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Activity Review: Elephant Freedom Project (Sri Lanka)

What is the Elephant Freedom Project?

The Elephant Freedom Project is an organization to help improve elephant welfare in Sri Lanka. Started only 6 months ago, the project is one of very few in the country that helps promote a healthy and safe life for domestic, privately owned elephants.

Two Dutch volunteers paired up with a Sri Lankan family to create the project and currently provide a home for 2 baby elephants.  The animals are free from abuse here, and get lots of love and attention from the volunteers and family. They get to walk around freely, play with each other, and enjoy enrichment games to keep their brains active and learning.

Elephant Freedom Project
Elephant Freedom Project

The project is backed by Volunteers at Work, an organization started by one of the project founders, to connect volunteers with the elephants for the best possible care and oversight.

Volunteers can spend just a day helping out or several months at a time.

 

Our experience

We spent one full day at the Elephant Freedom Project. Here was our schedule. Please note that if you aren’t interesting in a cooking class you’re welcome to learn about elephants from the resident expert. We absolutely loved the cooking class (Sri Lankan food is amazing), but also wished we could have taken the elephant class!

8:30AM: Arrival at the project and morning tea/treats
9:30-11AM: Walk with the elephants, feed them, and observe them in their habitat
11:30-1PM: Cooking class and lunch
1:30-3PM: Enrichment activity with the elephants
3:30-5PM: Bathing the elephants in the river

Prepping our meal for the cooking class!
Prepping our meal for the cooking class!

We arrived at the project in the morning and had an entire day planned for us to learn and spend time with the elephants. We were initially greeted by Tim, one of the founders, and later met the gracious Sri Lankan family. We sat down for black tea (the best is found in Sri Lanka!) and treats as we got to know the other two volunteers and talk about our upcoming day together.

bathing the elephants
bathing the elephants

Our elephant time started with a morning walk through the lush greenlands while feeding them and learning about the elephants. Then we enjoyed a Sri Lankan cooking class – amazing food! Our afternoon included enrichment games designed to stimulate the elephants minds and bathing them in the river. We thoroughly enjoyed each and every activity and interaction with the elephants! It was clear that they were happy as could be and safe from any abuse.

 

Location

Nestled between many tourist elephant orphanages on Kegalle Road in, Kegalle, Sri Lanka. Roughly a 2-hour bus ride East of Sri Lankan’s capital city, Colombo. Easy to reach from the international airport and the cultural capital of Kandy.

 

Facilities

The project is located in the expansive yard of a Sri Lankan family’s home. It has space to accommodate volunteers who just stay for the day or weeks on end. There is a river just across the street where the elephants bathe. Plenty of space in the back for them to wander around and play!

Typical accommodation for volunteers
Typical accommodation for volunteers

If you plan to spend some time here, your stay includes dorm style accommodation and meals 5 days per week.

 

Fun facts about elephants

  • One way elephants “hear” and communicate is through their feet. They pick up vibrations and low-frequency sound waves from miles away!
  • Elephants flap their ears when they are happy and excited! They also flap them to help cool down when it’s hot outside.
  • Elephants mourn the death of their loved ones. When one of their herd members dies, they gather around the body and touch it with their trunks.
  • Their memory is fantastic. As migratory animals, elephants walk miles each year from place to place. When they walk past a spot where an elephant has died, even years prior, they will stop to recognize the location and exhibit mourning signs.
playtime!
playtime!

 

Final thoughts

Upon coming to the Elephant Freedom Project, we had minimal knowledge about the abuse that most elephants in the tourism industry endure each year. What we learned was astounding and has forever changed our views on riding elephants and supporting such causes. Unfortunately, many of the elephant organizations in Sri Lanka and around the world are very abusive to these beautiful creatures.

These beautiful animals deserve a happy life free from torment. The Elephant Freedom Project is a safe place to learn and help privately owned, domestic elephants lead a healthy life.  We strongly endorse their project and hope that others will too.

Please do you research before taking part in activities related to elephants.

 

For more information on elephant tourism:

  • Giselle and Cody from Mindful Wanderlust spill the Truth on Elephant Tourism.
  • Elemotion – A works to improve the lives of endangered Asian elephants and the people connected to them.

 

Contact The Elephant Freedom Project:

 

 
What else is there to do in Sri Lanka?

 

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About Anne

Anne is a passionate yogi who loves to be active outdoors. When she's not traveling to destinations near the equator to practice yoga and eat tropical fruit, you can find her in the kitchen cooking up nourishing meals with her partner, Brandon. A music junkie at heart, she is currently spinning: Tor, Hiatus, Friend. and Giyo.

9 thoughts on “Activity Review: Elephant Freedom Project (Sri Lanka)”

  1. Oh wow, this looks and sounds amazing indeed! I adore elephants and had some heart-warming experiences in Sri Lanka as well. A pity I wasn’t aware of this project back then. I’m sure it has been a truly remarkable and memorable experience for you as well and really great to see how you spread the word about responsible tourism as well…
    Happy and inspiring travels!!

    Reply
    • I hope you can make it back to Sri Lanka to check out this project. It was awesome to see happy elephants not harmed and abused by tourism! Elephants are such amazing animals. Thanks for checking out the post!

      Reply
  2. Yes, elephants do grieve. I can imagine how these calves grieved at the loss of their mothers and families, and how their mothers grieved for them. There is no mention of how these two young elephants were obtained for this project, so I wonder if they were separated from their families (at a much too young an age) simply for this “project”. If the owner/operators were more forthcoming with the calves’ background, I would think more highly of the operation.

    Reply
    • Good point, Mary Ellen. From what we know, they were safe from harm from the beginning. I will see if I get refer your feedback to the project! thanks for reading.

      Reply
  3. Hi, I just now read the question about where the elephants are coming from. We rent them from 2 owners to give them a better life, as far as I know they have been in captivity for quite some years before we started renting them about 1 year ago.

    Reply

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