Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world, but it is a living hell for them. It was established in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife Conservation to care for orphaned elephants found in the wild. It was later taken over by the Department of National Zoological Gardens and has since become a tourist attraction.
Elephants are kept chained most of the time and controlled with bull hooks. Pinnawala offers many Human-Elephant-Physical-Contact activities. Each day elephants are led to the river to bathe and tourists can participate in bathing them. However, just beneath the water, they are chained, and are controlled with bull hooks. Presently there are no babies, but when there are, people can pay to bottle feed them, while they are chained. People can also feed fruit baskets to elephants, but they are again controlled with bull hooks.
Elephants are a status symbol in Sri Lanka, and the government gifts elephants from Pinnawala to temples and wealthy individuals where they spend their lives in chains. Many are rented out to give rides to tourists, religious festivals known as peraheras, and sometimes logging. Baby elephants have also been sold to zoos.
Elephants are highly intelligent, sensitive animals. This is not the way they should be living. We are asking the Sri Lankan government to turn Pinnawala into a real sanctuary, with no interaction with humans. Tourists can view them from a distance. Then a proposal would be implemented by animal welfarists to assure that proper care be given to the elephants.