Jetwing Conducts Awareness Event For Schoolchildren
To commemorate the 2012 World Environment Day, Jetwing Vil Uyana teamed up with the Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust (BECT) to conduct a series of awareness programmes recently around the Sigiriya area reaching out to 600 school children in the Digampathaha Junior School, Kimbissa Junior School and the Inamaluwa Maha Vidayalaya.
The lectures were organized by Jayantha Jayawardene, one of Sri Lanka’s foremost experts on elephants and Managing Trusteee of BECT along with his colleagues Sudath Abeysinghe, Ravi Kaariyawassum and with the resident naturalist of Jetwing Vil Uyana, Chaminda Jayasekara also in attendance.
The programme carried out in each school consisted of lectures on biodiversity, the natural environment, an overview of Sri Lanka’s geography and the conservation of our biodiversity and natural environment which aimed to portray the image of the Asian Elephant in a more positive light.
On the morning of June 20, associates of Jetwing Vil Uyana were briefed on Sri Lanka’s wildlife and its biodiversity. This was followed by a comprehensive presentation on the elephant – its habits, social behaviour, reproduction and physiology followed by a detailed explanation of the all important human-elephant conflict. The actions that should be taken in the event of encountering an elephant were also explained to them.
The Biodiversity & Elephant Conservation Trust (BECT) identifies the importance of dealing with the social issues of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) in order to facilitate conservation of elephants. One such strategy is to create awarenes amongst the school children in the rural areas of Sri Lanka where there is ongoing Human-Elephant Conflict. HEC causes untold hardships to the poor people living in those areas and educating the younger generation is an effective way of controlling prevalent negative attitudes towards conservation, especially elephants.
Over the past nine years, The Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust have conducted awareness programmes to over 1,300 schools in the country targeting 150 different schools per annum.
Since the inception of the Jetwing Eternal Earth Programme in 2008, Jetwing Hotels too have been conducting awareness programmes across the country targeting school children on environmentally related topics ranging from tackling climate change to conserving Sri Lanka’s biodiversity and educating them on good ‘Earth Saving Practices’.
At present, each Jetwing hotel has adopted two to three different foster schools from the neighbouring communities where these programmes and activities are carried out periodically. Jetwing also strongly believes in the importance of promoting responsible wildlife-based tourism, where back in October 2010, Jetwing Vil Uyana together with the Born Free Foundation ran an awareness programme to educate the trackers and jeep drivers running safaris to Minneriya National Park on good behaviour practices such that visitors to the park can witness ‘The Gathering’ with minimal disturbance and stress caused to the wildlife.
The elephant has been a symbol associated with Sri Lanka’s history and culture for thousands of years. Our ancient kings held elephants as a symbol of wealth, and used them in wars much like modern day tanks to run over enemy lines as well as for logging and moving heavy equipment.
Elephants are also considered sacred, are revered and to this date are used in religious pageants such as Peraheras. In the annual Kandy Esala Perahera, one of the most sacred religious events in the year, it is a selected tusker which carries the sacred tooth relic of the Lord Buddha.
The Asian Elephant is the second largest land animal in the world and their numbers over the past few decades have plummeted across their range in Southern and South-east Asia.
Today less than 50,000 survive of which Sri Lanka is one of their last strongholds with about 6,000 elephants residing in the wild. Unsurprisingly, Sri Lanka is considered among the world’s top locations for watching elephants in the wild.
The Gathering at the Minneriya National Wildlife Park is now internationally recognized as being one of the world’s top wildlife spectacles, a safari to Uda Walawe National Park virtually guarantees elephant sightings and in other national parks such as Yala and Wasgamuwa, there are reliable sightings of the pachyderms throughout the year which in turn attracts thousands of eager visitors.