Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary is one of the more unique wildlife sanctuaries in Sri Lanka specialising in the protection of orphaned unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka. Officially considered to be the sanctuary having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world, its nature friendly activities have gained critical acclaim and is visited by the thousands every year to witness the elephants at close quarters.

Best Known For

Nature and Outdoors:

  • The elephant sanctuary acts as an orphanage protecting close to 100 Sri Lankan elephants in all aspects of their lives.
  • The best known feature of the sanctuary is the many activities the mahouts (handlers) undertake in order to protect the elephant species.
  • Elephants bathing in the river, the feeding of elephants and the bottle feeding of elephant calves are the most famous spectacles witnessed in the sanctuary giving one the opportunity to experience firsthand the unique ways of elephant breeding.

Interesting Facts

  • As a result of British Colonialism, much of the elephant population was pushed to extinction due to game hunting until the 1960s.
  • However, in 1975 the Sri Lanka Wildlife Department established the Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary along the banks of the Maha Oya to sort the decreasing population of elephants.
  • Only starting with 4 orphaned elephants, the sanctuary eventually grew year by year and now cares for over 100 elephants and has become a major wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka aimed at protecting the biodiversity of the country.
  • Subsequently earning the title of ‘The World’s Largest Elephant Sanctuary’, in terms of number of elephants raised.
  • The success story of Pinnawala has drawn the attention of animal activists and scientists from all over the world that has led to the publication of a considerable number of books and research articles on Pinnawala.
  • Many documentaries have been filmed by famous research organisations, passing the message of conservation from Pinnawala on to thousands, if not millions of people, after their visit to the orphanage.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The elephant sanctuary is opened throughout the year, but achieves peak time during the months of July and August.
  • The sanctuary is opened daily from 8.30am to 5.30pm that includes special times in which certain activities are arranged:
    • 9.15am - Bottle feeding.
    • 10.00am - Herd leaving to the river.
    • 12.00pm - Return from the river.
    • 1.15pm - Bottle feeding.
    • 2.00pm – Herd leaving to the river.
    • 4.00pm - Return from the river.
    • 5.00pm - Bottle feeding.
  • Entrance tickets will cost LKR 2,500 for adults and LKR 1,250 for children (3-12 years). Entrance tickets vary for SAARC visitors as it would cost LKR 700 for adults and LKR 350 for children (3-12 years).
  • The best experiences can be gained when one goes up close and personal with the elephants during feeding times and bathing times in the Maha Oya River, however, do be mindful that this would cost an additional fee. Many mahouts (handlers) charge different prices.
  • It is important you adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the sanctuary and keep the sanctuary clean.

In conclusion, the Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary is a unique example of how the diverse wildlife in Sri Lanka is protected by the people of the country, thus benefiting the majesty of Mother Earth as a whole.

Title image by: Satheesh Rathnarajah The information displayed is provided by Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage


July - August


LKR 2,500
Adults (SAARC)
LKR 700
LKR 1,250
Children (SAARC)
LKR 350


Nature and Outdoors

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