Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Srilanka

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Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

The Pinnawala elephant orphanage is one of the biggest elephant conservation project in the creation. Orphanage started in 1975 with 8 elephants, now the orphanage is accommodating more than 150 elephants. Pinnawala is the central source for elephants to all occasions in Sri Lanka. Elephants are transferred in trucks from one office to some other place depending upon the demand.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage

Pinnawala elephant conservatory

Well, continuing the story aside, the question that comes in everyone’s mind before visiting Sri Lanka is, should I visit the Pinnawala elephant orphanage? The result is ‘Yes’. Even though the orphanage is pretty chaotic with the tourists, we can pass some decent measure of time with the elephants by feeding them with food, milk, even we can bath the elephants. I have come across so many negative reviews, however, it’s a worth visit. Many of the problems arise from the expectations of the visitors when compared with the reality.

Most of the elephants in the orphanage were rescued from the nearby forest as they were forsaken by the mothers, injured or missed. Elephants connect each other emotionally within a short span of time and they create a new herd, which will be chaired by the senior most female of the group.

 My visit to Pinnawala elephant orphanage

The Pinnawala elephant orphanage is located 100 km away from the Colombo, it needs three hours to get to there. The journey is well worth the try as the countryside is really scenic. As we go along the Colombo we can pick up some quaint small towns with fresh local produce along the wayside. You should try coconut water, as it delivers a really serious taste and keeps you away from drying up.

In order to enter the orphanage, we need to collect the entry ticket which costs 2500 LKR for adults and 1250 LKR for a child. For SAARC countries they charge 700 LKR for adult, part of the cost of the pinnawala elephant orphanage is met by its earnings. The ticket counter is placed inside the vicinity of the vehicle parking area. Once you are done with ticketing you can put down the orphanage through the entrance gate which is situated beside the ticketing counter.

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Activities at the Pinnawala elephant orphanage

Elephant feeding:

The orphanage opens at 08:30 in the morning and shuts at 06:00 pm daily. Elephants will be fed thrice daily at 9:15 am, 01:15 pm and 05:00 pm. Baby elephants will be fed with milk, we can have a look of this and if interested we can feed the elephants with milk and fruits. An elephant consumes 160 kilos of food, 60 liters of water and poos around 45 kilos every day. The poo can be recycled to make papers. On that point are some shops where the books and greeting cards made of this poo are sold. Kindly stay away from the elephants when you are taking photographs as they can grab the cameras and bags thinking it as a food. In one case the feeding is completed the elephants were transported to the pinnawala river in a furrow. Here you can watch the female elephant, the leader of the herd leading the rest.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage

Pinnawala elephant feeding

The Bathing ritual:

Bathing of elephants is done twice daily at 10:00 am and 02:00 pm. We need to cross the road to watch the elephants bathing in the pinnawala river. We can get close to the elephants in the river, even we can scrub there back if we are interested and it’s free of cost. Some of the mahouts may expect money for touching and posing with an elephant. Most of the photographs which you can see in the social media were shot here.

Furthermore, the pinnawala river is picturesque, where you can take some nice photographs along with the beasts. There’s a hotel along the riverside, where you can relax, eat some food and can watch the elephants bathing.

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At one time the elephants are done with bathing, they are shifted to the orphanage where they can roam on 30 acres of free country.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage

Elephant bathing ritual

What are the concerns about the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage?

Yeah, where there is a good thing happening, we can discover some bad things as well. Most of the visitors and animal organizations raised concern over these events:

  • The Elephants are chained all the time, we can consider the chains hanging from necks and some chains tied with legs.
  • The Elephants are paraded to pinnawala river for bathing only to draw the tourists.
  • There’s a great deal of contact between elephants and visitors.
Pinnawala elephant orphanage

Crowded area

Release back to the wild

The orphanage was taken off with 8 elephants now it has risen to more than 150 elephants. Most of the elephants rescued are left over by the mothers, injured or missed at the early years.

The elephants from this orphanage were never released into the furious, or else they are switched to different regions depending upon the demand. I had a talk about the same with my tour guide Mr ‘Noel’ the reason he told me was, even if they are released back to the wild they cant survive as they are supposed to put on medication daily because they are injured, they can’t acclimatize with the wild elephants as they have a new family and are fed daily, they will face difficulties in getting food especially water.

Separating babies

The orphaned babies were saved in a separate field and fed them daily with milk and nutrient. Once they arrive at the adulthood they are mingled with the herd, where they create new friends and alliances. Every bit I brought up earlier, even we can feed the infants with the milk.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage

Separated babies

Separating males

We can find some group of elephants, which were insulated from the main herd, these are bachelor pod. When the males reach the adulthood, they become split from the herd and live individually to prevent the inbreeding.

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A herd is gone by a dominant female and is known as the matriarchal herd. A herd consists of 5 – 15 elephants, which includes a dominant female and immature male and female elephants.

Use of chains

These are used to chain the male elephants, particularly during “Musth” period, at that period of time they are sexually aggressive. Standardized to the human beings, male elephants show dominance over the females and the babies, this is the reason male elephants are chained. Male elephants are not chained all the time, they set free once they are out of the musth period.

In event of female elephants, they are also chained, when it gets to the authority in the herd and the limited challenges to hold the herd they become belligerent, to avoid this.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage

Use of chains to control Them

To recapitulate

Here’s my take on the situation. There are many issues in pinnawala elephant orphanage which has to overcome by the local government, however, we can’t blame like others. in order to fund the conservation, tourism is necessary. But the tourism has to practice in a different way.  From bottom of my heart, I believe that conservation of elephants is the top priority, as we need to pass the wildlife to the upcoming generations.

Another thing I need to mention is that don’t get fooled by the images in the social media, when you enter the orphanage you can see the elephants in chains, fence and all. As I have mentioned above, not everything is perfect. Even so, there are certain things need to be changed for a better conservation.

Shiva Shanker

I am a travel blogger, YouTuber, and Dietician. Thank you for being here and I hope you will join me on my adventures through my blog!

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