Never trust somebody who doesn’t like elephants.
When the planning for our trip to Sri Lanka started getting a bit more concrete, the idea floated up of visiting the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala. I received this news on the train home, and to say the least, I almost teared up with the thought that I might be able to see an elephant in real life.
Nothing fazed me about this part of our trip, apart from the fact that we’d be going straight there after the 11-hour flight. I wanted to look my best for the elephants after all.
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian Elephants. It’s located in the village of Pinnawala, just 13KM away from the town Kegalle. It’s hard to believe from the modest entrance to the orphanage, but Pinnawala homes the largest herd of captive elephants in the world, in the 25 acres of coconut plantation.
I don’t like typing the word captive. Because even though I know that’s technically the right description, it has negative connotations for a lot of people. The orphanage was founded in 1975 to care for and protect orphaned, and unweaned, wild young elephants. In the beginning there were just 5 baby elephants, who had been found wandering the Sri Lankan forests.
I worried a little when I saw the chains around some of the elephants’ ankles. A ‘mahout’ (handler) told us that the females and young range freely as a herd during the day (as they would in the wild), and are herded twice a day to drink and bathe in the river.
The males are chained, fed and managed individually in order to keep them separate from the females as apparently they are too full of testosterone (we all know what that means…) and can lead to aggression.
This guy chills with his mahout while he feeds, and gets a cold shower…
The elephants are fed in these pavillion stalls, but there’s not much food that can be gathered from the land itself, so thousands of kilograms of jackfruit, coconut, tamarind and grass are brought in from outside.
I find it absolutely baffling that each adult elephant eats 250KG of food each day!? Can you even imagine how much food there is in total… this is home to over 70 elephants!
A little guy sniffed my hand and ankle and I was told that this means he would remember me if I ever return (*cries forever*). It was unreal, an afternoon filled with delirium after the long long flight, and just ridiculous coming face to face with an animal with so much life and presence and soul behind their eyes.
If you’re in Sri Lanka and trying to find the right place to meet some elephants, this is it. Open to the public daily, all admission fees are funneled back into the orphanage to care for the elephants.
Have you ever seen elephants in the wild?
Let me know on Twitter!
Love, Chloe x