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Monday, June 11, 2012

That's one busy Sunday service! Mass christening of baby elephants held in Sri Lanka

By Sara Malm

15 baby elephants born at Sri Lanka's biggest elephant orphanage were christened in a mass service today.

The event, which is the biggest so far held at the Pinnawala orphanage saw the baby elephants being given names chosen from thousands of visitors suggestions.

Some were given western sounding names such as Elvina, whilst others now carry more traditional Sinhalese names such as Singithi, which means small and Ahinsa (innocent).

Two baby elephants play in the water under the watchful gaze of an adult at Pinnawala orphanage

It seemed the ceremony bored these two youngsters who look like they are up to some serious mischief at today's ceremony

Pinnawala director Nihal Senaratne said: 'An astrologer looked at the time of birth of each elephant. He then decided on the first letter of each baby's name according to its horoscope.

'The lucky letters were published and visitors were asked to suggest names accordingly'

The 15 babies were named: Singithi, Ahinsa, Themiya, Wanamali, Nandi, Mangala, Annuththara, Jeevaka, Kadol, Isira, Bimuthi, Aithi, Gagana and foreign favourites Trinky and Elvina.

Bathing time for a herd of elephants at Pinnawala

The regular baths are very popular with tourists and draw big crowds who watch the elephants play in the river

All work and no play makes Dumbo a dull boy: These juvenile elephants combine work and pleasure during bath time

Sunday's ceremony was the biggest ever at the facility since it opened in 1975.

The orphanage, in a coconut grove about 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of Colombo, is a major tourist attraction and large crowds were present for Sunday's ceremony.

Babies are fed gallons of milk in public and the entire herd is taken across a main road to a nearby river at bathtime in a ritual that has become hugely popular with visitors.

Heading home: Clean and christened the heard heads back from the river to Pinnawala

Kids these days: It did not take long before this little beast rolled around in the red sand

Thirteen babies born last year and the other two in 2010 were given names chosen from among thousands suggested by visitors

The orphanage shelters 83 elephants, most of whom were abandoned or separated from their herds when they were babies. Many have also been born at the orphanage.

Elephants are considered sacred in Sri Lanka, something which has helped keeping the animals' population healthy throughout the long-running civil war between government and rebel forces in the island's north-east.
It was feared that the population had dwindled to a mere 5,350 as a result.

Fortunately a survey carried out last year, the first since the end of the war, showed the country had 7,379 elephants living in the wild, including 1,107 babies.

The country boasted 12,000 elephants in 1900.

A female tourist feeds the elephants. The orphanage is a very popular attraction in the area both among locals and visitors

Amazed: A girl is clearly impressed whilst feeding one of the elephants. Pinnawala, which has been open since 1975, cares for 83 elephants some of which were born at the orphanage



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