I was recently sent to Sri Lanka for a work project, and I told everyone at home and abroad that my main plan was to visit the elephant sanctuary in Pinnawela. I was told that you drive through the jungle, and there are wild elephants hanging out, and that many of them were orphaned or injured by poaching and military action. This part is true, and also they go take a bath in the river at 10 and 2, and they’re fed from bottles and you can ride ’em (I didn’t), and they’ll have their picture taken with you, but the reason they do all that stuff is because there are dudes poking them with big, nasty bullhooks.
I swiftly fell out of love with the concept. It’s a mixed bag- it’s stupid tourist money that feeds these guys, and there’s the an old blind elephant being taken care of, and there’s an elephant who lost a foot in a landmine who also couldn’t survive in the wild. On the other hand, they’re just as penned in and abused as elephants in the circus. They also appear to have a breeding program going to generate the babies that stupid tourists, myself included, love. Yes, you do get to pet a baby elephant for tips, which feels good, but dirty. I don’t know how much more for a lap dance, but you’re advised to have a very strong lap.
The first elephant I petted was this old blind man, with giant curvy tusks like a mammoth. After I petted him, an Australian lady took her turn and he bellowed and peed all over her. I said to my friend, Oh, I’m glad that wasn’t me. After he had a nice piss, he got an erection. I think he likes Australian ladies like Nicole Kidman or this lady, who was very tan and looked like jerky and yelled a lot. Against my best judgment, I took, like, a million pictures of it. I’m not proud, but nor could I help myself.
Here’s the herd in the river, cooling off.
Here we can see the red-headed, bearded hipster outside of his natural habitat of Billyburg, meeting an elephant while a prick holds a bullhook at the ready.
It’s not that the elephants weren’t beautiful, or that the babies weren’t adorable and the dusty navy of blueberries. They were. It’s just that for an animal activist and vegan to drive three hours through the jungle to watch animals be abused is a real letdown. I realized how naive I’d been, and that just because a half dozen of my workmates had reported back that the sanctuary was great, of course it wasn’t. They don’t have animal rights in Sri Lanka, they barely have human rights. Still and all, I felt like a giant asshole.