Elephant Finally Makes It to Mondolkiri Sanctuary  

After nearly two months tied to a tree near the Lumphat district office in Ratanakkiri province, a female elephant has finally been rehoused by the Mondolkiri Project Elephant Sanctuary, which purchased the animal in early October, according to the sanctuary’s founder.

The 30-year-old elephant, named Kamben, was purchased from a man in Ratanakkiri but waylaid en route to the sanctuary in Mondolkiri province’s Sen Monorom City on October 7 when Lumphat district officials determined that the people transporting the animal did not have authorization from the Agriculture Ministry to move her across the provincial borderline.

At the time, the elephant’s original owner, Tak Sanak, 46, said he sold her for $28,500 to brokers working on behalf of the sanctuary, though the sanctuary’s founder and caretaker, Hong Ngun, denied any involvement in the purchase.

On Tuesday, however, Mr. Ngun confirmed that the sanctuary had bought the elephant and took delivery of her last week.

“It’s been in our [sanctuary] for one week,” he said.

Mr. Ngun admitted to lying about the sale in October, but said he had done so only out of concern for the animal’s safety. As a relatively young female with a well-known fondness for the company of male elephants, he said, Kamben was in high demand. He worried that other potential buyers, including some private zoos, might get to her first if they heard she was being sold.

Asked why an elephant sanctuary had not had the necessary paperwork to transport the animal, Mr. Ngun said his organization had never purchased an elephant before.

“We don’t know how it works exactly because we are not a big NGO and we are not working for the government,” he said.

Mr. Ngun said the sanctuary had spent a total of $41,000 to secure the elephant, much more than the $28,500 paid to Mr. Sanak, But he would not reveal where the additional funds went.

“I cannot tell you all the details on what the money was spent; that’s the price it took to get the elephant here,” he said. “There is a lot of corruption.”

Lumphat district governor Nos The said the elephant had been kept in a forested area near the district office until the Agriculture Ministry authorized its cross-border journey last week.

“In my area, there is enough food and there is a lot of grass,” Mr. The said. “We looked after it very well.”

(Additional reporting by Mech Dara)

taylor@cambodiadaily.com

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