Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Elephant Orphanage is an unfamiliar terminology, but it's absolutely true and real. The secluded premises dedicated to provide a natural habitat for captive elephant's weeks old babies to fifty-year-old parents and grand parents. The herd can be sited in the orphanage-only place of its kind of this population on earth to date.
The Pinnawela elephant orphanage was established in 1975 on a land area of nine hectares, a prime land of coconut plantation. At the inception there were only seven orphans. Some members of this generation now given birth to the second and third generation and the story continues.
Even though the orphanage has been focused on tourist attraction, currently this location is a research centre concerned with conservation and education about elephants.
Pinnawala elephant orphanage launched a scientific captive breeding programs with the assistance of the local and foreign experts. The environment provides the necessary freedom for the movement of elephants and to mate.
The river the 'Maha Oya' by the side of the orphanage plays a vital role and enable the elephants to mix and choose their partners. The records have been written already in the history book, when the first baby elephant named "Kumar".
The inmates of the orphanage was generally brought in their early ages, and they were victims of the confrontation either with the humans or the nature. Causes of nature are primarily due to desperate search for water, and muddy fields are traps for these innocent creatures.
Every activity of the Pinnawala elephant orphanage has been planned to a timetable. The baby elephants are bottle fed at 7.00 a.m. The gates are opened for visitors at 8.30 a.m., while the elephants take the stride to the valley near by and to the eastern side of the orphanage. They could settle to move about in freedom, as many enjoy the mud/dust bath.
At around 10.00 a.m. the herd of elephants move to the river for a refreshing bath. The river - 'Maha Oya' - is the third largest river in Sri Lankan, in terms of volume of water carried to sea.
The river possess the characteristics that provide a ideal bathing atmosphere to elephants. The rocky bottom of the river provides isolated swallow pools, where elephants dip to splash and bathe. The water level generally is 1/2 metre high and the river provide continuous flow of water in the dry months - February, July and August except in November and June where the volume would fluctuate.
In the background a mountain range covered by a tropical rain forest in the western horizon rises over the coconut and Kumbuk Trees.
By 1.15 p.m. baby elephants receive another dose of milk while grown-up elephants receive snake of pellets. At 2.00 p.m. the elephants proceed to the river and remain bathing until 4.00 p.m. After this refreshing dip they return to the sheds.
At this time elephants receive their routine feed of foliage comprised of Kitul Palm and trunk palm, coconut palm and Jak tree including other varieties of plants of the big family.
The average quantity of food intake of a grown up elephant is 300 kg of foliage and 200 litres of water daily. Baby elephants feed on formula II powdered milk 5.5 litres as a time to make total of 27.5 litres a day. They normally get 2-3 meals in the night depending on the age and size.
More orphans join the orphanage year by year the captive population grows and the breeding continues in the orphanage. The Pinnawala Orphanage has recorded sixteen elephant births. The birth statistics reveal that there was only one mortality stillbirth, within its 24 years of operation.
To day, the elephants in orphanage give birth to at least two elephants in every year. It's expected this want should increase in the future.
Among the inmates of the orphanage, one can see that there are elephants that are different in the their physical attributes.
'Raja' the blind tusker was a significant attraction. Mainly due to his well-formed tusks longer than 1.2 metres, the elephant is simply glorious! But, one can be misled to think that this tusker is absolutely normal. If would be very pathetic to learn that this Jimbo was blind!
'Sama' a female six year's old elephant found in the jungle wandering with untold pain due to a injury to her foreleg. Thanks to the medical treatment received on time, which give her a relief, but the leg is shorter than the regular ones. She walks limping as the whole body rests mostly on one foreleg.
9 year's old 'Kiri Menika's story is interesting. She totally depends on milk as her main source of food to live. She developed a throat problem and finds it difficult to swallow solid food.
The management of the orphanage has taken due care to see to the welfare of visitors within the premises. There are restaurants and hotels close to the Orphanage, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has got a museum and a laboratory where, keen visitors of elephants could clarify their doubts.
They could obtain the information leaflets and other documentary records at a reasonable price.
What's special about is that; the orphanage is open every day of the year to visitors.
Sunday Observer, 25 March 2007
Created June 24, 2007