Elephant Transit Home

The Elephant Transit Home (ETH) is a unique place where wild orphans are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.  The orphanage, run by the Sri Lankan government’s Department of Wildlife Conservation, is the first of its kind in Asia.  Since 1995, 78 young elephants, between the ages of 4 and 5, have been freed inside the protected Udawalawa National Park. Many of  these baby elephants had fallen into wells or abandoned mines, were snared in animal traps, or had become victims of Human Elephant Conflict.

An orphan’s journey is long and hard.  Many babies undergo treatment for wounds, fractures, dehydration and infections. The staff vigilantly monitors each baby’s progress and makes sure the transition to cow’s milk formula goes as smoothly as possible.  The facilities at the Elephant Transit Home include medical treatment areas, a milk formula kitchen, a large grazing pasture with access to water for drinking and bathing, staff quarters for 24 hour monitoring, a tourist welcome center, and viewing platform.  In each batch of released orphans, a few will be fitted with radio collars in order to observe their integration in the wild.  While consistent monitoring in the wild has proven difficult, it has been observed that the orphans either associate with each other in their own groups or  integrate into a wild herd.

Too much human contact could jeopardize the orphans success once reintroduced into the wild; therefore, the public is not allowed to get close to the babies.  However, tourists may observe feeding time at 9am and noon. It is an amazing site to see the orphans receive their milk rations.  Located in Udawalawa National Park, a visit to Elephant Transit Home can be combined with a jeep safari.  Please ask your tour guide to organize your visit.

Read Elemotion Foundation’s interview with Dr. Tharaka Prasad, about the orphans of ETH and more.