A rescued elephant called Gee Pael (Pearl) gave birth to a baby girl named Gee Pich (Diamond) on March 25 at the Elephant Valley Project (EVP) sanctuary run by the NGO Elephant, Livelihood, Initiative and Environment (ELIE) in Mondulkiri province.

“As an endangered species, the birth of an elephant calf is always a significant event, no matter the setting, country, community, wild or captive,” ELIE said in a March 28 press release.

The youngest resident at the EVP, Gee Pael is a 35-year-old who arrived in 2013. Previously she worked hauling timber in the forest and transporting materials between villages.

“It is amazing that she has had her first baby; however, it was never our purpose or intention to breed Pearl, but just to allow her to live her life back in the forest as naturally as possible,” ELIE said.

It said in March 2020, a wild bull came into the EVP sanctuary and ran away with Pearl. They remained together in the forest for two weeks. ELIE staff – in collaboration with the provincial Department of Environment, Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary rangers and local community members – had to rescue Pearl as she was causing problems raiding local farms and had a leg injury.

“The two weeks spent with the wild bull resulted in her unplanned pregnancy,” the release added, saying that after close to 24 months of pregnancy, Pearl gave birth in the early hours of Friday morning. Pearl is tired after the birth but seems to be a natural mother, and mother and baby are doing well after the first few days, it said.

“We feared she would be either aggressive toward the baby or scared and run away, but she is showing love, care, and protective instincts for the baby. The baby is strong, healthy and nursing well.

“We will closely monitor the two of them for the next few weeks, while they are kept in quarantine to prevent the spread of diseases and allow time for the herd to bond together. Following this time – and a traditional ceremony by the local Bunong indigenous community – we will welcome visitors to meet our little Diamond,” ELIE said.

Pich will then live her life at EVP, in the Pu Trom community forest, under the care of a dedicated mahout team.

Together with her mother and new aunties Ning Wan, Gee Chreng and Mae Nang by her side, she will spend her days roaming through the forest, playing in the rivers and living a natural happy life.

“We always support the conservation of natural resources and the culture, traditions and customs of the Bunong people in Mondulkiri province,” the environment department said on March 29.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post that Pich is the second domestic elephant calf to be born in the last three months, following the December birth of Noel in neighbouring Ratanakkiri province.

“This is very good news. Images captured by researchers with automatic cameras showed many small elephant calves were present in the herd living in the forest.

“The presence of wild and domestic elephants gives hope for the conservation of Asian elephants in Cambodia,” he said, adding that currently there are between 400 and 600 wild elephants in the Kingdom, while the number of domestic ones stands at about 70.