Located in the serene village of Pinnawala, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage serves as a haven and breeding center for wild Asian elephants. Established with the noble aim of providing care and protection to orphaned and unweaned elephants, the orphanage has burgeoned into the home of the world’s largest captive elephant herd. Initially founded with five baby elephants, the orphanage’s family has since expanded through the addition of orphaned babies and the implementation of breeding programs, fostering three generations of elephants.

Managed by the Department of National Zoological Gardens Sri Lanka since 1978, the orphanage has transformed into a prominent tourist attraction, attracting visitors from across the globe. Here, tourists can observe the elephants’ daily routines, from bottle-feeding the calves to engaging in social interactions and bathing in the Ma Oya River. With an open-door policy, the orphanage offers visitors the opportunity to witness firsthand the care and feeding of the elephants, with admission fees directly contributing to the welfare of these majestic creatures.

As visitors watch the elephants play and bathe in the river, they also gain insight into the orphanage’s feeding practices. Generous portions of jackfruit, coconut, and other local vegetation sustain the elephants, supplemented with rice bran and maize. While most elephants enjoy robust health and are eventually reintegrated into the wild or retained for breeding purposes, the orphanage also provides residential care for a select few disabled elephants, reaffirming its commitment to the well-being of all its inhabitants.