Pinnawela elephant orphanage is located close to Kegalle town found en route from the capital Colombo to Kandy in the central hills. It was established by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Department in 1975 in a 25 acre coconut plantation adjoining the Maha Oya river at Rambukkana and was taken over by the National Zoological Gardens in 1978. Even though these elephants are restricted to a limited space, a captive breeding program was commenced in 1982 and this orphanage in its natural settings also provides a breeding ground for these elephants. These grounds are supposed to house the largest herd of elephants held in captivity in the world.
Right from the beginning, it was thought that it would attract local as well as foreign tourists, which indeed proved to be true. Each year families, large numbers of school children and foreigners visit Pinnawela to watch the elephants being fed, taking their routine walks and making a bee-line to the river for their daily baths, playing with one another enjoying themselves. It is a treat to watch the baby elephants being fed with milk. This Elephant Orphanage makes a popular attraction where one can see elephants roaming free within the coconut plantation.