Ruwanwelisaya

The Ruwanmalisaya is a stupa in Sri Lanka, considered a marvel for its architectural qualities and sacred to many Buddhists all over the world. It was built by King Dutugemunu c. 140 B.C., who became lord of all Sri Lanka after a war in which the Chola King Elara, was defeated. It is also known as Mahathupa, Swarnamali Chaitya, Suvarnamali Mahaceti (in Pali) and Rathnamali Dagaba.

This is one of the Solosmasthana (the 16 places of veneration) and the Atamasthana (the 8 places of veneration in the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura). The stupa is one of the world's tallest monuments, standing at 300 feet (91 m) and with a circumference of 950 ft (290 m).[cita.... Read more...

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
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Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village, 13 km (8.1 mi) northwest of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. Pinnawalla is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 37 males and 51 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala.[1]

The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to many of the orphaned unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).[2]

The Millennium Elephant Foundation is a separate registered private charity organization which is a retirement home for 7 elephants and a tourist attraction.[3]
History
Elephants bathing in Maha Oya river

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was first established by the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1975 for feeding and providing care and sanctuary to orphaned baby elephants that were found in the wild. The orphanage was first located at the Wilpattu National Park, then shifted to the tourist complex at Bentota and then to the Dehiwala Zoo. From the Zoo it was shifted to Pinnawala village on a 25-acre (10 ha) coconut plantation adjacent to the Maha Oya River.

The primary residential care area is on the east side of Highway B199, Rambukkana Road. The main site also has some restaurants / refreshment stands, and management buildings including sleeping sheds and veterinary facilities. The elephant bathing and viewing area along the Oya River is directly opposite on the west side of the highway.[4][5]

At the time it was finally settled, the orphanage had five baby elephants which formed its nucleus. The addition of orphans continued till 1995 when the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) adjoining Udawalawe National Park was created by the DWC. Since then, orphaned babies have been taken to the ETH and addition to the Pinnawala herd has been mostly through births occurring there.[1]

It was planned for the facility to attract local and foreign visitors, the income from which would help to maintain the orphanage. The Pinnawala Orphanage has since become a major tourist attraction. In 1978, the orphanage was taken over by the Department of National Zoological Gardens Sri Lanka. In 1982 an elephant breeding program was launched. As of 2012, there were 78 elephants living here.[6]
Elephant care
Handling an elephant at Pinnawala

The orphanage was established to feed, nurse and house young elephants found abandoned by their mothers. Young elephants sometimes fall into pits and ravines in their quest for water during drought period. Other orphans have been displaced from their wild habitat by development projects or have been found abandoned before weaning, diseased or wounded.[2]

There are 48 mahouts (handlers) who take care of the elephants. The female and young elephants in Pinnawala range freely as a herd during the day in an area of a few acres. They are herded about .5 km (0.31 mi) twice a day to drink and be bathed in the river. At night, the females are individually chained in stalls. Adult males are do some light work such as transporting feed. They are chained and managed individually, Calves born in Pinnawala are not bottle fed, but a few from ETH are kept at Pinnawala and bottle fed as a tourist attraction.[1]

The elephants are fed in their stalls. There is very little food they can gather from the premises of the orphanage except some grass. Large quantities of jackfruit, coconut, kitul (sugar palm), tamarind and grass, brought in daily, form the bulk of the elephants food.[6] Each adult animal is given around 76 kilograms (170 lb) of this green matter per day and around 2 kg (4.4 lb) from a food bag containing rice bran and maize.[2]
Elephant breeding
Baby elephants with their mothers at Pinnawala

This elephant orphanage is also conducts captive breeding of some elephants in its care. The natural environment and healthy care and feeding at Pinnawala made the elephant breeding program a success. The first birth at Pinnawala was in 1984, Sukumalee, a female was born to Vijaya and Kumar who were aged 21 and 20 years respectively at the time. The males Vijaya and Neela and females Kumari, Anusha, Mathalie and Komali have since then parented several baby elephants. More than twenty-three elephants were born from 1984 to 1991. In 1998 there were fourteen births at Pinnawala, eight males and six females, with one second generation birth in early 1998. Since then till early 2012, 84 more were born at Pinnawalla.[2][7]

12 elephants were released to temples and private owners since June, 2011. Shama (female, aged 24), Lasanda (female, aged 18), Mihindu (male, aged 13), Haritha (male, aged 10 years), Atlas (male, aged seven), Charaka (male, aged five), Asela (male aged 8), Tharindu (male aged 5), Wasana ( Male aged 11), Arjuna ( male aged 14) and Vishwa (male aged 5) were among those.[7]
Tourism
Tourists observing elephants bathing in Oya River

The orphanage is very popular among local and foreign tourists. The main attraction is the opportunity to observe the bathing elephants from the broad river bank as the herd interacts socially, bathing and playing.

The orphanage is open to the public daily, and all admission fees are used to look after the elephants. Visitors to the park can view many different aspects of the care and daily routine of the elephants, such as bottle feeding of elephant calves, feeding of all other elephants, and bathing in the Oya River. Cost (2010) for foreign adults: 2,000 LKR.[2]
Animal Welfare
Blind tusker "RAJA" at Pinnawala
A young elephant at Pinnawala

Most of the elephants at Pinnawala are healthy and once attaining adulthood, will be sold or donated or retained for breeding. A few disabled elephants are given residential care. One tusker, Raja is blind, and one female, named Sama, lost her front right leg to a land mine.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is was the subject of a 2010 report by the Born Free Foundation which calls into question the animal welfare at the orphanage.[4]

Quality of care of elephants who are donated or sold away from Pinnawala has been a big public issue. In 2012 The Sri Lanka Environment Trust spoke out against authorities who continue to 'donate' tamed elephants to people who had 'poor' past records of taking care of animals. "There are enough cases to show that the authorities are releasing elephants from Pinnawala to the same group of people who don't take care of the animals." Though officials boast that the animals are under close surveillance, they don't do any monitoring once an elephant is released to a private owner.[7]
Millennium Elephant Foundation

The Millennium Elephant Foundation is a registered private charity enterprise situated on a 15 acres (6.1 ha) estate known as ‘Samaragiri’ in Pinnawala, which strives to provide working elephants with conscientious, humane care and proper medical support. Millennium funds its projects and enterprise by offering elephant rides (without the chair-like contraption known as a howdah, which Millennium protests as unethical), elephant bathing, elephant feeding, and working in partnership with Maximus Paper Co. to produce one-hundred percent recycled paper, seventy-five per cent of which is made out of elephant dung.

Millennium also provides on-site lodging for international volunteers, who work daily with the elephants, their mahouts and the foundation to improve the quality of care for captive elephants in Sri Lanka and the greater international community.[1][3]

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