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“Up close and personal with the Elephants” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Colombo-Kandy Road | 90km from Colombo, Pinnawala, Sri Lanka
+94-35-2-26-52-84
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Ranked #1 of 1 things to do in Pinnawala
Useful Information: Activities for older children
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Useful Information: Activities for older children
Melbourne, Australia
Contributor
17 reviews 17 reviews
9 attraction reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“Up close and personal with the Elephants”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 21, 2013

We were lucky enough to arrive here when the elephants were down having a bath in the local river. There are about 90 elephants in the orphanage from babies upwards. Down at the river we had morning tea as we watched these incredible animals playing in the water (just like human children), and just standing around gossiping (just like human adults). Time's up, and they all very obediently filed up through the market place (most of the windows had temporary metal shutters up while the elephants went past), and back to the orphanage to be fed. We were able (for a small fee) to feed them and be photographed with them. These are elephants that have been found abandoned or orphaned as babies in the wild. They are not returned to the wild but are cared for, fed and trained by the wild life authorities.

Visited October 2013
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Sohar, Oman
Top Contributor
50 reviews 50 reviews
21 attraction reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
46 helpful votes 46 helpful votes
“Enchanting by the river”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 18, 2013

We all loved this visit. You see the herd behind the boulders and in the river which was enchanting to see.
The cute baby elephants are chained but as well as being cute they are heavy. My daughter fed one of the elephants which she enjoyed because she felt safe. These animals are orphaned and need to be fed though I do realise this is a way to raise money or maybe pay for the bottle of milk that you feed the orphaned elephant. I think its worth remembering that they would die in the wild ortherwise.
They also bring in from the wild adult males who have tusks so that the poachers don't kill them, an elderly elephant who is chained was one such elephant.
I find it more alarming that there are some other elephant riding places between the orphanage and the Millenium Elephant Sanctuary on relatively small pieces of land.

Visited October 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
7 attraction reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
33 helpful votes 33 helpful votes
“We'll never go back here.”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed October 18, 2013

This is no more an orphanage than a kitten tied to a stick and pelted with stones is an orphanage.

Foreigners pay 2500 rupees to get into this exhibit and Sri Lankans 100. Neither gets any explanation of the work of the orphanage, the need for such work or how the orphanage is investing our 2500 rupees into bettering the lives of the elephants in its care. As you walk around, you start to realise why - there is no focus on education or familiarisation at all - and no evidence of any focus on animal welfare whatsoever. This is spectacle, not conservation at work.

It's actually mildly revolting. The animals are chained, some exhibiting clear locked-in syndrome behaviour. The 'mahouts' control the animals using barbed pikes. You can feed a (unhealthily fat-looking) elephant a bowl of fruit for a fee and have your photo taken. You can watch others eating leaves as they wander about in puddles of their own faeces in concrete pens.

There's no clear signage. There's a shop you have to exit through.

Crossing the road, you can watch the elephants bathing. This daily spectacle is best viewed from two restaurants with balconies overlooking the river. The elephants enjoy the water. Two of the elephants are encouraged - in front of the more expensive hotel balcony - to immerse themselves. This is achieved with pokes and scratches from the mahout's pike. It's all heart-warming stuff: the exploitation of animals for tourists gawping from perches in concession-paying outlets reached through an alleyway of tourist trap hucksters pushing 'elephant poo paper' and various other knick knacks.

Government-run, you do wonder if this is not some strange microcosm of Sri Lankan governance, but this is the route to acute depression, so it's time to move on and never return.

Visited October 2013
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“Not as advertised”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed October 18, 2013

Do not go here! This orphanage is not an orphanage but a glorified zoo. The elephants are not all rescued but born there. The handlers whip and poke the elephants with metal tipped sticks. Many of the elephants we saw wore heavy chains. This was a very sad and overpriced operation.

Was this review helpful? Yes 8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
5 attraction reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“An exploitive experience”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed October 17, 2013

We went despite the negative reviews as it is "on the list". We wish we had not. If you want your elephants as chained exhibits then you will not be disappointed. This is more like a petting zoo. Granted baby elephants are cute but if you have to chain them front right foot and back left foot so that paying punters can hold a bottle of milk and have their picture taken feeding them then to me this seems wrong. I am sure this is all for the safety of the public or some such but that misses the point. The public should not be there in the first place.

If you want to see these beautiful creatures there are parks in Sri Lanka where they have more freedom to roam. Go there, not here.

To be fair there is an open area where the elephants can roam without much interference, when they are not being exhibit of the day, but it does not make up for the other part in my book.

Visited October 2013
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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