I was asked by several people during my Sri Lankan stay, “where are the elephants”?
Elephants are indeed visible in the country, but I do not have too many pictures of them because I did not plan a safari visit to a wildlife reserve, such as Yala National Park or Udawalawe National Park. Indeed, in nature is really the only place YOU as a tourist should want to see such beautiful, wild animals.
I cringe every time I see an instagram post of someone riding an elephant, feeding one in chains, posing next to an obviously drugged leopard, etc. Because the reality is, if you are getting that close - they are being manipulated in a way that is unnatural, and most often harmful and abusive.
Here in Sri Lanka even so called “sanctuaries” are just profiting from tourist money. I will let you Google the list for yourself, but you should deeply reconsider a visit to a so-called sanctuary that allows you to ride and pose for the camera with "free roaming elephants". But it's not just tourists. Locally, many elephants are still used in religious ceremonies (i.e photo of elephant being shipped to a temple as I was on the highway) and are not always treated the best, according to my local contacts. This isn't to say that Sri Lanka engages in no real conservation efforts, because they do!
I was able to visit a government rescue mission for damaged or endangered turtles. I was also (too) thrilled to be able to support elephant conservation by purchasing their poop. I mean notebooks made from elephant poop. 😊 These books and notebooks are made by the brand Mr. Ellie Pooh and are locally hand-made, fair trade gifts. So not only are you helping animals, but you are also giving work to the local community! A win-win. Plus, the notebooks are beautiful!
Be an ethical tourist and use your brain when appreciating nature, don’t worry about likes.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!