The elephants are beautiful and the scene is extraordinary. However, Sri Lanka's government turned the honorable intent of this facility into a money making machine, where even the mahouts extract cash tips from elephant-loving tourists.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka

This facility is recognized as hosting the world’s largest collection of captive elephants. Several years ago Pinnawala changed from being a true orphanage to being a place where tourism, elephant breeding, and grooming elephants for sale and gifting became the operating goal. The international sale of elephants is against the dictates of CITES and after a multi-year hiatus, the facility is considering a robust return to the trade in elephants.

Our goals include:

Facilitating habitat enrichment for the 91 elephants held at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

Engagement with Minister of Wildlife, vis-a-vis collaborations at Pinnawala

In January 2017, we were invited by government officials to discuss improvements at Pinnawala. As a result of that discussion, we were invited to submit recommendations to (then) Minister Perera.  The next month, Perera flew to Thailand to visit our friend Lek Chailert’s Elephant Nature Park. Lek understood that his intent was to further his understanding about modern-day operations at comparable elephant sanctuaries.  At that point we were optimistic that change at Pinnawala would proceed, however, Perera has since “backslided.” In late April 2017, Perera made an announcement that he will begin selling elephants to private individuals at $60.000 each, while gifting them to temples at no cost. Then in mid 2017, Perera made many elephants available for parading in Kandy's Perahera event. He has since been removed as Wildlife Minister, while his horrendous policies remain in place. The new Minister has yet to make major policy decisions.

Attempting to regain our momentum, in mid 2017, SavingGanesh flooded social media with stories and information about Pinnawala and pressured Minister Perera back to the table. Consequently, the minister approved our veterinary EleCare program (Winter 2018) and thus the government facilitated our work at both Pinnawala and the Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawe, where 40 orphaned elephants are currently being maintained until being released back to the wild.