Tim Beltman is the project manager of the “Elephant Freedom Project” in Sri Lanka, a project that supports the animal rights. The elephants are the heart of his project and he fights against their abuse. The project doesn’t allow riding and they created a space for elephants where they live healthy and walk around freely.
Animal Rights are an important subject in the context of international volunteering. You don’t allow the riding of elephants. What else do you do to protect elephants?
Elephants in captivity may often suffer abuse by their handlers (mahouts). This can range from being hit and stabbed by use of the ankus (stick with hook and sharp points), nails in the hand to hurt them inside their ears and various other methods to cause the elephant pain and thereby forcing the handler’s will upon the elephant. Most elephants are chained all day. When not used for riding they may well be put in direct sunlight chained to a tree and feet chained together. This causes a lot of stress and the elephants usually display a rocking motion in such cases.
At the project it is not allowed to hurt the elephant in any way or form. We also disallow 24/7 chaining which is why we have the enclosure. Instead of using force and abuse our elephants are treated with respect and love.
In your project description on Volunteer World you say: “Our elephants are our number one priority and we give them the best life we can.” Please describe a highlight for elephants at your project site.
Being off the chains and having the freedom to roam around in our enclosure is truly unique.
It is here were we treat the elephants not just to play time on their own but also enrichment games where food is hidden in objects for the elephants to discover.
Outside of the enclosure we take them for walks in the countryside where they have fun and get their daily exercise.In the river the elephants are allowed to swim and play in the water.
Is there anything you do against elephant abuse in your local community?
Elephant abuse is not something people in the local community are much aware off. It has been around for centuries and deeply rooted in the culture. For many, elephants are not animals to love but money making machines. Hence treating the elephants by shouting, hitting and stabbing them isn’t seen as wrong and making them work as much as possible isn’t either. After all they make profit and feed the families.
We educate visitors (local and foreign) on the issues known with riding places and lead by example showing that there is a different way in which both elephants and dependent families can live in harmony.
“Animals can communicate quite well. And they do. And generally speaking, they are ignored.” Do you agree?
Listening to animals, their feelings and their needs doesn’t get food on the table. But ignoring an animal can be dangerous to all. Chained elephants display clear signs of distress and as such can become a serious danger to the public.
Listening to the needs of the elephant will ensure a healthy and happy elephant with is a benefit to both human and animal.
Your tip: Do Volunteers need to have any special experiences with taking care of animals?
As with all animals all you need is love. Elephants are extremely intelligent , gentle and loving and all you need to do is return this love and care.
Some general information about the “Elephant Freedom Project
East met West when in 2013 two Dutch brothers and a Sri Lankan family decided to step forward and change elephant welfare in Sri Lanka. Together they formed the Elephant Freedom Project (EFP) where the elephants are free from riding and abuse. At EFP the elephants are happy, walk around freely, play together, enjoy games and get all the love they deserve. Volunteers enjoy a relaxing day with the elephants. Walk in the morning, cooking class, enrichment games, wash, etc Elephant Freedom project Volunteering is a unique place with no riding, no 24/7 chaining, no abuse; only happy & healthy elephants playing together in the river and their special enclosure. Our elephants are our number one priority and we give them the best life we can. Visitors are warmly welcomed by the family & team to spend lots of time with the elephants and help the community.
Significant improvement in elephant welfare. Change in perception by locals from having to chain and hit/stab dangerous elephants to elephants are amazing loving animals and need to be treated with love. Local economy improved due to volunteers buying at local shops. Conversational English of children (and staff) at local schools improved due to our visits. People at the disabled home happy when we come around. Also donated wheel chairs and labor.
You are interested and you want to apply for the “Elephant Freedom Project”? Click HERE and apply now. The project is waiting for your application!