Steadfast and relentless action for Sri Lanka’s captive elephants by our friends from the Centre for Eco-Cultural Studies, now being made into a documentary so more people around the world can know the truth. CES has been on the ground and at the forefront of the fight for what’s right for these innocent ones from the very beginning, and with their documentary in the works, soon what has been hidden will be revealed.
“Elephants in Captivity” is a complicated topic, with many countries entangled in its web via logging, patrolling, temple duties, and/or tourism of many shapes and sizes. More of the story is being heard as the mainstream media starts to pick up the pieces of a puzzle that, even when put together, will have no clear picture of how to fix all that has been broken. Education is key, as is an active empathy for a once-wild animal that is now living in a world that is not its true home.
It’s currently low season here in Asia, but many are planning holidays for the high season soon to follow. If plans include interacting with elephants, consider if your ”pachyderm love” is truly helping or hurting what you care about.
It might be easy to fall into the trap of loving an “elephant experience” (bathing, hugging, “too-close selfies”, etc..) more than loving the elephant itself. A “hands off” sanctuary that places the needs of an elephant before the desires of a tourist or volunteer is a great place to start changing the story from “they exist for us” to “they are deserving of as much respect and space as we can possibly give them”. Sometimes it’s about taking something OFF your bucket list…
The February full moon in Colombo sees the return of the annual Nawam Maha Perahera. The procession of captive elephants starts at The Gangaramaya Temple, once home to Ganga, before she was moved down south, to be hidden out of sight as her court case continues, and where over 100 elephants begin their forced march through the packed city streets.
From Feb 7 through Feb 20, an estimated 10,000 tourists will join locals to line the streets of Colombo to watch the event. The thunderous noise of the drums, the flashing lights, the burning torches, and the spinning and whirling of dancers and acrobats may seen like an exotic and spectacular cultural experience for foreigners and a mystical journey for locals. But, imagine for a moment, being one of those wild- captured elephants systematically beaten and broken simply to take part in the parade for the enjoyment of your captors. Imagine being torn from your family, captured and confined, and forced to live your nightmare time and time again. As numerous travel companies continue to sell tickets to foreigners online and on the streets of Colombo, it’s time for tourists and locals alike to turn away from a cruel past and turn towards a kinder future, clearly communicating that bearing witness to abuse is no cause to celebrate.
It’s past time for this practice to shift into the 21st century, as cruelty-free options to honor this long-standing festival DO exist. One only has to take a look at Sri Lankan communities around the world to to see that many now choose to celebrate using creatively constructed, beautifully decorated floats of replicated elephants, engaging in an old tradition but with a new vision of compassion.