October Volunteers in Action in the Field

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"My time with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society was way more than I imagined it would be. This wonderful organization nurtured a true love of nature and elephants within me. I learned so much and had so much fun at the same time. Observing the elephants in their natural habitat is an experience I will never forget!!!" Shanae Goshea, U.S.A.

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Alicia Chadwick
Volunteer Coordinator
SLWCS

Monday, September 30th 2019

Morning

Team: Petra, Jenny, Jasmine and Sonia

Sand and Camera trapping in Karu Forest. No prints in the sand trap, possibly because of the rain. Some great photos in the cameras however, including a leopard and sloth bear.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

The Field Scouts were told there were elephants in Himbiliyakada so we drove around there for a long time. Finally we spotted them up on the mountain in the rain!

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Tuesday, October 01st 2019

Morning

Team 1: Petra, Jenny, Jasmine and Sonia

Dung analysis at the old tree huts. A lot of fresh dung, only a few hours old. Very healthy aside from some discoloration.

Team 2: Lee, Charlie, Emil and Steve

Dung analysis along Karu road. Saw some dung, a few days old. A lot of footprints along the road also.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

No elephants! We heard some movement but no visual sightings.

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Wednesday, October 02nd

Morning

Team: Petra, Jenny, Jasmine and Sonia

Project Orange Elephant today consisted of helping local farmers plant their trees. Volunteers helped dig 20 holes for Siriya's orange trees. Very hot work that ended with some cold fresh juice.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

Finally, we saw some elephants up close at Madupitya. The group of 6 moved from the Tree Hut Forest into Madupitya.

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Thursday, October 03rd

Morning

Team: Petra, Jenny, Jasmine and Sonia

Pugmark survey in Mada Ela this morning. Only a few prints were found, and it was very hot. We had a lovely water break at a small river to cool off.

Afternoon

Team 1: Petra and Jenny

Observation in the tree hut forest next to Weheragala tank. A family of elephants, including infants and juveniles were observed.

Team 2: Sonia and Jasmine

National Park visit. Got very close to a heard of elephants, where an older female was very protective of the rest of the family.

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Friday, October 04th

Morning

Team: Petra, Jenny and Jasmine

Morning project was fence monitoring on the other side of Himbiliyakanda. The fence was well kept. We passed a farmer who was harvesting watermelon and gave us some of her watermelons. We all enjoyed them over the water break.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

Went to Weheragala for observation, where we saw one elephant run across the road but it disappeared into the forest very quickly.

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Monday, October 07th

Morning

Team: Jenny

As Jenny was the only volunteer this morning, we re-potted orange trees with Vijay. It was a hot, but successful morning.

Afternoon

All Volunteers Naomi, Dan and Dana arrived just in time for a quick orientation before we left to do elephant observations. We saw 3 separate elephants within the first half hour but then nothing. It started to storm at 17.45 so we quickly left.

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Tuesday, October 08th

Morning

Team 1: Jenny (with Ruvini, Alicia and Asitha)

Mahaweli river survey with Jenny was very productive. We got through 2 locations despite the heat.

Team 2: Naomi, Dan and Dana

Sand and camera traps with Chathuranga. Volunteers spotted a leopard print in the sand traps!

Afternoon

All Volunteers

We waited at the tank for 1.5 hours and finally heard them in the forest at 17.30. At 17.50 we saw a family emerge with some babies and juveniles.

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Wednesday, October 09th

Morning

Team: Jenny, Dan, Naomi and Dana

Dung analysis was conducted at Weheragala tank to see if elephants are in the area. Only 5-7 day old dung was found, which proves they are elsewhere and explains why we haven’t seen elephants for a while!

Afternoon

All Volunteers

No elephants were observed today, but we saw a lot of birds including a hoopoe which was very exciting.

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Thursday, October 10th

Morning

Team: Jenny, Dan, Naomi and Dana

Fence monitoring along the river was very productive from our volunteers. There were more than 10 poles knocked down from elephants in the area.
Afternoon

Team 1: Jenna and Dana

Went to regular observation at Weheragala Tank. No elephants were observed.

Team 2: Naomi and Dan

Volunteers observed over 100 elephants in the national park! It was a fabulous day for them.

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Friday, October 11th

Morning

Team: Dan, Naomi and Dana

Volunteers went to Pussellayaaya for Project Orange Elephant, where they weeded and surveyed orange trees of 2 farms. It was hard work, but rewarding.

Afternoon

All Volunteers

One elephant was observed today, despite getting stuck in the mud and everyone chipping in to help push out the jeep. It was great fund and team building!

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

2019 International Elephant Conservation & Research Symposium, South Africa

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"Attending the IEF symposiums have being pivotal to the success of the elephant conservation efforts of the SLWCS." Ravi Corea, president, SLWCS

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Debbie Olson, Executive Director of IEF giving the welcome address.

The 16th International Elephant Conservation & Research Symposium organized by the International Elephant Foundation was held from October 21 to the 25th 2019 in South Africa.

The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society presented two papers on its ground breaking human elephant conflict mitigation and elephant research work. The titles of the presentations were:

Project Orange Elephant: An Economic Solution to Mitigate Human-Elephant Conflicts: A case study from Wasgamuwa, Sri Lanka

An Assessment of Using Remote Camera Traps for Asian Elephant Research

The Society was invited to present a 3rd presentation on its internationally renowned voluntourism program. The presentation was titled: Initiating a Voluntourism Program as a Sustainable Economic Initiative to help Mitigate Human Elephant Conflicts

The SLWCS gave three presentations garnering the Society international recognition for its innovative and pioneering efforts integrating social enterprise, responsible travel, field research, conservation and sustainable development concepts to create a highly successful model for sustainable community based conservation in Sri Lanka.

IEF POE Presentation
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Over the past 19 years the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society have had a close relationship with the International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and had the privilege to attend and present at 9 of the past 11 international symposiums held since 2000.

In 2003 when the IEF symposium was held in Sri Lanka the SLWCS was one of the local organizing partners. The SLWCS sponsored the key note speaker, Dr. Ian Douglas-Hamilton to attend the 2003 symposium. The Society also provided sponsorships for five Sri Lankan university students to attend the symposium.

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IEF Voluntourism Program Presentation
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Attending the IEF symposiums have being pivotal to the success of the elephant conservation efforts of the SLWCS. As a result the Society has been able to launch several innovative and pioneering projects such as its’ Saving Elephants by Helping People, The Field Scouts Program, The Africa Asia Elephant Conservation Project and most recently to the novel and world’s first EleFriendly Bus Service which also received funding support from Colombo Jewellery Stores, Asian Elephant Support, elephantea, Cha’s Organics, Wealthtrust Securities Ltd., and Adele & Loi Nguyen.

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While in Africa, Ravi Corea, the president of the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society also got a truly wonderful opportunity to meet some of the locals and hang out with them.

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We wish the International Elephant Foundation all the very best and a long and successful future and look forward to continuing our engagement with the IEF in the coming years.

We extend a warm and grateful Thank you to Ms. Linda Reifschneider of Asian Elephant Support and Ms. Debbie Olson, Executive Director of the International Elephant Foundation for sponsoring the SLWCS to attend this year’s symposium.

For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

A Deadly Attack in the Night!

 

 

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“The villagers took a huge risk since a hungry leopard is no match for an unarmed crowd going by recent incidents where leopards had attacked injuring or killing people in broad daylight."

 

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Death that comes in the night…

 

Deep in the Himbiliyakada forest reserve is a small and remote hamlet with five families. This is Irriyagaha. The road leading to the hamlet is a long, lonely and desolate stretch once it leaves the last vestiges of human habitation several kilometers back. The gravel road winds up and through the hills hemmed in on both sides by thick forests. Even a full moon struggles to shed light on this dark and lonely road in the night due to the thick canopy that arches overhead. These forests are the haunts of many jungle denizens including the prowling and illusive leopard, the shuffling sloth bear considered the most feared animal in the jungle, and the majestic and stately elephant.

 

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Inside these thickly forested hills is Irriyagaha

 

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The remote and desolate road leading to Irriyagaha

 

On November 20th around 1 am a leopard had arrived at the sleepy little hamlet and targeted a pregnant cow that belonged to a villager named Karu. The cow was tied when the attack happened. Going by the signs the cow had probably sensed the leopard before it attacked and was in an agitated state as evidenced by the churned up ground by where she was tethered.

As the leopard launched its’ attack the cow had broken off the rope and run towards Karu’s home dragging the leopard along. Just as she reached the small creek by Karu’s home the leopard had managed to get a strangle hold on the cow’s neck and killed her. By the size of the dead cow and the signs left behind it can be assumed that it was a very large leopard most probably a male. We have remote cameras stationed in the adjacent forests and have recorded the presence of several large male leopards in these forests.

 

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Karu and his family were not home that night. The few neighbors heard the commotion but were frightened to come out since in the dead of night there is no way of knowing what is happening in the dark. Once a sufficient number of them had gathered to boost up their courage and they had enough flashlights to investigate, they had ventured out shouting and making noise to ward off whatever wild beast that was out there.

Following the signs on the ground they followed in the direction where the cow had run. The villagers took a huge risk since a hungry leopard is no match for an unarmed crowd going by recent incidents where leopards had attacked injuring or killing people in broad daylight.

It is interesting that this past May we had a young female leopard prey on five calves during a 6 weeks period belonging to a farmer who lived just north of Karu’s. We managed to get photos of the leopardess by setting up cameras by her last kill. And then just as suddenly the killings stopped. We compensated this farmer by giving him a heifer (https://madmimi.com/s/69148e).

Due to the close proximity of the dead cow to the village homes it was not advisable to keep the carcass to set up remote cameras. The villagers planned to bury the carcass to discourage the leopard from coming back.

 

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The young female leopard that was responsible for a spate of calf killings

 

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When Karu and his family arrived later in the morning and heard the news he was naturally very unhappy and sorrowful of his double loss since the cow was pregnant and it was more of a pet than a farm animal. The SLWCS has committed to provide him with cow on the understanding that he will not take measures to seek retribution from the leopard.

Trying to maintain this tenuous balance where people are willing to coexist with wild animals is one of the biggest challenges the SLWCS faces every day! You can support our efforts by visiting our website at: www.slwcs.org

There is never a dull moment in Wasgamuwa.

 

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Karu with the broken rope by the tree where he last tethered his cow

 

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The broken rope

 

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The signs of struggle as the cow tried to escape the leopard

 

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Eating

 

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

October Volunteers have an elephantine experience…here, there and everywhere elephants.

"The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society has a really good group of people that put their all into making a difference. It’s a team and a family a

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"The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society has a really good group of people that put their all into making a difference. It’s a team and a family and I’m so happy for the 4 weeks I was there that I got to be a part of that family. This whole experience has been so beneficial for me and I can’t wait to come back, (maybe even to work?)!" Carley Scholter, U.S.A.

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Alicia Chadwick
Volunteer Coordinator
SLWCS

Friday, October 25th 2019

Afternoon

All Volunteers

Everyone went to the national park. It was amazing! We saw loads of elephants and they were just metres away from us! We made some incredible observations.

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS

August Volunteers wrap up the Summer with their experiences

"I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you al

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"I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you all for a wonderful volunteer experience." Emma Lancaster, USA

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Aurélie (Lily) Coste Chareyre
France

Three words: I loved it. This project brings me a lot of things as on human level as on an animal level. I discovered a new world which is especially what I wanted. I had never volunteered in my life and this was the perfect start; I am sure I will do another one later, perhaps medical volunteering as I am in the medical field.

The staff were lovely, always taking care of the volunteers. The field house was full of life, I very much enjoyed our card game night.

I am just disappointed I didn’t see the “elephant bus” because of holidays.

Thank you very much for these 2 weeks, I have in my head many memories which I will never forget.

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Scott Howells
Wales

What a great introduction for me into the world of volunteering! Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. The work you guys are doing here is inspirational; I can see the passion you all have for the project and animal conservation as a whole.

The daily activities we’ve taken part in showed me just how much time and effort go into achieving your goals. In just 2 weeks I have learnt a massive amount about the behaviour patterns of elephants and the issues that are faced as a result of elephant/human conflict. I am also the best Data Recorder that has ever volunteered – fact.

Everyone has been so kind and welcoming. The boys are hilarious and made some of the longer stretches out in the field much more enjoyable with jokes and games to keep morale up. It was great to talk to Chandima and gain a better understanding about what the goals of the project are and what issues you face day to day. Alicia = Legend. She made the 2 weeks doubly enjoyable with her banter, happy personality and kindness.

Summed up, I had an amazing time. Maybe one day I’ll come back if you’re lucky!

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Christopher Sangster
England

The elephant conservation project is a fantastic example of an ethical project that provides a perfect opportunity for volunteers to feel like they are making a real difference without causing harm or exploiting the locals. Wildlife is treated with respect and volunteers must remain at a respectful distance, and the activities the Society are involved in all provide benefits for local farmers as well as improving the situation for wildlife.

The accommodation is simple but provides everything you need. Having a central communal area where everyone can sit and chat or play games makes it easy to socialise. There are fantastic views of the surrounding area, especially at sunrise and sunset, and the resident dog and cats are friendly, especially if you’re eating food.

The field guides are all very friendly and make even the more mundane tasks enjoyable through their jokes and playfulness. They are knowledgeable with regard to wildlife and wiling to answer questions, making the activities even more rewarding. There is also some excellent music played in the field house.

There are a good range of activities, meaning that things never become repetitive. It is worth staying for more than one week to ensure that each activity is experienced more than once, as each day is slightly different. For example, I was able to be involved in planting orange trees at the beginning of my time on the project, then on my last day we travelled round several farms to examine trees that had been planted earlier. Seeing different stages of the various projects was highly rewarding.

Overall, I highly enjoyed my time on the project and my only wish is that I could have stayed longer. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in wildlife conservation, or just a love of elephants generally.

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Todd Soyck
USA

The three weeks at the Elephant Project have gone by quickly. What I valued most about the project was the work we did that was geared towards reducing human/elephant conflict. Project Orange Elephant—both planting and monitoring the orange tree saplings—was a rewarding experience. While at times the work was hard, never was I asked to do any more than I could handle and plenty of breaks were allowed during the hot part of the day. Of course, monitoring the elephants in the afternoon and early evening was always a joy.

As for the staff they were helpful, friendly and fun all at the same time. Questions about things were handled very well by those in charge. Also, they were very good about looking after our welfare when it came to health issues.

The food was adequate as to expectations. The accommodations, while a bit simple, were also adequate to meet my immediate needs for sleep and hygiene.

Overall, I met some very nice people, learned a lot about the fauna and culture of Sri Lanka and enjoyed my stay very much.

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Eileen Schildberg
Germany

You can have a lot of fun in the SLWCS if you get involved with the project and the people and do not be afraid of getting a little dirty. They take care of the volunteers very well, the staff is lovely and everything is always clean and the food is very delicious. In addition, there is always a contact person on site if you need help.

I learned a lot about the animals, the work here and about the culture. I really enjoyed seeing how dedicated the whole team is to helping people and animals on the ground. But I was most fascinated by the Project Orange Elephant, which found out that elephants do not eat oranges and they try to avoid damage. Also it was always nice to see the elephants in real nature every day.

I stayed in this project for 2 weeks, but would recommend to anyone if it is possible to stay longer. I spend a wonderful time here, which I will not forget. The filed house becomes your own family, your own home. I will miss the time here very much and if I have the opportunity I would come again.

Many thanks to the wonderful team.

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Emma Lancaster
USA

I heard about this volunteer program through my friend Rae, who discovered it through IVHQ. I read up on the program, and really liked the idea of volunteering in wild elephant conservation in a non-invasive way.

I genuinely enjoyed everything about the volunteer program here. It was really nice to have a variety of different activities every week, and the same routine of elephant observation at night. I also really enjoyed the flexibility of being able to do more work if you wanted to help further. I got a chance to help with elephant ID’s a few times in the afternoons, and it was not only fun, but really useful for me to learn about the process of IDing and the techniques to distinguish elephants apart. I am really happy that I had the opportunity to help out with this, and I just wish I could have done more!

I loved the variety of projects each week – dung analysis, pugmark surveys, fence monitoring, and project orange I liked especially, although I think my favourite project was the dung analysis!! It was nice that the volunteers were given the opportunity to do the data collection and recording. I felt like doing this, I was able to learn a bit more about the processes behind the research and I felt more involved.

The elephant observations were also really nice. Even on the days where we didn’t see any elephants, I still had so much fun riding in the jeeps and hanging out with everybody. I also got a chance to practice Sinhala during this time!

The staff is amazing!! I got along with all of them really well. Alicia is very nice and friendly, and helped me get involved with the elephant ID’s which was super awesome! The other staff members are hilarious (Siria especially), and they were always more than happy to teach me new things about the work, and Sinhala words. There was never a dull moment here thanks to the staff; they all made me feel like I was at home!

The food here was delicious and not too spicy. I never got sick of the meals, although it was nice being able to stop in town once a week to get snacks to feed my chocolate cravings.

Overall, I had a fantastic time, and I wouldn’t change anything about the program. It is so hard to leave, and I would extend my trip if I could! Thank you all for a wonderful volunteer experience 

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Horsfield Family: Michelle, Paul & Ruari and Toby kids aged 10 & 12
UK

We booked to come as we wanted to do something together as a family experiencing a new culture and gaining some personal satisfaction from contributing to a worthwhile project. We have grown together and as parents we’ve enjoyed seeing how our kids operate with other adults in a communal setting like this. We have enjoyed meeting the staff who live locally and eating the tasty food so well prepared by Leela Ratuna.

It has been overall a great adventure and we have all learned a lot; roughing it in dorms is all part of the charm; the boys have loved the endless games of Uno in the evenings and we’ve learnt a lot about the human elephant conflict issue here.

Good luck with the future and we all wish you well.

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Jamie and Frances Clough-Murray
UK

We have had an amazing time doing what we like to do best, watch wildlife in its natural habitat.

The staff were really friendly and accommodating. Alicia is a perfect volunteer coordinator, enthusiastic, always happy to listen and help with everything including the weekends. The Field Scouts are really friendly and can get there point over without speaking much English (which is better than my non existent Sinhala). Siriya is an amazing guide and always finds a way to lighten the mood if its down, which is a real asset.

The small dorm style rooms are basic but work really well, and the fans are a god send, we have had much worse on other volunteer projects.

The morning activities are nice and varied and we felt like we are making small contributions to a larger picture. We missed out on going out on the Ellie-bus due to school holidays, which might have been nice.

The elephant observations from an Elephant perspective is really good, informative and quite exciting.

Frances – (Wanted to do her own review also)

I’ve had a wonderful time. The staff are really helpful. You may have to play charades but it always seems to work. The Field Scouts are great and such fun. Alicia the volunteer coordinator is so friendly as well as helpful. Everyone goes out of their way to make sure you have the best possible experience.

The food can be a bit spicy but I’m a wuss with spice. Siriya is so good at making the mood lighter, making us laugh, teaching us the local games and local words like numbers and animal names. I’ve laughed every single day. Loved helping plant the orange trees to help farmers or prep the butterfly garden. All the activities are aimed at increasing knowledge or helping people in order to protect the elephants.

I haven’t been able to go on the EleBus due to school holidays. The staff have helped to plan and book activities for the weekends off. The other volunteers are cool too. All in all just come join in and enjoy. I absolutely loved it!

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS

Volunteer Anna from Scotland is inspired by Project Orange Elephant

"When I found the SLWCS I was really excited to know I would be genuinely contributing to a sustainable conservation effort that will help secure a fu

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"When I found the SLWCS I was really excited to know I would be genuinely contributing to a sustainable conservation effort that will help secure a future for the elephant population.” Anna Fredlander, Scotland

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Anna with newly bagged grafted orange plants

Anna Fredlander is from Edinburgh, Scotland and she is volunteering with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society for 4 weeks. In her own words, Anna has always being fascinated by elephants, watching documentaries about them and bringing petitions to school to try and help the movement to save them from the threats they face.

“I have always dreamed of volunteering, to physically help with the conservation efforts, and I have previously looked into doing this at “elephant sanctuaries” but encountered struggles with the ethical values at some of these places. When I found the SLWCS I was really excited to know I would be genuinely contributing to a sustainable conservation effort that will help secure a future for the elephant population.”

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Chandima explaining to the volunteers about POE

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Working on Project Orange Elephant

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Anna Fredlander
Edinburgh, Scotland
August 2019

During my time at SLWCS my favourite morning activity has definitely been Project Orange Elephant. I had read about the project before coming to volunteer here in Sri Lanka, and had hoped I would have the opportunity to get involved, so I was really excited when I found we would be planting orange trees on my first day! I have really enjoyed doing the other activities, which are centred around collecting data on the animal populations in the area, and clearing the area for the butterfly garden at the Field House, but Project Orange Elephant is particularly special for me as I feel like I am directly contributing to creating a solution to the human-elephant conflict that exists in the area.

This issue was the main thing that drew me to SLWCS as an organisation, as helping people to live happily alongside the elephants is what will ensure their safety. As long as elephants pose a threat to people’s livelihood, neither elephants or people are safe from conflict. Project Orange Elephant completely encompasses the innovative and respectful way in which SLWCS is trying to solve this problem.

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Mixing soil for the orange plants

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The POE Crew

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Weeding the Orange plants

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Chathuranga at one of the POE farms with a group of visitors

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The project involves giving orange trees to farmers who are not protected from elephants by the electric fence that currently surrounds many of the farms. We plant the trees around the crop fields, as elephants do not like the smell of citrus, so the orange trees act as a biological fence, their smell overpowering that of the crops within and deterring the elephants. It was really interesting going to a farm to plant the trees and take care of them, as it has given me a direct insight into the lives of the farmers who share this land with the elephants.

It is fulfilling to feel that we are protecting the farmers and their livelihood from the elephants, while giving them another source of income, and all without posing any threat to the elephants or placing any man-made structure into the environment. It is amazing to be part of this project, to watch it take shape and imagine it becoming the norm as it starts to take effect.

It completely symbolises the type of solution we should be striving to create in all areas of environmental conflict: a solution that educates people about the issue and allows them to benefit from the solution, so that they are happy to protect our environment and the animals that share it with us, rather than feeling threatened by it.

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Creating a new source of primary income for farmers

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Chathuranga Dharmarathne/SLWCS
Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS

September Volunteers in Action in the Field

"The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society is outstanding to say the least. My experience here in Wasgamuwa has been amazing. A lover of elephants m

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"The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society is outstanding to say the least. My experience here in Wasgamuwa has been amazing. A lover of elephants my whole life, this opportunity has finally provided me with the ultimate satisfaction of enjoying wild elephants in their natural habitat. I felt like I needed to give back to elephants since I tell everyone I love them so much. SLWCS gave me a fulfilment to that goal." Kyle Brian, U.S.A.

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Alicia Chadwick
Volunteer Coordinator
SLWCS

Tuesday, September 3rd 2019

Morning

Team: David, Antonia, Beate and Julia

First activity was checking and resetting the sand traps. Volunteers' had a great time seeing sloth bear, wild boar and even leopard prints in the sand traps

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers.

One adult male elephant was spotted at Weheragala Tank at 17.51. The families must have moved on! We will monitor this area for the rest of the week.

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Thursday, September 5th

Morning

Team 1: David, Antonia, Beate and Carley

Worked on POE at Pussellayaya. Over 90 plants to weed and create condition reports. Very tough for only 4 volunteers. Most plants were in very good condition. Some volunteers cooled off in the lake.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

All the volunteers went to the National Park. Some elephants came very close to the vehicles, as well as a family group towards the end of the safari.

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Friday, September 6th

Morning

Team: David, Antonia, Beate and Carley

Fence monitoring at Weheragala. It was a very hot day so we took our time including many water breaks. Some recent elephant activity noted, while also smelling the musky odor of an elephant in musth! Elephants were close at one point so we moved quickly past them.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

Observations at the Weheragala Tank, where there were 2 males bathing in the tank. A family of elephants came out near Goda-ulpatha at 16.30 with at least 30 elephants.

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Monday, September 9th

Morning

Team: Beate and Shanae

Re-potting grafted orange plants. We re-potted over 30 plants with the staff and two volunteers. It was a very hot morning with watermelon juice as a refreshment.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

At Weheragala Tank there was a family of 9, and two individual males. A van of Sri Lankans playing loud music came by and drove right up to the elephants, scaring them away.

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Tuesday, September 10th

Morning

Team: Beate and Shanae

Dung analysis at Weheragala Tank. Because there has been a lot of activity in the area, we wanted to analyse their health. Twenty five percent of 20 piles of dung had plastic in it, showing that they’re feeding at the trash site.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

At Weheragala Tank there was around 30 elephants, but slightly out of view. However, some adults came to the water eventually.

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Plastic and glass in elephant dung.

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Wednesday, September 11th

Morning

Team: Beate and Shanae

Pugmark analysis in the paddy fields. Because of the lack of rain, it was difficult to spot prints. This being said, we did find 6 prints and identified them as jungle cats (Felis chaus).

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

It was a slow start to elephant observation today, however after driving through Goda-ulpatha and Madupitya we finally spotted one near the tree hut forest. A bachelor group of 4 males made their way across the water to the other side of Weheragala Tank.

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Thursday, September 12th

Morning

Team: Beate (Shanae stayed home in the morning as she had some news from home she had to deal with.)

This morning because we only had one volunteer we changed the SD cards in the forest (with Beart staying in the vehicle when it was too dangerous). It was an exciting morning.

Afternoon

Team: Beate & Shanae

At Madupitiya there were about 20 elephants which were coming close to the jeeps. At 5 pm there was a very close bang probably from a thunder flash which scared the elephants away. We waited at the Tree Hut forest and they came by nice and close again! Great afternoon.

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Friday, September 13th

Morning

Team: Beate and Shanae

This mornings activity was fence monitoring on the other side of Weheragala. It was a very steep hike where the volunteers found it hard. However we finished as a team and were very proud.

Afternoon

Team: Team: Beate and Shanae

Elephant observation in Weheragala Tank. It started raining very hard at about 5pm. From there we spotted a group at the other side of the lake and headed over to watch them roll and slide in the mud!

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Monday, September 23rd

Morning

Team: Gary and Petra

This morning volunteers and staff cleared trees in the butterfly garden. The area is looking great and we can probably start planting trees soon.

Afternoon

Team: Gary, Petra & Jennifer (arrived in afternoon)

It started to rain just as we were leaving for elephant observation. No elephants were observed despite waiting for them.

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Tuesday, September 24th

Morning

Team: Gary, Petra and Jenny

Pug mark survey in Meda Ela. Because of the rain last night there were some good prints to measure. Back at the field house, a truck of 2500 orange plants arrived. Staff and volunteers unloaded them all before lunch.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

Volunteers went on the Ele-Bus as it is likely there will be no elephants again in the evening. Another load of 2500 orange trees is coming so instead of observation, everyone is needed to help to finish unloading before sundown.

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Wednesday, September 25th

Morning

Team: Gary, Petra and Jenny

Dung analysis was conducted in Naminigama which hadn’t been analysed for a while. There were a lot of footprints however not much dung. We also smelled an elephant and moved quickly through the area.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

It started raining after lunch and didn’t back off. We went out to do elephant observations, but it continued raining. No elephants were observed.

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Thursday, September 26th

Morning

Team: Gary, Petra and Jenny

Today was orange plant distribution day. Motorbikes, push bikes, scooters, tuk tuks, wheelbarrows and tractors with trailers were bought to the field house to collect orange plants. We distributed all of the 5000 orange plants.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

Volunteers went to the national park. While it was not possible to observe elephants we had an exciting spotting of a leopard. These cats are so illusive and we were extremely lucky to to spot one!

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Friday, September 27th

Morning

Team: Gary, Petra and Jenny

At the start of fence monitoring in Himbiliyakada we saw elephant prints. We spoke to a local farmer who said there was one this morning by the fence. We also heard it in the forest so we moved quickly and quietly along the fence. It was well maintained.

Afternoon

Team: All Volunteers

After a week of no elephants, our hopes weren’t high going into the afternoon observation. Luckily, as soon as we arrived there was a family in the tree hut forest! One older female kept mock charging the vehicle whenever a motorbike went past. It was a very eventful observation!

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS
Chinthaka Weerasinghe/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS

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July August Volunteers in Action in the Field

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“It’s been an incredible experience for me here with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS), looking at mitigating the conflict between the villagers (and many villages) and elephants. It’s an incredible experience to see the work that is being done to help the communities understand the importance of these amazing animals and at the same time helping them live and cultivate on the land they have, without it being destroyed by the elephants.” Tara Benson, United Kingdom

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Alicia Chadwick
Volunteer Coordinator
SLWCS

This is a short summary of the activities our volunteers have been doing during the last week of July and the first week of August.

Monday July 29th 2019
Volunteers: Alex, Kate, Ludovica, Vittoria, and Julian

Morning – Volunteers conducted dung analysis in Goda-Ulpotha along a different patty. This is the final analysis for this area for a while. 2-4 day old dung, and much of it. One had cloth and plastic in it.

Afternoon – All volunteers (Including Jamie, Frances, Michelle, Paul, Toby and Ruari)

Went to Weheragala tank and saw about 4 elephants near the forest edge. After moving closer there were over 25 in the valley! 3 wandered within 10 metres of the Land Rovers.

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Tuesday July 30th 2019

Team 1 Volunteers: Alex, Kate, Tara, Ludovica, Vittoria, Julian, Jamie, Frances, Michelle, Paul, Toby and Ruari

Morning – All volunteers conducted a pugmark survey along Akkrakala. Had a team in the canal and a team on the road. Many pugmarks, with the volunteers switching responsibility of the data sheet, GPS, and recording measurements.

Afternoon – To Weheregala tank moving into Goda-Ulpotha with a few elephants on either side. Waited at Weheragala after the elephants left. Saw 8 just as we were leaving the tank.

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Wednesday July 31st 2019

Team 1 Volunteers: Alex, Kate, Ludovica, Vittoria, Julian, Michelle, Paul, Toby and Ruari.

Morning – Butterfly garden and orange tree preparation. Morning was very hot. Everyone moved to helping the kids planting orange trees. Productive morning.

Team 2 Volunteers: Tara, Jamie and Frances.

Ruvini took volunteers to help with her surveys of the Mahaweli River.

Afternoon – All volunteers went to the Weheragala Tank. Several elephants at Weheragala. Three of them were playing in the water and swimming, spraying and rolling under water. 1 male in musth.

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Thursday August 1st

Morning

Volunteer Team 1: Kate, Ludovica, Vittoria, Tara, Jamie and Frances

Fence Monitoring Weheragala North. Very well monitored aside from one post being knocked down with elephant prints along fence line. Fixed the fence.

Volunteer Team 2: Alex, Julian, Michelle, Paul, Toby and Ruari

Fence Monitoring Weheragala South. Some leaning posts, but propped back up and fairly well maintained.

Afternoon

All the volunteers went to the tree huts, no elephants were observed.

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Friday August 2nd 2019

Volunteers: Alex, Kate, Tara, Ludovica, Vittoria, Julian, Jamie, Frances, Michelle, Paul, Toby and Ruari

Morning – All volunteers went to Karu Forest to check camera and sand traps. Many Jungle fowl and Wild boar footprints in the sand traps. Came back to the field house and looked through the SD cards. Some Wild boar, mongooses, and deer were captured by the cameras.

Volunteers: Kate, Michelle, Paul, Toby and Ruari

Afternoon – Elephant observation at Weheragala Tank. Saw a small family at the back end of the water.

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Monday 5th August 2019

Volunteers: Paul, Michelle, Ruari, Toby, Frances, Jamie and Scott

Morning – Volunteers morning activity was clearing the butterfly garden. Many large invasive trees known as Ipil Ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) were chopped down and lots of land cleared. Helpful having 3 big men there!

Afternoon – Volunteers saw many elephants at Weheragala Tank. Big group of at least 20. Stayed a bit longer at that location as some elephants surrounded the vehicles.

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Tuesday 6th August 2019

Volunteers: Paul, Michelle, Ruari, Toby, Frances, Jamie, Scott, Todd, Lily, Anna and Chris

Morning – All volunteers went to work on Project Orange Elephant to plant some new orange trees at a farm in Himbiliyakada. We planted 30 new trees which the farmer was very thankful for.

Volunteer Team 1: Paul, Ruari and Toby

Afternoon – It is Toby’s birthday today, he decided to go fishing with Siriya as a treat. Had a great time and caught some fish!

Volunteer Team 2: Michelle, Frances, Jamie, Scott, Todd, Lily, Anna and Chris

Afternoon – Went to Weheragala Tank and saw at least 30 elephants to start with. The cars scared them off a bit, but some came back. Went to Goda- Ulpotha

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Wednesday 7th August 2019

Volunteer Team 1: Paul, Michelle, Ruari, Toby, Frances, Jamie

Morning – Dung analysis in Goda-Ulpotha. One piece of dung had a plastic bag in it. Very fresh or a few days old.

Volunteer Team 2: Scott, Todd, Lily, Anna and Chris

Morning – Dung analysis in another region of Goda-Ulpotha. Again, a lot of fresh and day old dung.

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Afternoon – 24 elephants at Weheragala Tank. All in good health condition with a few infants and juveniles. One male came at 5 pm with a broken leg and a big limp.

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Thursday 8th August 2019

Volunteer Team 1: Paul, Michelle, Ruari, Toby, Frances, Jamie

Morning – Pugmark analysis along old crop fields near the field house. 6 pugmarks were sighted. The ground was very dry so they were difficult to find.

Volunteer Team 2: Scott, Todd, Lily, Anna and Chris

Morning – Pugmark analysis along old crop fields near the field house. A lot of pugmarks were observed.

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Afternoon – Again, many elephants at Weheragala Tank. Some juvenile and infants too. Two big bulls had a fight not for from the jeeps. One of the males approached the jeep only 5 metres away. Vije asked him calmly to ‘go away’ and he did. It was amazing!

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Friday 9th August 2019

Volunteer Team 1: Paul, Michelle, Ruari, Toby, Frances, Jamie

Morning – Fence monitoring in Hebilyalagoda. Monitored the whole fence. Saw a few loose posts and termite covered posts which were removed.

Volunteer Team 2: Scott, Todd, Lily, Anna, Chris and the German tourists couple: Dorothea & Tobias

Morning – Fence monitoring along Guruwelayaya next to the Mahaweli River. Many fence posts had termites but they were removed.

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Afternoon – One large male in Weheragala Tank. The same one from Wednesday with a limp and broken leg. He came very close again today. A skinny elephant with a gunshot wound was also spotted. Chandima explained she is old and unwell.

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For information on the SLWCS Volunteer Program please visit: https://www.slwcs.org/volunteer

SLWCS Staff and Volunteer shirts sponsored by elephantea

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Alicia Chadwick/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS

June Volunteers wrap up the month with their experiences

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“I’ve learnt an invaluable amount about conservation & wildlife in such a short period of time.” Shelby Cooper, New Zealand

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Nate Bills
Australia

The location for the project is awesome! You are so close to the national park and the villages where you can see elephants. Everyone working at the field house is so nice and they make it a good atmosphere when you are working or relaxing in between activities. The cooking from Mahinda is the best I had on my trip.

We were really lucky seeing elephants every day, especially at the park where we saw heaps in one afternoon and even saw one of the two bulls with tusks.

Ravi answered any questions I had before I arrived and Chinthaka and Chat were great with the organization of getting us there and planning all the activities. It was quiet when I was there but I would still definitely recommend it as the experience was incredible and I can imagine it would only be better with a lot of volunteers to share it with.

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Activities Shelby & Nate did during a week

Monday, June 24th 2019 – Arrival and settling in. Orientation: Introduction to SLWCS, staff, community, projects and programs.

Tuesday, June 25th 2019

Morning – Dung transacts – Weheragala Tank (Lake). Observed marked dung plots for second week.

Afternoon – Observed one male elephant named Dilshan near the Weheragala Tank.

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Wednesday, June 26th 2019

Morning – Pug mark survey, Akkara Kala paddy fields and stream.

Afternoon – One elephant was observed near the Weheragala Village electric fence trying to break the fence. A destroyed papaya garden was observed by the volunteers near the electric fence.

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Pug mark survey

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Taking measurements of pug marks

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The elephant lurking by the electric fence to break in

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Propping up the broken fence post.

Thursday, June 27th 2019

Morning – Electric fence monitoring – Guruwelayaya. Elephant activities were observed near the fence.

Afternoon – visited the national park. Observed a total of 80 elephants in 4 herds.

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Electric fence monitoring and helping with maintenance

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Friday, June 28th 2019

Morning – Checking camera traps in Karu Forest.

Afternoon – Two elephants were recorded from the Tree Hut.

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Shelby Cooper
New Zealand

Kia Ora* & thanks so much for having me for this past week – I’ve learnt an invaluable amount about conservation & wildlife in such a short period of time. All the staff here are so much fun and I’ve enjoyed every moment with you even if I have no idea what most of you are saying most of the time.

I hope to be able to convince many more New Zealanders to choose to volunteer with your project!

Special mention about Mahinda’s cooking – as it’s the best food I’ve had whilst being in Sri Lanka for this past month.

All the best & I hope to see you guys again in the future – 1 week was too short!

*Kia Ora is a Māori-language greeting which translates literally as “have life”, “be well”, or “be healthy”, and is also used as an informal greeting equivalent to “hi” or “hello”.

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Setting up a remote camera trap

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Electric fence monitoring

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Chathuranga Dharmarathne/SLWCS
Volunteers/SLWCS

Thanks to the generous support of our friends, volunteers and donors the EleBus will Keep on Rolling creating peace and coexistence for People and Elephants

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“One hundred and twenty school children travel daily in the EleBus.” The SLWCS The EleBus will continue to provide the children of Wasgamuwa with saf
[image: 39215038 1557927873357500 r] <urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__sable.madmimi.com_c_6675-3Fid-3D388015.22781.1.782c6c6b57911a2068c4f2ec1fd76eb9&d=DwMFaQ&c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&r=pVO7_hWs2hfeTpg…>
“One hundred and twenty school children travel daily in the EleBus.” The SLWCS [image: EleBus Elephant 02]
The EleBus will continue to provide the children of Wasgamuwa with safe transport to school and home *Thanks* to the generous support of our friends, volunteers and corporate sponsors.
The impact the EleBus has had in creating peace and coexistence in the Tree Hut Elephant Corridor can be measured by the large number of elephants that use the corridor today…not only to travel through but also to feed and socialize. [image: IMG 6172] [image: 64430244 2752490961433679 2088112158993809408 n]
The EleBus recently underwent the following repairs, servicing and maintenance to ensure it would continue to provide a safe conveyance to the children of Wasgamuwa. ▪ Six new tires, tubes and rim guards ▪ Replaced the suspension tie rod set ▪ All the spring leaves were reshaped ▪ Replaced the Joint Knuckle Kin Pins ▪ Replaced all three Universal Joints ▪ The radiator was completely flushed, cleaned and filled with new coolant ▪ Full servicing and oils changed ▪ The Brake Drums refaced ▪ Broken side window replaced ▪ The license, comprehensive insurance, and permit to carry passengers renewed ▪ Passed the emission test ▪ Paid the annual Carbon Tax ▪ Six new tires, tubes and rim guards ▪ Replaced the suspension tie rod set ▪ All the spring leaves were reshaped ▪ Replaced the Joint Knuckle Kin Pins ▪ Replaced all three Universal Joints ▪ The radiator was completely flushed, cleaned and filled with new coolant ▪ Full servicing and oils changed ▪ The Brake Drums refaced ▪ Broken side window replaced ▪ The license, comprehensive insurance, and permit to carry passengers renewed ▪ Passed the emission test ▪ Paid the annual Carbon Tax [image: EleBus 01] [image: EleBus 02] [image: EleBus 03] [image: EleBus 06] [image: EleBus 05] [image: EleBus 07B] [image: EleBus 07] [image: EleBus 07A] [image: EleBus 07C]
Recently a reporter Nicole Graaf and a cameraman Emre Çayla from the German National Public Radio interviewed several children who travel daily in the EleBus. Following are several questions that were asked and the children’s responses.
1) How would you get to school if the bus wasn’t running?
Answer – We have to adapt the older system again till Ele-Friendly bus back to operation. In this way we use foot bicycles, land master tractors and Tuk Tuks to come to the school and back. All our parents and older people of the village guarding us at the elephant corridor with all these transport systems.
2) How often do you ride the bus?
Answer – Every day when we go to the school and come back to home, EleBus is waiting till we come every morning and afternoon.
3) Do you feel safer from elephants when riding the bus?
Answer – Yes of course it is safer than any other method what we use before and we enjoy EleBus ride to the school every day.
4) Do you think you would miss a lot more school if the bus wasn’t running?
Answer – Yes of course, this will happen to us now very often since the bus is not running, sometimes I feel very lethargic to go to school when bus is not come, sometimes our parents are busy in paddy fields so they can’t come with us to go to school, then we are so scared to go to school when no one is coming to guard us at elephant corridor. [image: EleBus Elephant 03]
Some of the 120 students who ride the EleBus daily
The SLWCS and the children and elephants of Wasgamuwa are sincerely grateful to everyone who contributed to keep the EleBus operating. We would like to say a warm and sincere thank you to our a long time Sri Lankan corporate sponsors Colombo Jewellery Stores <urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__sable.madmimi.com_c_6675-3Fid-3D388015.22782.1.3894a649540954472c69439bfa155307&d=DwMFaQ&c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&r=pVO7_hWs2hfeTpg…> and WealthTrust Securities Limited <urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__sable.madmimi.com_c_6675-3Fid-3D388015.22783.1.ecfc5074894201488ff68868e2177d28&d=DwMFaQ&c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&r=pVO7_hWs2hfeTpg…> and to all those friends,volunteers and supporters who donated through our online PayPal account and GoFundMe campaign to help in the maintenance, repairs and operations of the EleBus.
We still face challenges to operate the EleBus. We still need funds to cover the daily cost of fuel and staff to operate the EleBus. Please share our GoFundMe <urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__sable.madmimi.com_c_6675-3Fid-3D388015.22784.1.ece6416352c513f416a175e056f45d00&d=DwMFaQ&c=euGZstcaTDllvimEN8b7jXrwqOf-v5A_CdpgnVfiiMM&r=pVO7_hWs2hfeTpg…