rELEASE DATE: NOV.30th, 2021


#KAAVAN: The animal welfare story that triggered a media frenzy on November 30th last year...

Most media headlines touted the involvement of American pop diva Cher - but, there's far more this story.



If there's no jungle, there's no sanctuary

A documentary film by Maggie Padlewska.

       “The Refuge” (working title) is a one-woman-crew documentary film that aims to raise awareness of a critical environmental issue that was omitted by global media outlets when an animal welfare story that gripped global headlines, and melted the hearts of people around the world, went viral at the end of a tumultuous year (2020). 

Concealed on 2021 Google Maps and satellite imagery, few people are aware of the magnitude and the rampant pace of the devastation of Cambodia’s last remaining jungles and wildlife habitats; including the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary and Conservation Area - home to the now world-famous Asian elephant, Kaavan.

Today Google Maps will show you this.
Dig a little deeper, and as of 2018 - the conservation area looks like this. 

“The Refuge” aims to expose the rapid disappearance and threats against this native jungle; a protected conservation area and sanctuary, and its wildlife species.


The global buzz triggered by the elephant’s epic rescue and relocation mission on November 30th (2020) from the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary, presents a perfect opportunity to speak to an audience that may not otherwise pay much attention to this part of the world.  

Kaavan and Darrick strip.jpg
Kaavan and Darrick Thomson in the Asian elephant's temporary enclosure on March 6, 2021, at the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. ©Maggie Padlewska

As most concerned citizens and environmental advocates know, each jungle, forest and natural ecosystem play a critical role in the wellbeing of our plant and are the natural habitats of the world's rapidly depleting plant and wildlife species. What I witnessed on the ground while researching and documenting this story is devastating. 

On March 9, 2004, an official agreement was signed to ensure the protection of the Kulen Promtep jungle; one of Cambodia's largest and last and "largest" remaining nature conservation areas. But according to uncovered satellite timeline imagery, large sections of the jungle began to disappear a mere one year later.  


Today, about 70% of the ~1 million-acre Kulen Promtep

Conservation Area, is gone


OBJECTIVE of the film


farm land4.jpg

"The Refuge" aims to reveal the truth - a stark, rampant and concealed environmental 

 tragedy behind a globally celebrated, and viral, feel-good news story. 

"The Refuge" will bring its audience into the field, revealing the shocking reality and disappearance of the Kulen Promtep Conservation Area with the hope of shinning a bright, focused and direct spotlight on another devastating environmental story.

Although this is a complex, and potentially dangerous, topic to cover in Cambodia - this is story that needs to be told. 

If the world truly cares about Kaavan, the bull's future and that of other Asian elephants, wildlife species and what remains of their their natural habitats - this is an important and critical chapter of a story that urges humanity to think deeper.

Director statement

     As a journalist following this story very closely, documenting it since the beginning of its Cambodian chapter and witnessing the shocking truths that revealed themselves in the process, I am deeply committed to producing "The Refuge" to help cast a bright spotlight on an underreported and devastating reality unfolding here in Cambodia, and around the world.


I left my newsroom career to singlehandedly document urgent environmental and human rights violations, appeals and warnings ignored by the media since 2009, because I knew that much of the devastation being caused by us humans was underreported, silenced and often irreversible.

Largely focused on amplifying the voices of  the world's threatened and often neglected Indigenous communities, I was the first journalist in my newsroom to embark on solo reporting missions in remote areas around the globe. From the voices of Waorani warriors  (the greatest guardians of Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest), to those of Indigenous and environmental rights defenders in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Canada, Morocco, Namibia and more…my mission and profound commitment to contributing critical human, animal and environmental rights stories to our global consciousness and dialogue are deeply rooted in my existence. 


"The Refuge" is one that might expose me to trouble, but I believe it's a story that needs to be told. 

I am seeking your support to help me produce and complete “The Refuge” - a documentary through which I aim to contribute to a tragically growing list of stories urging our species to rethink our current trajectory. 

I sincerely thank you for your time and consideration.

Warmest regards,

Maggie Padlewska

If you'd like to contribute to the production & post-production of this film: 

(Producer's Survival Fund)

I, personally, need very little to work and live. but to do this story justice, here's an example of what your contribution might a help this lone messenger with...

(Production Gear Wishlist)