Image Courtesy |NH53

The prime function of Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home within the National Park is to take in. rehabilitate and release elephants back into the wild. Elephants do remain an endangered species and this facility that was founded by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1995. Once calves are five years old they can be released with the protection of a radio collar.

The Park in the south of Sri Lanka has plenty of rain, the dry period being June to September. It is 165 km east and inland from Colombo. It has some hilly areas, forest, grassland and marsh. The permanent elephant population numbers around 250 and are fairly easy to see because they inhabit the open areas as a rule.

Wasgmuwa National Park

Image CourtesyNH53

Wasgamuwa in Central Province 225 km from Colombo is known for its large elephant herds. It became a National Park in 1984 having been a nature reserve for some years previously. The driest period in the Park are between July and September. There is forest and grassland and some elevation.

There are 150 elephants which prefer the marshy parts of the Park. There are signs of conflict between humans and their cattle and the fauna within the Park, particularly the elephants.

Kaudulla National Park

Image CourtesyMahesh Kularatne

Kaudulla is a far more recent creation, opening in 2002. It is almost 200 km from Colombo on the road heading north east to Trincomalee, a major port in Sri Lanka. It was an area where King Mahasen built an irrigation tank and the water benefits the fauna during the times of drought between April and October after the north east monsoon departs.It is a region of dry, evergreen forest with some grassland.

The elephant population which exceeds 200 moves based upon the availability of water. They return from Minneriya down a jungle corridor in September in anticipation of the rains.



Wilpattu National Park

Image CourtesyShashin Wijenayake

Wilpattu is another old National Park that once hosted the Elephant Orphanage. The name means ‘land of lakes’ and is situated in the north west of Sri Lanka, 180 km north of Colombo. It became a sanctuary early in the last century and a National Park since 1938. It was closed for 16 years while the region was regarded as unsafe but since 2003 it has been back on the tourist map.

Much of the Park is difficult to access because it is dense forest but wildlife lovers not only enjoy the parts they can tour, they generally feel good that wildlife can have its privacy as well.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Image CourtesyAmila Tennakoon

This was originally opened forty years ago as a haven for young elephants seen wandering alone and fairly aimlessly. It has been moved a few times until it settled at Pinnawala on a 10 hectare coconut plantation. Today it is involved in breeding, a nursery for elephants. The Orphanage has the largest herd of ‘captive’ elephants anywhere in the world.

Tourists have been visiting the Orphanage in good numbers. It is located halfway between the capital, Colombo and the famous town of Kandy. Visitors can see feeding time, the elephants walking down to the Ma Oya River for drinking and bathing. Mahouts give their charges a good scrub during this twice daily routine.

The females and babies are free to roam during the day, as close to a natural environment as is possible.

Dehiwala Zoo

Image Courtesy
Hafiz Issadeen

Most people’s first experience of seeing exotic animals was in a zoo. Air travel now offers the chance to visit wild places but zoos still have a role to play. Sri Lanka’s zoo is at Dehiwala near Colombo; it was founded in 1936 and hopes to contribute to conservation, education and animal welfare.

While the animals are obviously restricted the zoo provides a beautiful environment; landscaping with colourful flora, trees and fountains within which there are cages and enclosures.

The Zoo obviously has elephants and there is a performing schedule within an arena where they perform a variety of tricks for visitors. There is a history of trained elephants throughout the world though for visitors to Sri Lanka with time to see the Island there are far better experiences of elephants to observe.


Yala National Park


Image CourtesyAmila Tennakoon

Yala is Sri Lanka’s most famous National Park. It is believed that the Park has one of the largest concentrations of leopards anywhere in the world. It is also home to buffalo, crocodile, sloth bear and over 300 elephants. It is located in the south east of the Island and as such has always been in an area where tourists have always travelled. The result has been that Yala was always on travel company itineraries, a well-worn path.

The elephant population varies seasonally; isn’t it great news that elephants are free to roam unharmed outside the boundaries of the Park? A word of caution though because there is a threat of poaching.


The Park has a semi-arid climate but gets rain from the north east monsoon. There is monsoon forest and freshwater and marine wetlands. There is a huge variety of birdlife and there is little doubt that Yala will maintain its prominence on the schedule of wildlife lovers.

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