Initially created to protect abandoned or orphaned elephants, this government-run elephant orphanage near Kegalle is one of Sri Lankaâ€™s most popular attractions, but today some people think it seems to have largely lost sight of its original aims and is more a zoo than anything else. Some people love the place and the opportunity it gives to get up close and cuddly with elephants, but many more find it an out-and-out rip-off with no conservational value whatsoever.
There are around 80 elephants here of all ages. The creatures are largely well looked after, but conservationists have expressed some concern over the amount of contact elephants have with the public and the fact that the facility has been used for breeding, contrary to its status as an orphanage.
The elephants are controlled by their mahouts, who ensure they feed at the right times and donâ€™t endanger anyone. Otherwise the elephants roam freely around the sanctuary area. The elephants are led to a nearby river for bathing daily from 10am to noon and from 2pm to 4pm. Meal times are 9.15am, 1.15pm and 5pm. For Rs 350 you can bottle feed a baby elephant, although take note of the concerns about tourist-elephant contact as the elephants can become easily stressed.