Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawela, Srilanka
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Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephantslocated at Pinnawala village, 13 km (8.1 mi) northeast of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. Pinnawala is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 37 males and 51 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala.

Pinnawala is the most popular and accessible place to see large numbers of these lovable animals in a natural habitat. It is the most popular elephant ‘attraction’ with tourists because nowhere else, except at the splendid ‘pereheras’ will you see so many elephants at such close quarters. The government opened it in 1975 since many more baby elephants than usual had become separated from their herds that year. The persistent drought had dried up many village wells into which the young elephants had fallen, while attempting to get a drink. Even today elephants fall into quarry or gem-mining pits, and poachers or angry farmers who shoot the adults for destroying their crops, orphan some youngsters.

The Orphanage is open from 8.30am to 5.45pm and visitors can interact a little with the elephants during the regulated bathing and feeding times. The baby elephants gulp down several huge bottles of milk, fed to them by their mahouts, and then it’s off to the river for a bath. The inherent gentleness of the animals is most obvious during this time. Most of the elephants eventually become ‘working’ elephants, and some older females occasionally add a baby to the herd.

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