24 seater creates safety passage for villagers to commute
Fulfils a promise made in the unforgettable campaign
CJS also donates mud hut to SLWCS to renew interest in research
Colombo Jewellery Stores together with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) and other sponsors presented a 24 seater Ele-Friendly bus for the use of the villagers of Wasgamuwa who live adjacent to the Weheragala Elephant corridor for their own safety and passage across the corridor devoid of the danger from elephants.
In partnership with the SLWCS, which is spearheaded by Ravi Corea, the CJS ‘Unforgettable’ campaign aimed at saving elephants in the wild began in December 2014, when CJS Brand Ambassador Jacqueline Fernandez, joined CJS Chairman Akram Cassim, Ravi Corea and the villagers to walk from Weheragala village to the elephant corridor. These surrounds are home to about 350 to 400 elephants and CJS embarked on a passionate initiative to seek a sustainable solution that would moot a cohesive tolerance to encourage co-existence.
“This can only be done if we are able to showcase the wild in its extraordinary beauty and highlight the importance of elephant conservation to those who have to live with the elephants on a daily basis,” explains Cassim. “Having experienced these dangers first hand, we vowed to work with the SLWCS to reduce and if possible eliminate the prevalent human-elephant conflict. Of the number of solutions we are working on, the Ele-Friendly Bus has been fulfilled today. We’ve purchased the Ele-friendly bus for the village, the ideal and safe conveyance for the villagers to transport their produce to the Hettipola town.” Commending the quick response by CJS to the SLWCS appeal to raise $ 30,000 to purchase this Ele-Friendly bus, Corea says, “The goal of presenting this bus has been achieved to the timeline I anticipated and the CJS commitment to elephant conservation has spotlighted awareness on this rather challenging conservation effort. The bus will buffer school children, farmers and pedestrians from elephants and vice versa, providing safe transportation on the busy rural roadway which transects one of the region’s most important ancient elephant corridors.”
The CJS Unforgettable Collection that articulated ‘A Future in the Wild’ placed the limelight into showcasing the country’s extraordinary natural beauty secreted in the wild. It spurred the imperative for an eco-balance wherein the wild elephant balances vignettes of nature, sometimes unseen to the human eye. The campaign was also the first time that an international celebrity, of the likes of Bollywood award winning movie star Jacqueline Fernandez partnered a local corporate to support an environmental cause.
As she conversed with the villagers, while elephants grazed on the horizon, walking over the tank bund, the Tree Hut Corridor and finally halting at the Tree Hut, Jacqueline said at the time, “I believe strongly that a brand like CJS, by joining the SLWCS, can spur immense awareness and educate not only the inhabitants of the village but also the general public of the need to conserve the elephant in the wild. We don’t realise how difficult it is for people to balance a sustainable livelihood and for wildlife to deal with humans encroaching on their habitats.”
She was extremely appreciative of the photographic campaign for Unforgettable, which turned the lens on this beautiful elephant country, thankful that the mud hut constructed by CJS for the backdrop of some of the photographs, has now been donated to SLWCS to promote conservation research and learning.
The enthusiasm displayed by SLWCS in taking the message of Human-Elephant conflict into international forums has gained further momentum with the screening in New York, of Common Ground, a 53 minute film directed and produced by Phillip Buccellato of Greener Media. Selected for six international film festivals, Common Ground provides an insightful overview of the intense human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka and also some of the award winning measures employed by the SLWCS that have been implemented to mitigate the conflict.
Cassim attended the screening of the film at the Explorers Club in New York where Ravi Corea participated in a Q&A to add more awareness and create a thought process to spur more proactive initiatives to be developed to minimise the impacts of the conflict. CJS screened this movie at the Galle Literary Festival and was instrumental in inviting international conservationist Saba Douglas Hamilton to speak at the Galle Literary Festival on Elephants Conservation in January 2016.
CJS also supported and sponsored ‘Sri Lankan Elephant 2016’ – a trilingual travelling and awareness and education program that was exhibited around the island, organised by the Federation of Environmental Organisation.