Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia is a joint project developed in cooperation with Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary, which spans one million acres and is home to several endangered species, including tigers, elephants, banteng, Eld’s deer, sarus crane, crocodile, and several turtle species. Once densely forested and rich in biodiversity, this area has been significantly impacted by illegal logging and poaching. The project is focused on protecting and restoring 25,000 acres of jungle, located an hour north of the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.
Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia provides a safe home in nature to rescued elephants, including two females, Di-Poh and Sarai Mia, who have lived at the sanctuary for several years and are free to roam the jungle during the day, foraging on natural vegetation. On November 30, 2020, they were joined by the now famous Kaavan, dubbed ‘the loneliest elephant in the world’. Rescued from deplorable conditions from a zoo in Pakistan, he was flown to CWS with the support of singer, Cher, Free the Wild, Four Paws, together with many others who campaigned for Kaavan’s freedom. Kaavan is the first bull elephant to live at the sanctuary. It is wonderful to see this majestic elephant enjoying his life in nature with the freedom to explore his jungle home and interact with other elephants.
The Rescue of Kaavan
On the 29th November, Kaavan, a bull elephant who had spent 3 decades in a zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, was rescued and brought to live at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. Kaavan, who was captured from the wild, was sent to Pakistan as gift from the Sri Lankan government when he was just one year old. At the age of six he was joined by a female elephant from Bangladesh, named Saheli, who he lived with for the next 22 years before her death in 2012. Kaavan was deeply saddened by the passing of his friend and became more stressed, aggressive, and depressed. Living alone and often chained, Kaavan’s condition and health deteriorated and he became known as the world’s loneliest elephant.
A student in Pakistan, Dr Samar Khan became aware of Kaavan’s plight, which started a long struggle to free Kaavan from his life of suffering. When American popstar, Cher heard about Kaavan, she and her organization, Free the Wild, began campaigning for Kaavan, and in 2020 the Islamabad High Court ruled that Kaavan should be relocated. With the help of Four Paws and Free The Wild, Kaavan was moved to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary, where for the first time in many years, he was able to meet and interact with other elephants.
Thanks to the support of Save Elephant Foundation, Trunks Up, and Gentle Giants, a temporary enclosure was built for Kaavan, while his larger jungle home was under construction. Kaavan has adjusted well to his new life at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. On 15 July 2021 Kaavan moved to his new jungle home where he will finally have the chance to roam, forage, and be an elephant again. Thank you to Cher, Saengduean Lek Chailert, Darrick Thomson, David Casselman and all the people who helped to rescue Kaavan and who have supported the building of Kaavan’s new home over the past year.
Kaavan at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary
When Kaavan first came to live at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary he stayed in a large temporary enclosure while his new jungle home was being built.
Kaavan in his New Jungle Home
Photos courtesy of Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary | © Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary
Many news organizations covered the rescue of Kaavan and a documentary has been made by the Smithsonian Institute, featuring Cher and Kaavan’s story.
Volunteer with Elephants
Volunteering at Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia
Volunteers who visit this sanctuary work alongside locals, helping to reforest the area by keeping records of identified species, collecting seeds, and planting saplings. You also have the chance to help care for injured and orphaned animals who have been rescued so that they can be rehabilitated and returned to their jungle home. The elephants at this project are free to roam the sanctuary during the day, affording volunteers the special experience of observing these extraordinary animals foraging for natural vegetation and socializing with each other.
Volunteers also help care for the domestic animals who have found a home there, including dogs, cats, and cows as well as lending a hand with the sustainable farming of vegetables and fruit. Other important activities include teaching English at a local school and working with the local community to establish educational outreach programs for children. The ongoing support of volunteers is vital to ensuring the project’s continued success in protecting and regenerating this important natural habitat so that it can sustain a diverse range of wildlife for generations to come.
Join our eco-volunteer program and play a vital role in helping to protect and regenerate a beautiful natural habitat so that elephants and other native species can repopulate the wildlife reserve
Volunteer Project Details
Number of Guests: 20
Number of Elephants: 3
Tour Type: One Week Volunteer (maximum stay of 4 weeks)
Fitness Level: Moderate
Age Suitability: Adults 18+
Volunteer Project Price
Adults 18+: US$400 / 15,000 Baht per week
Location, Accomodation & Meals
About Your Volunteer Program
Start: Monday – 8:30am–9:00am – minivan pick up from accommodation in Siem Reap or from the Chong Sa-Ngam border crossing, Si Saket Province.
Travel Time: Around 2 hours from Siem Reap and about 45 mins from Chong Sa-Ngam border crossing.
Return: Sunday – after lunch you will be transported to Siem Reap or to the Chong Sa-Ngam border crossing, Si Saket Province.
Duration: Most volunteers choose to stay for 1 week but volunteer stays of up to 4 weeks are welcomed. Volunteer positions start on Monday and end on Sunday.
Accommodation: Clean on-site accommodation in bungalows with beds and mosquito nets, possibly sharing with up to two or three other volunteers of the same gender.
Baggage / Luggage Allowance: One standard check-in sized rucksack / suitcase / bag & one day pack per person.
What to Bring: Overnight bag with change of clothes for 7 days, long pants and long-sleeve shirts, t-shirts, shorts, gardening gloves, hat, sunscreen, walking shoes, sandals/flip flops, change of clothing for river bathing, towel, camera, insect repellent, flashlight, refillable water bottle & personal medication. *Bring clothing and items suitable for wet weather if visiting in the rainy season (June – Oct). If visiting in the cool season (Nov – Feb), bring some clothing suitable for cold weather. If you would like to bring items for the local school students such as pens, coloring pencils, notebooks, games, toys, etc. they will be much appreciated.
Travel Insurance: Volunteers are required to have travel insurance covering medical expenses and emergency repatriation.
Vaccinations: Please contact your doctor or a vaccination center for details on recommended vaccinations.
Operational Months: All year round.
Age Suitability: Adults over 18 years old.
Fitness Level: Moderate – daily walks through the jungle.
Topography: Jungle, grassland & river.
Location: 100km north of Siem Reap, home to the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex, Cambodia.
Nearest Airport: Siem Reap (REP) – we recommend you stay in Siem Reap on Sunday night before your volunteer week begins.
Visa Requirements: Cambodia currently offers a 30 day visa on arrival. If you intend to stay longer, you must apply for an extension – travel agents also provide this service. The over-stay fine at the time of writing is US$6 per day.
Booking Details: Bookings close 3 days before you are due to visit this project. When booking online a 30% non-refundable deposit is required to secure your booking. The balance can be paid in US dollars only (at the exchange rate on the day) at Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia on Monday morning – the day your volunteer stay commences. Please note that you can withdraw US dollars from ATM’s in Cambodia. On arrival at the project you will be required to complete an insurance form and provide a copy of your passport.
Life during Covid at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary in Cambodia was home to three beautiful female elephants – Di-Poh, Arun Reah, and Sarai Mia at the beginning of the Covid crisis. Sadly, Arun Reah passed away quite suddenly in October 2021. Before Covid, volunteers would visit this project regularly to help care for and support the elephants, together with many other rescued animals who live at the sanctuary. There were no visitors or volunteers at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary for almost 2 years but now the sanctuary has reopened. The elephants spend their days foraging in the jungle and cooling off in the ponds and recently have been getting to know Kaavan, a bull elephant rescued in November 2020.