Millennium Elephant Foundation
Spanning a 15-acre estate that is located around 10 kilometres to the northwest of the town of Kegalle, the Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF) is a charity that rescues and subsequently cares for captive Asian elephants in Sri Lanka. It raises money for its activities through tourist fees and volunteer programs. The funds it raises are then used to improve the conditions and care it provides for its elephants, as well as to run educational programs for local farmers and their families, raising awareness of the importance of protecting local wild elephants.
The organization was founded in 1979 by Sam Samarasinghe as the Club Concept Elephant Bath. After Mr Samarasinghe’s death in 1999, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (now called World Animal Protection) assisted his family in creating the MEF. The sanctuary regularly attempts to raise awareness of the conditions that Sri Lankan elephants face, and is the country’s only certified non-profit organization working with captive elephants. Since it was founded, it has cared for more than 80 elephants.
Visitors to the MEF can observe, bathe and ride the elephants, although the foundation tries to promote alternatives to riding and hopes to eventually become a non-riding venue. Guests may also choose to volunteer with the foundation for a number of weeks, dedicating their time to the care of the rescued elephants; or people can “adopt” an elephant to be able to contribute to its care.