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Volunteering in Sri lanka With Elephants (Pinnawala)

Do you desire to work with elephants every single day, helping them, feeding them, and making sure they remain healthy? Do you ever dream of exploring beautiful Sri Lanka while leaving a positive impact on animal conservation? If so, then this IFRE’s project may be just for you.

Sri Lanka is a gorgeous country with beautiful natural scenery and rich culture and history, best known as a world-class tourist destination. People from around the world travel here just to experience a deep and unique Buddhist culture while strolling on warm white sands.

Unfortunately, like in many other countries the wild animals of Sri Lanka are becoming extinct. The country struggles with poaching, poorly run tourism industry and widespread logging destroying the natural habitants of the wildlife. As a Sri Lanka Elephant Orphanage Volunteer, you will work to care for elephants at the most popular tourist attraction, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

This orphanage is a breeding sanctuary for rescued, injured, and abused wild elephants, established by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1976 with a focus of providing care and protection to the many orphaned elephants found in the jungle and they desperately need volunteers like you.

By volunteering in our Sri Lanka elephant orphanage program, you will not only be caring for elephants to ensure they are protected from poaching but also fulfilling your life dream knowing that you have made real positive impact in animals in Sri Lanka.

Become a volunteer today working with elephants in Sri Lanka for an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. If you want to make a positive impact on elephant conservation, contact IFRE today about this exciting opportunity!

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Volunteers’ Responsibilities & Impact

When you volunteer in Sri lanka With elephants program, you will work at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage from 8:30-11:30 a.m. You will head to the house at 11:30 to enjoy lunch with the other volunteers. In the afternoon, you will get to enjoy relaxing free time, with an opportunity to work again at 4:00 p.m. While at the elephant orphanage, volunteers will help the mahouts, or elephant handlers, in various tasks.

This includes cleaning the sheds, mucking out the elephant enclosures, and preparing milk for bottle feeding. You will also help the mahouts by brushing the elephants and working with the private elephants in the Pinnawala Elephant Safari Center after 4:00 p.m.

Volunteering in an elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka is a very meaningful project. Your work will greatly improve the lives of elephants and your efforts to care for and spread awareness of suffering elephants at the conservation while making sure the rest are safe, healthy and happy will increase the ever receding and threatened elephant population.

Skills and Qualifications:

No specific qualifications or skills required to be a part of this program. However, it is required that you have a passion for working with elephants and will be willing to contribute in whatever way possible to ensure they remain healthy and safe at all times.

More About Volunteering in Sri lanka With Elephants & Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

The elephant volunteer project in Sri Lanka offers a unique and fantastic chance to contribute to vigorous elephant conservation project in Sri Lanka. It is an amazing opportunity to participate in a meaningful conservation project and enjoy working with orphan elephants in Sri Lanka.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village, 13 km (8.1 mi) northeast of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. It has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. Established in 1975, the orphanage cares and protects several orphaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka.

Pinnawala was initially started to feed, nurse and house young elephants found abandoned by their mothers. Young elephants sometimes fall into pits and ravines in their quest for water during drought period. Other orphans have been displaced from their wild habitat by development projects or have been found abandoned before weaning, diseased or wounded.

The elephants are fed in their stalls. There is very little food they can gather from the premises of the orphanage except some grass. Large quantities of jackfruit, coconut, kitul (sugar palm), tamarind and grass, brought in daily, form the bulk of the elephant’s food. Each adult animal is given around 250 kilograms of this green matter per day and around 2 kg from a food bag containing rice bran and maize.

Additionally, Pinnawala also conducts captive breeding of some elephants in its care. The natural environment and healthy care and feeding at Pinnawala made the elephant breeding program a success.

Each year IFRE hosts hundreds of volunteers from all over the world, with all kinds of skills and interests. Through the different elements of the conservation, volunteers working in elephant volunteer project in Sri Lanka have a unique experiences, gaining grass root entry into the local community. While working to provide improved elephant care and conservation, you will have personal interactions with the local people leaving you with an experience of a lifetime.

IFRE runs program, 365 days per year where our team is dedicated to the daily care of our elephants and welcome applicants from all over the world. You will take part in daily care and management of the elephants of the elephant orphanage, working under the direction and collaboration with our mahout and other volunteers. In addition, you will assist with its feeding, and bathing throughout your stay; and hopefully build a special relationship with your elephant! This requires dedicated care and responsibility.

Participating as a volunteer in Sri Lanka elephant project, your days will be fun and exciting full of new experiences. You’ll have great opportunities every day to share your love, skills and passion with elephants to impact positive change.

There is no fixed schedule for each day but be prepared to help at all times in a wide range of exciting tasks and activities.

First Day: On your first day of program, you will be escorted to the elephant orphanage by a local coordinator and introduced to the Mahouts you will be working with. You will have the rest of the day to familiarize yourself with the country, safety and rules and regulations of the project.

Weekdays: Your work begins in earnest on the second day, and this is what you will typically expect your day to look like in Sri Lanka:

7.00 to 7.30 AM: The day will start positively with a delicious traditional Sri Lankan breakfast shared with your host family

7.45 AM: After breakfast its time to leave for a new day full of experiences ranging from feeding the elephants, cleaning and caring for elephants.

12.00 PM: At noon lunch is usually served. You can enjoy the meal with your fellow volunteers.

4.00 PM: Depending up on the day to day programs and activities of center, there might be volunteer work for you after 4:00 PM, you will learn about evening volunteer activities at the project

Volunteering in Sri lanka With Elephants: Program Dates and Fees

Program Dates

IFRE programs begin every Monday year-round. If you have travel constraints, you can still start your chosen program on any day of the year.

Our Fees

Since 2006, IFRE has been the most trusted and respected volunteer abroad organization in the world, and also the most affordable. We’re dedicated to providing the highest quality volunteer programs at the lowest fees, which make it possible for everyone, especially students, to volunteer internationally and make a positive impact in the lives of others.

We believe in 100% transparency. Rest assured; we never use middlemen. Your one-time registration fee of $299 covers our administrative costs. The low weekly fee is paid in the host country directly to your host family and project (via country coordinator), and includes housing, food, and minor expenses. IFRE is a non-profit organization, so your program fees are tax deductible.

Volunteer Program Fees (US$)

Duration Pinnewala Elephant
  1 Week   $300
  2 Weeks   $600
  3 Weeks   $900
  4 Weeks   $1,200

Comprehensive Travel Insurance $3.49/day ( below 28 years) and $4.49/day ( above 28 years) »

Airport Pickup and Transfer to Galle (2 hours) $100/per person

Airport Pickup and Transfer to Kegalle (80 KM) $100/per person

Airport pick up & transfer to Pinnawala (80 km) $100/per person

Language and Culture $250

How your fee is allocated?

Program Fees Cover:

  • Accommodation (host family)
  • Food (only breakfast and dinnery)
  • Program Orientation
  • In-country support
  • Personalized project
  • Pre-departure information
  • Certificate of completion
  • Fundraising ideas and letters
  • Discount for returning volunteers

Program Fees Exclude:

  • Visas
  • Airfare
  • Personal expenses on soft drinks and foods
  • Daily transportation
  • Airport return transfer

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Accommodation and Meal

While volunteering in this Sri Lanka elephant project, IFRE will provide you with your home away from home. A loving, friendly and respectable family in the community will accommodate you. They will serve you with three delicious local meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) a day and make sure you are safe and comfortable in their home. You will experience great comfort as the home offers modern facilities including cozy bedrooms, running water and western-style toilets. You will have a homely and exciting experience in your new home and learn new culture and language.

Learn more about our amazing Sri Lankan host families

Free Time and Weekends:

While volunteering in our Pinnawala elephant project, you will have enough time to explore the surrounding local area from Monday to Friday to check out local places around you and experience diverse culture and understand their history. Over the weekend you will be able to travel far across the country exploring the temples or surfing in the sea.

Read more about exciting destinations you can visit while in Sri Lanka

Safety and In Country Support

Your safety is our priority. IFRE ensures that you always feel safe and secure during your entire volunteer project. We will support you before travelling to Sri Lanka and while in the project you will have an in-country coordinator assigned to assist you any time should need any help. We also offer a comprehensive insurance and evacuation plan to ensure your safety.

Learn more about our commitment to your safety and support in Sri Lanka.

Volunteering in Sri lanka With Elephants: FAQs

Arrival and departure

You are advised to arrive at the Colombo International Airport in Sri Lanka. We also recommend that you arrive one day before your assignment starts. Please bring along all the necessary documents including final placement sheet for Sri Lanka for volunteering in our elephant conservation project.

We will organize airport pick up service for our you after we receive your final flight details. Our airport representative will be waiting for you when you land at the airport and they will promptly transfer you to your host family. You must always maintain a direct level of contact with our local country coordinator and inform them about things such as flight delays and missed flights as soon as possible.

IFRE does not provide airport transfer services after the completion of your volunteer projects but your in-country coordinator or your host family will be more than happy to assist you get transportation.


All international travellers require Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) to come to Sri Lanka. Please secure a tourist visa before travelling to Sri Lanka in order to avoid unnecessary hassles. Visa on arrival is not available in Sri Lanka. You can extend your visa by paying a visit to the Department of Immigration in Colombo.


Please take essential immunizations before your Sri Lanka volunteering trip. We suggest you to visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health Canada or in Travelers' Health United Kingdom for detailed information regarding required vaccination to visit in Sri Lanka. Vaccinations against Yellow Fever, Diphtheria & Tetanus, Japanese Encephalitis, Hepatitis A and B, Tuberculosis, Typhoid, Polio and Rabies are mainly required. You can also consult your travel doctor who is knowledgeable about current epidemics in Sri Lanka.

For further readings:
Volunteer Health and Safety
Safety tips for your volunteer abroad trip

Why volunteer in elephant program in Sri Lanka?

Volunteering in this Elephant project is a life-changing experience for volunteers, local communities and the elephants.

You get to work alongside of the animal lovers and make lifelong friends

Volunteering in an Elephant conservation project offers you a chance to make friends. You will have the chance to work alongside other animal lovers who share similar interests and are united with you in the pursuit of a common cause. You will meet people outside of your usual circle that you might never have had the chance to interact with otherwise.

You will have fun while doing something good

When you join our elephant conservation project, it allows you to make a difference while working with others to protect the elephants. You have the opportunity to feed them, bathe them, and play with them in a friendly environment. You can also assist the mahouts and share lighter moments with them knowing about the elephant’s behavior their way of life and also about the Sri Lankan culture. Volunteering in such a project provides a great deal of fun excitement and satisfaction.

You will experience a new culture:

As a volunteer worker in an elephant program in Sri Lanka, you will learn about unique conversational customs and body languages that may differ from your home country. Living in a new community gives you a different view of the people and the country. You will immerse yourself in a new community, culture and share in their day-to-day lives. It’s a great opportunity to experience the life of elephants and meaningful cultural exchange.

You will see instant results of your work:

When volunteering at our elephant project, you will see a change in their personality almost instantly. After spending time with the animals, whether it’s taking them for a walk, bathing them or feeding them their personalities come out and they start to shine. You can see the change in their behavior instantly, which is satisfying and extremely rewarding.

Other Volunteer Opportunities Available in Sri Lanka

No matter your passion or interests, we offer a variety of life-changing, elephant volunteer programs in Sri Lanka such as

Volunteering in an orphanage

Doing medical work

Working with elephants in Kegalle

Teaching English to disadvantaged children or Buddhist monks

Family volunteering and much more.

For more information on our exciting programs in Sri Lanka, contact us today.

Elephant Volunteer Programs in Other Countries

Other than this elephant conservation program in Sri Lanka, we also offer great volunteer opportunities with elephants in many countries cross the world. Check out some of our most popular elephant conservation programs below.

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