Elephant Orphanage Project (Pinnawala)

volunteer in elephanat orphanage project in pinnawala, srilanka
  • Learn all about elephants and how to care for them
  • Gain hands-on care experience working with a local Mahout
  • Live amongst the majestic, gentle animals in a lush environment
  • Practice Sinhalese while learning to cook delicious curries, surfing the legendary waves, and discovering nature’s best in Sri Lanka in your downtime

Imagine being in close contact with elephants every single day, feeding them, bathing them, caring for them. If you like how that sounds, volunteer in Sri Lanka in the Elephant Orphanage project! Work in the beautiful Sri Lanka at the most popular tourist attraction, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Due to habitat destruction and fragmentation, human settlement, expanding irrigation projects and human encroachment of forests, elephants continually lose large tracks of their habitat. This orphanage is a breeding sanctuary for rescued, injured, and abused wild elephants. It was established by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1976 with a focus of providing care and protection to the many orphaned elephants found in the jungle. Taken over in 1978 by the Department of National Zoological Gardens, there are now 84 elephants in a developed breeding program. The elephant orphanage needs dedicated volunteers to take care of the growing elephants. Already there are over 80 elephants in the orphanage, even though the orphanage covers 25 acres and is situated next to the river. As a volunteer, you’ll play a big role in showering the elephants with the care and love that the gentle animals have been deprived of. The project is one of the largest centers of its kind in the world and has one of the most successful captive breeding programs for Asian elephants. This is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the magnificent creatures while enjoying all that Sri Lanka has to offer!

Volunteers' Responsibilities

As a volunteer in the Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, you will be placed at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Depending on your individual interests and skills, and on the needs of the local staff, there are various ways volunteers can help the orphanage:

  • Work will begin at 8:30 in the morning and end roughly at 11:30 a.m. so volunteers can go for lunch. In the afternoon, volunteers have free time to relax. From 2-4, they can watch the elephants playing and bathing in the river, and can even help the mahouts wash the elephants with brushes made of coconut husks. There are also opportunities to work again after 4:00 p.m. with the private elephants in the Pinnawala Elephant Safari Center.
  • Helping the mahouts (elephant handlers) in various tasks
  • Cleaning the sheds
  • Mucking out the elephant enclosures
  • Preparing milk for bottle feeding

The main work will be conducted from 8:30-11:30 in the morning. We can assure you that you will not be overloaded with work, however, and will have plenty of time to sightsee and explore.

How You Can Make a Difference

By volunteering in Sri Lanka in the Elephant Orphanage project, you will be working with orphaned elephants. Many elephants that are lost or abandoned are housed by the orphanage where they are fed, nursed, and taken care of. These elephants need love, care, and attention much like humans do. As a volunteer in the project, you will get a wonderful and very rare opportunity to work with the elephants in a lush environment. You will be guided by mahouts (elephant handlers) and will learn about their behavior and moods. This project is a rare and amazing opportunity for hands-on experiences with elephants and experiencing the natural beauty and culture of Sri Lanka. If you're seeking a career in animal welfare or veterinary, this would be a great first step!

Skills and Qualifications

There are no specific qualifications needed to volunteer with the elephant orphanage project in Sri Lanka. However, your understanding of the Sri Lankan culture and language can help to improve your experience. We recommend enrolling in our one-week Language & Cultural Immersion program. Volunteers should have a deep love for animals, a hard-working attitude and a respect for the local staff and community members. Please note that this project requires volunteers to spend much of their time outdoors.

Project Location

This is a very rural project located in Pinnawala, in central Sri Lanka. The project is situated in a lush 25 acre sanctuary and has over 80 elephants. During your free time, you can visit ancient historical cities like Anuradhapua, the first capital city of Sri Lanka, and Polonnaruwa, where you can explore the ancient ruins of the temples built by the ancient kings. You can hike to "SIGIRIYA ROCK" and witness spectacular scenery from there. You can also visit northeast Sri Lanka, home of famous beaches like Arugam Bay beach and monasteries, temples, parks, churches, museums, art galleries, etc.

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