Sri Lanka trip of a lifetime

MAKING HISTORY: Namal the elephant with his prosthetic leg.
MAKING HISTORY: Namal the elephant with his prosthetic leg.

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.

BE FREE: Carol Davis releasing turtles into the wild.
BE FREE: Carol Davis releasing turtles into the wild.

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 Dilmah family tea packaging plants, tea trails and plantations during the vacation.

"I've just learnt so much about tea - we don't grow it here so we just don't realise what goes into it.

"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'."

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