Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka

Elephants, Crazy Driving And Sri Lanka

A Small Temple 
When I heard we would be visiting an elephant sanctuary I actually squealed with excitement. I love animals and the thought of being able to see elephants roam free rather than just in a zoo or safari park was an exciting thought. On the journey there I wasn't alone we were first in the van and everyone was so excited not only to see elephants but just to be in Sri Lanka in general. The van journey itself was an adventure. The driving in Sri Lanka is mental like a crazed roller coaster.So much fast winding in and out near misses with dogs and Tuc Tucs but all the drivers are so calm. If that had been the UK there would have been ear steaming road rage. We saw a bus that had crashed into a house and nervously held on tight. Looking around the scenery is so beautiful. Although there are lots of shops they are all like small shacks with w big tunnel under them that literally has a plank leading into the shop. Men carried toilets and furniture over these think planks with big smiles on their faces. Some of the temples we drove passed were just beautiful.

Getting to the elephant sanctuary some of the team were really annoyed that it costs more for 'foreigners' to come and see the elephant sanctuary personally this is something that doesn't really bother me about going to see attractions in other countries because of course they need to make money to keep them going but also make it available to locals who have far less money but will come lots of times so in the long run they end up paying more than the one time visitor.

However I despite all the excitement to see the elephants my heart sank a little when we got inside. This place was less of a sanctuary more of a zoo but I didn't want to judge so started to explore instead. I expected the elephants to be in a sort of safari park i guess. Roaming semi free with lots of freedom. Of course I am aware there is a safety aspect with such wild huge animals but when it has been described as a sanctuary or an orphanage it strikes certain expectations in your mind. I had been told these wee elephants that had been rescued from bad times. When I in fact I found out they were from the wild. The first elephant we saw was one that you had to pay to feed and he was just there like an attraction to make money. I really didn't agree with this and even if you wanted to take a photo the keeper wanted money. I felt more like these beautiful animals were being kept as a money raising scheme than a way to help protect them and act in their best interest.

It only got worse for me when we were hurried along to 'feeding time' the baby elephants were so cute until i realised they were on chains. They were behind a fence and still on chains so they could be close to where the people were in order for them to easily touch them for their own gratification.I found this really upsetting one of the baby elephants was so distressed waiting to be fed that he kept pulling on his chains and even has a small cut. I just couldn't understand why the keeper couldn't calm him down or just let him off the chains. Things can be done with a bit more compassion and will not cost them any more. What I found interesting was that everyone read this situation differently. A girl from Pakistan believed he was just distressed because he was hungry, one of the English boys believed it was down to culture and then there was me and Sarah who were just upset and saddened. Have a look for yourself. This is just a small snippet look out for my video blog for a better idea.

I don't want to end this blog leaving you with a one sided view of this place. Sri Lankans have a lot of love and respect for elephants they are celebrated everywhere in statues,art and yes they are a form of transport in some places and very well looked after.

The sanctuary did have some beautiful moments as well as sad and the elephants are not always on chains. I
just feel the land they do get to walk around on is not nearly enough about the size of a small football pitch for 6 elephants is not much at all. However when they were roaming i saw a baby elephant play in the dirt with it's mother who covered it in dirt to protect it from the sun. seeing this family together playing brought a warm feeling to my heart.The sanctuary must care about these animals maybe they need support but they need to take the chains away and learn how to work with them in a different way.


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