Captive elephants are a sad fact of life, one that is unlikely to change in Sri Lanka- a country who’s roots are set so deeply in tradition, still recovering from a 30 year long civil war and the Tsunami of 2004. The life of a captive elephant can be miserable. We are one of the few organisations dedicated to improving the lives of captive elephants, we have already influenced and advised other organisations worldwide.
Captive elephants- whats the problem?
All captive elephants have owners. Owning elephants is expensive- they eat a lot and need extra care when things go wrong but sadly lots of money can be earned from them also. Privately owned elephants hold a lot of value and status, some owners will simply keep an elephant chained in their gardens to show off their wealth. These elephants rarely receive the care they need as there are no elephant experts on site to ensure the physical and emotional needs of the elephants. These elephants will also be inherited in wills after the death of an owner and may be passed from a caring and knowledgeable owner to an ignorant and unskilled person.
Elephants can be hired out to…
- The logging industry where elephants are worked hard in poor living conditions and often mistreated like Bandara. Logging can cause damage to tusks leading to breakages, infections, nerve end damage, dislocations and bleeding gums
- Irresponsible tourist facilities that use the Howdah- heavy chairs used to carry tourists unaware that they cause huge injury to elephants like Madhu. The Howdah can cause deep open wounds and spinal damage, MEF are trying to raise awareness in the hope that these will one day be banned
- Or left standing outside a temple all day like Saliyain sad and lonely facilities unsuitable for meeting elephants physical and psychological needs. Religion is often a convenient cover for cruelty and mistreatment
Many elephant owners, led by politics, greed and a lack of education do not take responsibility for ensuring the proper care and treatment of their animals and leave it up to the Mahout to feed the elephant, as well as earn money to feed their own families. This puts the mahouts under an enormous amount of pressure and often elephant care slips as they struggle to survive. A captive elephant will rarely receive the social contact and interaction that they need to be happy causing psychological problems.
How do we rescue these elephants?
In order to save these elephants from a life of hardship we pay owners a wage for the elephants, look after the mahout and pay for all food and medical bills. The elephant owners do not pay for us to care for their elephant. A few owners in the past have handed over elephants into our care when they could no longer cope with the costs involved.
Our average expenses are 7000 rupees per day, per elephant- this covers elephant and mahout wages and elephant food. That adds up to 39,2000.00 rupees (£2026.00/ $3213.00) per week for the eight elephants that we currently home. We then have the added and increasing expenses of medicines and daily vitamins and minerals.
Here at MEF we provide an alternative, the elephants receive specialist care with their individual mahout and the supporting team here. They do not do heavy manual work and are well provided for with food, water and medical treatment. Regular exercise is good for the elephants and we have an enrichment program in place. We also aim to help the elephant’s wild counterparts and raise awareness on responsible tourism. However we could do so much and rescue more if only we had the funding.
How you can help.
We are currently supported by donations, Club Concept and our volunteer program. You can support us by helping raise awareness of our projects using social media such as facebook , by making a donation, you can even adopt an elephant!
The funds that we receive cover our current elephant costs, buy medicines, support our projects aimed at improving the lives of wild and captive elephants as well as providing the support that we need to rescue more of these majestic, endangered animals from a life of pain and loneliness.