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"This is my first animal volunteer project and I am so thankful I chose this programme as it has really offered me a new perspective on the conflicts between animals and humans and the everyday struggles that are faced by both." Kate Morrison, England

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An alert matriarch tries to get a sense of the volunteers

Samantha Duffy
From Scotland living in New Zealand

Overall I didn’t quite know what to expect coming into SLWCS and I can truly say it was everything I hoped for and so much more. The staff on the project were so friendly and welcoming which made the experience what it was. They were always smiling and making sure the volunteer’s needs were met, and being genuinely happy to work for SLWCS which was lovely to be part of.
The daily routine had a lot of downtime which was strange at first coming from a fast paced life, but after the first day I welcomed the opportunity to make use of the free time we had. The morning activities were full of knowledge and learning about the measures taken to help the locals have a safe environment to live in.

One of my favourite morning tasks was camera trapping and sand trapping. It was amazing to see the pug marks of various animals and the nighttime activity on the cameras. I was able to help with swapping out the cameras and got stuck into making good the sand pits to allow fresh pug marks over the following week. I have to say that helping with the bee hives was an experience I loved helping out with, getting to have input on the progression of this was amazing. In the afternoon elephant watching from the tree hut was a massive highlight. To be completely absorbed in the surroundings and having the opportunity to watch elephants play at the water tank was a memory that I’ll keep close to my heart.

During the weeks we had seminars with Chandima which were eye opening. I gained so much knowledge of not only the reasons behind why research is continually being carried out and the challenges being faced with the government and locals. Chandima is a wealth of knowledge and I feel privileged to have been able to spend time and learn from him.

The food and accommodation was obviously a change from normal life and it was awesome. I loved being able to try all of the food on offer, which was so tasty and after 2 weeks I was getting used to the spice! There was always plenty food there and we never went without. The general feel of the camp life was relaxed and so much fun. I’ve laughed from start to finish with new friends I’ll have for life and the staff.

The one thing I was hoping to be able to do during my time on the project was to explore the area a little more. I can completely understand why we are not able to walk around freely as we are sitting in an area where elephants and other wildlife roam freely. That being said when we wanted to go anywhere it was never a problem, whether it was to get snacks of to see the local attractions.

Overall I’ve had a priceless experience, it was exactly what I needed and couldn’t think of a better conservation project to contribute to. I have made friends for life and memories that will stay with me forever. I’d love to keep in touch and be updated on the progress and be involved where I can from a far. I hope to come back at some point in the near future.

Lastly I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of the staff for allowing me to be involved with the project. It’s been a blast!

Samantha Duffy 02

Climbing to the Tree Hut for elephant observations

Samantha Duffy 01

Taking data of an orange tree

Li Shixuan and Zhang Sairou

The food is fantastic, We have never eaten similar food like that. It’s really different from Chinese foods, the rice is also cooked differently, it feels good to try other kinds of food.

The seminars with Chandima and Chathuranga on Thursday evenings were brilliant, interesting, informative and at times amusing. We learnt heaps about the project, and were always asked for our opinions and listened to. We’ve known more about the wild elephant protecting program, and why we are doing those work.

Field House was good. It is an interesting experience for me to live with people from several countries, I haven’t got any similar experience like it. I’ve learnt a lot on how to manage my time and my English is getting better through the communication with others. People here are kind, so I get used to my life here in a short time.

Morning Tasks are unforgettable. Some of the tasks were challengeable for us, but with the help of the staffs and other volunteers, it became an amazing thing to finish the tasks. Those tasks have made the project a unique one. Since it has been our first volunteer program, it taught us a lot about volunteering. Thanks to all the tasks, protecting elephants is not just a phrase in our mind now. Other volunteers’ wisdom really impressed us deeply.

Staff they are always smiling whenever we meet them. We can feel their happiness during the program. We love the stories they told us about elephants. All the staff showed their love for elephants, and we’ve know more about elephants now.

The freedom to roam was not an option which was a shame because the countryside is beautiful but the reasons were for our own safety since elephants and other wildlife freely roamed in the area.

We had had a wonderful life here. And would like to take part in this program again next summer if we have time.

Thank you.

Li Shixuan and Zhang Sairou

Li Shixuan 01

Setting up a sand trap

Zhang Sairou 01
Zhang Sairou 02

Sairou leading the way on an elephant transect

Li Shixuan 02

The Wild Bujnch

Nyree Thomson

The food is fantastic, I really loved the cuisine, and it was tasty and filling. I enjoyed having the experience of eating a Sri Lankan diet & trying new food. The food is cooked to such a high standard by friendly kind and helpful staff
Seminars with Chandima on Thursday evenings were brilliant, interesting, informative and at times amusing. We learnt heaps about the project, and were always asked for our opinions and listened to.

The Field House was basic but quickly became home. We referred to it as home when on our way back from a weekend in Aragum Bay. There is a lot of downtime which was a challenge during the first 3 days but after that the work is demanding and the downtime is greatly appreciated. The field house is in keeping with the aims of the project and the culture, this was an important part for me.

Morning Tasks to begin with were more observers but soon we were getting stuck in and offering ideas on how to complete tasks quicker and more efficiently. For me this was a complete contrast to my job at home so I am really thankful for the field experience and being able to get my hands dirty in aid of helping farmers and ultimately the project. I am so grateful that I have been able to help but also learn new skills, knowledge and gain an understanding, something I did not have before.

The Staff all Sri Lankan people are the happiest people I have met. Chandima, Chat and Akila are so knowledgeable and have an excellent eye for wildlife and nose (Chandima said “I can smell elephants” and then they appeared). The research assistants, guides and drivers were awesome and always tried to teach us something or show us interesting things even though communication was not always easy, we all got there in the end. The project staff were accommodating when it came to us leaving for the weekend or getting back to Kandy/Colombo or continuing our travels, they would book vans, find out costs and bus times, we honestly could not have asked for more.

The freedom to roam was not an option which was a shame because the countryside is beautiful but the reasons were for our own safety because wild animals especially elephant roamed freely in the area.

I have had a wonderful life enhancing two weeks here, learning things I did not know, developing a skill set I did not have and meeting people of all ages and cultures. It has been better than I thought it would be. If I had to describe this pure experience I would describe it as a raw paradise!!

Nyree Thomson 01

Working on Project Orange Elephant

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Wild water buffalo

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Waiting for elephants at the WG Tank

Kate Morrison

For me when entering any experience such as this, the biggest thing is safety. I felt nothing but safe here. There are rules that must be followed and boundaries that need to be respected but they are there for a reason and I understand this. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, I feel even after 2 weeks I have been enriched with a wealth of knowledge and made some wonderful friendships. It has met all my expectations and much more. I would recommend this programme to anyone and feel it has made an impact on me that will last a lifetime.

The food was delicious. We had a variety of meals every day including fresh fruit. They catered very well for my vegetarian diet and it was great to try authentic Sri Lankan cuisine.

The seminars were so informative and definitely food for thought as they really opened your eyes to the conflict and the importance of volunteering and supporting the programme. All the staff were extremely knowledgeable and I felt I learnt a lot over my 2 weeks here.

The accommodation in the Field House was basic but I quickly settled into life here, living in line with the culture which really gave it a homely feel. The accommodation had everything we needed and staff were very accommodating to our needs if there was ever anything further that could be provided. The down time was greatly appreciated in the afternoons after busy mornings in the field and the heat.

I thoroughly enjoyed the work here as it is a complete contrast to my everyday life and work. This is my first animal volunteer project and I am so thankful I chose this programme as it has really offered me a new perspective on the conflicts between animals and humans and the everyday struggles that are faced by both. I feel at first there was a lots of observing but I understand that this is so we can learn to be efficient in our work here. It wasn’t long before I could get stuck in it and get my hands dirty, acquiring lots of new skills and knowledge that I will take home with me. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to support the farmers, staff and programme in any way I can.

All the staff have been wonderful; friendly, welcoming and so accommodating. I am really grateful for the vast knowledge that the Scientists, Chandima and Chathuranga have and for the support that is given by the staff at the field house. Any questions or queries will be answered and support with transport and weekend activities is extremely useful. Even with a language barrier at times, communication was still effective and I felt like I was in safe hands here.

Thank you!

Kate Morrison 02

Up to the Tree Hut to observe eles

Kate Morrison 01

A hard working volunteer

Gaye Van Leeuwen

It has been a wonderful project to have been able to volunteer on. There are many aspects to it in order to deal with human elephant conflict. The past and present project actions and objectives are diverse, complex and pro-active.
The staff is amazing and their passion and willingness to share were very obvious.

We have had a wonderful group of volunteers who have been extremely motivated, keen to learn and always willing to help. It’s been a pleasure to meet and get to know them. There have been many opportunities for volunteers to enjoy amazing experiences, take on personal challenges and to become informed and educated about this project and the broad spectrum of conservation.

I am a retired teacher and in the past 6 years I have volunteered on a different animal project in different countries, giving me experiences to learn more about animal conservation and give myself the opportunity to make small differences on this planet. Each of these animal projects has been amazing, varied and different.

Gaye Van Leeuwen 01

There is something about a Tree Hut...

Gaye Van Leeuwen 02

Working on a sand trap

Emily Toase
New Zealand

The seminars with Chandima were a highlight. I learnt heaps about the project, challenges to conservation in Sri Lanka, the political context and elephants. The seminars were interesting, thought provoking and insightful.

Camp-life was fun, lively but also relaxing. I enjoyed staying at the project immensely. The simple life style, staying together in dorms, eating together and generally living as a unit has made my time all the more enjoyable; so much so we were looking forward to coming back after our weekend away.

I am really thankful for the field experience and everything I learnt whilst participating in the daily tasks. Having Akila the first week was great, she was helpful, knowledgeable and very approachable. I learnt a lot from her about a range of subjects, not just elephants. During my second week with Chat was nice. He was cool and we learn lot about birds.

All the staff have been kind, caring and have gone out of their way to make our experience memorable. The project staff are always in good humor, cheerful and you can tell they enjoy their work which makes for a really happy, positive experience for all. Massive thanks to everyone for everything you have done.

Getting to and from the project: It was great getting picked up from our hotel and guided onto the train and then picked up in Kandy and the fact that that was all included in the fee. That took all the stress out of travelling in an unknown country and made me feel safe and very reassured.

The only negative for the whole experience, I can think of is not being able to go explore the area; go off for walks & explore. That said, I completely understand the reasons why this is not possible and the staff have gone out of their way to arrange trips for us at weekends and the additional visit to the National Park as well as the odd lift to get snacks.

Overall I’ve had a wonderful experience; it was exactly what I hoped for and more. I have made some awesome friends and memories that will stay with me forever. Thank you to all the staff for this unforgettable experience.
I would love to continue to stay involved and do more in future – and at some point come back and see the progress the project is making.

Emily Toase 01

Afternoon elephant observations

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Observing elephants at the WG Tank

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A herd at the WG Tank

Emily Toase 02

There is nothing like hanging out at Tree Hut...

Aline Axelroud

The field house is in a great location, I appreciated that it is close to the national park and the different activities, as well as its beautiful surroundings. The house feels spacious enough for the number of volunteers and is comfortable to relax in between the activities. I also enjoyed the facilities, especially the showers with the view.

What I enjoyed the most was the variety of tasks, with one being assigned each day and found all of them interesting. I also feel like I have learned a lot during my stay, not just about the elephants but also about the issues faced in the villages. I found the meeting on Thursday very interesting and wish it could have been longer or that we could have had another meeting to learn more. I also enjoyed the friendly staff that is easy to talk to and to ask questions to.

I liked all the food that was prepared for us, it was fresh and diverse. I quickly got used to it and enjoyed eating new food that I hadn’t tasted before.

I really enjoyed my stay and wish I would have stayed longer!

Aline Axelroud 01


Aline Axelroud 02

In the field with Chathuranga

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An elephant crossing the road at the Corridor

Alex Lenord

My experience at the field house and with the SLWCS so far has been incredible! I really enjoyed the food and time spent during each of the programs as well as during the time when watching elephants. The field house is an awesome place and really makes me feel like I am on a movie set somewhere exotic (probably typical from a Canadian perspective haha)

The sleeping arrangements were totally fine and I didn’t have any problems here with any other volunteers or with the staff here. Everyone was super friendly, funny, helpful, and caring. Even Fire man ;)

The activities that I enjoyed the most would be the camera trapping and investigating the elephant poo. My biggest interest is with elephants, so although building the bee homes and salvaging what was left was quality hard work, I preferred the work with the elephants.

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Heading to the jungle to check on camera traps

Alex Lenord 01

Setting a sand trap

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An encounter with a large bull

Photo Credits:

Alex Lenord
Aline Axelroud
Emily Toase
Gaye Van Leeuwen
Kate Morrison
Li Shixuan
Nyree Thomson
Zhang Sairou
Samantha Duffy
Akila Weerakoon/SLWCS
Indika Sampath/SLWCS
Chathurang Dharmarathne/SLWCS
Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!

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