Elephants and Orchids, Sri Lanka Style.


Hurry up shortcake

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a must see. Sri Lanka is one of the last stands of the beautiful Asian elephant, now endangered in the wild due to loss of habitat and poaching. Pinnawalla has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. There were 85 of them when we went to visit this week spanning three generations. Many babies are found wandering in the forest separated from their mothers and on our visit the two youngest ellies Pinala and Nurwala had both been found in a poor state after they had fallen into irrigation ditches and their mothers had been unable to help them out. They were just three and six moths old and hairy as coconuts, as the littlest ones are. They were in a poor state when they were found but are getting much stronger now, having milk bottle fed to them every three hours and playing happily together. One of the forty six ‘mahouts’ at Pinnawalla proudly stated that he was now their ‘mum.’


Lucky little ellies


Pinnewala was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation and is now a huge tourist draw as folk from all over the world come to watch them parade down to the river twice a day for their bath. Elephants love water and watching the ‘teenagers’ larking around and the littlest ones trying to dunk each other is very touching indeed. There is obvious affection between the refugees of the man made herd as the elephants drape their trunks over each other and lean in for a trunk to trunk gossip.
Messing about in the river..

We finally reached Kandy which was one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka and is now the self proclaimed centre of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Heritage. It was not the bastion of faded colonial charm I was expecting but the usual ramshackle collection of jerry-built breeze block buildings selling the same lack lustre collection of goods that were available at every road side crossing. However, the botanical gardens is a genuine oasis here in that it has retained a good deal of the order and attention to detail of its Victorian founders, the very same who gave us our own Kew Gardens. There was an exceptional display of tropical flora including an impressive collection of giant bamboo which would have delighted Dick Van Dyke, the faux cockney chimney sweep in Mary Poppins.  There is also a very beautiful Orchid collection, these delicate flowers always looks like an Alice in Wonderland creation to me.

New orchid on the block


A Scorchin’ Orchid