The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage is one of the most-visited places in Sri Lanka. This government-run center was established to protect orphaned or abandoned elephants from around the country. There are over 80 elephants of all ages and sizes and we noticed one poor creature that had lost a foot and was hobbling around on three legs. Thank goodness there is a place where she is safe and secure and relatively well cared for.
The elephants live in a large sanctuary where they are free to roam. Visitors may come to watch the feedings three times a day. The bottle-fed babies can be viewed at 1:15pm each day. Twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon, the elephants are led down to the river for bathing. We timed our arrival to catch the tail-end (no pun intended) of the baths.
It was great to watch the elephants enjoying the water, but it was also clear that the mahouts control their every move. These elephants get a fair amount of contact with humans, something that many of the animal rights organizations have become concerned with, but they are still wild animals and it is important that people do not get too close.
There has been breeding of the elephants in recent years, contrary to the status of the site as an orphanage. There are several very young babies present and storyboards at the entrance telling of the excitement of the most recent arrivals in 2009.
After enjoying the elephants for about a half hour, we watched them being rounded up and led back through a long lane lined with souvenir stands. That seemed more that a little commercial to me, but I was focused on the retreating rear ends and didn’t let the tacky items on display distract my attention. In the ‘end’, Adia did pick up a cute t-shirt for a friend, one with a stylized elephant’s front on the front and a back end on the back.
If you are interesting in seeing a short video we shot of the elephants in action, please click on this link, The Elephant Orphanage.