About 14 out of some 100 Asian elephants were found in the southern part of the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary by villagers in Pou Char village, Mondulkiri province. They were eating wild bamboo leaves, said the Wildlife Conservation Society-Cambodia Programme (WCS).
“Villagers spotted the herd while they were harvesting forest produce. They then ran to climb trees for safety and even recorded the elephants’ activities on video.
“There were at least 14 bulls, cows and calves. They seem to be in good health. Normally, each herd is led by the oldest cow elephant. The herd includes relatives, calves and bull elephants,” said WCS.
Elephant herds are matriarch-headed, which means that cow elephants take the lead. Bulls for the most part play a functional role, that of increasing the population in their territory, as South African Amelia Meyer describes in Elephants Forever – A Study of Elephants.
WCS said even though it is rare seeing the elephants, it is estimated that there are about 100 of them living in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary. It also estimated that the large herd of elephants are healthy and have a long line of descendants, which is rare.
Ministry of Environment secretary of state and spokesman Neth Pheaktra said that over the last 10 years in Cambodia, poaching of Asian elephants for their ivory and tail due to traditional beliefs had dropped dramatically due to strict law enforcement.
He said in Cambodia today, there are between 400 and 600 Asian elephants, most of which live in the Cardamom Mountains, the northern plateau of the Tonle Sap and the eastern highlands of Mondulkiri, which are rich in biodiversity.
Their sloped terrains are conducive to the life of elephants and other wildlife, he said. It is said that 71 elephants have been domesticated.
“The government, through the environment ministry, has expanded its efforts to organise and plan activities to conserve Asian elephants.
“The Action Plan for the Conservation of Asian Elephants is for 10 years from 2020-2029. It identifies six priority issues,” he said.
Pheaktra said they are to reduce habitat loss, conserve and reconnect corridors and herds of wild elephants, strengthen law enforcement, prevent wild elephants from being domesticated, alleviate conflicts between wild elephants and humans, and educate, disseminate and launch strategic actions to address those issues.
He said the $40.5 million estimated budget for the 10-year-action plan to conserve Asian elephants is expected to come from a combination of government, NGOs and development partners.