Small islands don’t have big animals- goes the saying, not actually so for Sri Lanka. The little emerald island with population less than 17 of Indian states has a big population of elephants. And actually Sri Lankan elephants are largest among the Asian elephants and only two species of African elephants are bigger than Sri Lankan elephants. But Sri Lankan elephants had their share of tragedy because of civil war. Pinnawala elephant orphanage came in handy during that time. Although it was established in 1975 to take care of the orphaned or abandoned baby elephants found in the wild, but many injured elephants in the civil war also found shelter there. Orphanage earned its most popularity during that time.
Pinnawala is known to have a largest herd of captive elephants in the world. It started with seven orphans in 1975 and many of their grandchildren are still here. There are more than 80 elephants in the camp currently. This Pinnawala camp is also a breeding centre for elephants.
Pinnawala elephant camp is located near Kegalle town, which is somewhere between country’s existing capital Colombo and its ancient capital Kandy. It is also one of the most popular destinations for the tourists coming to Sri Lanka. Its a treat watching these elephants here. Only painful irony is that any elephant once here is never sent back to wild. They have the remain as a pet for their remaining life.
Camp remains open for tourists from 8 in the morning till 6 in the evening. There is a well-crafted schedule for the elephants to lure tourists. Included in this schedule is a bathing routine for all elephants twice daily for two-two hours at 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. The herd goes to the Maha Oya river near by, a most sought after event for the tourists.
A look at few moments from this routine-
Most interesting is the moment when all elephants turn back to camp, as soon as they hear the siren which marks the end of the bathing time. Watching baby elephants here playing in the river with their mothers is a delightful sight. Have a look-
To keep tourists in good humour, few of baby elephants are bottle fed in front of tourists three times a day- 9 in the morning, 1.15 in the afternoon and 5 in the evening. (See a short video)
Dung of the elephants is also used here to make paper and many products are made out of it. Actually, elephant dung paper is a big industry here, so much so that products made out of elephant dung paper are second in terms of souvenir taken by tourists coming to Sri Lanka ranking behind the Sri Lankan tea.
Bow to these mighty innocents!!!