A group of seven students have launched a campaign soliciting one dollar donations to raise money for the conservation of elephants in the Kulen Mountains in Siem Reap province while also assisting the local residents whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the loss of tourism.
Samrong Hoksrun, the group leader, told The Post on December 13 that the campaign came about after they saw the impact that food shortages were having on the elephants in Siem Reap.
“We created this campaign because we saw that these elephants used to give rides to tourists in Siem Reap for many years but when it was discovered that they were being treated brutally, they were taken to a nature park in the Kulen Mountains where they can be observed by tourists but nobody rides around on them,” he said.
“Now more recently, the impact of Covid-19 has taken away almost all tourism to the point where they are having trouble paying for food for the elephants and we thought we could help.”
Hoksrun is a fourth-year student at Paragon University in Phnom Penh. He said the campaign ran for one month from early December and will end early next month. The money from the campaign will go to the elephant conservation organisations and local communities in that area.
“During this campaign, we created a Facebook page to raise awareness and attract various donors. The campaign has only been running for one week but there are already many participants. We hope there will be even more support as it continues,” he said.
The elephant conservation area in the Kulen Mountains in Bos Thom village of Sotr Nikum district’s Khnar Por commune was established in late 2019 after 13 elephants were collected from community members who ran businesses where they used them to carry tourists on sightseeing trips.
David Jaya-Piot, co-founder of the elephant conservation area at Kulen Mountains, told The Post on December 13 that the goal of collecting the elephants was to give them a better life that allows them to live more naturally and no longer suffer any abuse by their owners.
He said that not long after the project started, the pandemic began, affecting the stability and livelihoods of the community as well as the lives of the elephants because they expected income from tourists visiting the conservation area, which has been totally lost these past two years.
“Actually, for this elephant conservation project, we have had problems raising funds from the beginning of Covid-19 in early 2020 because in Siem Reap our project depends on the income from tourism. Now, we’re only getting income from domestic tourists and it is far less than before,” he said.
Jaya-Piot added that the 13 elephants in the conservation area eat at least 200 to 300kg of food per day and he expressed his gratitude for the students’ campaign to raise donations for them.
Leang Kommeak, a student who donated money to the campaign, said he did so because elephants are part of Cambodia’s natural heritage and must not be allowed to go extinct and they can also serve as an attraction for foreign tourists if it is managed in a responsible way that does not harm the animals.