An exclusive elephant orphanage operating in the town of Pinnawala, Sri Lanka shelters and provides care for 79 elephants that have been left alone, sick and injured due to mine explosions or other reasons.
Built on 2.4 hectares in the city of Rambukkana, 112 kilometers from the capital Colombo, the orphanage opened its doors to five baby elephants on Feb. 16, 1975. The number of in the orphanage increased to 79 in 2014 with transfers from other areas. The co-orphanage, which is an affiliation of Sri Lanka's Ministry of Botanic Gardens and Countryside, is guarded by a team of private security units and 50 caretakers who work tending the elephants. While baby elephants in the orphanage are fed milk and fruits, an adult elephant easts 50 kilograms of grass, sticks, leaves and fruit and drinks up to 200 liters of water daily.
Tourists can also assist the caretakers while they feed the elephants. The elephants are taken to the Maha Oya river in the morning and afternoon to bathe and drink water. Tourists can watch while the caretakers tend to the elephants. The souvenir shops located on the route for the elephants are closed in case of an attack while they are heading to the river. Tourists can visit the orphanage between 8:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m for an entrance fee of $20. The souvenir shops around the orphanage sell elephant themed goods such as t-shirts, magnets, key chains, bags, wallets and statues. The paper produced from elephant dung a unique souvenir. Most of the shops feature posters informing guests of the production process of elephant-dung paper.