Hi everyone, this week I’ll share with you a traveling experience from Sri Lanka, a visit to a beautiful project that cares and rescues elephants that were used for labour or for intensive tourism activities.
We arrived at the home of the Elephant Freedom Project early in the morning just in time for breakfast and got the change to meet the family that takes care of the elephants. What they do basically is offering a better life to as many elephants as they can, by taking them away from the harsh conditions of tourism or labour and giving them a chance to live a peaceful life after all they have been through.
Before I got the chance to ask a couple of hundred questions about the history of the place we began a morning walk with the elephant and we took him, together with our guide and the elephant care taker, the mahout, to a path in the jungle where he usually has his lunch. An elephant eats around 300 kg of food daily and at least half is provided by the project, the other half being devoured while we were watching him.
Later on we made ourselves a sri lankan original cuisine with the help of the family and got the chance to taste a home made coconut curry with some other goodies.
And just after lunch, we had an amazing fun by washing our big friend Raja; not an easy job i would say, but an experience that none of us will forget; check it out.
Later, Tim, the owner of the project, told us briefly the history of elephants in Sri Lanka, with the good and the bad; I may say that a lot of what I’ve heard was completly new to me.
It’s a custom in Sri Lanka to “own” an elephant. Not everyone can, of course, mostly the people, usually from politics, who are very well established in the society and want to use the elephant as a symbol of wealth as well as for making a profitable business. They hire a mahout usually for long periods, ten years, twenty years, that takes care of the elephant and brakes his spirit so it can be used for work or for riding. After that, the elephant is either offered for rent to lodging companies and used for hard labour, either to the riding touristic companies that use the elephant for carrying tourists on his back.
With this occasion I found out why riding elephants is not the best thing you would like to do:
- They are beaten and trained in a very harsh way to accept people on their backs; as they say, their spirit is broken with the stick in a very brutal way, that’s why all elephants are afraid of the stick more than anything else.
- The riding elephants do only 2 things every single day for years and years – carry, in a small circle, up to 6 tourists on their backs over and over again and when they finish in the evening, they are chained and beaten to stay still and then they go again and again.
- They are over-washed especially for the tourists to see that they are clean and not to get their clothes dirty; so many times that their skin becomes infected because they lack the natural mud that they are usually covered with to protect them from insects and the burning sun.
- It’s a labour that no elephant should do just for the amusement of people, they should be in the wilderness because of the tourists that want to ride elephants, they are captured and kidnapped from their wild environment and become just tools for profit of the politicians and the companies involved in the industry.
- Organisations like the Elephant Freedom Project contact the owner of the elephant and negotiate with him a price to pay monthly and they “rent” (because the law doesn’t allow for anybody to buy an elephant) the elephant so that they can offer him a better life.
They provide health care, food and shelter, no beating and no riding, no working until extermination, but just a safe environment where the elephant can have a decent life, after being taken from the wild and put to work for years and years. With the money from people like us who visited their project, they are able to offer food and shelter and security to one elephant, then one more, and so on.
In Thailand, the biggest project of this type has around 80 elephants, and it works as a shelter and home for these amazing huge animals that make you feel like an ant around them
I am impressed about the way Tim and his team talk about elephants and how they try day by day to change the mentality of the tourists and of the sinhalese people about these sacred animals.
Good job guys, please feel free to contact the project for more details also on the Facebook page.
Elephant Freedom Project
Pettah Bus Station
Directions to the project
Ask your driver to call the Sinhalese number
Tel (English): +94 77 212 1305