Mass naming of baby elephants
Sri Lanka’s main elephant orphanage staged its biggest mass naming
ceremony yesterday. Getting names will be 15 baby elephants born in
captivity, an official said.
Thirteen babies born last year and two in 2010 were given names
chosen from among thousands suggested by visitors to the Pinnawala
orphanage, 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,” Senaratne told AFP when contacted by telephone.
“The lucky letters were published and visitors were asked to suggest
names accordingly,” he said, adding that Sunday’s ceremony was the
biggest ever at the facility since it opened in 1975.
Foreign visitors to the orphanage named two of the babies Trinky and
Elvina, while the others were given popular Sinhalese names including
Mangala (meaning ceremonial), Singithi (small) and Ahinsa (innocent).
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.
Formally established in 1975, 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 animals and a number of the babies
born at Pinnawala have been gifted to Buddhist temples to be paraded
during annual pageants.
Sri Lanka’s elephant population remains healthy despite decades of
fighting between government and rebel forces in the island’s north-east,
the first survey since the end of the bloody civil war showed last year.
The survey showed the country had 7,379 elephants living in the wild,
despite fears that the population had dwindled to an estimated 5,350.
The country boasted 12,000 elephants in 1900.
The survey carried out in August last year counted 1,107 baby
elephants in the wild, officials said.
The 15 babies were named: Singithi, Ahinsa, Themiya, Wanamali, Trinky,
Elvina, Nandi, Mangala, Annuththara, Jeevaka, Kadol, Isira, Bimuthi,
Aithi and Gagana.