First day at Work
Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
16Trip End Oct 28, 2006
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Rani means queen and it suits her very well, Rani is not an ex working elephant like a lot of the others here, she was a orphaned whilst she was living in the jungle and luckily she was taken to the Pnnawala Elephant Orphanage, when she was 6 she was gifted by the then president of Sri Lanka to a local temple where she was a pet and thus not worked like a lot of Sri Lankan elephants. In 2001 her owners found it was getting harder to look after her and she came to live at MEF.
I met Rani's Mahout (handler) Chandana at 6.30 as planned, my first job was to collect a large bucket of water to take down to Rani's sleeping area, once there I donned my gloves (an item worth more than its weight in gold) and with Chandana I picked up all the large palm leaves and bedding and threw it down the bank behind her bed. Once that was done it was onto the poo ! Elephant poo it has to be said does not smell as bad as I thought it would but it's a heck of a lot larger, again we picked up the poo and threw it done the bank and I know I am going to get muscles in places I did not think I had them by the end of the eight weeks
Once that was done Chandana used the water and washed done the ground and swept it clean, just as Rani decided she really needed to go to the toilet! And boy can elephants wee. By the look on her face it was clear she knew what she was doing and it was then I first saw what a cheeky fun girl she really is.
Once we had recleaned the area we set off to the river, as Rani is the first elephant to be cleaned each day it was empty and very peaceful,. The river is down a set of steps and its pretty amazing to watch something as big as an elephant walk down so surely
Rani loves the water and once at the bottom she had a little paddle before Chandana told her to walk into the deeper part
We then spent a few minutes splashing her with water to get the side above water wet before we started to wash her using coconut shells cut in half and scrubbing. Its pretty hard work as you need to apply a lot of pressure to get the dust and dirt out and Rani is a lot of elephant to wash (but worth every minute of it) whilst I did her side Chandana did her legs (asking her to hold up each leg as he went along) and then we cleaned behind her ear. Normally her ear is laying back against her body so a command is given to get her to hold it forward, each time Chandana stopped scrubbing to wet his coconut shell she would pop her ear back and he would ask again for her to move it. Clearly it was all a game to Rani and her eye (above water) was laughing all the time
Once we had done the other side and her tail and trunk it was time for her to wait back at the bedding area as other elephants were due into the river (its not big enough for all the elephants to be washed at the same time) we collect Rani her post bath treat of a few palm leaves and left her to munch happily
It was about .08.15 by then and another volunteer took me to the Vets room to show me how to make Dough Balls, they are basically flower and salt mixed with water and the elephants like them which is handy as we put all there daily medication in them
By then it was around 9.00 and time for my breakfast, I went across the road to the Club Concept restaurant where we eat and wolfed down my bread jam and egg (ooh and a they have the best tea here) and was back at MEF for 9.30 when we assist with the vet checks. Each elephant comes up in turn and we sweep their feet and check for any sores or infections on their feet or toes. Once that is done the elephant gets its dough ball (or balls) the mahout gives a command and the elephant raises its trunk over its head and opens its mouth and one of us pops the dough ball onto the back of its tongue. It's a pretty awesome experience and one of my favourite parts of the day.
After vets checks I went to Mr Karu's organic garden for an hour digging holes, then I helped the mahouts and other volunteers break up an old wooden deck by the river, had lunch (and was very hungry then in the afternoon helped in the office until 16.00hrs when I went to school to teach English with the other volunteers
All of which I can tell you about another day as I am running short of time
I am in the MEF office with Colin a stray collie type dog that had the good fortune to wander into the MEF and is now looked after and gets regular food and vet treatment
Will update in a few days, I am being taken to a Perawera later in the week which is basically a Buddhist celebration where elephants are dressed up and ridden, and there are dancers and drummers. It's the last one of the year and I am very lucky that I have the chance to go and I will be taking my camera
Bye for now, missing you all but I am having a fab time