Teaching Elephant Empathy through Play

Heart of Ganesh is on the road again, spreading Humane Tourism and The Elephant Love Project throughout SE Asia.

Today we had the joy of playing our brand new game “Elephant Love!” with these smart, thoughtful children. We created this game to help break open any language or cultural barriers, knowing play and laughter make the best teachers.elephantloveThe Elephant Love Project encourages empathy and understanding while giving young people a chance to discover for themselves how they feel, and what sort of world they can create when compassion leads the way.

As much as so many of us in the West might want to save elephants, these children live where elephants live, and in the end, it will be up to them.

To Elephant Love!elephantlove2

Witnessing the Kandy Esala Perahera for the first time

It is our pleasure to introduce guest blogger and Heart of Ganesh volunteer Louise Chester who recounts what she felt when she saw, and documented, elephants in perahera for the first time last month in Kandy…. 

As part of my volunteer work for Heart of Ganesh I took photos at the annual “perahera” festival in the city Kandy, Sri Lanka a couple of weeks ago.

During the event, Buddha’s tooth relic is paraded through the city accompanied by drummers and dancers who come from all over Sri Lanka and elephants of all sizes, draped in colourful material and LED lights.Elephants of all sizes take part in the Kandy PeraheraHonestly, it was like watching a nightmare unfold in front of my eyes…. Even if I had seen photos of this festival before online, its just not the same as witnessing it in real life!

Picture the scene…exhausted elephants swaying in chains being shuffled through the streets for 4 hours every day for 10 days, jabbed with bull horns by their “mahout” (their keeper) if they veered off course by a cm or two. Their eyes were wet with tears and filled with fear and their trunks coiled up around their tusks as they endured just another day in the life of a captive elephant in Sri Lanka….Elephant trunk at Kandy PeraheraThe terrible reality is that these elephants are never without their chains. I saw them the next day at the temple, unable to move or even lay down with their ever present mahout and his bull horn lurking a meter or so away, telling unsuspecting tourists that the elephants compulsive sways was quite simply his “happy dance”….Watermarked-temple-3Surely there are ways to honor and celebrate cultural and religious traditions without inflicting such pain and torment on these beautiful creatures??


Thanks to your growing international support and to volunteers like Louise coming together to help us tell, and then alter, the Elephant Story, one day we will look back on what seemed impossible to change—and know that we did.

Find out more about temple elephants and how we can do more to help these wonderful, majestic animals.

An update on Ganga: telling the truth until the truth changes

We would like to extend a big thank you to One Green Planet, for being willing to publish our recent article.

As we tell the story of Ganga, as well as all the other captive elephants in Sri Lanka who live their lives swaying on chains, we shine a light on the cruel practice which continues in the name of cultural pride and religious devotion in this country.

The story of Ganga and other captive elephants has recently taken an unexpected and unthinkable turn. Following months of legal proceedings, over a dozen custody cases had been won, allowing for some of these young elephants to begin their recovery at the Elephant Transit Home (ETH), and prepare for their eventual return to the wild.

And then, the unthinkable happened: claiming there were not enough temple elephants for proper peraheras, robes of white and orange interfered with previous court rulings and initiated opposing legal action. The idea that it is essential to use captive (not domesticated, not tame, but captive, and certainly broken) elephants as a display of cultural pride and religious devoutness is an outdated idea that will not go unchallenged until it is changed.

The crimes being committed are multiplying: stealing innocent calves from the wild, continuing to exploit them at Pinnewela, and worst of all, the recent demands to remove traumatized juveniles from their safekeeping at ETH.

You can read the article in full on One Green Planet’s website here.

Please share it with friends and family and together, we will take steps towards putting an end to this cruel practice.

Chained by two legs on crumbling bricks off the side of a busy city street, Ganga was on display inside temple gates for years as traffic relentlessly moved behind her and people streamed just as endlessly in front of her.
Chained by two legs on crumbling bricks off the side of a busy city street, Ganga was on display inside temple gates for years as traffic relentlessly moved behind her and people streamed just as endlessly in front of her.

Remembering why we do what we do

We look at this snap to remind us daily of the beauty of what we are all working to save.

It’s easy to get lost in the madness and the sadness of any advocacy. But burning out because you get lost in the fear and the fight, or feeling overwhelmed and forgetting to orient yourself first to what is good and right, is easy to succumb to.

Staying centered in the midst of it all and then allowing yourself to be happy along the way? Now that is a worthy practice for committing, for the long haul, to whatever you seek to change, come what may.

Elephant family at meal time

The Fight for What is Right continues

Bhanu and Ganga remain stuck in the middle–not where they were, but not yet where they deserve to be. It’s extraordinary that we must fight for the simple rights of any sentient being to simply not be chained and exploited for religious ceremony or entertainment.

But, steadfast, the fight continues. Today’s announcement from the wise legal counsel and extended wonder team at CES:

“COURT UPDATE & VICTORY: 15th July! Baby Ganga and Bhanu!!
Hulftsdorp MC 1: CES legal representatives inform courts that baby eles Ganga and Bhanu have not been taken into custody despite the Order issued to CID and DWC previously!
Magistrate Hon Gihan Pilapitiya instructed CID to enforce the Order with immediate effect!”

Longterm advocacy demands a tenacity of spirit and longevity of inspiration while working within a cruelty that is slow to change. So be it then, Tenacious and Inspired each one of us remain.