project review

A Unique Opportunity

Review submitted by Becky Knueven
Review date 31 Jul 2012

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I decided to come to Sri Lanka for an opportunity to see elephants in the wild, which is not something many can say they have been able to do. Preparing myself for the trip was easy, as this was not my first time living in an equatorial region and I was expecting the heat, humidity and insects. For someone unfamiliar with the climate and day-to-day life, it would be difficult to adjust. 
 
As far as life on the project goes, I enjoyed doing different activities on a daily basis. It was awesome to see the scope of the project and how it covers a wide range of needs, whether it be collecting data on elephant movement and human/elephant interaction in tree hut to aiding villagers and providing orange plants to protect their homes. From the perspective of someone who studied geography in an undergraduate program, the project covers many facets of the discipline. It was interesting to watch the human/elephant interactions and observing the conflict first-hand. The knowledge gained from our daily activities and tree hut observations gave me a new outlook on the issues affecting Sri Lanka today. I had no idea about the variety of ways in which the program helps the people. My eyes were opened to multiple methods of deterrence, such as orange trees and electric fences. 
 
 
Chinthaka is a fantastic guide and supervisor and is more than willing to give the volunteers tours of sites and to give us advice on what places to check out. His knowledge, along with that of Veroni and Jay, gave me a greater appreciation for what the project’s goals are and how they are working hard to attain those goals. One of the recommended outings was to visit the Millennium Elephant Foundation for a weekend. Stefania and I were able to work with Sumana, the foundation’s oldest elephant. The experience was eye opening for both of us. Stefania will write about her recommendations for enrichment activities, so I won’t comment on that, but I do want to note that the experience made me feel even more strongly that the project’s goal of helping people and elephants live in (relative) harmony is imperative if the sanctity of elephants living in the wild is to be maintained. I would go so far as to say the volunteers should all be required to see elephants in captivity. The amount of information we learned during those two days was invaluable. We came back to Wasgamuwa with a new attitude and a new passion for the project.