Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage (පින්නවල අලි අනථාගාරය)

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Elephant Orphanage is an unfamiliar terminology, but it’s absolutely true and real. The secluded premises are dedicated to providing a natural habitat for orphaned elephants’ weeks-old babies to fifty-year-old parents and grandparents. The herd can be sited in the orphanage-only place of its kind of this population on earth to date.

The Pinnawela elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka was established in 1975 on a land area of nine hectares, a prime land of coconut plantation. At the inception, there were only seven orphans. Some members of this generation have now given birth to the second and third generation and the story continues.

Even though the orphanage has been focused on tourist attractions, currently this location is a research center concerned with conservation and education about elephants.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage launched a scientific captive breeding program with the assistance of local and foreign experts. The environment provides the necessary freedom for the movement of elephants and to mate.

The river the ‘Maha Oya’ by the side of the orphanage plays a vital role and enables the elephants to mix and choose their partners. The records have been written already in the history book, when the first baby elephant was named “Kumar”.

The inmates of the orphanage were generally brought in early age, and they were victims of confrontation either with humans or nature. The causes of nature are primarily due to the desperate search for water, and muddy fields are traps for these innocent creatures.

Every activity of the Pinnawala elephant orphanage has been planned to a timetable. The baby elephants are bottle fed at 7.00 a.m. The gates are opened for visitors at 8.30 a.m., while the elephants take the stride to the valley nearby and to the eastern side of the orphanage. They could settle to move about in freedom, as many enjoy the mud/dust bath.

At around 10.00 a.m. the herd of elephants move to the river for a refreshing bath. The river – ‘Maha Oya’ – is the third largest river in Sri Lanka, in terms of the volume of water carried to sea.

The river possesses the characteristics that provide an ideal bathing atmosphere for elephants. The rocky bottom of the river provides isolated swallow pools, where elephants dip to splash and bathe. The water level generally is 1/2 metre high and the river provides a continuous flow of water in the dry months – February, July and August except in November and June where the volume would fluctuate.

By 1.15 p.m. baby elephants receive another dose of milk while grown-up elephants receive a share of pellets. At 2.00 p.m. the elephants proceed to the river and remain bathing until 4.00 p.m. After this refreshing dip, they return to the sheds.

At this time elephants receive their routine feed of foliage comprised of Kitul Palm and trunk palm, coconut palm and Jak tree including other varieties of plants of the big family.

The average quantity of food intake of a grown-up elephant is 300 kg of foliage and 200 litres of water daily. Baby elephants feed on Formula II powdered milk for 5.5 litres as a time to make a total of 27.5 litres a day. They normally get 2-3 meals in the night depending on the age and size.

More orphans join the orphanage year by year the captive population grows and the breeding continues in the orphanage. The Pinnawala Orphanage has recorded sixteen elephant births. The birth statistics reveal that there was only one mortality stillbirth, within its 24 years of operation.

In the background, a mountain range covered by a tropical rainforest in the western horizon rises over the coconut and Kumbuk Trees.

Today, the elephants in orphanages give birth to at least two elephants every year. It’s expected this want should increase in the future.

Among the inmates of the orphanage, one can see that there are elephants that are different in their physical attributes.

‘Raja’ the blind tusker was a significant attraction. Mainly due to his well-formed tusks longer than 1.2 metres, the elephant is simply glorious! But, one can be misled to think that this tusker is absolutely normal. If would be very pathetic to learn that this Jimbo was blind!

‘Sama’ is a female six year old elephant found in the jungle wandering with untold pain due to an injury to her foreleg. Thanks to the medical treatment received on time, which gives her relief, the leg is shorter than the regular ones. She walks limping as the whole body rests mostly on one foreleg.

9-year-old ‘Kiri Menika’s story is interesting. She totally depends on milk as her main source of food to live. She developed a throat problem and finds it difficult to swallow solid food.

The management of the orphanage has taken due care to see to the welfare of visitors within the premises. There are restaurants and hotels close to the Orphanage, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has got a museum and a laboratory where keen visitors of elephants can clarify their doubts.

They could obtain the information leaflets and other documentary records at a reasonable price.

What’s special about is that; the orphanage is open every day of the year to visitors.

Sunday Observer

Also See

Map of  the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Traveling Directions to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Route from Colombo to  Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Through : Kandy Road
distance : 90 km
Travel time : 2 hours
Driving directions : see on Google map

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