Well what a morning. Got up at 5am and headed off up the road to see what we could find. I was expecting Douc Langurs and a variety of birds but I was certainly not expecting an elephant. Here in Cambodia elephants are rarely seen and in fact the only previous footage I am aware of was taken by WWF a few years back with a small camera so it’s quality wasn’t that great.
This elephant did not react the way I was expecting, we came around the bend and there it was just a few meters off the road grazing on some luscious looking grass. We pulled up no more than 10 meters away and I expected it to bolt off into the jungle, instead he just stood there and eyed us up. I had one of my long lenses on the camera, which was useless at this range; I thought I was going to miss the shot in the time it would take to change to a wider lens, thankfully not. It turned out to be a male which makes this all the more unusual as they are generally aggressive. Having given us a long stare this guy just carried on feeding and completely ignored us.
Even when other cars and motorbikes started to go by he was not bothered, only when a large black Landcruiser appeared did he get angry and did a fake charge at it as it drove by, we are still just 15 meters away and he just ignored our presence. We filmed and watch him for around 40 minutes before he finally ambled off into the forest. We did hear other elephants in the forest but never saw them, this was a most unusual encounter.
The next thing was to return to camp and film the rangers at work. Now normally for this you have to fake a patrol or something, obviously it’s impossible to guarantee getting a real bust on film, even if you went on a week long patrol with them. It’s standard practice in the filmmaking world. Obviously the client wants to keep it cheap and filming is inherently the most expensive part of the production process. So, we set off with the plan to simply film the rangers walking through the forest. We pulled up a few km’s from the ranger station where there was a trail heading into the forest. Amazingly when we got out of the car we could hear a chainsaw very closeby. The guys went into action before I’d even got my camera switched on, drawing guns and heading off to left and right in an effort to cut off any attempted escape. I followed as quickly as I could trying to get what I could but it was not easy as they weren’t waiting for me, this was real. The chainsaw stopped and 2 people ran off, one carrying the chainsaw. I arrived on scene just in time to see the rangers chasing after them while another was checking to see if they had anything stashed away nearby. One of the rangers found tools, food and other items including someones flip flops, so at least one of the was barefoot. In the end the men got away but the rangers managed to find the chainsaw hidden in the bushes not far away and confiscated that along with various tools and other things for repairing the saw.
This morning was most unusual and very successful, just hoping this afternoon is as good, I will be spending it with the rangers a their checkpoint. I will post some pictures when I get back to Phnom Penh and can upload the footage.