Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage

Beginning of Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage

In the very beginning, in 1972, the orphanage was located at the Wilpattu National Park. Subsequently the orphanage was shifted to the National Holiday Resort at Bentota Beach in the south-western coastal belt and then to the Dehiwala Zoo, 11km south of Colombo. In the year 1975, Department of Wildlife of Sri Lanka set up its present home: Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala, Kegalle. Since then it never turned back on an orphaned elephant: it welcomed all and expanded from 4 orphaned Elephants to a gang of no less than 109.

The purpose of Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage

The primary purpose of the orphanage has been to provide a lifeline to the orphaned baby elephants and adult elephants lost in the wilderness. In most of the occasions the mother of the orphaned baby elephants had been killed; and then there have been accidents of baby elephants falling into pits and losing out to the herd; and there were instances the mother elephant had fallen into a pit and died leaving the baby elephant lost in the jungle. There are instances of adult elephants being killed by farmers to protect their paddy fields and crops resulting in baby elephants orphaned.

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was launched to provide the best possible opportunity to the sad victims of such situations. The orphanage is fully geared to provide an environment of happy and healthy life to the beasts.

Captive breeding at Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage

The elephants at the Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage aren’t subjected to any form of stress or threat at all and supported by a team of employees at the orphanage numbering over 100 including a group of mahouts.

The free movement of the herd within the 15-acre coconut grove of the orphanage affords the opportunities to both sexes of elephants to get together and mate. Maha Oya, the nearby river, where the elephants taken for bathing on daily basis played a dominant role in this regard. In 1984, the first baby elephant of Pinnawela was born. Today some of these orphans enjoy the good fortune of seeing their third generation too born at the orphanage.

Moreover, today, with the help of local and foreign elephant experts, Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage commenced a scientific captive-breeding programme for Elephants. Since then the orphanage has become one of the most successful captive breeding programmers for Asian elephants.

Decimation of the elephant population by the British colonialists

Prior to the invasion of the British in Sri Lanka in 1815, an estimated 30,000 elephants lived on the island. In the 1960s, following nearly a century of game hunting and jolly slaughter by the British colonialists, the elephant population was close to extinction. The tragedy of decimation of the elephant population prompted the Government of Sri Lanka to found Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage. Today, the number of elephants living in wilderness exceeds 3,000.

Daily features of Interest at the Pinnawala Orphanage

08.30 hours Open to visitors
09.15 hours Bottle feeding
10.00 hours Herd leaving to the river
12.00 hours Return from the river
13.15 hours Bottle feeding
14.00 hours Herd leaving to the river
16.00 hours Return from the river
17.00 hours Bottle feeding
17.30 hours Ticket counters close
18.00 hours Close to public