Guest post by By Lori Hobkirk
Due to a recent development in the circus world, Natural Habitat Adventures has put together a new itinerary for the 2018 travel season. It’s still a few years away, but it will be well worth the wait.
Earlier in March this year, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced a retirement plan for its long-contested elephant circus act: It will end the use of Asian elephants in the show—an act that has been in P. T. Barnum’s circus since the 1850s—and retire them to its Center for Elephant Conservation, which located in a secret central Florida location that’s never been open to the public.
Now, in a joint effort between Natural Habitat Adventures, the government of Sri Lanka, and Ringling Brothers, an amazing 14-day itinerary has been put together that will first take you to this secret central Florida location, and then on to the island nation of Sri Lanka, where a healthy population of Asian elephants are wreaking havoc on the locals. You’ll be able to see, first hand, why it’s important to separate the two, and why the Ringling Brothers facility is so, well, Wow! is the only way to describe it.
Guests on this new trip will gather in Orlando, Florida, before being whisked away, as a group, to the secret central Florida Center for Elephant Conservation. We will gather this first evening at the center, which will be on September 22—National Elephant Appreciation Day—where we will enjoy an elephant-shaped cake and tour the 200-acre facility. Then we will spend the next five days involved in volunteer work, getting up close and personal with the pachyderms, and NHA founder and president Ben Bressler will be leading the way (he doesn’t go on all Nat Hab trips, but this is one he wouldn’t dream of missing!). Our guests will basically go through the center’s eight-week volunteer training program in about five days – caring for, cleaning, feeding, managing, and handling the animals.
On day six, we will return to Orlando and fly together to Sri Lanka—an island nation the size of West Virginia, located in the Indian Ocean. In this small country, 21 million people coincide with about 6,000 Asian elephants. In the past, Ringling Brothers has been able to work successfully with the Sri Lankan government to sequester the elephants to national reserves and national parks—anything to get them away from human activity (not to mention the vested interest the circus has had in making sure this breed never goes extinct). We will tour these parks and reserves, and then we will spend a good amount of time with two Sri Lankan universities that have partnered with Ringling Brothers to work on elephant husbandry and veterinary practices.
Before returning to Orlando, we will take a day to eat our way through the Sri Lankan capital of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte.
“We’ve never added this destination because my sales team could never pronounce it. I always just say, ‘the Sri Lankan capital—that place with the really good food,’” Bressler says. “But we’ve hired language coaches, and I think we’re now ready to roll.”
In case you didn’t already catch on, this itinerary was entirely made up for April Fools Day, by the creative mind of Lori Hobkirk. We are not sending guests to Florida to work with ex-circus elephants and Nat Hab does not support using wildlife of any kind in circus acts. We are, however, very happy about Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s long-overdue decision to retire their elephants. Read more in this New York Times article.
Human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka is a serious matter. Each year in Sri Lanka around 50 people are killed by elephants, and around 150-200 elephants are killed by humans. Learn more about the endangered Sri Lankan elephant at worldwildlife.org.