It was our first trip to Cambodia over 10 years ago when we came upon the last “street elephant” working in the southern province where we are living once again. It hasn’t been easy over the last decade to feel hopeful for the future of elephants any where, but returning this year to the same area this elephant used to work, we recognized there has been positive change. He was not replaced by another elephant when he passed on, and with 75 captive elephants remaining in Cambodia, we must work towards the most compassionate care possible for each one.
When you’re sitting at a small Khmer cafe and an elephant pulls up, a wave of emotions overtakes you in no time flat. It’s easy to be paralyzed in depression when you see yet another animal’s wounds, to feel harsh toward villagers when you observe them pass their babies under the elephant’s belly in belief of its’ blessing, and to be dismayed witnessing tourists paying to take an elephant selfie, without seeing the chains or the damage their actions perpetuate.
Habits and hearts can be slow to change. And yet, we’re witnessing the power of possibility as young people here learn about the realities for Cambodia’s elephants, while developing and expanding empathy to include all animals. We’re inspiring the new generation with projects created around the Five Freedoms, and they’re inspiring us with their desire to help the remaining elephants in Cambodia. It’s a powerful expression of hope when groups of teenagers are wanting, willing, and ready to Let What Moves Them Move the World. Together we’ll work to create a future of coexistence, where elephants can be elephants without interference, and by their very presence make the world a better place.