Pinnawela is one of Sri Lanka's most popular tourist destinations, it has the largest herd of elephants in Asia, almost 100 animals. (Wasgomuwa, Minneriya or Kaudulla have more elephants gathered only seasonally). But the Pinnawela herd is artificial. The elephants do not belong to a natural enlarged family, they are domesticated.
The elephant camp in Pinnawela is not only a breeding ground for elephants, it is a nursery in the first place. Trapped elephant babies left by their families would be doomed to death. Rescued in time they will be transferred to one of Sri Lanka's three elephant orphanages, two of them will return them to the wild later on, but Pinnwela will domesticate them Pinnawela also integrates injured adult elephants. It is a sheer miracle that the Pinnawela herd accepts alien babies and adults.
You can observe several activities of domesticated elephants in Pinnawela. At about nine o'clock in the morning you can take part in the bottle feeding of babies and at 10.00 am you can see the herd bathing, two restaurants offer perfect observation platforms. You can study human elephant interaction. Mahouts help washing the elephants, it would not be necesarry, but strengthens social ties. Female adults and babies take their bath together. But male adults have to be led to a separate bathing place.
You can not take part in elephant rides in the Pinnawela Elephant Orphange. But there are smaller private elephant camps in the surrounding organizing elephant rides in the jungles. You can join half an hour, one hour or two hour excursions. You can also wash animals yourself here, they are used to it, oder study exhibitions. But be aware, this is not included in the Pinnawela Orphanage ticket.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka