Thursday, November 8, 2012

You Too Can Feed the Babies...Elephants That Is!

Over many years elephants have been abused, used, hunted, and tortured.  That's just a fact.  They have been killed for their tusks, used in circuses by less than qualified trainers, and some owners have starved the poor things.  They've had it tough as a species.
Well, there's a place for them too.
Elephants at Pinnawala elephant orphanage
This is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka.  This is one of only a very few Elephant Orphanages around the world, and they've been taking care of injured and orphaned elephants since 1975.
The orphanage started out with five baby elephants whose mothers were missing.  Over the years, they have taken in elephants who have been injured by land mines and are missing feet as well as always taking in babies whose mothers have been trapped or killed by poachers and other people who have no heart.  Today, the orphanage is home to 84 elephants.  They are fed every morning, then they go to the river across the way to bathe and play.  They do this twice a day before coming home to their stall area to rest for the night.

The Pinnawala Orphanage is a great place to see true humanitarian work in action.  The elephants are so comfortable at the orphanage that they have successfully bred them in captivity.  This is the only place in the world where elephants have bred in captivity of their own free will.  That's how comfortable it is to them.

Make no mistake, some of these animals will never be able to return to the wild, because they are missing feet or legs.  Some of them need special diets due to damage to their insides.  Some of them are too old to be re-assimilated to the wild.  Someone needs to take care of them and the people at Pinnawala have taken on the job.
Watching elephants eat and bathe and play in their own habitat is something special.  It's a once in a lifetime event for most of us.  But that's not the only thing that you get to do there.  This place was turned into a tourist attraction to help fund it's good work.  They knew that they would have to supply something to make people want to come.  Watching the elephants at the river is good, but the people at Pinnawala have done better.
You can interact with them.

If you're lucky, you'll get a chance to play with them in the river or feed them in their stall area.
But the real attraction is the babies.
Elephant babies who have lost their mothers need to be bottle fed, so if you want, you can buy a bottle and feed one yourself.  There are three feeding times during the tourist hours each day, so you should be able to try it at least once.

Looks like fun, doesn't it?  It's a great time that you'll never forget.
But that's not all.  Right down the road from the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is the Millennium Elephant Foundation.  They have eight elephants in residence who are retired work animals.  There you can see how an elephant helps humans with work and can also be part of their lives.

The elephants here are much older than most of them at the orphanage.  The aim of the orphanage is to in most cases return them to the wild.  The aim at the foundation is to make the aging animals comfortable in their golden years.  But there is much to do with the older elephants, and if you would like to volunteer in this place to help with the veterinary services, it is greatly appreciated.  You will once again get to help with feeding some of the animals, bathing and maybe even giving them their medication.

Elephants are loving mammals who are very doting and patient with their babies.  They are a gentle creature that holds no malice against anyone without provocation.  It's disturbing that in this day and age people are still killing these animals for their tusks.  It's amazing to me that there are still pits dug to trap them in the jungle.  It's nice to know that there is someone looking out for them, when they are truly outnumbered by a species that although is noted for it's intelligence sometimes makes me wonder.

So come and hang out with the elephants.  Help give them a bath or feed the orphaned babies.  It's an experience you'll never forget, and you can only have it in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
Come and help make a difference in an injured, abused or orphaned elephant's life.

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