Visiting orphaned baby elephants in the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home

Stephan @steef-05
· December 2018 · 4 min read · Sri Lanka

Most tourists go to Udawalawe to visit the National Park that goes by the same name. But did you also know that Udawalawe is also home to a great elephant orphanage? Or the Elephant Transit Home as is the official name states. Of course, the National Park is the highlight of the area, but did you know that the orphanage is playing a significant role in the elephant population of the park? If you stay in Udawalawe you can easily walk to the orphanage and enjoy watching the orphaned babies as they are being fed by the people who run the place.

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The establishment of “Ath Athuru Sevana” (Elephant Transit Home) near the 33,000 hectares wide Udawalawe National Park was initiated by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1995. During that time it was a major step towards the welfare and conservation of elephants, especially the orphaned babies. The transit home takes care of orphaned calves that are found in the wild. They can be disowned or may have lost their parents or even the entire herd. The aim is to take care of them until they are the age of five. By then they should be able to take care of themselves and are being released again in the nearby National Park.

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Udawalawe

The transit home is easily found inside the village and within walking distance of most accommodations. You can buy an entrance ticket to watch how the (baby) elephants are being fed. The price is around $ 5 per person. I really liked it because the visitors are not able to get close to the animals or make contact with them. There is a half round grandstand from where you can sit and watch. Between the elephants and the grandstand is a piece of water. It's fun to see the baby elephants running towards the caretakes from a distance. Firstly they are treated with either water or milk. Then some guy on a tractor scatterers some leaves and branches around the place for them to eat. It's amusing to watch the baby elephants as the make grumpy noises, complaining that they do not get enough milk ;D

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Here they come!

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The milk is some kind of human baby milk formulae. Since there is still no special milk formulae for elephants, it takes time and patient to find out the special formulae for each individual elephant. This may cause milk intolerance. If that's the case, soy, rice broth or a special rehydration solution are provided for them.

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Public viewing of the feeding is possible every day of the year at 9 am, 12 noon, 3 pm and 6 pm. There is also an information center. Among the usual tourists, you will also find a surprisingly high number of locals visiting this place. Mostly with children. Feeding takes about half an hour/ 40 minutes. Although a visit to this transit home cannot beat a visit to the National Park, it's still really fun to do both. Definitely worth a visit if you have kids.

I would love to hear if you have visited this place when visiting Udawalawe. And what you're opinion is about such places. Mainly because I did some research before visiting and read some disturbing things about the Pinnawala orphanage (did not visit that place so can't say if they're true or false). The Udawalawe Transit Home seems quite legit to me.

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