My experience with SLWCS was incredible. Sri Lanka is an absolutely stunning country with incredible biodiversity. Of course seeing wild elephants is an amazing experience but getting to know the people who are here working on the ground to save them makes those sightings even more special because you know that the conservation of these animals is being taken on by such a dedicated team of experts.
There are of course many challenges to the conservation of elephants as there are all wild animals and this organisation is tackling those issues in a holistic way. Whilst we have observed some elephants with heartbreaking injuries sustained when they’ve been trapped in snares and seen elephants with old gunshot wounds we have also had the privilege of going into the communities and hearing the stories of local people whose lives have been turned upside down by elephants. These are people who have lost loved ones, homes and crops i.e. their livelihood to elephants. Visiting these communities which are vulnerable to human elephant conflict was an incredibly profound part of the project. It gives you an insight into their struggle and a clear understanding of why it would be futile to attempt to help elephants without also helping the people who live among these giants.
Every single staff member here at the field house has contributed to the amazing time I’ve had. Without wanting to sound cliched there is a real sense of family at the field house. Chinthaka was the first staff member we met and he is a fantastic manager and people person with loads of energy and passion.
Chandima is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. His respect for and drive to help wildlife is absolutely palpable. He’s an incredibly knowledgeable ecologist and working alongside him was fascinating, I’ve learned so much. This is a guy who lives and breathes conservation.
Each day we were also accompanied to the field by DJ and Sarath. These two are extremely knowledgeable and caring. DJ is so kind and always helped us clumsy folk through the forest when we needed it. It’s lovely to watch him interact with nature, you can tell he takes just as much delight in spotting a tiny little butterfly as he does an elephant. And boy were we thankful for DJ’s ability to spot beautiful creatures we would have seen otherwise. Sarath is a lovely incredibly helpful person, very attentive to the needs of volunteers and I must say an incredible driver, the roads we cover each day are by no means easy terrain and he does a fantastic job. Rashika’s passion for birds is lovely and we learnt a lot about the diversity of bird species from her, again, getting glimpses of gorgeous birds that we would’ve otherwise been oblivious to. Due to his other commitments we didn’t work alongside Sampath while we were here but we saw that he works incredibly hard, he seemingly never sleeps!
The field house staff Vije, Siriya and Māmā are real characters. These guys work very hard in stifling heat but they are always up for a laugh. I have come to love the sound of Siriya’s cheeky laugh, he’s always up to some mischief.
Leelawathi and Swarna who are the most amazing cooks. We were spoilt each and every day by exquisite food from these ladies and they were kind enough to give me a little cooking lesson so I can attempt to recreate some of their dishes at home.
We were also fortunate enough to briefly meet Ravi during our time here. He has founded a truly incredible organisation that does great work and I can’t recommend SLWCS enough.
Thank you so much to everyone for your tireless hard work and drive it has been an awesome experience.
SLWCS Field Scouts, DJ & Sarath
Field House staff Leila and Swarnalatha
Ravi, Sampath, Chandima & Chinthaka
A final gathering with SLWCS staff and volunteers before departing to New Zealand
Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!