Sri Lanka Asian Elephant Project
The AWF has collaborated with the Millennium Elephant Foundation in Sri Lanka.
The world population of the Asian elephant is estimated to be around 60,000, about a tenth of the number of African elephants. There were nearly 12,000 elephants in Sri Lanka at the turn of the 19th century, but today total is estimated to be about 4,200.
Volunteers will be based in the MEF jungle base at Kegalle, a few miles from Kandy, in the Hill Country. This is a fantastic location from where volunteers will reach out to other projects across the island including the MEFs Human Elephant Conflict project at Habaron.
The Millennium Elephant Foundation
The MEF was founded in 1999 by Mrs Carminie Samarasinghe in memory of her husband and in association with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and has since been working to improve the care, protection and treatment of captive elephants across Sri Lanka.
Human-Elephant Conflict Project
Alongside working with captive elephants, the AWF and MEF are collaborating to help protect wild elephants on the island. The increasing population of humans, coupled with the loss of elephant habitat, is forcing humans and elephants to compete for resources. This has been termed the human-elephant conflict & is, today, one of the major factors threatening the continued existence of the Asian elephant. Once a highly valued species, symbolic of Asia, the elephant is now viewed by many rural farmers as a pest. In a few short hours, wild elephants can destroy a year of hard work and potentially a farmers livelihood. These conflicts result in the death of hundreds of elephants every year. In Sri Lanka alone, the number of human deaths is reported to be around 40-50 each year and rising. We are working closely with the community of Habarana, a hotspot for wild elephant damage, to put in place strategies to reduce these conflicts and help save these magnificent creatures from extinction.
The MEF's Elephant programme will involve the following tasks:
Typical Daily Schedule
6:30-9am: Meet your elephants Mahout, go to elephant bed, clear up and do daily dung count.
Meet Mahout at the river and give your elephant a morning bathe. Make elephant vitamin balls/ Clear elephant grazing area of dung and rubbish. Fill in dung count in elephant daily records.
9:30am: Vet check - sweep and check the elephants feet for any damage and feed vitamin ball *The volunteers working with Lakshmi or Rani will do elephant painting, providing it is not raining*
10:00am- 12:00pm: Project work/Gardening. Volunteers will spend their time either helping out in the eco-garden, or working on their individual projects to help build up the MEF.
12-2pm: Lunch - volunteers have time to go to town or relax as it is the hottest part of the day
2-5pm: Afternoons, again are split between project work and gardening. Project work can include various tasks such as research, fundraising, social networking, creating enrichment toys, etc.
3-5pm: Enrichment – Each afternoon, we have enrichment with the elephants, giving them some time to socialise and play. This is to allow them to interact together and prepare them for the enclosure to be built, the first of its type in Sri Lanka.
*3:30-5pm: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays we teach at an after school club, English lessons centered around conservation issues.
5pm: Team meeting.
Volunteer costs are the same as AWF programmes elsewhere in the world at £130/€150 per week for stays of four weeks or more to cover accommodation and food. We strongly recommend looking at Air Asia flights and the possibility of combining volunteering session at the MEF with stays at our other projects in Asia, in Indonesia and Vietnam. Please ensure you book an airport pick transfer through Wayne or Halina, this will cost £30. It is a three hour journey and not easy to make particularly on first visit to the country.
We encourage all of our volunteers to help us fundraise. We are currently raising money to build the Freedom Fence. This is to be the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. With this fence comes a whole new life for these elephants. They will be able to socialise, play, explore their environment and make their own decisions. Currently we are running the AWF Adam's Peak Challenge, where volunteers are climbing the striking pyramid of Adam's Peak to raise money. For more information on how to get involved in this challenge see: http://awf-volunteeringabroad.org/forums/showthread.php?453-Adam-s-Peak-Challenge-for-an-Elephant-Enclosure
Weekends are free for volunteers to get out and explore the stunning scenery, unique culture and fascinating nature that Sri Lanka has to offer.
The AWF expects all its volunteers to throw themselves into this work with positive attitude, energy, enthusiasm, intelligence and good humour.
For any further questions please visit our AWF forums for more information and previous questions and answers.
To read previous volunteer experiences and to keep up with our adventures, please follow our blogs and check out our volunteer diaries.
See the photogallery.