|PINNAWALA ELEPHANT HISTORY
Sri Lankan elephants known as Aliya or Etaha (tusker) by local people are the most loved animal by Sri Lankans. They have a fascinating behavior to watch and have a great National value as a tourist attraction. There are many National parks around the country to see elephants. Pinnawala established and Udawalawe the world’s first elephant orphanages which take care of baby elephants that lost their way or injured in the jungle.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is the home for about 70 elephants, out of which many are baby elephants found, abandoned or orphaned in the wild. They are being cared, fed and trained by the wild life authorities. The best time to visit is during the feeding times, when one will have the opportunity of seeing the baby elephants being bottle-fed. Also could accompany the elephants to a river close-by and see the elephants having their daily bath.
It was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut property on the Maha Oya River at Rambukkana. The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers. In most of these cases the mother had either died or been killed. In some instances the baby had fallen into a pit and in others the mother had fallen in and died.
In 1978 the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens from the Department of Wildlife and a captive breeding program launched in 1982. At Pinnawala an attempt was made to simulate, in a limited way, the conditions in the wild. Animals are allowed to roam freely during the day and a herd structure allowed forming.
The Department of National Zoological Gardens has set up an orphanage for baby elephants at Pinnawala which is about 13 Km. from Kegalle Town. On the Kegalle- Rambukkana Road.
Kegalle is 77 Km, from Colombo on the Colombo- Kandy road and the turn off to the orphanage is at the Karandupona Junction.
The orphanage was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants found abandoned by their mothers. Often the young ones fall into pits and ravines in their quest for water during drought period. Other inmates at the orphanage are those displaced from their natural environs by development projects or those found diseased or wounded.
The orphanage is 32 years old. The animals that were brought during the initial years are now capable of breeding and have in fact bred.
The first birth at Pinnawala was in 1984, a female, to Vijaya and Kumar who were aged 21 and 20 years respectively at the time of the birth. Initially the breeding animals consisted of males Vijaya and Neela and females Kumari, Anusha, Mathalie and Komali. The father of the first three calves born at Pinnawala was Vijaya. It was not possible to determine the father of the new calves since many males used to mate with the females’ anoestrus. Now through DNA fingerprinting the fathers of three have definitely been identified. Vijaya and Kumari have produced three calves at intervals of five and four years. In 1993 Vijaya and Kumari were 30 and 29years respectively. Upto the middle of 1998 there have been fourteen births, eight males and six females at Pinnawala.