Thanks MASHABLE for making such a great video

This week Mr Tree and the Mondulkiri Project featured on Mashable.  The video was entitled “Why you should take elephant riding off your bucket list“.  It has been shared on social media 7,000 times.  

Thanks for visiting us Aubrey and Benard.  

And thanks for encouraging people not to ride elephants.  

Why you should take elephant riding off your bucket list

by Aubrey Aden-Buie

Elephant riding is a booming business in Southeast Asia, and a popular bucket list adventure for many travelers. But it comes at a price.

“The elephant is one of the biggest attractions to tourists in Cambodia,” Mr. Tree, a local to the Mondulkiri Province in Sen Monorom, Cambodia, toldMashable. “Everyone that comes here, they just want to ride on the elephants … but now we know that it’s not good.”

Growing up with elephants in his village, Mr. Tree developed a strong bond with the animals. He eventually worked as a tour guide for a company that provided elephant tours and trekking adventures to tourists, where he saw first hand the dark side of the business.

“[The owners] used a hook to pull on their ears,” he said. “Sometimes they took an ax and hit them on the head.”

Mr. Tree witnessed abuse toward the animals, including long hours, insufficient food, and a pattern of overwork with little care that led to the death of one of the elephants he worked with.

Unsettled by what he saw, he left the riding business in 2013 and, with help from a friend, started an elephant sanctuary called The Mondulkiri Project.

The eco-friendly elephant safe haven allows them to live in the forest, and gives tourists the chance to interact with them in their natural habitat. Instead of riding the elephants, which Mr. Tree forbids, travelers feed the elephants and help wash them in the river.

The Mondulkiri Project also protects the land from logging and over development; the area has a high level of poverty forcing many locals to sell their land.

“Life is very hard for the indigenous Bunong people … they must keep doing hard labor even when they are old and sick to provide food and money for themselves and their families,” said Mr. Tree.

In October of 2013, Mr. Tree signed an agreement with the Bunong elders to rent the forest from them for 30 years.

“My idea is to protect the forest so it can be used in a way that will still provide the community with an income, without losing the jungle itself,” said Mr. Tree.

Ultimately, Mr. Tree’s goal is to create an elephant breeding program to increase the population of the Mondulkiri elephants. Because of overwork, loss of habitat and the belief in many Cambodian villages that an elephant giving birth will bring bad luck, the number of elephants in the area has decreased drastically over the last decade. In order to create a breeding program, The Mondulkiri Project needs to purchase a male elephant, at a cost of about $30,000.

“Even if I spend all my money to put toward this, I will do it,” said Mr. Tree.

“In my life, I want to spend time with the elephants. To make it so in the future they’ll be able to have a baby, so they can live a natural live and bring them back to the wild.”

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