The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, halfway between the present capital Colombo and ancient Royal Kingdom of Kandy in the hills of Central Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka wildlife department a 25 acre Coconut grove near the Maha Oya river. The Orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to the many orphaned Elephants found in the Jungle.

In 1978 the Orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens from the Department of Wildlife and a captive breeding program was launched in 1982. Since then over than 20 Elephant have been born in it. The aim of the Orphanage is to simulate the Natural World. However, there are some exceptions: The Elephants are taken to the river twice daily for a bath, and all the babies under 3 years of age are still bottle fed by the mahouts and volunteers. Each animal is also given around 76kg of green matter a day and around 2kg from a food bag containing rice bran and maize.

This 25 acre Elephant Orphanage is also a breeding place for 84 Elephants and the Orphanage has the largest herd of captive Elephants in the World. While most of the Elephants are healthy, one is blind and disabled, another named Sami has lost her front leg due to the landmine. The Orphanage is very popular among Sri Lankan and Foreign tourists. The main attraction is clearly to observe the bathing Elephants from the tall river bank as it allows visitors to observe the herd interacting socially, bathing, and playing.


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