Voyage in Style

The Sad Truth – Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Kandy

The Sad Truth – Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Kandy

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage near Kandy is a government run property and one of Sri Lanka’s main attractions. It became super popular because of all the beautiful pictures that are shared on Instagram by influencers. On those pictures we see elephants bathing in a river or people having breakfast with a stunning view over the animals. And so, a mass of tourists arrive at the orphanage wanting to experience the same and thinking that by visiting this place they contribute to a good cause… they are strongly mistaken. The truth is much grimmer..What seems like elephants having a playful time in the nature, is in fact torture.

Behind the Pretty Pictures Lies the Ugly Truth

We must admit that visiting the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka was the main reason we wanted to visit this country. It was on our bucket list already for many years. Just a few weeks before our trip we still thought we would visit it and that it was harmless or even contributing to the animals well being. 

It took us one google research to find out the terrible truth about this place. Once in Sri Lanka, we talked to multiple locals in different parts of the country as well as few tourists that have visited this place. And our discovery was only confirmed: this place is far from helping elephants, instead it turns their life into hell.

The Business of the Posing Elephant

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is recognisable for its beautiful photos of majestic elephants in a river. But those pictures do not reveal what is hidden behind those scenes influencers capture. 

You want to know the secret of taking the best pictures of elephants in a river? Every morning before sunrise the animals are lead by their guards to the river and then chained to the rocks beneath the water on a very short chains. You can see those chains when the tide is low. 

The same men then use sticks and sharp objects to poke and hit the animals so they obey and kneel in the water for their daily bathing. Far from understanding the truth, this daily ritual is accompanied by applause from tourists laughing and enjoying this gruesome show. 

By the end of the day, the elephants are lead out of the town, and chained again on maximum half a meter chains. If and when some of them behave “badly” (meaning according to their instincts), they are kept on chains for 6 months non stop to break even more their spirit. 

From Good to Bad

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage near Kandy might had initially good intentions. But from the moment the government realised they could make so much money out of it, they simply forgot about morality, ethics and simply, humanity. Their breading program is served for the sole purpose of having more animals to entertain tourists. The elephants are not released out into the wild as it is said. They are kept captive all their lives and pass a process called Phajaan- the traditional—and brutal—days- or weeks-long breaking a young elephant’s spirit.

National Geographic just recently released an eye-opening, truthful and brutal article about wildlife tourism. We highly invite everyone who ever wanted to interact with wild animals during a tourist trip to read it. We guarantee it will change your way of thinking.

There is more information both on google as well as real pictures of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on Instagram. Do your own research if you’d like. But please: be a wise traveler and DO NOT contribute to this horror. DO NOT go to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Kandy. Instead educate yourself and spread awareness wherever you go. 

Experience Elephants in a National Park

If you came to Sri Lanka to see elephants, you can do so in one of 15 the National Parks. In those parks, animals are free to roam around wherever they want and tourists are just guests. 

You can also visit Elephant Transit Home near Udawalawe National Park. Orphaned elephants calves are taken in, nurtured, cared for back to health. They are raised until they are 4 or 5 years old, and then released back into the wild. These elephants are free to roam around and are never chained. Tourists can watch the feeding 3 times a day, but only from a platform located in a safe distance. This ensures that the elephants are not disturbed by human presence. 

Read : The Best National Parks for Safari in Sri Lanka

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