An Elephant Experience

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Katherine Anderson - UK
Winter. Freezing cold when the night arrives but a summers day to me when the sun has risen. I may have only been here for two days, but everyday keeps getting better, and honestly, I can’t imagine it can get much better than my first day volunteering at the elephant sanctuary. Having to be ready to be picked up at 6:30am was tough but very worthwhile. Only nearly a hour in the car and we have arrived at the sanctuary.

As I get out of the car, the first object I notice is the sculpture of an elephant head, beautiful. We (me and Astrid), were then lead to the stables where we both got straight to work! We met some of the guides and elephant handlers too, some of which told us to rake out the faeces from the stables in order for the ele’s (elephants) to have clean bedding. After shovelling the faeces out of the sleeping den, we had a tour of the ele sanctuary; we walked with them, we saw some ‘skills’ they could do, we fed them some sweet treats, and lastly had a ride on them which was totally incredible!! However, it was time to get our heads down to ‘work’ again (even though to me, none of it seemed like work as I enjoyed it all soo much); we observed and recorded the data of the ele’s interactions and what the interaction was – whether it be pro-social or anti-social. Luckily though, the time we were observing there was no anti-social behaviour.

It was amazing watching the ele’s, I honestly do not understand how people can not fall in love with them as they are such gentle giants. Even though I know I shouldn’t have a favourite elephant, my favourite is Marula out of the 6 ele’s at the sanctuary but I adore them all really. After finishing lunch, manual labour began where we started painting the stable in order for it to protect the wood but also for a fresher look for people walking through.

With both the observation and painting the stable, I already felt I was helping the elephants out so much, as I was assisting the project to research about the behaviour of ele’s and also preserving their sleeping stable. I do realise that the painting would have been done even if we didn’t do it but it might not have been for a long time. So even though it may seem a small job, I know it really helped the project. With regards to the painting, it was loads of fun because we were all working as a team and half way through we realised we had dripped paint on the floor!

Due to the protector substance for the wood, in the paint, we were unable to remove it despite our tries of rubbing it with newspaper, rubbing it in with our shoes and even washing the floor with soap! We don’t think Chris (the fabulous owner of the elephant sanctuary) minded, as we didn’t get sacked. Our day was now over and our last duty was to return to the volunteer house. WOW though! What an amazing first day and an experience of a lifetime it was. Tomorrow can’t come sooner!

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