Photos of Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage

Continuing with the theme of the cheap photographer trick of shooting baby animals, I have uploaded my photos of our trip to the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage to my Picasa website. We went on this trip during our second weekend staying in Dangolla, just before we moved into our rented house near the end of October.

The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage (there are others) is one of Sri Lanka’s most visited attractions. It is located on the road between Colombo and Kandy, about an hour out of Kandy by car or about two hours out of Colombo. The orphanage is run by the state as a place to take care of elephants that somehow are not capable of surviving in the wild. For example, I decided not to include a photo of an elephant that lost its right rear leg below the knee to a land mine. It was just too sad to see, though, like a (really, reeeeeally, big) three-legged dog, the injured elephant walks along with the others, from the enclosure where they are fed, to the river where they bathe. In all, there seemed to be about thirty elephants in the group we saw.

As the appellation “orphanage” might imply, there are a number of baby elephants. So you will find on my Picasa site: photos of baby elephants by themselves; photos of baby elephants being protected by the herd; photos of baby elephants being fed from bottles. (I can just hear you say “Ahhh!” for those.)  And  it is a good thing that I am not posting on Facebook, because, in the ultimate of “ahhhhh!”-inspiring photographs, we have a baby elephant being breast-fed by its mother.

One problem for the photographer is that at Pinnewala there is a kind of elephant overload. After you have taken the baby elephant pictures, how many pictures of adult elephants can you take? You will perhaps detect a certain desperation in the remaining compositions. In an otherwise boring photo of the blind tusker, note the way the old guy uses his tusks to keep his trunk from dragging on the ground. I wonder if Viagra would help him keep it up?

You will note a couple of shots of me feeding bananas to an elephant. When I did this, I was mid-way in my education about how people at tourist attractions get money from visitors. By that time I did know that when one of the elephant handlers offered to let me feed the elephant, he would want a fee in return, even if he did not say so up front. So I offered him 100 LKR (a dollar) and he seemed to agree. So I fed the elephant maybe six bananas with the handler taking pictures with my camera. When I was done, he wanted something like 1000 LKR (ten bucks). I think I gave him 200 LKR and told him that he had to be more clear on the price. I have no idea where the money went. He clearly was an employee of the orphanage, but whether the funds I spent on feeding the elephant went to supporting the orphanage or were just a low-level bit of graft that this guy gets because of his position, I don’t know.

One of the featured souvenirs at Pinnewala is paper made from elephant dung. Yes, elephant dung. (Clean up the coffee you just exhaled through your nose, Mom.) When you think about it, elephant dung paper makes a lot of sense. Paper is just plant fibers that have been chemically “digested,” mixed with clay to make them white, and allowed to dry. Now I imagine (and hope) that the process of making elephant dung paper involves a few cleaning and odor removing steps, but the paper produced is  very good quality paper. (No, Mom. It is not sold in rolls.) Naturally, it sells very well, mostly to the three-to-six year-old boy demographic who can’t wait to get home for the next “show-and-tell” day at school, so they can repeat the word “dung” over and over, until the class collapses with snorts and giggles and the children slide, jelly-like, to the floor, holding their tummies, out of the left side of their tablet-arm chair-desks, except for Lefty, who slides out of the right side of his.



1 Comment

  1. Kristina Replogle Sullivan said,

    July 22, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    The banana man was charging for the bananas–the admission to the orphanage was rather steep.

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