Elephant Conservation Crisis Fund
Sanctuaries and conservation projects all over the world, similar to ELIE and the Elephant Valley Project Cambodia, are have been feeling dramatic cuts in funding from the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There will no doubt be long term impacts on the animals, forest, and the communities throughout Asia, with increased poaching, forest clearing, and land sales being seen during the pandemic due to funding shortages for forest protection. Captive elephants across Asia have been impacted by camps closing, owners struggling to find food, and sanctuaries struggling to care for their elephants because of funding shortages.
ELIE & the EVP have historically not received funding from other organisations for their core operations and community and conservation projects, since they have been solely reliant on a sustainable ecotourism model. However, since the current COVID-19 pandemic has caused their visitor numbers to drop significantly, even forcing them close to all visitors for three months at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic has also led to cutbacks in the overall budget for the elephants and for their community support and human healthcare access program.
Slowly Cambodia is reopening and ELIE is following the government guidelines closely. Due to the global situation and multiple lockdowns around the world, ELIE won’t see many international tourists for the rest of 2021, therefore their primary source of funding is still majorly cut off leaving them in crisis when it comes to elephant care.
Why Elephant Conservation Needs Consistent Funding
Vet Care & Medicine
While currently caring for 11 elephants within their sanctuary, ELIE also supports the local Bunong community of elephant owners around the province with a Mobile Vet Team. Vet fees and medical costs can be small or large in an emergency, but ELIE wants to continue to provide critical care for the last remaining populations of elephants in Cambodia no matter the costs. Injured elephants also still continue to receive treatment for their ongoing issues, but require medicine frequently for maintenance.
Mahouts – Elephant Caretakers
ELIE’s dedicated team of mahouts work closely with their assigned elephants each and every single day, rain or shine, pandemic or not. However, they do require a salary to do so day in and day out.
The elderly elephant residents rely on daily food supplements, including banana trees, sugarcane, fruit, tamarind, and rice, all purchased from markets in the community and town nearby.
On top of daily elephant care, they still need to support the community in order to protect the forest home of the elephants. On the human side of their programs, ELIE supports health care access, education, and livelihood development. One of their flagship programs is providing healthcare access to the residents of three remote Bunong villages. Basic healthcare necessities, like transportation to clinics and finances to fund emergency treatments, are provided by ELIE. Their second community program is a direct compensation given to each family of the village in exchange for ELIE’s elephants using their community forest. In place of money, the compensation is given as a rice support pack for each family per month. Seventy-eight families receive 30 kilos of rice per month through this program. ELIE also supports the most vulnerable members of the community, when in times of crisis, like drought, crop failures, or now a global pandemic, families need essential food supplies. However, this valuable support program is at risk due to ELIE’s lack of funds, which threatens the food security of the community even more.
Throughout the pandemic ELIE has tried its best to continue to provide all their services, while also providing accurate information about the COVID-19 virus, promoting social distancing, and encouraging self-isolation within the community. They even kept their vehicles on the road as emergency vehicles to help the community access health services.
All of these services and programs are because the elephants and ecotourism program of ELIE, and all of these require a steady stream of funding this year to sustain. As Cambodia continues to experience rapid deforestation and biodiversity loss, unfortunately further crisis locally and globally may become a reality if ELIE cannot adapt and stay focused on the work needed.
Crisis Fund Goal
First and foremost, the goal is to sustain and bolster ELIE’s innovative elephant welfare, community support, and forest protection programs they established long before the coronavirus pandemic. The loss in income from wildlife-based tourism programs due to COVID-19 has severely impacted ELIE’s fiscal and staff capacity to make these core programs successful. With the overall goal of these programs being to support long-term care for the elephants, vet outreach programs, and to create resiliency, well-being, and sustainability within the communities they work, ELIE is determined to rebuild these programs with all funds raised through this project until the tourism industry can recover.