Sri Lanka Tourism, in collaboration with the Central Provincial Council geared up to sponsor a new project in providing residential training on elephant care for the elephant mahouts in the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
This was scheduled to be held on 6 July at the Peradeniya University premises under the patronage of Sustainable Development and Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera.
The programme was expected to promise a good initiative on encouraging the public to have a positive impact on the mahouts and help reduce the human elephant conflict. The Pinnawala elephant orphanage is the second largest tourist attraction next to the Sri Dalada Maligawa, Kandy. 45 percent of the tourists visited the Pinnawala elephant orphanage.
This is the best known elephant orphanage apart from the ‘’Eth Athuru Sevana‘’ in Udawalawa. The training programme was launched to create awareness about treating these gentle giants with much care and compassion and encouraging more people to be interested in the field. Already, there are a few female mahouts who have taken up this field as their profession. Therefore, it is important to improve the facilities, necessary awareness and training to take care of elephants, who are considered as majestic creatures who have been respected since the ancient times for their wisdom and intelligence. Prominent attractions such as Pinnawala are a great asset to Sri Lanka’s tourism and economic sector. During the past few years, a great deal of misinformation was circulated about this orphanage regarding the fact it was a ‘Dungeon for elephants’ and the cruelty of the caretakers to the elephants which became a subject of social discussion.
One basic intention of this training programme was to rectify the wrong impression which was given about the mahouts at Pinnawala. Due to the lack of education and the social background, these people do not have the necessary knowledge or the responsibility to take care of these animals.
Therefore, there should be a proper training given to all elephant caretakers according to an internationally recognized format. There are 25 senior caretakers selected both from the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and Dehiwala zoo, where they would undergo a six-day residential training including fieldwork in Girithale. Distinguished officials of the zoological department, department of wildlife, veterinary surgeons and university lecturers also took part in this programme to share their knowledge and expertise.
According to University of Peradeniya Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science Department Head Prof. Ashoka Dangolla, this was the second training programme they conducted for mahouts in Pinnawala. It was a very important step taken by the relevant authorities in society, since a negative impression was circulated about the harassment of elephants. They only talk about the negative aspects of this matter without coming up with proper solutions.
In this training, experts from different high profile positions conducted lectures. This training programme also coincided with the 75th anniversary celebrations of the University of Peradeniya.