Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Who does not like to see jumbos playing around in the water and getting fed? It is a memory of a lifetime to see these majestic creatures so up close and roaming free. The elephants that are in the Pinnawala are animals who are abused, injured or those that have been rescued while being stranded or abandoned in the wild. There are also elephant calves that are born into the herd of this sanctuary.
It is indeed a unique experience to watch such gigantic animals so closely and since they are accustomed to the human presence because of the mahouts they are harmless. Thousands visit the Pinnawala orphanage to watch them splash around during their bath time in the Ma Oya or you can watch the calves getting fed from the bottle and see how these jumbos interact with the herd.
Pinnawala is a village located the Kegalle district in the Sabaragamuwa province. Earlier the orphanage was located in Dehiwala zoo. In 1975 it was brought to the current location which was a coconut plantation and the ground area covers over 25 acres. There are over 88 elephants in the sanctuary and it is primarily to nurse, care and house elephants that are hurt or abandoned by their mothers. Disabled elephants are in residential care in the orphanage. You would see Sama whose front leg is missing as a result of a landmine and the blind tusker Rajah when you visit the orphanage and they are not able to roam freely due to the disabilities. The male elephants are cared for individually and the females and calves roam around freely. They are given about 150kgs of food such as coconut, jackfruit leaves daily.
The elephants at Pinnawala are not bottle fed but as a tourist attraction selected elephant calves are bottle fed and you can observe or join in for the feeding which is a fun activity. The highlight of the establishment is the bathing time. Around 10 am they are taken to Ma Oya which flows in front of the sanctuary and the elephants are herded to cool off their bodies and spend some time to splash and play in the water. This is a sight to see because the calves are very playful around water and you will not be bored while watching this. The visitors to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage flock around the rocks near the river to watch these animals bathe. You can observe their social behaviour and how calves interact with their mothers more freely during the bathing time. You can take photographs with the animals especially with elephant calves without disrupting their usual behaviour if you request the mahouts who take care of them.
There also opportunities for volunteering and students from all over the world during their holidays come to Pinnawala to volunteer at the elephant sanctuary.
You will not be let down by the experience at Pinnawala as these gentle gigantic creatures are very interesting to watch and who can resist the opportunity to bottle feed the playful elephant calves and watch them play?