Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was established in 1975 by Sri Lanka's Department of Wildlife on a 25 acre property northwest of Kegalle town - half-way between the country's captial Colombo and the ancient royal residence of Kandy in the hills of central Sri Lanka.
In 1978, it was taken over by Sri Lanka's Department of National Zoological Gardens, and in 1982 it launched its captive breeding programme.
Pinnawala orphanage was primarily designed to provide care and protection for the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers. In most cases, the mothers had died or been killed. Over the years, in addition to establishing a captive breeding programme, Pinnawala has also focused on education, research and eco-tourism. It is a popular destination for tourist visitors to Sri Lanka.
All elephants at the Pinnawala elephant orphanage are unable to be released in to the wild - the orphanage regularly has to provide homes and additional space for confiscated elephants who were illegally captured from the wild, as well as elephants that are victims of the growing human-elephant conflict in the country - exacerbated by the increasing loss of elephant habitat. On average, two elephants are killed every four days, and six people die every month as a result of this conflict.
Sri Lanka's growing human population now numbers over 20 million people. Its Asian elephant population, currently estimated at between just 5,000 and 6,000 animals, has declined more than 50% over the past three generations.