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The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is set in 26 acres of jungle in the foothills of the central Sri Lankan highlands. There are 30 elephants there that range in ages from a few days to 25 years. The orphanage was started in 1975 to take care of the large number of elephants orphaned by the shooting of their parents during land clearance. Six elephants were the first inhabitants.

Elephants are most commonly orphaned by the young falling into wells or ravines.
If the parents can not extract them they will be abandoned as the herd moves on. Sometimes orphans are made when their parents die either of natural causes or are shot by farmers or ivory hunters. Pinnawela recieves about seven orphans each year.

The younger elephants are fed from a bottle until they are old enough to forage for themselves. Seven times a day the orphans wait to be taken to a long low shed to gulp down 5 litres of milk. They wait, swaying rhythmically, for their turn to be given the bottle but they won’t hesitate to trumpet loudly if they think another has got their turn. As a treat in the afternoon they get extra rice balls coated in honey.

Sadly this unique institution is threatened not only by financial cuts but by Sri Lanka’s civil war that rages in the area.

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