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“Animal Care”

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Ranked #1 of 3 things to do in Pinnawala
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Attraction details
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Belmont, California
Level 4 Contributor
41 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
“Animal Care”
Reviewed 17 August 2014

The Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala, Sri Lanka is one of its kind in the world.
It is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground all " under one roof ".
Elephants that are driven away from their herd, those that have fallen into open wells, tanks, or slipped and fallen down a hill side are all brought here, treated by veterinary doctors specialized in elephant care and domesticated.
It looked as though it was the largest herd of three generation of elephants, in the world - I may be wrong.
There are over 50 mahouts to look after these elephants.
There are quite a few young girls looking after the very young elephants.
There are quite a number of them there, many of them are so young that they are bottle fed.
Very playful young elephants.
There is one big elephant there which was badly injured when it stepped on a land mine.
He cannot stand on its own and is propped up by supports, one leg is bent.
I was told that it has been standing like this for the last 22 years.
No one is allowed to go near it, but my niece managed to up to him, talk to him, and as though he understood what she was saying, put out his trunk to caress her.
I don't understand why the orphanage is making suffer like this, he should haven put to sleep when they found that he couldn't have a normal life.
Any way, it was nice to watch the large herd of elephants following a young elephant, who I was told was the " leader " to the river for their daily bath.

Visited August 2014
Thank Chachan321
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Auckland Region, New Zealand
Level 3 Contributor
19 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Fascinating - but remember these are wild elephants not tame zoo elephants.”
Reviewed 16 August 2014

The elephants seem to be looked after very well. They go down to the river twice a day for several hours - so have plenty of fun and recreation. They are well fed - 75kgs per day each. And even the elephant with only 3 legs - land mine - seem happy. There was no evidence of pacing back and forward or other signs of distress. We enjoyed our visit.

There are plenty of reports and stories about these elephants being sold to temples and others who may mistreat them; NOT seeing them at the orphanage probably doesn't change that and hopefully the entry fees are put to good use.
We were offered a closer encounter with the elephants - hand feeding the bananas - and then asked for cash but once it was clear we didn't agree to any payment, we were left in peace. A firm no was all it took. Otherwise, an very interesting and enjoyable couple of hours. I'd recommend it to friends and family.

Visited July 2014
1 Thank Simon B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level 4 Contributor
33 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 August 2014 via mobile

I wanted to make my own mind up after reading all the reviews. I left still not knowing how I felt and slightly concerned at the 2,500 entry price.

I think this place started for the right reasons but tourism is taking over from its main purpose and they're getting carried away with the feeding and photos and touching them etc (none of which I did)

It's a sight to be seen but obviously the best thing would be to go and see elephants on safari.

Thank CatSutcliffe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level 5 Contributor
40 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“Poorly treated elephants”
Reviewed 15 August 2014

I have very mixed feelings on this place. Considering it's an orphanage, from what we could see the elephants weren't treated that well. All the elephants had chains around their legs, some around their necks too, and the ones who were chained to something had very short chains so couldn't move much. There was one extremely sad looking baby elephant who was chained to a fence, and she was rocking and rubbing her feet trying to get the chains off. Eventually they allowed her mother near her, who calmed her down a little, but the poor baby was still clearly distressed. When I asked why she was chained, the keeper simply said 'training', and refused to elaborate. A lot of the other elephants were rubbing at their chains as well, and we saw one pick up a stick and poke at the chains. We paid 350Rs so I could feed a baby elephant their milk, which was a good experience but lasted about 30 seconds as they drink the milk extremely quickly! We then went down to watch them bathe in the river, which was a nicer experience. They all looked very content here, although were still chained. The keepers invited people into the river with them to bathe the elephants which was one of the best experiences. Another downer on this place was the fact that if you touched an elephant or washed one, the keeper would ask you for money, and when you didn't oblige would pretend you didn't exist and not let you near their elephant anymore. Seemed a bit corrupt to me.

Visited August 2014
Thank Tilly M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cheltenham, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
194 reviews
62 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 181 helpful votes
“Yes and No!”
Reviewed 14 August 2014

Widely divergent reviews a feature of this attraction. My view is somewhere in the middle. On the basis that we believed that orphan elephants were being rescued we were happy to visit. On the day we went there no tourists being obnoxious! Some elephants (younger ones) were roaming freely away from the visitors, some were walking freely but with legs dragging a chain, presumably to prevent them from running off and a few, mostly adult bulls were chained up. The babies being bottle fed were chained to their feeding station but not so tightly that they could not move. Frankly it is fairly naive to believe that elephants are going to be allowed to roam freely amongst human beings. Even the National Parks containing elephants have strategically placed electric fencing. We were not approached to be photographed with an elephant and we saw no evidence of cruel treatment by the mahouts. The land mine damaged elephant is not right next to the main visiting area but it is plainly in view some 50 metres away. This is an ill-considered decision by the management. It is an upsetting sight and this poor creature should be humanely put out of its misery ( my opinion of course).
The cost is approx UK£7.50 per adult and if this is supporting orphan elephants then all well and good. However there is not a great deal to keep adults occupied for any length of time.
The highlight is the river bathing, described by other reviewers.This is not in the orphanage but down a public highway opposite the entrance and is free. Again we saw no evidence whatsoever of ill treatment and the male elephants who went down first at around 10 am were happily lying in the water and were not chained down to the rocks although they were wearing leg chains. The site of the females coming down at around 12 o'clock with their young and entering the water and being washed down by the mahouts and then playing in the water is something that I shall remember with pleasure for a very long time. Again we saw no evidence of ill treatment. We were not hassled in any way by traders along the street apart from friendly banter.
My suggestion to anybody who has misgivings about the orphanage is to request that your driver take you to the river only. arrive at about 11.45, the males will already be there and the females will come a little bit later. Go up one floor of the restaurant on the left hand side and you will have a perfect view and can have refreshments or even lunch as we did and you will be away from the hustle and bustle and dust of street level.

Visited July 2014
1 Thank Mr. MJB
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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