Sadly, despite its original, and very laudable, aims, increasing concerns have been raised over the past few years about the treatment of Pinnewala’s resident elephants, including repeated allegations of systematic animal cruelty – many visitors feel that Pinnewala is now not so much an orphanage as a zoo (or circus) in which the money-grubbing antics of the resident mahouts completely overshadow the welfare of the increasingly malnourished and mistreated elephants they are supposed to be caring for. Various malpractices have been described, including the inappropriate chaining of elephants and excessive use of the elephant goad (ankus), the hooked metal tool used to train and control elephants – in 2011 one of the orphanage’s largest male elephants died after apparently being repeatedly stabbed with an ankus. Serious concerns have also been raised about the practice of donating elephants from the orphanage to various temples and other organizations or individuals, with a large proportion of donated elephants, it is alleged, being abused, and sometimes dying, after their transfer into private ownership.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Sri Lanka features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Sri Lanka: 10 tips for first-time visitors

Sri Lanka: 10 tips for first-time visitors

Sri Lanka’s heady mix of British colonial heritage, beautiful landscapes and incredibly friendly locals make it a beguiling destination. But the tropical isle…

29 Aug 2017 • Chloe Cann insert_drive_file Article
The truth about elephant tourism in Asia

The truth about elephant tourism in Asia

Elephants are born free, but are everywhere in chains – and it’s tourism which is increasingly to blame. Riding an elephant used to be on every visitor’s …

11 Aug 2017 • Gavin Thomas insert_drive_file Article
Why Sri Lanka should be the next place you take your kids

Why Sri Lanka should be the next place you take your kids

Sri Lanka is blessed with all the essential ingredients for the family trip of a lifetime. Comparatively compact, with a colourful cultural identity, incredible…

24 Jul 2017 • Keith Drew insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month