The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is situated northwest of the town of Kegalle, halfway between the present capital Colombo and the ancient royal residence Kandy in the hills of central Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka wildlife department in a 25 acre coconut property near the Maha Oya river. The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to the many orphaned Elephants found in the jungle. As of 2003, there were 65 elephants.
In 1978 the orphanage was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens from the Department of Wildlife and a captive breeding program was launched in 1982. Since this time over twenty elephants have been born. The aim of the orphanage is to simulate the natural world. However, there are some exceptions: the elephants are taken to the river twice daily for a bath, and all the babies under three years of age are still bottle fed by the mahouts and volunteers. Each animal is also given around 76kg of green matter a day and around 2kg from a food bag containing rice bran and maize. They get access to water twice a day, from the river.