Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Sri Lanka

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Sri Lanka is an orphanage and breeding ground for wild elephants, which is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, Sri Lanka. The orphanage is situated in the village of Pinnawala, therefore, sometimes this elephant orphanage is also called “pinnawala orphanage” and “Pinnawala elephant park”.

Table of Contents

Pinnawala elephant orphanage Sri Lanka

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Sri Lanka is an orphanage and breeding ground for wild elephants, which is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, Sri Lanka. The orphanage is situated in the village of Pinnawala, therefore, sometimes this elephant orphanage is also called “pinnawala orphanage” and “Pinnawala elephant park”. Elephant orphanage is a It is part of most Sri Lanka tour itineraries such as Sri Lanka 4 days tours Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Bentota. Kandy is the biggest city close to Kandy and it is easy to reach the orphanage from Kandy, therefore, the orphanage is part of most Kandy trips too such as 3 day Kandy trip, and the Kandy one-day tour.

Origin of Pinnawala elephant orphanage Sri Lanka

Pinnawala elephant orphanage was founded by the department of wildlife conservation in 1975, on a 25-acre (10 ha) coconut plantation near the Maha Oya river. This Elephant Orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to the many orphaned elephants found in the jungle. Elephant Orphanage has the greatest herd of elephants in captivity in the world.

Kandy one-day tour from Bentot and Colombo

Kandy one day tour from Bentota and Kandy one day trip from Colombo are two very popular Sri Lanka short trips. There is a very high demand among the foreign travellers for these tour packages. Pinnawala elephant orphanage is part of both there are itineraries and it is one of the four must-visit places on the day trip from Bentota to Kandy and from Colombo to Kandy.

Kandy-Nuwara Eliya 2 days tour with the tea garden, Pinnawala elephant orphanage and tooth relic temple

Elephant Orphanage started with 5 baby elephants and it’s grown up to 81 elephants by 2010. Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage has now become one of the bigger Elephant Orphanages and is quite well-known worldwide.

While most of the elephants are healthy, one is blind, and one, named Sama was brought in from the northern part of the country, where there was a conflict, with the lower part of the front foot blown off by a landmine. This animal is growing up and is coping with that leg about six inches shorter than the other.

Life of the elephants at Pinnawala elephant orphanage

The aim of the Elephant Orphanage is to simulate the natural world. However, there are some exceptions: the elephants are taken to the river twice daily for a bath, and all the babies under three years of age are still bottle-fed by the mahouts and volunteers.

Each animal is also given around 76 kilograms (170 lb) of green manure a day and around 2 kg (4.4 lb) from a food bag containing rice bran and maize. There is very little food material that they can gather from the premises of the orphanage except for grass.

Large quantities of food are brought in daily. The leaves are mainly Coconut leaves (Cocos nucifera), but also branches from Jackfruit (Artocarpus Integra), leaves, branches and logs of the Kitul palm tree (Caryota urenus), from there is no stress or threat to the animals. Elephants get access to water twice a day, at the river.

The Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala is very popular among local and foreign tourists. Travellers have the opportunity to witness the elephant bath at Pinnawala, which is really a highlight for most travellers. The herd is heading to the river 2 times a day and spends 2 hours on each occasion. The visitors enjoy witnessing the interaction of animals, playing and bathing from the riverbank during the bathing hours.

Elephant orphanage Kandy

Sometimes foreign travellers refer to this place as “elephant orphanage Kandy“, maybe because Kandy is the most popular city near Pinnawala elephant orphanage. But the most appropriate name for this attraction is Pinnawala elephant orphanage.

Sometimes we get questions from Travellers like “how do we go to the elephant orphanage in Colombo”, but the answer is that there is no elephant orphanage in Colombo. There are 2 elephant orphanages in Sri Lanka at the moment, one is at Pinnawala and the second one is in Udawalawe. We discuss in this article the elephant orphanage in Pinnawala which is one fo the most popular tourist places in Kandy.

The photo is taken at the pinnawala elephant orphanage bathing time. Pinnawala elephant orphanage is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Sri Lanka can see the largest concentration of tames elephants in the world.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage Sri Lanka as a conservation and breeding point

Pinnawala elephant orphanage is the first-ever conservation and breeding centre, which is dedicated to elephants in Sri Lanka. Being a breeding point there are a number of babies were born in the orphanage in the past. Even some of the elephants have been able to see their grandchildren.

With the help of the government of Sri Lanka, the authorities of the Orphanage are well on their target. There are many programs were launched in the past in order to develop the elephant orphanage. Animal welfare, education and research on animals, and veterinary are some of the areas developed with the recent modernization.

With the newborn elephant on 17th January 2011, there are fifty-three elephants are born in the orphanage. The new baby was born to “Lasanda” and it is been her second baby.

The objectives of the Pinnawala elephant orphanage are

  • Animal Welfare – Keep the animal healthy by providing the best facilities, food and water, and provide the natural environment to the maximum.
  • Breading and Research – Carry out research programs in the fields of breeding, veterinary and zoology etc.
  • Education –Education program for people on the animal, their lifestyle, elephant conservation etc.
  • Exhibition – Enable the general public to see the elephants and experience the lifestyle of elephants.

Daily activities at the elephant orphanage

08.45 The babies are fed milk in the mornings and allowed to range freely on the 12 acres of large grassland.

10.00 Each morning and afternoon at 14.00 the animals are walked 400 meters to the river Maha Oya for a two-hour bath.

Between 16.30 and 1800 in the evening the animals are taken to their stalls and tethered for the night. Elephants are then given their evening feed which is milk again for the babies and leaves for the older ones. Plenty of food and water is available.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage timetable

  • 08.30 hrs-Opening of Elephant orphanage for visitors
  • 09.15 hrs-Pinnawala elephant orphanage feeding time (during the feeding orphan baby elephant are being fed by caretakers )
  • 10.00 hrs-Pinnawala elephant orphanage bathing time
  • 12.00 hrs-Return the elephants to the orphanage from the river
  • 13.15 hrs-Pinnawala elephant orphanage feeding time
  • 14.00 hrs-Pinnawala elephant orphanage bathing time
  • 16.00 hrs-Elephants return to the orphanage from the river
  • 17.00 hrs-Milk feeding
  • 18.00 hrs-Close of the elephant orphanage to visitors

Pinnawala elephant orphanage entrance fee

The entrance ticket counter is located at the main entrance of the Pinnawala elephant orphanage. Visitors are required to obtain an entrance ticket to enter the site. Even to go to the river when the elephants at the water, the visitors are required to buy an entrance ticket.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage entrance fee is categorized under 3 price ranges. The cheapest pinnawala elephant orphanage entrance fee is 100 Rs and it is for local adults. Pinnawala elephant orphanage entrance fee for travellers coming from SAARC countries is 1500 Rs while the entrance ticket price for all other nationals is 3000 Rs.

How to get there

Travelling to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage is much easier than visiting many other tourist places in Sri Lanka, due to its location near Kegalle. Kegalle is a major city in the central province and is connected to all major cities in Sri Lanka By public transport.

After reaching Kegalle the travellers need to travel around 14 km by bus or taxi on the Karandupona-Rambukkana road to reach the Pinnawala elephant orphanage.  The travellers who are coming either from Kandy or Colombo should turn towards Rambukkana at the Karandupona junction and travel around 10 minutes to reach the Pinnawala elephant orphanage.

Pinnawala elephant orphanage hotel

If you look for a Pinnawala elephant orphanage hotel don’t expect luxurious and comfortable accommodation facilities. Because there are no high-end or luxury boutique hotels here. Only a few small guesthouses are the only option for travellers wishing to spend a night near the orphanage.

Most travellers who visit the pinnawala elephant orphanage are making a short tour from Kandy and return to their hotel in Kandy after spending some time at the orphanage. Some other tourists visit pinnawala orphanages when they are heading to Kandy or Sigiriya from Colombo or vice versa. The journey from Pinnawala to Kandy takes around 1 hour and it takes around 3 hours to reach the Pinnawala elephant orphanage from, Colombo.

Visiting elephant orphanage

The elephant orphanage is situated in a beautiful village of Rambukkana and it is sitting amidst lush green vegetation. The orphanage is consisting of two main parts. The huge coconut land with a huge tank and a gigantic hut, which provide space for elephants. The huge coconut land provides plenty of space for jumbos to roam. The second part of the orphanage is the river, that flows next to this coconut land, which is the main bathnig spot for elephants. If you like to witness the elephant bath, the visitors need to take walk to the river from the orphanage. The narrow road from coconut plantations to the river is about 300 meters long and it is flank with numerous shops that sell cloth, Ceylon tea, Batik, Gems and Jewellry and Sri Lanka handicraft, therefore, the orphanage not only one of the best places to see elephants but also one of the best places for shopping in Sri Lanka.

Wild Elephant conservation in Sri Lanka

The ministry of wildlife in Sri Lanka is planning to establish four elephant conservation centres for aggressive wild elephants in Sri Lanka. First it will be established in Horowpathana, which is 220 km from the commercial capital of Colombo, covering 3,000 acres in the dry zone.

Horowpathana is identified as an area with a high wild elephant population, in the elephant census conducted in 2011. The selected area will be developed to meet the requirements of the wild elephants and the government has allocated Rs. 250 million for the project. Horowpathan is selected due to the abundance of forest lands, with suitable habitat for the elephants.

The conservation centres will mainly focus on resettling the aggressive wild animals in the designated centres. Several wild animals that live in a few places behave very aggressively killing people and making damage to the properties. These animals will be identified in the initial stage and will be kept in the conservation centres.

Human-elephant conflict

Human-elephant conflict on the island has developed to a critical level causing extensive damage to humans as well as wild elephants. The shrinking habitat of the wild animals and the increasing elephant population are the main reason for the human-elephant conflict.

The numbers of people being killed by wild elephants are on the rise every year due to the intensifying human-elephant conflict. The most recent such incidents are the two deaths of people in southern Sri Lanka.

The killer animal was captured in May 2012 and moved to a Yala national park where the animal has a meagre chance of going to a village. Recently another incident was reported in Kataragama where a wild elephant is roaming in the areas of Sella Kataragama.

Wild elephants break into the villages at night and destroy the properties in the neighbouring villages of national parks and sanctuaries in Sri Lanka. Especially during the drought period, there is a substantial increase in such incidents.

Lack of water and food during the drought makes elephants leave the national parks in search of water and food. There are a number of wild animals with an aggressive attitude that causes most of the destruction of a human. Those wild elephants will be identified and restricted to the conservation centres.

Authorities said that the conservation centre provides an environment, which is very similar to the environment of the natural habitat of wild elephants. The proposed conservation centre will be surrounded by an electrified fence to stop the animals from leaving the park.

Wildlife authorities are planning to recover the expenses of maintenance of the conservation centres by allowing tourists to visit the park. Tourists are allowed to make safari tours against an entrance fee similar to Yala National park, Udawalawa national park, and Wilpattu national park. According to the wildlife authorities, other than the maintenance cost there will be additional expenses for providing food for the wild animals in the conservation centre.

The number of wild elephants in Sri Lanka was reduced in the early 1900s and end of the 1800s due to hunting as recreation, shooting elephants to protect crops and deforestation. It was estimated that the number of wild elephants on the island had been reduced to 1500 by 1951.

According to the research done on wild elephants in 1971 by Prof. Jorg M.Macay, the number of wild elephants in the wild is estimated to be between 1600- 2000. But the Wild elephant census in Sri Lanka, which was conducted in 2011, showed a sharp increase of wild elephants on the island since the counting of Mr Macay.  Today Sri Lanka is the island with the highest number of wild elephants in Asia.

Some of the best places to observe Sri Lanka wild elephants

Undoubtedly, the Pinnawala elephant orphanage is one of the best places to see in Sri Lanka due to large concentration ofelephants. Elephants at Pinnawala orphanage have a huge coconut land to roam around, plenty of water to drink, medicine when they are sick,  a river to have a bath, and plenty of food. But, still, the animal at Pinnawala is not totally free.

They do not live in a place where they naturally belong. So, if you wish to see an elephant in their native then it is time to take part in a Sri Lanka safari. There are many places to do the safari and observe wild elephants in Sri Lanka.

The most popular wildlife reserves for wild elephant sightings are;

1. Minneriya national park

2. Udawalawe national park

3. Yala national park.

Seerendipity tours organize pinnawala elephant orphanage tour combined with Kandy sightseeing tour. Sometimes they organize just the tour, Colombo to pinnawala elephant orphanage due to the customer’s demand. Whatever your requirement you can get it organized through Seerendipity tours. You can get more information on these tours by writing to

The role of the elephant in the society

The elephant is captured and tamed to use for various activities on the island of Sri Lanka. The history of taming wild elephants is going back more than two thousand years. They were used for transporting heavy items and as a weapon in the war.

Mahawamsa, one of the earliest chronicles of Sri Lanka, is dramatically elaborate a brave act of Elephant Kandula, the most loved elephant of King Dutugemunu (2nd Century BC). Kandula had destroyed the huge wall of King Elara’s fortification allowing the soldiers to enter the fort.

Every tamed elephant is accompanied by a companion known as Mahout. Therefore, the art of taming elephants is a lesson need to be learned by every mahout. The knowledge of elephants is handed down from generation to generation for the last several centuries, today it is known as Hasti Silpa and Hasti Shastraya (“knowledge of handling elephant”).

Hasti Silpa can be described as a type of caste, according to which the animals are categorized. Narrow eyes, light-coloured hair on the head, narrow face and black tongue are some of the prominent characteristics of low caste elephants.

 The upper-cast elephant known as the ‘Brahmana caste’, shows completely different signs compared to the low-cast elephants. They have a light complexion, bright red-coloured mouth and tongue, wide and well-built forehead, rectangular earlaps, big trunk with small patches of rose coloured at the low end and friendly eyes.

In Buddhism elephant is given a prominent place. On the other hand, people have tamed them and trained the elephants to do various tedious tasks after realizing their highly developed brains.

Depending on the availability of tusks elephants are categorized into two categories. In Sri Lanka, only about 7% of wild elephants carry the tusks. Those called ‘Tuskers’ are males with one distinct hormone, which generates the tusks.

The elephants had been an important income generator for the rulers of the country for many centuries, especially during the Dutch and British colonial eras. According to historical information, wild elephants in great numbers were exported by Dutch and British rulers from then called Ceylon.

Today tamed elephants are mainly used for activities with a religious background.  A temple procession without an elephant is very rare in the country.

The most famous temple procession that takes place annually in Kandy (Dalada Perehera) is participated by more than 100 elephants. An elephant is entrusted to carry the most sacred element of Buddhists on the island (the left eye tooth of Buddha), around the city.

According to Mahawamsa, the ancient chronicle, this event started in the 2nd century BC and elephants are participating in the event from the very beginning of the event. At present, the total number of tamed elephants in the country is estimated to be around 150.

Taming of elephants is sharply reduced during the last several centuries, due to the usage of heavy machinery and protection given under the fauna flora act. The elephant is declared a protected animal in Sri Lanka, therefore capturing the elephant can be very costly for the people who are involved in the act. Today Sri Lanka boasts to be the country with the most number of wild elephants in the region (5800) and it continues to grow.