A must visit destination in Sri Lanka is Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which serves as an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants. Situated approximately 90 km from Colombo, this orphanage has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world with a grand total of 78 from three generations, and is renowned for its efforts to protect these amazing creatures.
The elephant orphanage was established in 1972 by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation as a place to feed, care for and provide sanctuary to orphaned baby elephants. Previously located in different parts of the country, it was finally shifted to a 10 hectare coconut plantation in Pinnawala village in 1975, next to the Maha Oya River. Today the orphanage is run by the Department of National Zoological Gardens Sri Lanka, employs 48 handlers who look after the elephants and is a major tourist attraction. The best thing about Pinnawala is that all visitors contribute to the wellbeing of the elephants as entrance fees are used to maintain the orphanage.
Visitors can help feed the elephants during their trip to Pinnawala. Mammoth amounts are fed to each elephant per day - approximately 80 kg of jackfruit, coconut, sugar palm, tamarind and grass plus 2 kg of rice bran and maize! Most baby elephants are bottle fed which is a delight to watch. The elephants are bathed twice daily at 10 am and 2 pm - this is a spectacle that all tourists enjoy watching. The elephants are herded off towards the river to bath, and visitors can observe these majestic animals interact and play with each other. Watching three generations of elephants walk past is a real treat, and this makes a visit to Pinnawala absolutely worthwhile.