Pinnawala is prominent place among local and foreign travelers as an elephant orphanage and a breeding place. The visitors of Pinnawala share the most memorable life time experience of bottle feeding baby elephants, bathing and many participating in many exciting activities. But today it’s with great sorrow we have to report that the elephants at Pinnawala are in danger due to malpractice of few officers and minor workers there. The nation has lost lives of four elephants within a short period of eight months due to the negligence of those workers.
The tragedy started in 26th November 2010 with the death of “Kadira” over illness. Then it was “Neelagiri” the biggest elephant lived in Pinnawala died on January 17th this year. The death was due to severe injuries caused by stabbing with elephant goads by three mahouts. The dead elephant was the tallest of the Pinnawala herd, “Neelagiri” was caught in the Lahugala Forest and brought to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage in 1986. “Neelagiri “was considered as the father of many baby elephants born there.
Within a month from Neelagiri’s death on February 5th misfortune struck again, this time it was “Ranmali”. The death was due to attack by another elephant according to the officials. On June 4th it was reported that a baby elephant was missing after they were taken to their daily bath. The ill-fated calf, born to adult elephant “Kanthi “was later found drowned and stuck between two rocks in “Ma Oya”.
The orphanage has resumed its practice of giving out elephants in its care. Members of the Pinnawala community say that three elephants were presented to leading temples around the country. A total of 15 Pinnawala elephants will be given out according to the director of the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens. In 2003, a Pinnawala elephant “Kapila”was given to the Ragama temple. This elephant, Kapila, consequently died of malnutrition. There are allegations that elephants given out are poorly treated by their new owners, and often used for heavy-duty work. Animal welfare activists have called for a proper monitoring of elephants given away by the Pinnawala orphanage authorities.
The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut property on the Maha Oya river at Rambukkana. Initially this orphanage was at the Wilpattu National Park, then shifted to the tourist complex at Bentota and then to the Dehiwala Zoo. From the Dehiwala Zoo it was shifted 1975 to Pinnawela. At the time it was shifted the orphanage had five baby elephants which formed its nucleus.It was hoped that this facility would attract both local and foreign visitors, the income from which would help to maintain the orphanage.
The degree of negligence of the officials reflects when comparing the recent deaths with the deaths from its inception in 1975. The lives of elephants lost during this short period of time were seven, which is equal to the elephant death total from its inception. We at Lanka Help Magazine are on alert until the authorities concern will look into this matter urgently.