Elephant Conservation in Sri Lanka
This fantastic conservation volunteer project, based on the outskirts of Sri Lanka's stunning Wasgamuwa National Park, is one of Sri Lanka's most exciting offerings. In conjunction with the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society, this programme allows volunteers the chance to conduct daily ecological research on the Sri Lankan elephant population within the area - the ultimate end goal being to assess and subsequently reduce the conflict between humans and elephants.
This type of conflict is a major issue here and is the primary reason for the drastic reduction in Asian elephant populations throughout the past century. This project aims to tackle the problem head on, and the impact of volunteers is integral in making a difference for both the elephants and the local communities whom they come into conflict with.
The project offers the opportunity to partake in true elephant conservation - using GPSD, camera traps and remote sensors hand in hand with more traditional measures (such as hide observation and tracking trails) - to develop strategies in conservation for both animal habitats and local wildlife.
Start Dates are every other week on Mondays of each month.
Itinerary is as follows (note that this is subject to change):
Day 1: From your hotel in Colombo the project's site facilitators will take you to Fort Railway Station. You should be at the train station by 6am on the day your programme starts to catch the train at 7am. You will then arrive at the cultural capital of Kandy, where you will spend an hour or two exploring before catching a bus directly to the field site. After your arrival, you will have your orientation and get to know your fellow volunteers.
Day 2: After breakfast, volunteers will depart on two separate jungle treks in search of signs of elephants. After this, you will return to camp for lunch. Your afternoon will either be spent at the Tree Hut or by the water tank looking out for the wealth of species resident here. Keep your eyes peeled, as aside from the elephants, you may also be able to see sloth bears!
Day 3: Another morning of birding and observing nature around camp. After breakfast, both teams will monitor two electric fences erected to stop elephants from raiding crops and village homes. After lunch and some relaxation time, both groups will split again to observe the water tank and the tree hut. You will then return to have dinner and log the data collected that afternoon.
Day 4: Both teams will continue with their conservation work learning how to identify elephants using their footprints and physical features.
Day 5: Today, volunteers will leave on jungle treks, spending the morning observing wildlife and various habitats.
Day 6: In the morning volunteers will go on a sunrise hike along the lakeshore where they will be able to see a range of wildlife species present.
Day 7: The volunteers have the day off to relax, where they can either visit around the project site or visit cultural sites nearby (such as Sigiriya or Temple of the Tooth). It should be noted however that extra excursions are NOT included within the project price package.
Days 8 - 14: After a day off to relax, activities will commence again for the second week. These will be similar to the first week but may include additional activities.
Day 15: This is the final day and volunteers will either transfer back to Colombo for their return flight home or they will commence independent travel plans.
On this project, you will get the chance to take part in a wide variety of exciting activities. Below are examples of some of those included in this project.
Elephant & Human Elephant Conflict Observations
Volunteers will spend their afternoons and an evening in a tree hut located within an elephant corridor. The purpose of this is to collect data on the spatial and temporal distribution of passing elephants and observe how villagers and elephants interact, as both factions use the area.
The team will spend a session walking along a trail and recording dung found alongside the trail. The aim of the trail transect is to investigate Sri Lankan elephant abundance outside the park, seasonal variation of abundance and habitat preference.
Electric Fence Monitoring
Each team will check the state of the solar powered electric fences, which have been erected to stop elephants from entering villages. Once checked, the status of their conditions will then be relayed to the local fence committees, who maintain and operate the fences.
The team will check around water tanks (irrigation reservoirs) situated outside Wasgamuwa National Park for the presence of elephant dung. The aim of this is to find out whether there are single males and/or herds present outside the National Park, what their patterns of dispersion might be and what kind of food source they may be eating.
Each team will spend a session in at the Weheragala Tank looking for Sri Lankan elephants and then observing and photographing them. Elephant Identification Data sheets will be filled by observing different physical features of individual elephants. The aim of the elephant ID is to build up a catalogue of individuals as a basis for numbers, social organization and movement inside/outside the park.
Sustainable Land-use and Livelihood Project Monitoring
This elephant conservation project has established several sustainable land use and livelihood projects with local communities to develop agriculturally based measures that are compatible with the elephants. You will learn how important the involvement of communities is for sustainable elephant conservation. What's more, you will also help to monitor and evaluate innovative landscape management systems designed to help buffer communities from elephant raids.
Wildlife Observation and Data Logging
You will spend time in your teams either at the Tree Hut or at the water tank, where you can look for Sri Lankan elephants and other wildlife including peacock, mugger crocodiles, water buffalo, macaque monkeys and leopards and the extensive collection of birds within the area.
Volunteers will spend the time observing wildlife and various habitats, as well as visiting forest hermitages and looking out for signs of elephants for wider Asian elephant conservation and other wildlife. If you’re very lucky you may spot a sloth bear or an elusive leopard.
Interested in this; ready to enquire?
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