Elephant Freedom Project : A new way to responsibly interact with Elephants

August 1, 2018 8:30 am by Karla Ramos
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Elephant Freedom Project

I always had a strong desire for seeing elephants.

There’s just something bedazzling about these huge creatures that look so massive and strong yet so gentle at the same time. Back then, I was one of those tourists who utterly enjoys riding elephants – which Thailand offers a lot. When I went to Sri Lanka though, it gave me a different outlook on how elephants should be treated. Most animals were in the wild and everywhere but Pinawella doesn’t practice riding elephants anymore.

When I was recommended to try the Elephant Freedom Project, I was hesitant, but since I always like to open myself up to something new wherever I go, and hearing that most people recommend it, I gave it a try. All you have to do to participate in this project is to just send them an email and they reply in an instant.

From Kandy, this is how you can reach the place:

  • Bus and get down to Pinawella junction and take a 5-minute Tuk Tuk
  • Train from Kandy to Rambukkana and take a 10-15-minute Tuk Tuk

From Colombo, here’s how you can reach the place:

  • Take a train to Rambukkana
  • Take a bus
  • Take car (estimated travel time is 2.5 hours)

Visits on the Elephant Freedom Project

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Elephant Eating

You can go to the place for half a day in the morning or afternoon or for a full day. Or you can even volunteer for 1-3 weeks. For the whole project, you can walk with elephants for one and a half hour or so, help in bathing which will take around for half an hour. There’s a strict number of visitors accepted that’s why there’s a booking reservation before visiting the place.

 

Sita and Menika

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Sita and Menika are the two elephants of the Elephant Freedom Project – these two, both around 44 years old, have been captive since they were born. Upon asking as to why they can’t bring them back to the wild again, they said that most of the time, these elephants no longer know how to survive in the wild anymore and there’s also a chance that they might get attacked by other elephants.

 

Elephant Bed Cleaning

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Elephant Bed

Since elephants are considered smart, part of the program starts with us cleaning the elephant bed wherein we have to remove the dung and green parts and make the bed flatter and cleaner. This is followed by cleaning the toilet area made of wood.

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Others give the dung to the factory and some to locals where they use it as fertilizers. These dungs don’t have any smell at all, in case you’re wondering, since elephants eat greens and vegetables only.

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Walking with the elephants

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As restless creatures, next on the list is walking with the elephants where the guides talk about interesting facts about the muscles in their nose; how heavy they can carry; how much they can eat; and how smart these elephants are.

The family who was behind the Elephant Freedom Project aims to show that elephant tourism shouldn’t be riding such gentle creatures, but instead nurture and appreciate their very existence.

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During the walk, these elephants find their own food and constantly eating greens around them, but we have also brought with us fruits such as banana or papaya to feed them along the walk.

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Bathing the elephants

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Bathing the Elephant in the River

After walking with them, we’re also given the chance to wash them! It’s really adorable to see them comfortably lay in the water and being playful enough while we are taking good care of them. At first, I was hesitant, but I saw it with my own eyes how they enjoy this part and the experience of giving them a bath gives me a warm and nostalgic feeling.

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The good food

The next day, you can do a volunteer work and help the elephants. Since I wanted to learn how to cook Sri Lankan food, I have opted to help with the cooking instead. The food here was spectacular and I’ve totally learned a lot of good stuff on cooking authentic Sri Lankan Food.

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For just a couple of days in staying here, I had a good time with these elephants and developed a different outlook and perspective towards them. Hearing the family talked about the in-depth passion they have for elephants that started this campaign will ignite something in you – a deeper sense of understanding and support in protecting the elephants.

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It would be wonderful to live in a world where elephants do not need to walk on chains or carry people around and instead live among us harmoniously.

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Elephants are not pets

It is the advocacy of the project to give the captive elephants a sanctuary where they don’t need to do labor work. In Sri Lanka, it’s strongly promoted that elephants shouldn’t be used in any labor works, such as riding them and alike.

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Visiting Sri Lanka and having the chance to become a volunteer of the Elephant Freedom Project will further strengthen in helping elephants be freed from the abusive workforce and let them live peacefully through the hands of those people who take great importance of them.

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