The little village of Pinnawala is located in the Kegalle district and is about 90km away from the city of Colombo. To most people the name Pinnawala is synonymous with the elephant orphanage that is located here, which is the sole attraction in the village. You will have to veer off the main Colombo – Kandy road to get to the elephant orphanage.
This orphanage run by the government was first established in 1975 on coconut cultivation land adjoining the Maha Oya River, in order to care for four orphaned baby elephants, who could no longer be looked after at the zoological gardens in Dehiwala. Even though it started with such a small number, today with more than 70 elephants residing there, the orphanage holds the largest captive herd of elephants in the world. In 1982 a captive breeding program was introduced and to date more than 20 elephants have been bred at the orphanage. Even though the orphanage tried to mimic the natural habitat of these beast there are certain exception such as the bathing of the elephants twice a day, which is quite a spectacle to watch, as well as the feeding of the baby elephants using feeding bottles. The purpose behind the establishment of this orphanage was to provide a lifeline for the orphaned baby elephants as well as the injured and lost adult elephants.
Another interesting fact is that the dung of the elephants is being used to manufacture a unique piece of stationery, Pachyderm paper, which is produced from the resultant pulp of the elephant dung after it has been sun dried and boiled. This paper then undergoes various processes to give it an artistic finish and has proved to be a great initiative and source of income, with the demand for the paper coming from customers like Sri Lankan Airlines, BOC and Colombo Hilton.