Elephant Conservation in Sri Lanka

The Great Projects  »  Elephant Conservation in Sri Lanka

Elephant Conservation in Sri Lanka

from £764
Duration: from 1 week to 12 weeks
Countries: Sri Lanka
Encounter groups of Asiatic elephants deep within the heart of Sri Lanka’s lush jungles.

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 animal initiatives it has to offer. In conjunction with the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society, this programme allows elephant 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, alongwith maintaining other biodiversity in the region. 

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 to 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 for this project are every Monday throughout the year. The project runs all year round. The activities that follow are ongoing conservation efforts that are not season or weather dependent. 

Itinerary is as follows (note that this is subject to change):

Each afternoon you will head to the lake to study those gracious giants that are the Asiatic elephants. Here you will monitor them from a 4x4 safari type vehicle, and monitor their behaviour and movements, as well as identifying individual markings to establish individual elephants. One afternoon you will even be taken to Wasgamuwa National Park Here you may get your first chance to see a leopard or sloth bear! 

Day 1: Project facilitators will meet you at 6am at your hotel in Colombo, to be transferred to Fort Railway Station 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. If time permits you could even be heading out to the water tanks to begin monitoring those eles! 

Day 2: After an authentic Sri Lankan breakfast, you will be taken to patches of the forest where you will prepare remote camera traps. If you're lucky, the elusive leopard, the adorable sloth bear and mnay other curious creatures may pay a visit through the night! Additionally, you will set up sand traps with the hopes of catching pug marks from these species within them, aswell as assessing burrows, dens, scats, scratches and hair samples found around them. 

Day 3: Today is 'Dung Day'! While it may not exactly sound glamourous, it is vital in understanding what the elephants like to eat, as you study it for seeds, leaves and bark. You will conduct this research by partaking in a 'trail transect' and keeping an eye out for ele dung alongside. 

Day 4: Electric fences are a preventative measure put in place to try and stop the eles from raiding food stores of local villages and causing damage to themselves and locals. However, elephants are supremely strong and can often damage the fences themselves when trying to get through! These fences need to be monitored and checked regularly, and of course repaired where necessary, and day 4 is the day to get involved! 

Day 5: Today is an important day as you get to see for the first time the detrimental impact human-elephant-conflict (HEC) has on the surrounding villages. You will travel to the villages with project scientists to interview farmers to record and assess the damage that wild eles sadly cause to crops and property. 

Day 6-7: After a jam packed week, you will be relieved to get some time off where you can explore the beautiful culture of Sri Lanka (project staff can help you to find top locations and attractions to visit but they do come at your own expense!) or simply chill and relax in the field house. Alternatively, if you're still raring to go, volunteer activities still have to be carried out by staff at the weekends and volunteers are more than welcome to get involved on their weekends if they wish! 

Day 8: Now you've rested up, you'll be ready to go and collect the findings from your camera and sand traps, then set them up all over again! 

Days 9: This is a day for the bird lovers! You will help to collect habitat selection and bird abundance data in various bird habitat sites. 

Day 10: On this day, you will travel to the forest and assess permanent plant pots that were previously established by project staff, where you will search for and record any damage caused by wild eles. 

Day 11: As the same as the previous week, you will go and check on those electric fences! 

Day 12: You will head to a different village this week to carry out more HEC surveys. 

Day 13-14: Again this is your weekend! Additionally, you will depart during this time, or if you are staying for a longer duration, then the itinerary will repeat until your time on the project is up!  

Project Activities 

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 and Ele ID

Volunteers will spend their afternoons and an evening in a tree hut located within an elephant corridor, where they will monitor the beautiful Asian elephants. 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 coexist within the area. You will also help to identify individual elephants and photograph them, completing an elephant identification sheet as you go. This helps to establish population numbers, social organisations and movements of elephants in the region.

Trail Transects And Tank Monitoring 

The team will spend a session walking along a trail and recording dung found alongside. The aim of the trail transect is to investigate Sri Lankan elephant abundance outside the park, how different seasons affect this, and their habitat preferences. Additionally, volunteers will help check around the water tanks for dung to help spot similar kinds of patterns in this area. 

Electric Fence Monitoring 

As previously mentioned, these solar powered fences play a vital role in preventing HEC in the area. Volunteers contribute unparalleled effort as without them, the conditions of the electric fences would suffer and HEC would only be ever on the rise! 

 Sustainable Land-use and Livelihood Project Monitoring

Within the local communities, this elephant conservation project has established several land use and livelihood projects to develop sustainable agricultural measures that are compatible with the surrounding wild elephants. This will give you a humbling insight into will learn how important the involvement of communities is for sustainable elephant conservation, as you assess and manage these innovative ideas to buffer communities from ele 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, where you see the verdant majesty of Sri Lanka's lush lands and the glorious wildlife it beholds! This is another opportunity where you may spot a sloth bear or an elusive leopard.

Camera/Sand Traps and Scat Analysis 

Volunteers will assist in preparing camera and sand traps in order to catch sightings and pug marks of various carnivore, herbivore and omnivore species. Additionally, you will assess the area for burrows, dens, scats, scratches and hair samples found from these species in the surrounding areas. 

Bird Mapping Surveys

Volunteers will assist in bird mapping surveys to collect data on bird nests, habiat selection and bird abundance. This is crucial for ensuring the long term survival for the bird species in Sri Lanka, as the better the wildlife is understood, the better prepared the team can be to execute their conservation efforts! 

All activities involved in this project are crucial for collecting ecological and biological data on not just the Asian elephant species, but the wider range of biodiversity in the region. The more of this data that is collected, then the more the project staff can understand these animals and how they work, and in turn, they can discover the most appropriate ways in which to try and preserve them. 



Accommodation here is rustic but gives you a true feel of the culture and you are surrounded by lush trees and biodiversity. There are three western toilets that flush, with sinks and showers. While there is no hot water, the temperature of the water is not unbearable as the pipes are always in the sun. Rooms sleep up to 8 people on a same sex share basis. Meals will be prepared for you at the volunteer house. 

Interested in this; ready to enquire?

Apply now by clicking the button below and filling out the application form on gapyear.com. The Great Projects should then be in touch shortly to help with your enquiry.


Further Details

More information about this gap year opportunity...

Price details:

from £764

What's included?

• A contribution to the project
• Transfers between sites
• Full orientation and support from the project managers
• Accommodation and all meals

What's not included?

• Transport to the pick-up location
• Flights
• Comprehensive Medical and Travel Insurance
• Spending money for personal purchases, evening socializing, and pre and post project travel
• Expenses of a personal nature (soap, laundry, snacks etc.)


You will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. Short stay visas of thirty days can be obtained online via the Electronic Travel Authority. These can be extended for up to three months once in Sri Lanka from the Department of Immigration & Emigration. However, it is advisable to contact the Sri Lankan High Commission in your country of origin at least one month before travel.

Please note that your passport must be valid for at least six months before travel.

Start Dates

Every Monday


PLEASE NOTE: You will need to arrive into Colombo and stay in a hotel overnight the day before your project start date. The train leaves at 7am from Fort Railway Station, and the entire journey to the project site can take up to nine hours so it is not recommended that you arrive the day of your start date. Also, it is not advised to stay in a hotel outside of Colombo, as this prevents the project facilitators being able to carry out your transfer, furthermore, if you do choose to stay outside of Colombo the day before your start date it will be YOUR responsibility to make your way to Fort Railway Station in plenty of time to catch the 7am train to Kandy. While the transfers carried out by facilitators, train fares and bus fares are all included in the price of the project, your night’s stay in the hotel before is at your own cost.

About The Great Projects

Here at The Great Projects we believe that there is a better way to holiday. Our award winning wildlife volunteer projects and signature tours present you with a truly life changing experience alongside the chance help animal conservation efforts all around the world. Whether you want to work with Orangutans in Borneo, Cheetahs in Namibia, or Tigers in India, we have the perfect project for everyone, and with donations made for each trip, your travel with have a lasting impact on local wildlife and the communities living alongside it.

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