Sunday, August 20, 2017

Green Hill Valley elephant camp An experience you will never forget

If Green Hill Valley sounds like a perfect name for a retirement community, it is – though in this case, the retirees are elephants.The family of Daw Tin Win Maw opened the home in 2011 near Kalaw, Shan State, originally setting aside 50 acres (20 hectares) for retired timber elephants, who had spent their lives lugging logs around.

At Green Hill Valley, tourists can learn about elephants and their care. Photo: SuppliedAt Green Hill Valley, tourists can learn about elephants and their care. Photo: Supplied

Starting with two elderly elephants, they leased five more from Myanma Timber Enterprise, and conceived the idea of a new form of tourism, she said.

 “We saw this as responsible tourism, as well as a way of providing for the veterinary care of elephants. We don’t focus on entertainment, like fancy riding, demonstrations or circus acts,” she said. “We also carry out re-plantation to improve their environment, so tourists can join in by planting a local tree during their stay.

“Re-plantation is a way for tourists to improve their knowledge of what sustains the environment, and it has a positive effect. We can’t stop villagers cutting down trees, but when they see the tourists are replanting them, they might cut fewer of them. That’s how we’re regenerating the secondary forest,” she said.

Green Hill Valley elephant care camp works with Myanma Timber Enterprise in conserving more than 100 acres of natural forest. Tourists from North America and Europe come in package tours.

At this camp, tourists learn a little more about the nature of elephants, their care, feeding, training and daily lives, she said.

“We accept only about 35 tourists a day to ensure that the elephants have enough time to rest, and to help sustain their environment. All our elephants are free to return to the forest after activities end at 4pm,” said Daw Tin Win Maw.

Photo: SuppliedPhoto: Supplied

About 45 minutes’ drive from Kalaw, the camp is best vsited between October and February. But it is open the whole year, except for the period of the water festival.

Green Hill Valley founder U Htun Htun Wynn said, “The retired elephants may not find life in the forest so easy and safe because they were domesticated during their service. Now they no longer have to work. Our camp is 100 percent private, and our main income is from tourism.”

U Htun Htun Wynn, who has 18 years’ experience as a tourist guide, set up the camp with Daw Tin Win Maw and their uncle, veterinarian Dr Ba Kyaw Than, an expert in elephant veterinary care for more than 36 years.

“Asian elephants are an endangered species now, so we need to conserve them whether they are wild or domesticated,” said Daw Tin Win Maw.

Green Hill Valley elephant care camp can be visited from 9am to 4pm at a cost of US$90 per person, including international-standard lunch and all additional charges. Visitors can also feed the elephants.