Pinnawala’s gentle giants

Elephants, who are majestic, gentle giants, are extremely mesmerizing to watch, which is apparent at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage where large crowds gather by the Ma Oya to watch these mammoth creatures play in the water. Elephant bathing, one of the main activities or programmes at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, takes place daily during 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Other programmes at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage include fruit feeding and walking with an elephant. While these activities allow us to get close to these majestic elephants, the staff of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage believe the elephants also enjoy them.

During a recent visit, The Daily Morning Brunch had the opportunity of exploring the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, learning more about it, and meeting the twin calves, Sajjana and Dissa.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

There are currently 69 elephants at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. These include eight who are on court order, and until the case is over, the elephants are taken care of by the Zoological Department. These elephants occupy the 25 acres that make up the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

Two key objectives of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage are reproduction and conservation. So far, 70 calves have been born at the elephant orphanage naturally. They also focus on research and studies at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

University students, both local and foreign, come to conduct studies and research on elephants at the premises. There are also educational programmes for schoolchildren.

According to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage Deputy Director Mihiran Madawala, locals and foreigners can also work at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage as volunteers, whether it’s for a day or two, or a couple of months. “We have many foreign volunteers like this. This is essentially like a course, as they are able to be with the elephants with our trained staff. And we train them on taking care of elephants, from cleaning stalls, to feeding and bathing them, medical treatment and containing an elephant,” Madawala said.

He added that people who stay for a few weeks can learn a lot about elephants. “We also have a lot of researchers, from Sri Lanka and abroad. Research students studying subjects related to elephants can learn a lot here,” he said, adding that this applies to students of zoology, agriculture, animal feed, veterinary, tourism, and engineering, especially those coming up with solutions for the human-elephant conflict.

Sajjana and Dissa

While all of Pinnawala’s elephants are quick to win over hearts, twin calves Sajjana and Dissa are definitely stealing the show. Aged two, the boys were the first twin calves born in a zoological garden and also the first set of twins among domesticated elephants.

Being twins comes with its own challenges, however, as they are not as physically strong as others their age. The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage has four other calves, but Sajjana and Dissa are kept separate from them, and spend time with their mother. They are taken to the river before the other elephants, accompanied by their mother and another female elephant.

Speaking about the challenges they faced in caring for the twins, Ratnayake shared that they are kept away from the other elephants as they may bump into each other and fall and hurt themselves.

“Even though they are two years old, we haven’t socialised the twins with other elephants yet, but discussions have been going on about mixing them with the main group soon. Even this is a big risk and it’s a huge responsibility. You cannot rewind or go back when dealing with their lives, and we don’t know how the others will react. So discussions have focused on introducing them in a gradual process,” he shared.

Factors like the weather and the number of visitors must also be taken into consideration here.

“It’s difficult to predict how the others will embrace them, especially since they have been away for two years. One thing often seen is that when a new elephant is introduced to the herd, the others surround it. When one wants to see the baby, the other does too. Then they get very close to the baby and since they are big creatures, the calf gets bumped around and ends up having to move around a lot,” Ratnayake explained.

However, as for their health, Sajjana and Dissa are in good health and are on a normal diet of mother’s milk, leaves, and fruits.

Read more: Pinnawala’s gentle giants | The Morning

Source From srilankatravel
Author: srilankamiracle
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