Neelagiri and Pinnawela
The very poignant piece in your newspaper on January 25 on the
tragedy of Neelagiri at Pinnawela is greatly appreciated.
In this article the writer touches various aspects of welfare which
we often fail to consider when we visit this elephant orphanage, as most
are mesmerized by the outward tranquility of the place and the seeming
wellbeing of the animals.
It is indeed amazing that Neelagiri’s abuse was not detected by the
higher ups at Pinnawela, which speaks volumes about the lethargy of the
administration there. Is Pinnawela becoming a mere circus, at a time
when circuses are becoming obsolete world over?
Babies are fed milk at a price of Rs 500 for a bottle. But actually
only a quarter bottle is given. I asked why a quarter bottle and the
keeper said if so much milk is given by everyone as one bottle each then
it will not be good for the baby. They are supposed to have a limited
number of milk bottles per feed.
The money goes into the pocket of the keeper. He must be a rich man,
as a lot of people feed the babies, each giving Rs 500 per feed. And at
what huge price in terms of the baby’s health?
Feeding the babies ought to be stopped as it has become a money
making business posing a great health risk to the baby. Is not it
possible for the babies to be with the herd and suckle from their
mothers as they do in the wild?
I saw a huge adult elephant being taken up from the river, after his
bath - he was hopping with great difficulty, up the steep embankment and
along the road, as his legs were tied so close to each other, both back
I asked the mahout why and he said that it is to train the elephant
to walk up and down for the bath or he will go berserk and kill people
and them! The up and down trek, twice a day to Ma Oya, is getting far
too dangerous for the human bi-ped spectators I feel. If an elephant
goes berserk, which is bound to happen sooner or later, the poor animal
will be shot.
The authorities should consider allowing the bi-ped spectators only
after the elephants get into the water, just once a day and let the
elephants bathe in peace, at least once out of the two baths they get
The zoo is archaic - they still get the pachyderms to perform getting
them to sit on tiny little stools, in a begging position.
How much those elephants must be physically ‘goaded’ in order to get
them to the stage of performing, taking on the most abnormal of
positions for an elephant is not a concern for the authorities.
Sadly, along the way to Pinnawela you see elephant ‘circuses’
mushrooming, offering rides etc.
I stopped visiting zoos long years ago and would not want to visit
Pinnawela again after reading this insightful article.
Champa Fernando Secretary, KACPAW (Kandy Association for Community
Protection through Animal Welfare)