant and his dreams for the future. I hope you might reconsider visiting in the future.
    All the best for your next trip!

      Unfortunately we never got a chance to speak with Mr Tree. If we ever end up back in Sen Monorom, we will definitely go meet with him. Thanks for letting us know about your experiences, Ceri 🙂

    This is a really informative article on the elephant situation in Thailand. Sadly, most ANYWHERE with elephants is bad and tourists shouldn’t support elephant entertainment of any sort. But this article states there are a few more ethical practices you can look out for. Also, the few sanctuaries they do mention are the onest that should be supported. My friend who has been a conservationist her whole life and has dedicated her life to endangered animals like elephants used to run the Elephant Nature Park. I know personally that this is among the best (if not THE best) in Thailand. It’s where all those other elephants used for entertainment purposes go when they are rescued. Please don’t support elephant riding, entertainment of any kind. Support them in their natural habitats, or something close to it.

    http://adoreanimals.com/blog/the-ethical-elephant-experience/

    Jennie
    http://www.jennieofthejungle.com

      Hey Jennie. Sen Monorom is in Cambodia, not Thailand, but it is almost the same there. People need to start thinking about whether it is ethical to visit elephant sanctuaries or not. I know Elephant Nature Park is meant to be pretty good, but we cannot comment on the others. Thanks for reading.

    Like others here, I have heard about the EVP/Mondolkiri Project conflict which seems to be a bad thing for the region and the tourist business. I will be there next week so I hope to see for myself.

    A local man from Banlung who works with minorities here has given me a contact number for an independent guy working out of Sen Monorom. I trust his judgement, so will leave the contact no here if anyone wants to support the local workers directly. It would be nice to get any feedback on your experiences with him. He is called Mr Dan. Contact : 088 944489.

      We heard better things about the local Banlung mahouts than EVP/Mondulkiri Project. Let us know how your experiences are with Mr Dan.

      Mr Dan will sell you any tour you want. This includes Elephant riding. He can sell his tours cheaply because he only hires the elephants for a day. A sanctuary like the Mondulkiri Project rents their elephants for a year at a time from their owners to ensure that these elephants are no longer used for elephant rides or heavy farm work.

    Hey guys,

    Thank you for this article. I’m in Mondulkiri at the moment and have experienced the same type of mud slinging. I have a tour booked with the Mondulkiri project but am now doubting on going with them. As everyone in the village says they are a for-profit organisation even though they claim not to be. I’ve heard even worse allegation on the Elephant Valley Project.

    I find it very difficult to decide as I have heard good things of other companies that are organizing similar trips. How can you however ever know who is telling the truth and who is not.

    Greetings,
    Marijs

      It’s a tough call for sure, Marijs. All we can do is conduct our own research and make our own decisions based on what we find. Hope you found something worthwhile in the end 🙂

    I have a couple of thoughts about this.

    1) Yes, I applaud you for not partaking if you think money is going to an owner’s hands and that he is just profiting from the ‘non-profit’ status. Because honestly, you never know in SE Asia.

    2) On the other hand, how can you be sure without having seen their operations? And how are you benefiting anyone? You are neither supporting the elephants by spending money to support the operations nor are you writing a piece criticizing EVP which would help other potential clients weigh the pros and the cons of going there. Instead you’re casting doubt on EVP based on rumors and a conversation with what was probably a volunteer. As far as volunteer programs and tour prices go, look at Elephant Nature park – people pay an arm and a leg to go for a tour or even just to volunteer and shovel up elephant poop. Yet people don’t question the cost because ENP is now famous and is above scrutiny.

    I totally agree that most elephant facilities in SE Asia don’t treat their elephants well. Most are of the ‘elephant show” variety (which you picture at the top of this post), others are just of the ‘elephant trek’ variety where the elephants walk around with tourists on their backs from dawn til dusk. We were at Angkor just a month ago and saw exactly what you have pictured above. But I guess what riles me to a certain degree are Westerners who come in with a certain ideal of how elephants should be treated and how elephant sanctuaries/foundations should be run. And if those places don’t meet those ideals then they are poo-pooed as not meeting ‘standards’ when in fact those places are 100x better than the majority of elephant facilities that I’ve alluded to (under the treatment of which most elephants are subjected). Then there’s also the fact that a lot of tourists will be all sanctimonious about how elephants should be treated but then won’t put their money where their mouths are (ie. not wanting to pay the premium of going to a quality elephant sanctuary/foundation).

    Sorry, don’t mean to dump on you guys specifically. But I wrote a piece on an elephant foundation about a month ago where I was crapped on by all these vegan, holier-than-thou, eco-tourism bloggers. Very quick to criticize the efforts of people and volunteers behind some of these operations but short of real-world solutions to elephant conservation.

    My opinion to bloggers/tourists? Criticize elephant sanctuaries/foundations if they don’t meet standards but be constructive. People don’t like bad reviews and criticism will bring changes. If you believe in a cause strongly enough put your money where your mouth is. I think the big thing missing in all this conversation is the role of governments – can you think of a SE Asian government who has an official elephant conservation program where non-profit projects are monitored? Does any SE Asian government have protected reserves specific to elephant conservation?

    Sorry, had wanted to write a short comment but ended with a rant. Elephant conservation a complicated issue, just wanted to get my opinion in.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    Thanks Lesh and Jazza for this article on elephant tours in Sen Monorom.

    When I was in Sen Monorom I also decided not to go on a tour with EVP. Instead I went on a tour with a local bunong guide which was excellent. Although EVP claims to help all the elephants and mahouts around Sen Monorom the locals told me this was not the case. I was also a bit wary of where EVP money goes. At their office in town they are the only one of the four ngo’s featured there who don’t have financial accounts on their website for the public to view.

    When talking to my guesthouse I was told EVP have at least thirty customers booked every day paying almost $100 each and constantly have volunteers sometimes paying as much as $1000 for a weeks visit. That is a lot of money. I also learnt that EVP use their thousands of facebook supporters to pay for new elephants and other projects rather than use the money they get from their tours. Is there a big pile of money ending up in the pockets of the english owner to pay for a mansion in the mountains?

      Hey Lisa, thanks so much for taking the time to write this. It is interesting to see that the way we saw the situation in Sen Monorom is also apparent to others. The EVP is definitely making a lot of money, and we do hope that at least most of it is going to looking after the elephants, but we cannot be sure. We also considered going with a local Bunong guide which we honestly thought would have been the most sustainable option, but opted out of any elephant tours in the end. Glad to hear that you found it worthwhile, as you obviously travel in a responsible manner. If we end up back in Mondulkiri, we will go with a local guide. Thanks for reading Lisa!

        Hi there

        We have just been on an EVP tour and we were hugely impressed by the respect shown to the elephants, the distance we were required to keep and the way the animals were rotated so they never had visitors for several days each week. For the rest, I have only the word of our guide but we were impressed by how much the project spent on community schemes, how it paid the medical bills of the needy, how local employees had medical insurance and other benefit common in the west but not locally. The list was long and I forget much of it. I have only the project’s own word for it but it had a ring of truth. You’re paying for much more than the elephants.

    Had to read this post of yours since we visited Sen Monorom in 2012 and then the atmosphere wasn’t like that what you just described. We would’ve wanted to visit the EVP then, but couldn’t, since it was “full” already during the days we were there. Back then the project didn’t seem unethical, etc. It seemed like a nice and responsible project.
    Very sorry to read that things have now changed so radically in Sen Monorom. Back in 2012 there wasn’t any “dirt thrown” between companies, either. At least not that we had noticed any. In such a small town an atmosphere like that between companies is destructive for everyone in the long run..

    We have the same policy, we don’t want to ride elephants (never had and never will) because it can hurt them and we don’t want to support that kind of activity in any way. I respect your choice not to go to EVP (all things considered atm over there) and not to take sides. I, too, would have wanted to be sure that my money would go 100% where it should.

    Happy travels onwards!

      Thanks for reading Piritta. It is a shame that things have changed since 2012. We’re sure that the EVP does do some good work, but we couldn’t prove or disprove any of the allegations so decided to just avoid it all together. Hopefully in the future things will change and all the projects will become more transparent in their dealings with the Bunong people.

    I understand you perfectly and probably I would have made the same choice as you guys. I wouldn’t want to support an organization if I wasn’t sure about their ethics and how they treated the elephants, so I guess you did the right thing 🙂

      Thanks Franca. We were pretty confident in our decision to not support any of the elephant projects there, even if there is some good work being done.

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