It was established by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Department in 1975 in a 25-acre coconut property that adjoins the Maha Oya River, with the aim to provide protection and care to orphaned elephants in the country’s jungles.
Today it is one of the top attractions for travellers visiting Sri Lanka.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka
Brief History – The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
The very beginnings of the orphanage trace back in 1972, where it was first established at the Wilpattu National Park. However, it was moved to the National Holiday Resort at Bentota Beach and then to the Dehiwala Zoo, 11 kilometers south of Colombo.
In 1975, the Department of Wildlife finally set up its present home, which is the one operating today. Since then, it has been affording care for orphaned elephants in Sri Lanka, which number has expanded to a herd of no less than 109.
Management and Care for the Elephants
The management of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was turned over in 1978 from the Department of Wildlife to the National Zoological Gardens, where a captive breeding program was then launched after 4 years with over 20 elephants bred.
The orphanage originally planned to simulate a natural habitat to these animals, taking them to the river for a bath twice a day and bottle-feeding their babies with the help of volunteers and mahouts (people who ride, work with and tend elephants).
Each of the elephants is given around 76 kilograms of green matter, as well as around 2 kilograms of maize and rice bran, every day. Today, the orphanage boasts of having the world’s largest herd of captive elephants, which has become so popular among local and foreign tourists.
Purpose of the Orphanage
The main purpose of this elephant orphanage is to provide a lifeline to orphaned elephants and those elephants that are lost in the wild.
As you can see, mothers of these orphaned elephants suffered bad fate, leaving their offspring lost in the jungle, and the orphanage was launched to provide the best opportunities to these sad victims of such situations.
The elephants here are not subjected to any form of threat, abuse or stress, and this is made sure by a group of people, including mahouts.
The herd is allowed free movement within an enclosed land, affording the animals to mate. Today, some of the orphans who have grown up here enjoy seeing their next generation being born.
Moreover, local and foreign elephant experts has worked together to commence a scientific captive-breeding program for the orphanage, helping it to become more successful.
Success – Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
The success story of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has captivated animal scientists and activists from around the world, creating numerous research articles and books in different languages on the center.
There are even films created to document the elephants of Pinnawala by professionals to pass the message of conservation in the center.
How to Get There
You can reach the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage via the A1 Colombo-Kandy main road. By making a turn at the 82-kilometer post at Kegalle, you can get straight to the center.
As for the closest railway station, it is at Rambukkana, which is 2 kilometers away from Pinnawala.
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