Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sri Lanka photos 2: elephants (and elephant produce)

We began the elephant leg of the tour at the Pinnewala elephant orphanage just off the Kandy road – a key tourist attraction for anyone visiting non-coastal Lanka.
There are shops here that sell products made of elephant dung. On average you get 4 kg of dung from each elephant per day, and that’s enough to produce 48 poster-sized sheets of paper.
Even if you know that the dung-processing is very efficient and scientific, and that the raw material is basically reduced to a collection of fibre after being boiled and treated for a few hours, you can’t help some Beavis-and-Butthead snickering at how proud the shop-owners are of dung products. “Sir, this notepad is more expensive because the pages are all made of pure elephant dung – see!”
Two weeks ago I would never have guessed that I’d be photographing a pile of elephant poo, much less putting it up on my blog, but one learns new things about life every day. In the background are the rectangular frames that are used to mix the dung fibre and pulp together, and make coloured paper.

An elephant skeleton in the shop factory. Just so you know what it looks like.

On a happier note, live elephants on their way to the nearby river for their afternoon bath. It’s a major tourist attraction out here – you can see some of the paparazzi in the background.

This chap’s something of a local legend. One of his front feet was blown away by a landmine and he limps around on three legs. Treads very cautiously and stays near the edge of the river, doesn’t go in too deep. There’s talk of getting him a prosthetic if money can be raised.

One of the mahouts takes a quick nap under the shelter of a rock – it was a hot day.
A family appropriates one of the rocks for itself. The little one was very enthusiastic throughout.

Lady elephants are better at public displays of affection, much the same way it is with humans. This one kept nuzzling her husband's belly with her trunk. He seemed to enjoy it but he didn't reciprocate - looked straight ahead.

Abhilasha feeds a baby elephant. After seeing the photo my mother, in the tradition of all good mothers-in-law, remarked that they have exactly the same smile on their faces, though Abhi is definitely missing a trunk.
From our “brave and adventurous” elephant safari in Sigiriya. Sitting on the guy’s neck was quite an experience – very powerful muscles = free butt massage. Don’t miss his crossed hind legs.
He took us into the lake as well.
In the background is the Sigiriya rock fortress – more on that in the next post.

(Click photos to enlarge)


  1. What's going on? None of the elephants have tusks? Perhaps they were all female? Arrant sexism, I call it.

  2. Feanor: a lot of the elephants here were maimed or injured in some way or the other (mainly due to landmines). Perhaps that has something to do with it. I saw a couple with broken tusks, and the one elephant that had full-sized tusks happened to be blind.

  3. Cripes. Now I feel terrible. So were elephants brought in from the rebel areas in the North? Or are there minefields all the way to Kandy?

  4. The elephants are from jungles all over the country, though I think the ones injured by landmines are mostly from the north. There are other types of injuries and maimings, of course - we were told the blind one had his eyes shot out by poachers.

  5. hey Jai,

    That's some travelogue! Read a lot of travel sites and personal accounts of popular places like Colombo, but places like Anuradhapura and Kandy had to come from someone like you. I'm sure many serious travelers will benefit from your post. Waiting for more pics.

    Going by the comments looks like there is lot of violence against elephants. No PETA in Lanka?

  6. You think elephant dung paper is cool? In Canada, they have cow-dung CLOCKS:

  7. Pl vistit

    for Sri Lanka Elphant

  8. you would not believe ever that the shop owner will ever search for comments
    please be kind enough to comment to mail address about all you rhink

  9. If you are looking for a great place to stay near Pinnawela visit