Help conserve the Elephants and other wildlife of Sri Lanka in Wasgamuwa National Park. The main aim of thise project is to “save elephants, other biodiversity and their habitats by helping people”. Go back to the very basics, in a stunningly beautiful part of the world, helping local people and the local wildlife. The activities are diverse – one moment you could be observing elephants overnight in a tree-house, and the next you could be helping to reduce human-elephant conflict within the national park.
The project has a broad scope and volunteers will help out in any of the research projects and operational needs summarized below to accomplish the objectives of the Society. Not all these activities will be available at one time – you’ll likely be involved in several, or a selection, depending on the needs of the conservation society we work with. Below is a list of the current activities, but some of these can change depending on what is required at the time you’re there and on other factors, such as the weather.
- Tank (where the elephants bathe) monitoring
- Trail transects (a hike to identify if elephants have been in the area) on the trails that range from 5-10 kilometres on undulating to steep terrain.
- Road transects outside (buffer zone) of the national park.
- Park ID – identification of elephants within the park
- You’ll also monitor the ‘ele-alert’ electric fence. This fence greatly reduces the human-elephant conflict in the area as it protects the locals’ farmland, which is their livelihood. The elephants are kept out by the electric fences and are in turn, protected themselves (as they are not ruining the local populations livelihood, the locals have no reason to attack and hurt the elephants.)
- Observations of elephants from tree hut and at tanks.
- Identification of trails which predators / prey species use
- Biodiversity mapping
- HEC mapping
- Analysis of GIS data from all other research projects
SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND AGRO/SOCIAL FORESTRY RESEARCH:
- Village Headman (GND) Surveys
- HEC (Human-Elephant Conflict) assessment surveys
- Project Orange Elephant (alternative crops project that is providing locals with oranges to farm as well as their usual crops. Elephants do not eat citrus fruits, so even if the farmland was destroyed by elephants the livelihood of the locals would not be ruined as they still have the oranges to sell.
FARMING & AGRICULTURE:
Data on farming operations (such as number of eggs produced, milk production, health issues, paddy/fruit production).
OPERATIONS AND BASIC HOUSEKEEPING:
- Cleaning and maintenance of vehicles, bicycles and other equipment
- Clearing / Cleaning of field bases and equipment
- Packing / Storing and Stock taking of all equipment before departure of groups of volunteers / at least every two months.
The work is vigorous and also mentally challenging at times, due to the warm and humid climatic conditions (especially in summer) – but it is extremely satisfying and rewarding! There can be a lot of physical activity involved in the project, you may be walking up to 10 kilometres a day and / or cycling up to 15 kilometres a day!
REQUIREMENTS: CAN YOU DO THIS PROJECT?
Please bear in mind that this project is suitable for those people who enjoy reading and solitude as there is nothing to do in the evenings except socialise with the other volunteers! BUT, if you want to gain an excellent cultural experience that is worthwhile and gives you much, much more than you’d get as a mere tourist, then this is an excellent placement.
You’ll live in a remote village called Pussellayaya on the outskirts of the National Park, located around 7 hours east of Colombo. The community is mostly dependant on paddy farming for its livelihood and as such the way of life here is very simple – you’ll need to be prepared to ‘get back to basics’ and to live like the villagers. The house is very open to the outdoors, but don’t worry – the makeup of the house is perfectly sufficient and the openness keeps the house cool during the hot spells of the day and dry during the storm.
The house has five bedrooms, you may have your own room but dependent on the number of volunteers, you are likely to share with at least one other volunteer. There are mosquito nets, a fully functional bathroom with a shower (cold water only), a sink and a Western style toilet. The accommodation has recently been modernised and there is now electricity, fans and Wi-Fi internet!
Wi-Fi / Internet: There is Wi-Fi / Internet available, but you will have to take your own device (with a wireless card) and you will have to purchase air-time top-up cards, which will give you surfing time.
FOOD: Your food will be freshly cooked by the house caretaker and his wife. Neither of them speak very much English but a smile goes a long way! They are both lovely and love looking after you! The food is basic but delicious! The food usually consists of vegetarian curries, which are made milder than they would for themselves – but there is still a kick to them! There is also a shop about 5 minutes away from the field house, where you can stock up on snacks and cold drinks for your sugar fix! There is a fridge in the house, which can be used to store all your food.
“I couldn’t write this account without mentioning the fantastic food we are given three times a day. Delicious and sometimes unusual Sri Lankan fare is plentiful every day. I shall definitely miss those wonderful curries. Thank you so much Leila, Leela and Swarna for helping make the field house feel like home.” Sheree Mitchell
WHAT YOU’LL GAIN FROM DOING THIS PROJECT
- An exciting opportunity to travel, see the world and experience this amazing Asian culture first-hand!
- New skills, more confidence and invaluable personal and professional development.
- An in-depth understanding of elephant conservation.
- The enormous satisfaction of knowing that your work is contributing to wildlife conservation and that you made a difference.
- An opportunity to take a break from the traditional academic track or your current career path in order to gain life experience and global cultural awareness
- An entry on your CV or Résumé that will enhance your career opportunities and make you stand out from the crowd.
- Make friends, form relationships and build memories that will last a lifetime.
- Opportunities to enjoy some exciting adventure and cultural activities while on your programme.
- And best of all … an unforgettable experience!