Elephants and Pinnawala

Europeans see Elephants as unique animals with a possibility to see them in a ZOO. Otherwise, it is necessary to travel to countries with their natural existence. As we “Europeans” perceive them as precious animals, we have a different approach than the vast majority of people in Asian countries.


  • There are about 6500 elephants in Sri Lanka. They occur in wildlife, parks, safari and temples.
  • Elephants are enormous, powerful and majestic animals that live to a high age. They are brilliant with an excellent memory.
  • The Elephant is a symbol of Sri Lanka.
  • They are part of grand ceremonies which happening very often at Sri Lanka.
  • The Hindu god Ganesha portrayed with an Elephant’s head.
  • Elephants are as the symbol of Buddhist temples (also an article).
  • Elephants hunted officially in the past.
  • Today, they are protected animals.
  • Especially in this century, they are an attraction for tourists and part of a large business.

Increasing population

It reports that around two hundred Elephants are killed in Sri Lanka every year. They may be wild mammals that threaten a village dangerously, are hunted for their tusks or other sad reasons. Sri Lanka is the place with the largest Elephant population and an ever-increasing human population. It may happen that wild Elephants don’t respect the natural boundaries of parks and go on expeditions to nearby villages. They are big animals, so they can do significant damage and even kill a human being. As new roads, new communities are adding, the population increases, reducing the natural habitat for wild animals – in this case, Elephants.


Pinnawala is the Elephant Rescue Station. There should be Elephants who don’t survive in the wild, sick individuals and orphans. Based on what they claim, Elephants who are heal and able to survive should return to the jungle.
I believe that this Orphanage originated with an excellent idea and that there are still Elephants in need of help to survive or to make their life “better”. Over time, however, this idea has turned into a big tourist business.

Entrance in Pinnawala is around 2500 Rs – 3000 Rs/person with experience Elephants in the nearby Ma Oya River.

Pinnawala as a tourist destination

It became a tourist destination where the Elephants are dressage to exhibit a show for visitors who can take beautiful photos. When we look under the lid, we discover the ugly truths that would discourage numerous tourists. There are several discussions about the ethics of this place, and everyone has to make an opinion for themselves.

A few opinions:

  • They’re trying to help Elephants.
  • Without this kind of organizations, the injured Elephants or the surviving orphans would be dead very quickly.
  • Healthy individuals were drawn directly from nature to give tourists the incentive to come and pay.
  • Stealing baby Elephants from their mothers to have an attraction.
  • Once they got a large sum of money for an Elephant from a Sheikh and found that it could earn money even this way. There is an Elephant from this shelter in Prague. Maybe there are two of them from Pinnawala.
  • It’s an Elephant ZOO; it’s an illusion.
  • The Elephants listen to the given commands that prove this undergoing dressage. Wild Elephants won’t accept commands.
  • Elephants are forced to bath twice a day. They have to lie down in the mud and go under a big shower. The procedure is just to please tourists.
  • Riding an Elephant is generally a big topic because a lot of tourists want to do it for a stunning picture on Instagram. But did you know that they are majestic animals that by sitting on them you humiliate them and cause them a pain?i
  • Mahout supposed to be a man who cares for an Elephant. Even according to tradition, it should be a boy who will have a relationship with a young Elephant and will grow up together.
    Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much of the traditional Mahouts who bond with these animals.
  • Mahouts show the trapped Elephants who the “man” is here, who has the power, the hook and shackles. Then eventually the Elephants will go back into the wild, but they remember and when they get near the villages where people will threaten them with the hooks, they are avoiding. It is not in vain to say “memory as an elephant”.

Video from Pinnawala

In Pinnawala we stood to the exit and in the direction of the river where the Elephants go. I didn’t want to support business, but I wanted to see Elephants. Every day, Mahouts are taking the Elephants through the village to the closest river for a bath. And the parade ends with a Mahout riding an Elephant — I think only to make a show and to be cool.

What is the article?

Please be aware and remember what we wish for is sometimes dangerous. Don’t support tourist places where money rules and not common sense and empathy. Visit safari and other places where Elephants have more freedom.
What has become of Pinnawala and possibly other places is just a consequence of what is tourist demand. If we as tourists ask for something and want it, it will quickly become a business, as it happened here. The locals naturally respond to this and want more money and are willing to do terrible things for it. It all starts and ends with us, every person.

Rather go to Safari

Orphanages and shelters for Elephants are needed. The idea to eliminate them is naive. But the way how to behave to the Elephants should be rethought. They are beautiful animals that deserve to live wild and not to have them as an object for business.


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