“…we had a moment of gratitude for the simple miracle of a bus – a bus that not only brings people to their destination quickly and safely, but also a means of achieving the dream of human-wildlife co-existence.” Hema Kalamogan, Singapore
Chandima briefing the students
SKILLSEED is a Singapore based social enterprise organization. They work with non-profits and social enterprises around the world to craft and curate themed experiential learning journeys for youth to make a social impact. Their aim is to channel support to social sector organisations around the world and to cultivate skilled volunteerism.
In November 2018 a SKILLSEED group consisting of 15 students, two facilitators and A teacher embarked on a 9 day journey around Sri Lanka, where they visited different enterprises and communities tackling different issues ranging from fair trade to sustainable farming. As a part of their environmental sustainability segment, the group visited Wagamuwa where they spent 5 days from November 12th to the 17th working and experiencing the community-based wildlife research and sustainable conservation models the SLWCS has been implementing for nearly two decades.
This is an account of the experience they had with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society.
Chinthaka explaining to the students the challenges faced by farmers.
Chandima. Akila. Chintaka. Leila. Swarna. Vijay. Siriya. Sampath. Sarath. Asitha. Gamini. These are the people who took take care of us and taught us during our eye-opening experience at the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) Field House and projects sites in Wasgamuwa . As a part of our Skillseed experiential learning journey, we brought a group of students and teachers from an international school in China to learn about the Human-Elephant conflict (HEC) and be able to apply the knowledge they have gained back to mitigating HEC in China.
Students having a discussion with Chandima
During our stay at SLWCS, we got a glimpse into the life of a wildlife field researcher and gained insights about elephant behaviour, how HEC gets started, issues faced by local farmers as well as the research that goes behind the solutions that have been implemented.
A typical day began with a hearty breakfast before setting off for the morning fieldwork. This included maintenance of the planted orange trees in the home gardens of the local farmer’s homes, conducting dung transects, inspecting electric fences and mapping pug marks left by the indigenous and endemic small wild cat species.
After the morning of work, we would be rewarded with a scrumptious lunch cooked by the wonderful ladies in the Field House followed by some R&R. The R&R was a good time to interact with the other volunteers whose lives and experiences added to the richness of the whole place. By mid-afternoon, we would be back in the field to do elephant observations till dusk. The day usually ends with a lovely dinner and a game of carrom for those brave enough to face Siriya, the resident Carrom Champion.
Chandima taking photos for the Elephant ID Catalogue
Chandima explaining to the students about conservation biology
The students also got the rare chance to live and work in a rural area which was a stark contrast to their city life back home. Sometimes we would stop and wonder why they were marvelling at domestic cats roaming around freely and it would become a stark reminder of how many people would not be able to see animals roaming around freely in their cities. Though the conditions at the Field House proved challenging for some, they eventually began to appreciate the Field House for what it was and spent their last morning in the Field House enjoying the gorgeous sunrise that greets you every morning!
Apart from the scheduled list of activities, as facilitators we also got the opportunity to tag along on the EleFriendly bus on one of its morning school runs. It was so heart-warming to see the children, all neatly dressed in their school uniforms heading to school. The children were curious about our presence and we would just smile gently from the back of the bus. The less shy ones would sit with us and there was even one girl who gave us each a handful of fragrant flowers. It really was such a sweet start to the day! Sitting there, we had a moment of gratitude for the simple miracle of a bus – a bus that not only brings people to their destination quickly and safely, but also a means of achieving the dream of human-wildlife co-existence.
Our hope is for the entire experience to be the stepping stone for our students to continue learning about wildlife conservation and protection. We hope they bring back the knowledge they have gained to influence and change perceptions of elephants and wildlife in China and someday, be the changemakers in the country to protect them!
We are extremely grateful to SLWCS and everyone we have met, for hosting us and letting us be a part of their efforts. We cannot wait to be back 🙂
A program and people to remember
Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!