Simple living with wild elephants in Sri Lanka

Simple living with wild elephants in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka
Organization type: 
for profit
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The overall goal is changing local lifestyle from destructive to constructive use of nature in a remote wilderness area, to change local perception of nature’s value.
The Tree Tops Jungle Lodge venture is based on the vision of doing business with a purpose. We are a privately owned company working to preserve the land that the locals have been exploiting and save it as wild elephant habitat.

About You
Tree Tops Jungle Lodge Pvt.(Ltd.)
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



, XX

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


Organization Name

Tree Tops Jungle Lodge Pvt.(Ltd.)

Organization Phone
Organization Address
Organization Country
How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

What makes your innovation unique?

The approach is a tailor made initiative for the local area, designed as a special experience and in harmony with the local community as well as the environment. First step is to make the local area known, attractive and competitive, promoting and branding the location as an area of great natural beauty. Next step is to ensure that nature speaks for itself. The only facilities are simple rebuilt farmer huts made from mud as well as tree huts using age old methods. In the past local farmers used these shelters at nights, protecting crops from wild elephants but now serve as accommodation for visitors. Tree Tops Jungle Lodge is on 9 acres of bush land adjoining a dry forest. We have converted previous slash and burn farm land and used it in a new way, regenerating the jungle for elephant habitat and making it a tourism attraction but leaving an extremely light footprint. In fact improving nature and elephant habitat. Avoiding electric light makes the lodge discrete and preserves the original core experience as well as maintaining a non-aggressive atmosphere in relation to elephants. This is reality tourism – an authentic, cultural and learning experience with local people in a remote area of Sri Lanka.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

The visitors gain Authentic experiences by living with local community and learn about the poverty and thus the exploitation of local environment for their livelihood. The number of locally recruited staff, trained and educated based on a method to base their training on their natural sense of hospitality and skills. Through their training and as acting as an example of another viable livelihood, the locals see value in reforestation and conservation. The project is in an area where the locals lack the will and the foresight as to why such efforts must exist, in that sense, even a handful of locals as to why and how will be a tremendous asset to this remote community.
Through the use of traditional architecture, cuisine and lifestyle, we are instilling a new sense of enriching their locale. There is no negative impact from our existence, only the positive. Next problem is that farming often is serving as an excuse for hunting wildlife. We have turned it around 180 degrees and the land we are using has since become protected forest land. With no electricity, use of local wells and accommodating only 4 to 8 guests at a time, there is little to no footprint hence we maximize positive impacts. Based on our vision combined with long-term staff training it is our realistic ambition to develop a world class ecotourism attraction that can match any ecotourism experience worldwide.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

The vision is to implement a vision about “Community based conservation of wild elephant habitat outside national park”. An wilderness area which would otherwise be lost as an important wild area of not only great natural beauty and dryzone biodiversity hotspot. The area is under serious threat Tree Tops is lobbying to prevent that the area outside the park is developed as sugar cane farming area as this would mean nature is finished and elephants would be in deep troubles as they cannot resist breaking into sugar cane fields from that park side. When they roam into fields they will be shot at and might be killed.
Simply we are working for another vision – conserve the environment and use this patch of unique wilderness inhabited by wildlife and people as a fascinating and attractive area for tourists.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

The Tree Tops Jungle Lodge operation is based on dreams of doing business with a purpose. We are a privately owned lodge trying to preserve the land that the locals have been exploiting. The entire lodge is based on a biodiversity centered community development concept. Our location and the experience we offer is promoted as ‘reality tourism’ and ‘simple living’ with nature. The accommodations are fashioned in the traditional Sri Lankan style and the locals who are hired on a daily basis welcome our visitors. Tree Tops Jungle Lodge is working for protecting the surrounding forest and wildlife by providing alternatives to the traditional lifestyle of slash and burn agriculture and exploitation of the forest. We have reforested the devastated land which has since become protected forest to lead by example of how incomes can be earned through preservation of the natural beauty. All staff is from the local area and based on their local knowledge, visitors can “live” in the wilderness in ancient Sri Lankan style. This concept is ideal if you want to involve the local people and use their traditional skills and not for those seeking to be cushioned from the real lives and traditions of the locals.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Since we are a private sector business and self-funded we are depending on the success of the business. We can hope to create results. But it would be artificial to write down a break down of ‘expected results’ of the business over the next three years, and especially that would be impossible to do for each year separately. We are not funded and cannot make blue-print programs as if we were a funded venture.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?


If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

Lobbying for community based environmental conservation projects

What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

We already were successful without partnerships. It does not mean we are not interested in partnerships. But never managed to establish that kind of formal co-operation. We have taken contacts. Perhaps by nature partner-shipping is complicated for a private company. Anyway, the main obstacle for success has been the security and war situation until 2009. If not for that there would have been a higher degree of success in terms of economy for the business as well as staff and community plus implementation of our wider nature conservation vision.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

Approximately 250 words left (2000 characters).

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In 2001 I visited the area for the first time and couldn’t help start dreaming about the place promoted as an ecotourism area and lodge. Same year I jumped, out on deep water, decided to try realizing an idea about developing responsible tourism as a tool the preserve the local environment. Construction work soon began and the first website was developed, outlining our concept.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

My background is not in business but in the university world – until late 90’s. M.a. degree in History of Religions & Cultural Anthropology, specializing in Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism and its social ethos. In the end, I guess, I went native in the jungles of remote Southeast Sri Lanka.
Project is a continuation of an informal grass root / private nature conservation initiative in local area which has developed from the bottom and step by step during several years. From the beginning working with more passion and motivation than cash and therefore I never was in a position to make a ‘blue print’ plan. Another important point is that community based tourism is most difficult and has to be built up via experience. Step by step planning means that I have been training and educating staff and been active with writing information material used for the promotion of the project area.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information