Volunteering with elephants
Take advantage of your stay in Sri Lanka to spend a few days with the elephants at the Millennium Elephant Foundation. You will be in close contact with the emblematic animal of Sri Lanka and will assist the mahouts in their daily tasks and participate in the life of the center.
If you want to give your time for a good cause and you are in good physical condition then this volunteer program is for you!
Why choose a solidarity action towards elephants?
The number of elephants in Sri Lanka, but also in the world, continues to decrease. If we do nothing to protect them, they will soon disappear.
While close to 6000 elephants live in freedom in Sri Lanka, most of them in national parks, a few hundred are still domesticated and used in religious ceremonies to carry out diverse physical activities or to take tourists around. The life of a domesticated elephant is sad and painful given the intensity of the work that they are made to do.
The Elephant is an emblematic animal of Sri Lanka and many people want to see these majestic animals. However, they do not understand how harmful it is to maintain the domestication of elephants and to ride on their backs.
In fact, while these practices are harmful to the elephant, they are extremely profitable for the owners. To change these practices, it is necessary to shift the mentalities and habits of tourists and to « educate » tourists and the local population about taking an ethical approach towards elephants.
What is the Millenium Elephant Foundation?
Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF) was founded in 1999. It is the first charitable association for elephants in captivity in Sri Lanka.
MEF introduced lighter equipment for elephant walks, which are not as harmful for their backs. The company wishes to offer the possibility of interacting with elephants in a safe and responsible manner, for both the animals and people.
MEF receives on a permanent basis, or for part of the year, elephants who have suffered or those used in the temples for religious ceremonies, and who for the remainder of the year, live in chains on a plot of land too small for them. They then take care of them and ensure their wellbeing. The owners of the elephants receive a monthly payment to compensate for what they would have earned in using the elephant.
Today, the objective of MEF is to become the best place for welcoming and providing a lifelong stay for domesticated elephants in Sri Lanka. To achieve this objective, MEF has three main ambitions:
– Entirely remove elephant rides from its program. Today, MEF continues to propose these rides, as these are its main source of income to maintain the venue and cover the high cost of caring for the elephants. However, MEF wishes to stop these rides as soon as it finds financial stability. For the moment, MEF proposes an ethical and pedagogical alternative: walks in the company of an elephant, by its side rather than on its back, to observe how it interacts with nature.
-Construct a space in which the elephants can roam about in total freedom and socialize among themselves rather than being chained.
-Extend the capacity of mobile veterinary units of the foundation to be able to travel to all domesticated elephants in the country.
A legitimate question about the foundation: Why are some elephants in chains?
Wearing chains is a traditional method for the domestication of elephants in Sri Lanka. They are chained between the neck and one of the front legs, the idea being that in case the elephant tries to run, one part of the chain will fall and its mahout (the guard of the elephant) will be able to tie the elephant and immobilise it, thus ensuring the safety of any surrounding people.
It is foremost for security, both for people and the elephant itself. Some elephants that are much calmer and used to their mahout do not need the chains anymore.
The goal of MEF is to totally abolish the usage of chains, especially through proposing a big enclosure area for the elephants to roam freely. However, abolishing this practice, which is embedded in the local way of life, and changing the views of owners is a long process