Friday, 6 July 2018

Baby Elephants


 “The primary objective of Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home is to rehabilitate orphaned baby elephants and release them back into the wild.”






Visiting Udawalawee is poignant, and extremely thought provoking. 
This initiative was set up by the Sri Lanka government as a result of the growing 'human/elephant conflict'. 
With increasing populations, humans are encroaching more and more on the elephants' habitat for farmland, cattle grazing, gem mining, timber extraction, and last but not least the disturbing and illegal trafficking of wildlife
When villagers chase away wild herds to protect their crops and homes, a calf can get lost in the commotion. Babies get caught in traps, animal snares, abandoned wells or gem mines, and sadly sometimes their mothers are killed. Lone baby elephant calves cannot survive by themselves.
Here orphaned baby elephants are cared for until they are five years old and then returned back to the wild. That is the length of time that baby elephants feed from their mothers. These young elephants form little family groups of four or five, and the team at Udawalawee endeavour to return these little family groups back into the wild together. 

Every elephant receive 40 litres of milk each day - some enjoy drinking from a bucket or using the feeding tube, but the one above looks very happy to be getting his milk from a bottle.
They live in the jungle without boundaries, and come to the feeding station of their own free will, visiting four times a day. They walk in a steady procession within their small 'family' groups one after another. This happens at precisely 9.00am, noon, 3.00pm, and 6.00pm. Just how they know what time it is, I have no idea!!! We were seated and awaiting their arrival by 2.50pm and sure enough at 3.00pm on the dot the first little family group appeared. Woe betide feeding time being delayed or slow; the pathetic cries of baby elephants for their milk is something remarkable to hear. 

As they get near to the milk bar their excitement is tangible, they quicken their pace and then finally run the last few meters jostling for their place at the bar. When they have drunk their milk they then tuck into a pile of freshly cut sugar cane. This they cleverly twirl and twist around using both their feet and trunk in order wind it into a suitable size for eating.

This group have consumed their milk which they do very quickly, and are now grazing on the freshly cut sugar cane. Another little group can be seen beginning to arrive in the distance.

Visitors are kept in a seated, tiered, enclosure to prevent the elephants being disturbed. It is important to limit their exposure to humans because of them being returned to the wild, and it reduces the chances of them succumbing to infections.

39 comments:

  1. Oh, this is a beautiful story, as well as fascinating. What a perfect blend of care for the orphaned babies, as well as giving them independence and knowledge of their jungle habitat. Forming their own family groups is interesting too, much like humans do when put in a situation of new people. Elephants really are incredible animals...are they are very cute too :)

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    1. They are so adorable Patricia, and they make me smile at their antics. I particularly loved that little cute one on the first photo - I could have smuggled him home in my suitcase.

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  2. Marvellous to see these elephants, such beautiful photos of them.

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    1. So pleased that you enjoyed seeing these photos of the baby elephants Margaret.

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  3. What an interesting place, an elephant orphanage. And a once in a lifetime experience, visiting one! I agree it's wise to limit human contact, because it could also make the elephants too trusting of humans. Population expansion seems to be causing problems all over the globe.

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    1. The more I have seen of the world in recent years the more concerned I have become about just what the future might hold. It has all changed so much over the last 50 years, much of it not for the better, and almost beyond recognition;

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  4. Dear Rosemary,

    How absolutely wonderful that such a place exists. Four years is a very long time before little elephants can be independent. The dedication of the people of Udawalawee is heart warming. I love watching elephant documentaries. The interaction between individual elephants and their group is fascinating.

    What a wonderful experience you had.

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    1. Dear Gina - it does take the baby elephants a much longer time than most other animals to be able to cope and survive in the wild themselves. Luckily at Udawalaweee they have had lots of success in recent years. 15 baby elephants have now successfully become mothers themselves, which is really very good news.

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  5. It is good that they're looked after.

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    1. It is a careful balance between making sure that they are alright, but allowing them to grow and mature independently so that they can survive successfully in the wild.

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  6. It appears that they are being well cared for. Thank goodness we have such places.

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    1. It is quite a tough job preparing 10 litres of milk each, four times a day. They use a special powdered milk, and they also keep a careful check on them to make sure that they are healthy and not suffering from any kind of illness.

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  7. What a lovely place for these little orphans to go to. It's a sad indictment on man's behaviour that such places are needed. Do they have government funding or rely on visitors?
    Your Sri Lankan posts and photos are gorgeous. I thought I had subscribed to be notified of your posts but it hasn't worked, I have tried again so I will see what happens.
    I'm glad your computer problem is part sorted, it's good to have you back.

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    1. Hello Polly - the world is changing so quickly - in Sri Lanka there are over 21 million people living on an island smaller than Ireland which itself has less than 5 million, so it is clear that there are human pressures present.
      I believe that it is partially funded by the government but it also receives and is endorsed by the Born Free Organisation, visitor funding, funding from local people and anyone else who cares to contribute. It costs a lot of money to supply all of the milk and any medical treatment.
      Blogger seems to have been updating itself, but it has not done me any favours - may be subscribing to Bloglovin' would be more successful. All of those that I follow I put into Bloglovin' so that I can keep a double check.
      My computer appears to be fine, and the problem all along was blogger.

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    1. They are delightful little animals but this isn't the way that they should be living.

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  9. While it's wonderful that such places exist, they always seem a fairly feeble response by the human race to the overall destruction it is engaged in - even though the efforts of the individuals running the refuges are heroic. What a privilege it is to see wild animals at close quarters.

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    1. When you see something like this in action, as you mention the efforts are heroic, but that doesn't mean all is well. The situations that we humans have created in our world are very frightening, and I personally feel that time is rapidly running out.

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  10. Glad to see they help them to survive in this crazy world where animals seem to be more and more a target.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly with you - the more I see of what is happening in our world the more troubled I feel. What about our crazy weather too - freezing cold last winter and now weeks of boiling hot weather!!!! The repercussions are sure to be bad for the farmers and the wildlife.

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  11. What a lovely and interesting post...they do a GREAT job!!
    Love from Titti

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    1. πŸ’™ Lovely to hear from you Titti

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  12. Nice to see and visit. Not much true wilderness left unfortunately to be rehabilitated back into and you need the old female elephants present as well to teach them how to survive and behave. Watched a TV prog a while ago about young elephants (teenagers) killing everything in sight, (Lions, buffalo, any other animals) they came across in a game reserve as they didn't have a proper natural herd structure and discipline available due to poachers killing all the older ones. A bit like an elephant Lord of the Flies with only juveniles setting all the rules so not as easy as just setting them free again to look after themselves. Main thing I learned from that is that nature is extremely complex even with the best of intentions... and that elephants really do remember past atrocities done to them, just like humans.

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    1. I am sure that you will understand and appreciate that I can only comment on what I saw and heard. To date, 103 young orphans have been released into the wild. Of that number, management reports 7 animals have died.
      Integration with wild herds is the ultimate goal. This may happen in several ways. Certain groups do not integrate and prefer to stick together. Sometimes, orphans will join with babies released from previous years.
      Other orphans, especially males, break off and shadow wild adults, oscillating between independence and the comfort of their batch. In the best cases, orphans completely integrate into a wild herd. Wild females may adopt one or more of the babies. Complete integration into a wild herd appears to be more successful when the released group is small in number.
      15 young elephants have been successfully born and raised by female elephants who were rescued and rehabilitated by the team at Udawalawee.
      All of this does not alter the fact that the animals of our world are suffering untold tragedies due to we humans.

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  13. Hello Rosemary, How lucky for you to see so many baby elephants, and lucky for them to have this considerate type of care. I hope this becomes a symbol for protecting all of Sri Lanka's natural treasures.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - the fact that Udawalawee is endorsed by the 'Born Free Organisation' encourages me to think that they are going about things in the correct way. However, as you mention, Sri Lanka seems to have many natural treasures, but they are contained in such a small island with an ever expanding human population.

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  14. An incredible job, which involves caring but also know how to prepare them for one day to be independent in the wild.
    Beautiful animals, great shots.
    Have a happy Sunday
    Hugs
    Maria
    Divagar Sobre Tudo um Pouco

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    1. These baby elephants were so delightful to watch and see Maria.

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  15. Just to say that I sent a note of thanks to you on the email address that was on yours; but it has been returned as undeliverable due to timeout. So, please take my thanks as understood :)

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    1. Love this post and marvel and the wonders of nature. Luckily there are people taking care of these unfortunate baby elephants.

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    2. Visiting this baby rehabilitation centre was very thought provoking.

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  16. I have read about this issue. It's really a pity that people are so cruel, but it's great that the baby elephants are taken care of.
    This post is so very great. Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs

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    1. Sadly it is an issue that appears to be worsening in so many different parts of the world.

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  17. I love this post, Rosemary. The baby elephants are so cute, they made me smile. I like the bottle-feeding photo in which both an elephant and a person look happy. At my favorite Sri Lankan restaurant, there is a stone water basin on which elephant is engraved. I heard it’s because Sri Lankan elephants are the most loved animals by Sri Lankans. Coexistence with wildlife is human’s responsibility. I thought of time-honored coexistence with wild deer in Nara Park. Thank you for this food for thought.

    Yoko

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    1. The baby elephants were adorable Yoko - it is just a shame that they have lost their mothers and their also the wild herd that they belonged to, but hopefully they will eventually live good and fruitful lives back in the wild one day.

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  18. Dearest Rosemary,
    What a wonderful experience to observe them, even being it from a safe distance as to not disturb those baby orphans.
    We both had the pleasure to actually touch baby elephants in the south of India when a staff member and his wife took us on a sight seeing trip one Sunday, in-between 2 weeks of work. One thing for sure, elephants are extremely intelligent beings and it is sad for what those babies have lived through. They probably will remember... They also grief.
    The little ones are soft and playful.
    Excellent photos and glad to know that there is such a caring place for them!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - I know that these little elephants must have suffered some terrible dramas in their young life, but luckily they appeared to be enjoying the fellowship of their companions and also that of those who were feeding them. One can only hope that in the future life will be good for them and that they will lead happy healthy lives in the wild one day.

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