We had a few unexpected changes to our schedule today. The founder of this elephant refuge came all the way from Thailand to visit our volunteers. Since the age of 16 Lek has been working with elephants and has founded 5 projects in Thailand along with refuges in Burma (Myanmar), Sri Lanka, and our refuge in Cambodia. Before she could spend time with us she had to meet with the regional governor and the military about the direction that the Cambodian elephant refuge is going.
Also a Documentary about the refuge was being filmed today, in which some of the more camera friendly volunteers will make an appearance!
While we waited for Lek to finish her meetings we got to work. The morning’s activities consisted of replanting the banana trees that we had collected from the forest (to provide food for the elephants) and moving around tons of samplings in the green house.
Before lunch we received several bags of orange cloth. These pieces of cloth have been blessed by Buddhist monks and are tied around trees in the forest to protect them from loggers. To cut down a tree protected by one of these cloths is said to bring a lifetime of bad luck. Not too many loggers are willing to take that risk.
In the afternoon we went out into the forest with our orange cloth, the elephants, and a camera crew for the documentary. Over the next hour 44 trees were protected. Our hike ended at the river where the volunteers got down and dirty with the elephants. I’m 100% certain that one of the elephants peed while we were in the water…
After we returned home we started preparing for tomorrow’s school visit. We made 450 gift bags for the kids; each one containing a notebook, pens, pencils, crayons, erasers, and snacks.
Our day ended with meeting Lek, the woman who founded the refuge. She cooked us a fantastic dinner and then told the volunteers of her journey from a poor hill tribe in Thailand to being an international advocate for elephants.
John and Briana