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Monday, October 10, 2011

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage - very sad

We thought we would see rescued elephants; instead we saw elephants who need to be rescued.
The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is not an orphanage. It is not a sanctuary. It is a crime scene, where elephants are bred for the amusement of humans. A blind elephant is chained by a front and back foot, forced to stand in one place day after day for people to look at. An elephant who lost part of his from leg from a land mine limps a few steps at a time around the park. Every elephant is “trained” with a bull hook. In order to have tourists pay for photos the workers fetch each elephant in turn by catching them in a tender spot with the bull-hook and drawing them to the unsuspecting tourists. An elephant is persuaded to lie down in the water, and a bull-hook is laid across his neck to convince him to say in place. He lies there for hours. Two young elephants are chained under a roof, too far apart to reach each other. They strain at their chains, trying to reach each other. An elephant is chained at river’s edge, the only one not allowed to enter the water, She spends the next two hours swaying, attempting over and over to immerse herself in the cool river along with all of the others. Tourists feed peanuts to the elephants, who are then chased away by the workers with the bull-hooks.
Elephant with bull hook
I don’t know much at all about elephants, but I know something about fear. These elephants are obviously terrified of the workers, and no doubt they should be. It is brutal and incredibly sad to watch.
This is not a good life for the elephants. It is also bad for the humans. The way we treat animals has an effect on us. By being economically successful with this approach, we become convinced that it is the right way, perhaps the only way. I want to believe these people, workers and observers do not know better. I want us to spread the word about operant conditioning, teaching, real teaching through positive reinforcement. I want us to let elephants live in the wild where they belong.
I ask for your help in educating tourists, so we stop supporting this abuse. We also need to educate the management on how to treat animals, to allow them to live in the wild, and, for those truly injured or orphaned, to offer them the best quality of life possible. Stay tuned for more info.


  1. Bull hook are used by mahouts. But this is strange as there is a lot of love between mahout and the elephant. A good mahout uses the bull hook very rarely.

  2. Nona I do not agree with the use of pain to interact with an animal. We simply do not have the right to inflict pain on an animal in order to coerce them to do what we want. I do realize this has gone on for a very long time, but it is cruel and not necessary. Dogs, horses, and killer whales to name a few are now being trained using operant conditioning. People who use pain and force are either not educated or unwilling to make the effort. I realize that these workers may not know there is a better way. I also think it requires people who do know better to inform the management that we will not support this abuse, and expect them to a)stop pretending it is an orphanage, b)stop breeding these animals and c)take much better care of the animals already there.


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