I awoke early on my first morning on the project site refreshed, contented and ready to go. I was greeted with the welcome sight and smell of breakfast as I entered the dining area, and began my day with a delicious mixture of beans, curry, rice, bread and jam!
The week of an elephant volunteer is very varied indeed. On my first morning we headed out into the jungle area to monitor the passage of wild animals in the area. This involved walking through glorious jungle vegetation and vast swathes of elephant grasses and collecting data such as footprints. In the past multiple elephant passages have been seen here, as well as leopards, birds and deer – our first morning showed nothing but we learned so much about the flora and fauna of the area. It was rounded off beautifully by a refreshing swim in one of the huge dazzling blue lagoons.
After a delicious lunch at the field house we were out again, this time heading to a tree house located over the Elephant Corridor. This is an area of the country where elephants pass frequently to come from their feeding grounds to the water sources. Often in this area this is where humans and elephants meet, and we were there to monitor the elephants, identify them and collect data on the response of the humans and the elephants to each other. We spent several beautiful hours spotting wildlife and even saw a Buddhist procession passing through on about 18 tuk tuks, scooters and bikes.
Tired but contented, we hit the hay early after a delicious rice and curry dinner.
Elephant volunteer diary: Day 2
This morning we rose early – 5am! – to watch the sun rise over a beautiful panorama of mountains, lakes and fields. It was absolutely stunning. Following on from that we went to monitor birds in the local area- I never knew that there were so many!
We then spent the morning on the outskirts of the villages tracking the elephants through the long grasses and forests of the area. We were just a few short hours after the elephants had passed through and we were excited to maybe find them. As we passed through the area we were collecting data on the elephant dung – size, content and how recently it had arrived! I was amazed to learn how to identify the age and sex of an elephant by its dung alone! This morning was an amazing time, walking through streams (and having a bathe!).
Our afternoon session was very much the same as yesterday – but today with the incredible sighting of a huge herd of elephants right below the tree house. We saw mothers protecting their babies and young grazing slowly through the trees and grasses. It was absolutely magical to witness these gentle giants roaming through their natural habitat and for them to be totally oblivious to our presence.
Elephant volunteer diary: Day 3
Today was a brilliant day for understanding the greater significance of the work that we are doing here. We visited the local villages, met local farmers and communities and witnessed the amazing work that is being done to protect the farmers’ crops from the raiding elephants. The farmers were very upbeat and excited about the new crops that they are growing that the elephants don’t like to eat and can be sold for a good margin. It was interesting to understand the dilemmas that these farmers face to work alongside their country’s icon.
In the afternoon we headed to Wagamuwa National Park to see where the elephants main habitat is. The national park is home to 150 elephants, which often roam out into the local community which causes the elephant human conflict. We saw over 30 elephants on this day of all ages and both male and female. We could see them very closely and experience their life in the herd. As well as seeing all of these wonderful elephants we saw storks, eagles, egrets, mongeese, monkeys and so much more! It was a perfect end to a perfect day.
To find out more about this elephant conservation project in Sri Lanka, check out our elephant volunteering website.