Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
One of the largest herds of elephants kept in an environment of captivity in the entire world, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has been one of Sri Lanka’s most benchmarked spots for taking good care and preserving its wildlife whilst being a popular attraction for tourists from all over the world. In its prime for almost 40 years, injured and abandoned elephants in Sri Lanka have found relief and comfort under expert care and dedication by all those who run this facility.



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Formed with just 5 orphan baby elephants from the wild, this orphanage is now under the management of the National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka and features elephants of 3 generations, most of who have successfully been born in the vicinity itself all thanks to its captive breeding program that was initiated in 1982. While female elephants and their young can be seen roaming about this 25 acre coconut plantation enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, males can be seen helping their human caretakers out by doing some light labour of transporting the feed that is required for their daily consumption such as leaves and grasses from one location to another.

Upon visiting, all the money that is paid for entrance fees and other donations are spent on taking care of the elephants over here. A hit with people of all ages alike, children are bound to especially enjoy the witnessing of these beasts as they’re bottle fed and ushered in for bathing at the Maha Oya River! If you’re planning on visiting this elephant orphanage Pinnawala is a town that you should be well familiar with, as this centre is located right at the heart of this township.

Here’s a detailed guide on all the important facts about this wildlife facility, along with some extra details on the elephants of Sri Lanka:

Climate in Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Neither too warm nor too chilly, the general climatic pattern here at Pinnawala is just ideal, always lying somewhere between 20°C and 24°C. Rainfall and humidity are both moderate too. Temperatures are known to be comparatively higher during the months of March, April and May, while rainfall is most frequent and at its highest in terms of precipitation levels mid-year i.e. during June/July.

All thanks to this pleasant tropical climate that features an adequate amount of daylight hours, sunshine, warmth, precipitation and humidity, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has been a much wisely proposed spot to thrive on for its jumbo inhabitants. With this lovely tropical weather prevailing year round, visitors are at an advantage to come see the spectacle of the very best in wildlife conservation during any month of the year without worrying about any harsh weather patterns!

History of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

When it comes to an elephant orphanage Sri Lanka is prominently known for its flagship at Pinnawala, and the story of its inception dates all the way back to 1972 when the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation established this caring facility first and foremost at the Wilpattu National Park.

It was since shifted to a complex in Bentota, before arriving next at the National Zoological Gardens in Dehiwela, just on the outskirts of Colombo. Pinnawala was rendered as the final location 3 years later.

This Sri Lankan elephant orphanage had the primary aim of providing refuge to those elephants that had accidentally fallen into ditches due to various reasons or had been misplaced from its herd. Most of these elephants were baby elephants who would’ve been in search of water during the drought season, or babies who would’ve been abandoned by their mothers.

In 1982, a breeding program was also launched within this orphanage and several elephants have been successfully born since 1984. Along with these new family members within the herd, more orphaned baby elephants from the jungle’s wilderness were regularly brought in until 1995, till the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) at the Udawalawe National Park was officially opened. All orphaned elephants are now being directly transferred there, while additions to the herd at Pinnawala primarily consist of those that have been birthed via the breeding program.

How to get to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala is located in between the route from Colombo to Kandy, so if you are travelling from Colombo taking the Colombo-Kandy Highway is your best bet. Turning left after Kegalle and going further for another 3km from the Rambukkana junction is the precise direction towards the orphanage.

Since Kandy is a popular tourist destination, this elephant orphanage is a great spot to stop by en route Kandy. With a number of eateries and other spots for grabbing a quick bite and some refreshments, paying a visit here and watching the elephants blissfully enjoying the sunshine by the Maha Oya River is a splendid sight, rest assured.

An alternative method to reach Pinnawala is by taking an express train from Fort Railway Station in Colombo to Rambukkana. From here, taking a ride to the sanctuary over any three-wheeler is a convenient option.

Things to do in Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Here are some general details about the working routine of the orphanage, and what you can do while you’re visiting:

  • Daily opening and closing times of the orphanage: 8:30 AM to 6 PM,
  • Daily feeding times of elephants that visitors are allowed for viewing: 9:15 AM, 1 PM and 5 PM,
  • Daily bathing times of elephants that visitors are allowed for viewing: 10 AM and 2 PM (bathing sessions for the elephants last for 2 hours consecutively, so planning your tour itinerary such that you may be able to witness both spectacles of elephants being bottle fed and being taken in for bathing is ideal at best, lest you are only able to see the elephants in their sanctuaries!)
  • Taking photographs with elephants is also allowed, so you can take the golden opportunity to pose for a snap with one of the baby elephants as they bathe by the river, or while they’re being bottle fed!
  • Souvenir boutiques located at a close proximity present a delightful array of collectibles that you can take home to your family and friends. Made innovatively from items such as the hairs collected from elephants’ tails and even dung, stopping by to take a look in the least is sure to be an insightful experience, no doubt!