sweet treats for the temple elephants

Before I started building on my land, I needed to clear the trees which were within the boundaries of the house itself.  Of these a number, about a dozen all told, were kithul palms from which kithul treacle aka kithul honey is extracted.  Think of it like the Sri Lankan version of maple syrup – looks the same and is just as delicious.

I was asking around local friends for a reliable person to come and remove the trees and the surprising recommendation I got was to talk to the Elephant Boys at the big temple in Dondra which is five minutes up the road.  It being a very large, ancient and important temple Dondra has two temple elephants which are used for religious ceremonies and Perahara parades. They are looked after by the elephant boys and it transpires that the one thing that elephants love to eat more than anything else on the planet are kithul palms. Leaves, trunk (no pun intended), the lot.

And so it was that the Elephant Boys spent two days on my land felling and chopping up the palms.  The trunks were sodden right through with a sweet sap; I was given a bit to try and  once I realised that I should suck it not chew it (schoolgirl error – I was literally trying to eat a piece of wood) I began to understand the appeal for the elephants.

On the first day they took away five of the largest palms and I commented that the elephants would be in seventh heaven for a week – “no madam” came the reply “will all be eaten tonight”.  Comprehending how much food the elephants needed every day I could see why the Elephant Boys were so keen to come and clear my palms for me.


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