Pok Phan , Mnong camp mahout in Cambodia
Born 1958? .
Cambodia’s last known living elephant trapper nets fish and farms rice these days, in a small village called Nyuich some 90 kilometers from Sen Monorom, down a narrow dirt road leading to the deep forest, a road which in early January is gritty with ash from Lumphat’s dry, crackling fires.
Facts in these parts are almost as hard to come by as elephants. Pok Phan, 58, might not actually be the last living elephant trapper in Cambodia. He’s certainly one of very few.
In his life, says Pok Phan, he caught four or five elephants. The last one was in 1996. A cowboy at Heart,
he doesn’t have much to say about the end of his old livelihood. When asked his feelings about the disappearance of the elephants from the forests, he takes a long draw from his cigarette.
“I still have an elephant,” he says.
To my surprise, he does indeed–a female he caught in 1993. She lives with his younger brother in Sok San commune. He has named her “Srey Ian,” which means “shy woman.” She doesn’t carry much these days, though some neighborhood elephants do; villagers of Nyuich say that every year a procession of three elephants and riders comes through the town, carrying peangs of wine to relatives in the deep forest.