A DevelopingEM Elephant?
Planning the social events associated with DevelopingEM conferences is not exactly hard work.
In fact it has been one of the most enjoyable parts of the lead ups to the four previous conferences.
The world of business is very foreign for a lifelong public servant like myself but there are some perks.
When looking for venues one has to search high and low through dozens of bars and restaurants until you find the perfect one.
If that search is outside Australia then every meeting, every flash of a business card, is accompanied by at least an offer of a free coffee or beverage, and indeed in Cuba it could often mean a free meal and cigar.
In Sri Lanka not only is there a civilized welcoming approach to these type of negotiations, there is also usually the offer of an elephant for one’s event.
I have to admit when I first realized this was the case I said to myself “Yes DevelopingEM Must have an elephant”.
We thought about a cartoon mascot for the website named Lanky.
I even pictured EM Royalty getting photos with a real Lanky at our Gala Dinner.
When I excitedly mentioned to Lee the prospect of a DevelopingEM elephant I think he shuddered at my naiveté as he explained some of the controversies regarding domesticated elephants.
In Sri Lanka elephants have been part of culture and life for many thousands of years.
Domesticated elephants have been integrated into society for this whole period, participating in religious ceremonies all the way through to being used as beasts of burden.
It’s a dynamic that reflects man’s use of animals right around the globe, sometimes enlightened but often purely for the benefit of only one half of the human, animal relationship.
The human elephant relationship in Sri Lanka is mutli facetted in the same way and increasingly complicated.
The cultural importance of the elephant is delicately balanced against the use of a decreasing number of domesticated elephants for the profit of their owners in a wide range of activities, often without the capacity to assure high levels of animal husbandry.
There is certainly much more to the debate than I ever could have imagined and it is way too complicated to fully explained here.
In the end we have decided rather than have an elephant as part of DevelopingEM that we would promote and support the amazing work being done by the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS).
The SLWCS is a NGO committed to developing a sustainable model for wildlife conservation in Sri Lanka.
Their focus is on helping people and wildlife co-exist peacefully and a big part of their work is related to preventing and minimizing Human Elephant Conflicts, as well as developing elephant sanctuaries for rescued domesticated elephants unable to be returned to the wild.
The New Life Elephant Sanctuary being developed by the SLWCS is one such centre where previously domesticated elephants can live out their lives without chains, with room to roam and without having to work or perform.
The work of this organization has been recognized around the world and you can learn about their story at their website, Facebook page and through the following media publications about their work:
So Lanky wont be part of DevelopingEM, but we will be supporting Ravi Corea and the SLWCS with their amazing work.
Perhaps you can do the same.