Uga, a boutique property chain offering luxurious accommodations established its first Elephant Research Center at Uga Ulagalla in 2020. The Uga Elephant Research Center was established in an effort to conserve the Elephant population in Sri Lanka while also helping to resolve the Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) which is abundant in and around Anuradhapura area.
Uga represents rich heritage, culture, natural environment with a mission to preserve the natural environment for the future generations. The management at Uga ensures that all the boutique properties of Uga including, Uga Ulagalla, Uga Bay, Uga Jungle Beach, Uga Residence and Uga Chena Huts follow the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) guidelines which set global standards for sustainable travel and tourism.
The Uga Elephant Research Center comprises of well-trained team of individuals, in-house guides and members of the local community – dedicated to tracking elephants in the wider vicinity of Ulagalla. The research team closely observes how and where elephants congregate, their seasonal movements and their feeding grounds.
Having identified the potential of this research center to conserve elephants, while helping the livelihoods in each region, the hotel chain sets sights on establishing few more research centers in strategic locations within the island.
Uga recently partnered with Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, Chair of the Center for Conservation and Research (CCR) – Sri Lanka to better understand the pachyderms living in and around the region. The Uga Research Center feeds back all the information to Dr. Prithiviraj and his team at CCR to help them identify individual elephants, monitor their habits and habitats, and help prevent local issues associated with HEC.
The CCR identifies HEC as the main issue in conserving Sri Lankan Elephants and the team is constantly looking for new ways to manage HEC and form a cohesive conservation strategy that involves local communities.
Uga supported the efforts of the CCR through a series of fundraising initiatives and projects such as the establishment of correctly positioned electric fencing, geofencing and community programmes to educate local villagers that helped to alleviate local instances of HEC.
Uga Research Center also comprises of a small on-site Elephant Research Center which is open for the guests to visit. This on-site research center displays maps, photographs and information about Sri Lankan Elephants and the research work of the CCR. The travellers can experience jeep expeditions accompanied by expert naturalists to visit wild elephants and explore the wilderness around Ulagalla. With this initiative, Uga seeks to involve the travellers to conservation efforts and educate them on the need conserve wildlife.
Over the last three generations, the Sri Lankan Elephant population has declined by as much as 50%. Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), current estimates suggest that there are only around 6,000 Elephants left in the island, with just under three quarters of these majestic creatures living outside protected areas. Habitat loss, and in particular, deforestation, have squeezed elephant ranges and brought them into conflict with rural communities. In 2019 alone, over 350 elephants perished as a result of intensifying human-elephant conflict (HEC)
Uga owned by Finco Group has pioneered the boutique hotel concept preserving natural splendour and indigenous culture to provide a unique accommodation experience. Uga hotels comprise of Ulagalla in Anuradhapura, Jungle Beach in Trincomalee, Uga Bay in Passikudah, Uga Chena Huts in Yala and Uga Residence in Colombo. Uga’s parent, Finco Group comprises of many companies in the fields of manufacturing, leisure, consultancy services and automation and IT.