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“go to the Millennium Elephant Foundation instead”

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Ranked #1 of 3 things to do in Pinnawala
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Reviewed February 2, 2012

If you only have the time to go to one Elephant Sanctuary, pop up the road and go to the Millennium Elephant Foundation instead (or Elephant Bath as many of the local guides call it).

Initial good impressions formed by the entrance area, efficient entrance staff, with 2000 rupee charge and clean toilets quickly disintegrated into nothing more than a disorganised and slightly distressing event. I am not an over zealous animal lover but to I was truly disgusted.

Whilst it was amazing to see the array of elephants, especially the babies, there was no explanation as to what was going on in the various parts of the orphanage, tips were constantly demanded by the handlers with other seemingly, non-staff members taking cameras from customers to take pictures of them with the elephants and they too also demanding money. The handlers were inconsistent with the elephants, with shouting and use of ankhs /stick, one minute encouraging them to get closer to people for the obligatory photo opp and then hurriedly moving the elephants away again, more shouting, more stick .

Particularly distressing were elephants chained to a fence with no shade opportunities near them and an old elephant chained up tightly, interestingly I didn't see him when they were all moved to the river.

At the river we chose to stand at street level, to avoid the other tourist scam of getting you into one of the hotels to pay for an overpriced drink and it was amazing to see them go past and watch them in the river but again it was disorganised. There were signs everywhere saying “do not to feed the elephants”, whilst staff members seemingly encouraged people to do exactly that by buying bananas from the street hawkers.

These elephants maybe in an orphanage but I didn't feel that their care and treatment was a priority. An amazing opportunity to inform and educate a huge amount of people has been totally lost.

13  Thank NaomiSNibs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed February 1, 2012

We were staying in Hotel Elephant Bay and after having breakfeast while watching elephants taking a bath and also feeding one of elephnats (for a tip of course) we continued to Elephant Orphanage, but I have to admitt that seeing them in river was more fun for us as adults and especially for kids (4y and 1,5y). We were late for baby elephant feeding with milk but our driver organized it only for us (for a tip of course).

If I would go to Pinnawala once again with kids then I would choose option of staying in a hotel and money saved on Elephant Orphanage entry tickets would use for chance for kids to feed elephants with bananas. That's my opinion.

Thank wiindy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 30, 2012

We have just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka and our first trip was to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The visit made me question my decision to spend a family holiday in Sri Lanka.

We arrived in time for feeding to find two young elephants chained up inside a small pen, surrounded by tourists. The elephants were visibly distressed and tourists were laughing at their cries of frustration as they struggled with the chains. Our children were disturbed by what they saw and asked to leave rather than wait for the actual feeding. They could not understand why the animals could be mistreated in such a way and were just as shocked by the factor that tourists found such behavior amusing.

We had lunch by the river and watched the elephants bathe there a little later. This was a much more pleasant experience. What was concerning though was that the elephants, especially the younger ones, seemed unusually subdued. We left with the impression that the orphanage may have started off with good intentions but that the tourist dollar rather than the wellbeing of the animals has sadly become the driving force.

We sincerely regret paying money to this facility because we believe that by doing so, albeit with the best of intentions, we may have unwittingly facilitated the mistreatment of such wonderful animals.

16  Thank Trunkix4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 30, 2012

We got back from Sirlanka on Sunday, on the Wednesday we attented the so called elephant "orphange" expecting it to be a caring environment with happy elephants. Unfortuneatly this was not the case, the baby elephants were chained in a barn, so that tourists could pay money to feed them and get there picture taken, they were very agitated and distressed. Following this we were brought to what could only be called a cage like box were a blind elephant was kept chained with little room to move. Opposite this was a field were lots of elephants were feeding many chained, 3 other elephants were kept away from the others chained from the neck and all feet chained together, when I asked why I was told, " they are bad elephants, dangerous". There were numerous men with sharp spears with a hook on the side so when the tourist wants there picture taken the man sticks the metal hook into the animals back of ear to drag it over, while the elephant screams out in pain! This was a horrific experience to see such beautiful animals so misserable being exploited and abused, to make matters worse its tourists money that is keeping them in business! Shameful also the elephant riding place next door to the orphange was worse 2 of the elephants were bleeding from wounds that appeared to be cane marks on its side, we did witness the staff assault the animals with a pole previously! I hope it gets shut down.

15  Thank 26f
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 30, 2012

We visited some years ago and were looking forward to taking friends during our current trip. Firstly the charges have doubled and then doubled again. The elephants you used to be able to mix with are now closely tethered and segregated. The display was of one man hosing down one elephant for an eternity. Feeding involved 2 small tethered elephants. And the previous free facility of watching the elephants bathe in the river whilst enjoying a hugely overpriced drink is now charged for (and the drinks are still hugely overpriced!

I'd recommend giving this a miss until clear evidence emerges that they have got their act togther and have started charging sensibly.

2  Thank taxdoug
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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