Sri Lanka trip of a life­time

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By LAU­REN PRIESTLEY

AN ELEPHANT with a pros­thetic leg is not some­thing you see ev­ery day.

And it’s cer­tainly not some­thing Carol Davis ex­pected to wit­ness dur­ing her trip to Sri Lanka.

The cen­tral city res­i­dent re­turned from a 10-day tour of the Dilmah con­ser­va­tion ef­forts around the is­land coun­try with her hus­band Rob on March 17.

She had ex­pected to see a Third World na­tion strug­gling to sur­vive af­ter 30 years of civil war but the re­al­ity was com­pletely dif­fer­ent, she says.

Part of the trip in­cluded a tour of the Udawalawe Elephant Tran­sit Home, set up to re­ha­bil­i­tate or­phaned calves and re­lease them back into the wild.

Na­mal the elephant was just two months old when he was found caught in a tan­gle of wires near a reser­voir. Work­ers at the cen­tre think he was ei­ther hit by a train or got caught in the cross-fire of poach­ers look­ing for ivory.

The baby elephant’s left hind leg was se­verely in­fected and had to be am­pu­tated in early 2013.

A cus­tomised pros­thetic was made and suc­cess­fully fit­ted in what is thought to be a first for Sri Lanka.

‘‘To see an elephant with a fake leg was just, wow. The thought that goes into some­thing like that.’’

Davis also vis­ited the MJF Cen­tre in Mo­rat­u­awa where women and chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties learn life skills, such as grow­ing food and do­ing ba­sic maths.

Each week they run food stalls, weigh­ing and sell­ing the pro­duce them­selves, she says.

‘‘It’s those use­ful things, things they can ac­tu­ally use in life.

‘‘Some­where like that they’ve got ab­so­lutely no chance of get­ting any help oth­er­wise.

‘‘There’s just no money in the area.’’

Sri Lanka’s self-suf­fi­ciency came as an­other big sur­prise, she says.

The coun­try grows ev­ery­thing from sugar to kapok stuff­ing for mat­tresses and pil­lows.

‘‘The only thing I reckon that we have and they don’t is sheep. If there was no other coun­try in the world they could sur­vive. ‘‘They’re just amaz­ing.’’ Tea is a mas­sive in­dus­try in Sri Lanka.

The cou­ple toured the Dil- mah fam­ily tea pack­ag­ing plants, tea trails and plan­ta­tions dur­ing the va­ca­tion.

‘‘I’ve just learnt so much about tea.

‘‘And so much of the money then goes to­wards such great projects.

‘‘I think Ki­wis re­ally like buy­ing tea know­ing the profit is go­ing back to good use.’’

Davis and her hus­band bid on and won the ex­pe­ri­ence at the 2012 Gro­cery Char­ity Ball but waited un­til early this year to take the trip.

Sri Lanka was not orig­i­nally on their bucket list but the coun­try ex­ceeded their ex­pec­ta­tions, she says.

‘‘I would en­cour­age every­one to go over there be­fore it gets spoilt.

‘‘I feel like ev­ery day I saw some­thing that made me think ‘Oh gosh, I wouldn’t have thought that was in Sri Lanka’.’’

Tea coun­try: Tea pick­ers dot the hill­sides in Sri Lanka.

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz and click Lat­est Edi­tion to see a video about the elephant home.

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