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“Elephant Orphanage - Pinnawala”

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
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Private Kandy Day Tour with Pinnawala From Bentota
Ranked #1 of 4 things to do in Pinnawala
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Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Reviewed 18 July 2014

Nice place to watch Sri Lankan elephants very closely and their daily activities such as playing, feeding and bathing.

1  Thank Malaka Sanjaya W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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1,957 - 1,961 of 3,509 reviews

Reviewed 17 July 2014

I volunteered at the orphanage for a month in 2013. At that time the orphanage had two babies that were kept in a separate enclosure and bottle fed. Three times a day they were taken to a feeding place were houndreds of tourists could watch them bottle feed. The tourists could also pay extra to feed the babies one bottle and have pictures taken. I witnessed on EVERY occasion that the babies were in distress and it was heartbreaking to see. If they walked the wrong direction towards the feeding place their handlers would hit them with wooden sticks. At the feeding place they were then chained in one front and one hind leg. They always pooped on themselves which I have later learned is a sign of distress, you could see the panic in their eyes and they were always screaming.

The zoo staff told me that the babies were rescued orphans found in the jungle, abandoned by their mothers, that they had fallen and got trapped in water pits whereas the mother was force to abandon the baby. I have later read from organisations such as PETA that the babies are not rescued in the jungle but born at the orphanage by the adult elephants and that they are taken from their mothers at birth - in the purpose of making money such as the bootle feeding occasions.

I also witnessed the adult elephants being bullied and tormented by their care takers, and at one point I saw the "chief care taker" beat an elephant repeatedly with an umbrella. During opening hours the elephants ran free over the orphanage but as soon as the orphanage closed the elephants were chained in stables THE ENTIRE CLOSED TIME, not being able to move for a good 12-14 hours a day!!!

Adult males in musths were chained in all four legs and kept in separate enclosures which tourists were not allowed to see or even aware of. I recommend readers to google about musth in elephants if you want to know more, but I have learned that keeping them chained extends the musth period and causes the elephant a great deal of physical and mental suffering. They suffered wounds around their feet from being constantly chained and were not allowed to be shown for visitors until the wounds were healed.

Although the orphanage is better than nothing for the elephants, I cannot recommend tourists to visit the orphanage from an ethical point of view, since I believe tht visitors are decieved and that the main concern of the staff is to exploit the animals to make as much money possible.

13  Thank Jasmin382
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 July 2014

This place has recently been in the news for maltreating of elephants in Sri Lanka and I think with good reason. I did not like to see how the lazy mahouts allow the elephants to walk to the river with their way too tight chains on. Some elephants got the chain caught on rocks in the river and had issues breaking free. One baby elephant with a huge chain on his hind leg came up to us, raising his foot as if asking (I am sure he was) to please take off the chain. It made me almost cry. The mahouts have to prove their manlihood by being rough with some ellies. Really a stupid thing to do with tourists around.
I hope they will seriously address these issues as I believe the place is need for the "war elephants".
Also, there is one elephant that just stands there. He lost half his front leg in a mine accident and refused a prosthesis a German Dr. applied. So, now, the poor creature is sitting in the same place day in, day out, eating, being sprayed down with water when needed and cared for. I think there is a time and a place when animals need to be put out of their misery. This one is literally begging for it.
Anyhow, please go and see the place though. It's still worth it.

1  Thank susannita77
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 July 2014

Apparently this place was set up to look after orphaned elephants - the sole aim now seems to maximise the revenue from tourists. All the investment seems to be going into guest facilities (a brand new toilet block that wouldn't look out of place in a 5 star hotel) and not much for the elephants. As for the mahouts - their sole aim is to get money from tourists. The guy who took a couple of photos of me demanded (substantial) payment for himself and his 4 colleagues - leaving a bitter taste in the mouth from what should have been the archetypal Sri Lanka experience. Sorry to say but avoid at all costs.

8  Thank phatbear9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 10 July 2014

This orphanage keeps the babies separate from their mothers so tourists can spend money on food and feed the babies. The babies are very distressed at being away from their mothers and cry a lot. God knows how the mothers feel. The babies are chained front leg and back leg so they can hardly move. They are cruelly beaten and constantly prodded by their mahouts who are supposed to care for them. Anyone going there should know they are supporting a very cruel trade. Just don't go!

9  Thank Gunila2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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