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Welcome to the very first MEF blog entry – a development the elephants are very excited about because they want as many people as possible to know about their lives in Sri Lanka and how much they would value any assistance people can offer 🙂 They are hoping that their online profiles and blog entries will encourage people to sponsor them and perhaps even “up sticks” andvolunteer some of their time to helping them out – the ellies need us humans to scoop their poop and, basically feed, bathe and groom them. While this might sound like hard work, it is also incredibly rewarding and just simply an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures in beautiful, lush-green surroundings!

Hopefully, this blog space will be a useful resource for volunteers and anyone else out there who wants to find out more about up-to-date happenings at MEF. There is always plenty going on around here, so there should be no shortage of activity to report upon! In terms of my personal experience here, I am just loving it and my only complaint is that the time is going by too quickly – but, as the cliche goes, time flies when you are having fun! I would urge volunteers to have a thorough look around the MEF website before coming here because there is a lot of useful information about what they can expect from their stay. Therefore, I will not repeat the same standard website stuff but will try to give you a little bit of an insight into my own personal experience so far.

So, here goes…I have now been staying at MEF for two fun-filled and action-packed weeks and during this time I have been working with MEF’s very own film star, Lakshmi, and her lovely mahout, Gaya. Like the website promises, you really do get to build a special relationship with your elephant – each volunteer is assigned a specific elephant to work with during their stay and this allows you to build a bond with one specific ellie. That said, however, don’t worry, you will also get to know the other ellies just by watching them amble along during the day as they carry out their tourist ride duties! Although this may look like very tiring work to us, the average elephant is more than capable of carrying around a few people without even breaking into a sweat!

As a bit of background, the elephant safaris for visiting tourists provide the elephants with exercise and raise money for the charity which is then used to fund food, medicine and the mahouts’ salaries. In addition, the ellies are very social beings and the interaction with visitors provides them with vital stimulation 🙂 While you are at MEF, you will get a unique insight into the psychology of ellies and you will get to observe their behaviours first-hand. Although the MEF voluntary programme attracts quite a lot of veterinary students, I think it is great that it is open to people from other backgrounds, as this means that people from all different walks of life are able to come here and challenge themselves in unprecedented ways. Take little ol’ me, for example, I am currently doing my PhD in Business Psychology back home in England – no animals included – so escaping from the office into the “wilderness” is a total break from the norm (note inverted commas – the fact I am using the Internet shows that there are mod cons even in the jungle – lol).

What I have loved about being here is just getting stuck into tasks I have NEVER EVER done before! I cannot even believe that I am enthusing about the novelty merits of picking up and counting elephant dung! Preparing the elephant vitamins was another first for me last week. Amy (another current volunteer) and I made quite the comedy pair trying to figure out how to make dough balls (the treats in which the vitamins are hidden), especially when trying to cram Sumana’s sizeable portion of vits into the tiniest doughball ever! You will see from Sumana’s profile that she needs extra TLC because she has numerous wounds and sores, although these have improved greatly since she arrived at MEF. Helping to treat Sumana’swounds with iodine has been an eye-opener into another less pleasant aspect of caring for animals. I have also been trying out my crystal healing techniques in a bid to speed along her recovery – a rose quartz crystal rubbed three times around the wound while imagining it getting better! If you are into such things, calling on the Archangel Ariel (the one that looks after animals) can help with the healing of any animal.

Finally, just to let you know about a few things which are going on around here at the moment and in the month of August. There has been a new arrival at MEF in the form of a new male elephant, called Raja, who made his grand entrance yesterday. This means there is a grand total of SIX elephants currently in residence at MEF, with further ellies expected very soon. August is a very busy month – it is perahera (festivals) season, with a big ten-day one in Kandy running from the 15th until 24th August. This will feature some ellie stars from MEF, so watch out for them in what is the biggest perahera in the country, with some ninety elephants involved! The 23rd August is going to be a BIG perahera night – something to bear in mind if you are staying at MEF while this is going on! 🙂

I think I have included a little bit of everything. Oh…apart from to say…bring disposable gloves for dung duties! Plenty of them! And work on your fitness levels for the gardening – Mr Karu, the gardening supervisor, could give Mr Motivator a run for his money! But, seriously, it is a good way of burning off calories after indulging in so much of the delicious food from the Club Concept restaurant!

So, it just remains to say farewell to Ally, Jenny and Lasanthi – three volunteers who have left today. And now to go and say hello to the latest seven volunteers who are due to arrive in the next hour! 🙂

Marie Dunnion, 02 August 2010

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