During my trip in Sri Lanka, the hour spent in an Elephant Kingdom, which is broadly known as Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary, was one of the best events! This Elephant Sanctuary is an orphanage for elephants. It 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 coconut plantation adjacent to the Maha Oya River. For the first time I was going to visit a place like this. So far I had only heard about animal sanctuaries or safari parks or these sorts of places but it was my first experience to visit a true wild-life park full of elephants! My enthusiasm didn’t redeem once I entered the perimeter. The experience was new. It was a very well-organized place, wonderfully planned apt to the taste of tourists. I kept being amazed with new revelations one after another!
At first our team encountered with the first big fat elephant which was eating very eagerly and two caretakers kept feeding it. At first I thought it was the place where they feed elephants but later it turned out to be that the particular elephant was kept there to be fed by the tourists! All it had to do was keeping its mouth wide open and eating. I watched some heavenly moments while it was finishing off remnants of fruits. I gave it a thought whether I wanted to buy another basket and feed it but then I thought the elephant might not mind anything but as a sensible person I should pay attention to its diet. How far I could reckon, it still had lots of consuming to come!
We found the second elephant which was kept in chain. While inquiring it came to know from one of the caretakers that the elephant was mad. That elephant was a big one as well. They warned us not to go very near to it. I was a bit curious if a giant elephant becomes ferociously mad whether the chain could control it. As I had read it previously somewhere that elephants had become notorious for their violent rage and sometimes fatal outbursts. Their strength and rage made them one of the most potentially dangerous animals in the world. It was also said that such kind of behavior of elephants was often preceded by a rocking motion and most dangerously this fact was true in the case of both wild and captive elephants in stressful situations, and most commonly the elephants that were kept in circus or zoo. Thought it was a sanctuary and I hoped that the elephants were taken care of well enough still the possibility could not be just thrown away.
I looked at the mad elephant again. There were chains in its four legs and neck. It looked quite helpless at the same time it created invisible fear. It was said that excess frustration even made them more violent. What if it had become tired by locked up in chains? What if it had become frustrated from those poles and heavy irons?
Anyway, I moved on.
I found out that every elephant had its own name and the thing which really amused me was that all the caretakers knew each and every elephant’s name and they could even differentiate one elephant from the other! One of the caretakers introduced me with a family of elephants which contained a grand-ma elephant, a grand-pa elephant, some of their children and grand-children elephants! Elephants enjoyed a very unique family structure which was to some extent similar to the structure of bull and cow. In the elephant herd, the lead was taken by a female elephant which meant that elephants were matriarch-headed. So, I assumed that now the family was under the command of grand-ma elephant and I bid her a salute!
I finally took a look around the whole ground and at that moment I felt like I was in the lost world! Just in this case, this lost world was full of elephants not dinosaurs! I was really enjoying, and I headed to venture more. In this entire idea of visiting Elephant sanctuary, the thing that attracted me most was to see a baby elephant! Considering the magnificence of a full grown elephant I always wondered what would be the size of a baby elephant and how it would be exactly! Well, I did not have to wait very long to quench my thirst of curious mind.
It was not a cage but still it was surrounded with high metal grills where those baby elephants were kept and taken care of. When I was down there, I saw a pack of little elephants jumping and running behind the caretakers. Well, by uttering "little" I do not actually mean it literally because even the baby elephants are bigger than a full grown up dog and healthier, not to mention! Though they were actually behaving and screeching like a bunch of hyper active children. "So that is why they keep them in chains" I told myself, though could not make myself convinced fully. After all they are babies, and it was not a zoo, rather than it was a sanctuary and those baby elephants should get full freedom to grow up as they get in the nature.
Meanwhile, I saw a caretaker coming with a big feeder having milk in it. Slowly he approached to the baby elephant that was making noise and began to feed it. It was absolutely happy after getting its stomach full and fat but did not stop whirling. I guessed, for this time it was doing so because it was simply happy! I heard somewhere that this Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary is mostly notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world and now it has elephants from three generations. I assumed those babies would be the next representative generations for sure!
Our allotted time was about to over and though we had a primary plan to watch elephants bathing but due to the shortage of time, we could not manage it. On the way back we saw the elephants are taken for bath to the adjacent Maha Oya River. We sided from the main road because when the herd moves together it was very dangerous for any human near to it. The moving herd possessed threat of injury for human, even sometimes of death. The noise of the herd of Elephant slowly faded away, but the picture is still as crystal clear in my head. Some places you just see, and some places gives you so much to think of. I guess, this one our spent in the Elephant Kingdom would be the one hour that I spent in knowing so many things, altogether.