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Is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Really An Orphanage or a Prison?

For years, I have been hearing good things about this place called Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage located near Kegalle in Sri Lanka. As a person who loves to be close to nature and has a special place in the heart for animals, I just couldn’t wait to go to the orphanage.


Elephants roaming freely in the wild, playing with their fellow mates, bathing in the Maha Oya River, excellent veterinary care and timely meals for the elephants – are all that I had expected from the world-famous Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. I mean, that’s what an orphanage is meant to be for in the first place, right?!

To my utter disappointment, what I saw in real was shocking! I felt cheated.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a ‘prison’ for elephants. I didn’t feel any difference between a zoo and the orphanage. The elephants were kept behind bars in small enclosures, almost all of them were in chains, the mahouts poked them with ankush (a sharp-edged iron rod), the tourists posed with the elephants as if they were in a museum. For a tourist to click a picture, the mahout would poke the elephant to lift its trunk. Sad, no one really noticed the ankush.




Another tourist attraction at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was feeding the elephants. It might sound very fancy and adventurous but believe me it’s not. Out of so many elephants, only one of them was being fed, that too all day long. Yes, elephants do eat a lot but they also have a limit. The elephant which was being fed was obese.



Also, as the elephants were in chains, their waste was dumped right where they were standing and they were bathing in dirty water.



Within moments, I turned from an excited traveller to a distressed wanderer. Elephants are intelligent animals, they ‘never forget’ things. It is sad that elephants will never forget the torturous lives they have been given.

Elephants Never Forget


— Blog by Isabelle

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