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Animal Welfare

Recovering giants

Photographer Nando Azevedo visits an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka to document the lives of these magnificent animals after they are rescued from illegal logging industry.

This story contains graphic content and viewers discretion is advised.

Captive elephants in Sri Lanka is a sad fact of life, one that is unlikely to change as Sri Lanka's roots are set deeply in tradition, still recovering from a 30 year long civil war and the Tsunami of 2004. The life of a captive elephant can be a miserable existence.

All captive elephants have owners, but owning an elephant is expensive, they eat a lot and need extra care when things go wrong but sadly lots of money can be earned from them also. Privately owned elephants hold a lot of value and status, some owners will simply keep an elephant chained in their gardens to show off their wealth. These elephants rarely receive the care they need as there are no elephant experts on site to ensure the physical and emotional needs of the elephants. These elephants will also be inherited in wills after the death of an owner and may be passed from a caring and knowledgeable owner to an ignorant and unskilled person.

Many elephant owners, led by politics, greed and a lack of education do not take responsibility for ensuring the proper care and treatment of their animals and leave it up to the Mahout to feed the elephant, as well as earn money to feed their own families. This puts the mahouts under an enormous amount of pressure and often elephant care slips as they struggle to survive. A captive elephant will rarely receive the social contact and interaction that they need to be happy, causing them psychological problems.

The Millennium Elephant Foundation works in Sri Lanka rehabilitating captive elephant previously used in the logging industry. The organization fights to keep them in good conditions both physically and mentally. MEF has also been working continually to improve the treatment of elephants in Sri Lanka by providing a place of medical services and facilities.

"Being in the presence of these giants and watching them interact with their mahouts is something I won't ever forget. I hope my images help show the world how majestic they are and more people develop an interest in caring for them."
Nando Azevedo

The foundation provides an alternative to other elephant riding places, where elephants receive care with their individual mahout and the supporting team. They do not do heavy manual work and are well provided for with food, water and medical treatment. Regular exercise is good for the elephants and they have an enrichment program in place. The foundation also aims to help the elephant's wild counterparts and raise awareness on responsible tourism.

The upkeep of elephants can be quite expensive: the average expenses are 7000 rupees per day, per elephant, this covers elephant and mahout wages and elephant food. Times this by 8 and the costs add up to 56,000 rupees(that's around £300 or US$380) every day needed for the elephants. There is also the added and increasing expenses of medicines and daily vitamins and minerals.

With that in mind these images are being used to raise funds for the foundation and help spread awareness, giving these magnificent creatures a better chance in recovery.

Now it's your turn, keep the generosity wheel rolling

Please consider making a one-off or recurring donation to

Millennium Elephant Foundation

using the form below.

This story does not end here. Helping the

rescued elephants

will require your action too.

After sharing this story and helping spread awareness about their plight, you can:

-Donate to Milllennium Elephant Foundation on

-Adopt an elephant on Millennium's website

-Do not support exploitative animal tourism practices or circuses

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