Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka
"We humans define ourselves by the ways in which we treat animals"
We turn off to our right at the town of Kegalla in scenic
Colombo Kandy Road (A1) that continue
(A5) to Nuwara Eliya. Onwards of Kegalla, this foremost road of the
island is still more spectacular. Nevertheless we are off the main road
now, in a side road leading the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage. By the
road are numerous spice gardens & lots of handicraft shops selling
leather goods & eco friendly pachyderm paper made of processed elephant
It all began with four orphans
The government-run Orphanage was set up in 1975 to rescue four orphaned
baby elephants when they could no longer be looked after at Dehiwala
(Colombo south) Zoo. Today with 70 elephants herein, it has become the
home to the largest captive group of elephants in the world. Orphaned
young elephants whose parents have been the victims of poachers or
accidents are tamed, reared & trained herein to eventually become
Please release me, but not yet
Elephants who are habituated to humans & domesticated elephants, cannot
be easily released to the wild. The elephants here range in age from
newborns, tiny (elephant tiny that is), hefty adolescents, young adults
to elderly matriarchs, & include orphaned & abandoned elephants, as well
as those injured in the wild & in conflicts the farmers in the villages.
Among those are famous residents such as the three-legged elephant, Sama,
who stood on a land mine, and a blind elephant, Raja. The orphanage
population is constantly augmented by new arrival Born Free in
captivity: about one elephant is born here every year. The successful
captive breeding project had so far produced 22 second generation
Cold milk in elephant baby bottles
The elephants, which roam freely in parkland, are 'herded' by their
mahouts (keepers) just before being taken to feeding sheds. At this time
all orphans are in fine form & most photogenic. They are fed in couple
of large sheds. Baby elephants, very hairy & barely 1m high are nursed
by adult elephants. You will be seeing the tiniest & cutest baby
elephants you're ever likely to see. Most possibly the only place on
this planet where an elephant can step on you feet & you might still
walk away with a smile. Luckily that is a tiny baby elephant Still more,
you will be caressing them & feeding them milk in elephant baby bottles.
They guzzle enormous quantity of milk. Adults gulp down a diet mainly of
palm leaves of 250kg a day. Two special farms run by the National
Zoological Gardens help meet the needful.
Twice a day after the meals
Twice a day elephants here, after the meals, are driven across the road
to May Oya river for a leisurely bath. And you will be watching their
antics from the comfort of river bank, or in superior comfort, from the
terraces of the Pinnalanda Restaurant or Hotel Elephant Park uphill of
the river. The adult elephants work in the orphanage itself, earning
their keep by helping with various chores, such as collecting food.
Millennium Elephant Foundation
A few kilometres down the road from Pinnewala, the Millennium Elephant
Foundation has a rather more didactic aim than Pinnewala - indeed the two
places complement on another rather neatly. With the exception of the
young Pooja, who was born at the foundation in 1986, the eight elephants
here are all retired working beasts. Herein you will learn everything
you need to know of about elephants & view how they are used as working
elephants; you can also help clean them & interact with them. It's also
possible to engage in voluntary work with the foundation's mobile
veterinary unit. The foundation was instrumental in introducing
pachyderm paper to the market of Sri Lanka.
Pachyderm paper is one of the most novel wildlife initiatives in Sri
Lanka in recent years. Among many other remarkable abilities, the
elephants are also a kind of mobile paper factory on four mighty legs.
During meals, the elephants ingest a huge amount of fibre which is then
pulped in the stomach & delivered in hot (no, not steaming hot) fresh
dollops of dung, ready-prepared for the manufacture of paper. The dung
is dried in the sun & boiled, & the resultant pulp used to make
high-quality novelty stationery with an artistically textured finish.
The texture & colour varies according to the elephant's diet, while
other ingredients including tea, paddy husks & onion peel are also added
according to the required finish. More than just a novelty stationery
item, pachyderm paper could prove an important source of income to the
villagers - & thus a significant help in conservation measures. Customers
to date have included the Colombo Hilton, Sri Lankan Airlines &
Bank of Ceylon.
on photo to enlarge