Working hand-in-hand with experts to bring quality veterinary care to Sri Lanka's captive elephants
For millennia, the people of Sri Lanka have maintained a sacred fellowship with Asian elephants. Elephants are an important part of the country's culture, traditions, ecology, and economy. Yet there is a paradoxical reality behind this long-standing relationship. Captive elephants—including many taken from the wild—are forced into a lifetime of chained servitude often characterized by chronic pain, isolation, and suffering.
EleVETS is a groundbreaking initiative and its main objective is to enhance the health and welfare of Sri Lanka’s captive elephants through veterinary care, training, mentorship, and capacity-building.
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Sri Lanka's Captive Elephants
More than 200 Asian elephants, used primarily in the tourist industry and for religious ceremony and personal prestige, live in captivity in Sri Lanka. Many receive no professional veterinary care.
Lack of adequate veterinary care often leads to chronic disorders: irreversible joint damage, painful foot abnormalities, parasitic disease, intestinal illness, dehydration, infections and abscesses, and stereotypical behaviours—common symptoms of neglect of the most basic biological, emotional, and physical needs of elephants.
The ASEAN Captive Elephant Working Group issued critical findings and recommendations for the humane treatment and care of captive elephants in its February 2016 report. Click here to read the report.
How Will EleVets Help Sri Lanka's Captive Elephants?
EleVets was planned to be an annual or even to be an ongoing continuous program to enhance the number of trained elephant veterinarians throughout Sri Lanka. Pooling the expertise, skills, and resources of elephant care experts, the EleVETS program's main aim is to bring practising veterinarians from throughout Sri Lanka together for intensive, hands-on, veterinary training workshop on captive elephant care.
The first ever EleVets program was conducted in 2017. During this program, the EleVets team assess the elephants' body condition, treat wounds and infections, observe their behaviour, provide nutritional guidance, and assess their living conditions.
The project will also benefit wild elephants that are injured, sick, trapped and in need of emergency medical intervention. Too often these animals die from lack of timely professional care - especially in remote regions of the country - due to a shortage of available veterinarians from the Wildlife Department.
The gallery above shows photos from our fantastic EleVets event in 2017. Unfortunately due to lack of funds the SLWCS was unable to conduct the program in 2018. The terrible Easter Sunday attacks prevented the 2019 program followed by the COVID-19 pandemic which brought the SLWCS operations to a complete standstill in 2020. During the first program we observed how beneficial the EleVets program was to elephants. The SLWCS plans to continue the EleVets program once the COVID-19 situation is brought under control.