Today I want to share about our experience with wild Elephants and why elephant conservation projects are necessary. Wild elephants are the absolute kings and queens of the jungle. But a unique type. One that lives in harmony with it’s ecosystem. They carry a set of helpers around (for mutual advantages like a crumb of your food for a scratch on your back). They even help other animals by sharing food that way beyond reach for them. Literally they are the friendly giants of the jungle and are an extremely valuable asset for this system.
Spotting 100 elephants
Spotting elephants in the wild is no easy task. The only opportunity is when they come out of the jungle in search for waters or fields for their daily snack. Once in the thick jungle, you barely stand a chance. Also because, I mean, it’s the jungle…
However we were extremely grateful we had the chance to spot a herd of 100+ wild elephants when we were in Sri Lanka!!! It took an open-top jeep, a skilled driver to guide us around the herd, and a great deal of stomach to get through the bumpy, muddy and thick grass fields. But trust me, it was worth every second of it (despite my carsickness that made me feel like crap for most of the trip).
Treated like poo
The more we explored the wild reserve in the Mid North of Sri Lanka, the more we realized what kind of challenges these elephants are actually facing. And why conservation projects are so important for the elephants, as well as the local population.
Like Esmay says: “Elephants are the perfect example of why we need more empathy in this world”. They’re treated like poo (damn we talk a lot about poo on this website) if in captivity and put through hell in the wild. Think hunters and and their ever decreasing living environment. While as volunteers we were taking care of the first aspect, trying to give the elephants the best daycare they needed to improve their conditions in captivity, an elephants conservation project is a massive effort to tackle all the problems elephants face in the wild and assist the local community when necessary.
The goal is to create a vast natural reserve where the elephants can live freely, without the danger of being held captive (nor for work, nor religious purposes) nor to clash with local communities. Luckily the organization we worked with recognizes this as a crucial thing to work on besides the captive elephants and runs programs with wild elephants too.
Here’s one of the biggest challenges at the moment. In the Mid North of Sri Lanka, where we had the chance of seeing the herd of elephants, between the thick wild jungle and a large water source lie villages of mostly farmers with various types of crop. On their way to the closest and largest water source, the elephants have been responsible for the destruction of many crop fields removing from that area the primary source of income. The reaction of the local farmers could be so harsh as to shoot elephants on sight. As part of the elephants conservation program, we’ve seen first hand some of the work done to support and educate these farmers on elephants so that the two can live together peacefully.
Mario and Esmay sitting in a tree…
The organization has build tree houses for the farmers to be used for their watch to be able to spot the elephants at a distance and deviate them from their crops through particular sounds. For extra monetary support, the farmers allow tourists to sleep in these houses. This way you can experience a real night watch overlooking the crop fields and, of course, the jungle. This experience is a whole blog post in itself, but I’ll let Esmay tell this story. She LOVES this one, trust me. A little hint, we spent our Valentine’s day in one of these little tree houses! Not a traditional one, tho…
Elephant conservation projects and the volunteering work at the foundation are really two sides of the same coin. With the conservation striving to preserve a more natural habitat for elephants in the wild, and the foundation providing care and a great life for those in captivity.
Want to support elephant conservation projects in Sri Lanka? Shop our Elephant poo paper products because 10% of our profit goes back to our favorite friendly giant, including the elephants conservation projects!