Pledge Holidays condemns abuse of young elephant for tourism at top Buddhist monastery
A shocking YouTube video of a young elephant being abused as a tourist attraction at the capital Colombo’s best-known Buddhist monastery is attracting widespread internet condemnation.
Ganga, an eight-year-old female, is kept chained to the same spot in a small concrete enclosure so that visitors can pay her mahout, or handler, to have their pictures taken with her.
However, as the video states, captive elephants at temples are “not rooted in Buddhist doctrine”, but have over the years become “a symbol of fortune, status and prestige”.
Pledge Holidays takes its commitment to ethical tourism seriously, and we do not support tourism activities such as this that exploit elephants for financial gain.
Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country, and elephants have performed a prominent role in Buddhist ceremonies for thousands of years.
Thus, temples are an essential part of our cultural heritage, and we would urge you to visit them—but please, help fight this abuse by NOT having your picture taken with a chained, captive temple elephant.
Like Buddhism, these majestic animals are part of our lives, and we fully understand that many tourists and visitors would like to take a moment to make an elephant a brief part of their lives.
But that does not mean the kind of abuse and exploitation that is causing concern around the world and tarnishing our reputation as a must-visit tourist paradise.
What makes this particular incident worse is that it is happening at the renowned Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, where the monks are otherwise devoted to activities that help the poor and needy.
Gangaramaya has an extensive social project to develop spiritual, health, educational, economic and environmental programs that will greatly benefit communities around the country.
It also runs the Sri Jinaratana Training Institute, with over 50 technical courses, and the Institute of Computer Technology, both of which provide vital opportunities for young people.
Gangaramaya is therefore much more than a temple in the conventional sense, but a place of worship, a seat of learning and cultural centre that combines spiritual enlightenment with the demands of the 21st Century.
All the more reason that it should not exploit elephants, the mighty icons of Sri Lanka, which must be nurtured, cared for and respected for what they are, and what they symbolize in our rich cultural heritage.
So we urge you again—please visit our Buddhist temples, but do not encourage the abuse of elephants by having your picture taken with them.