People feed, groom and care for 46 elephants on the farm. The babies drink milk warmed to body temperature from super-size bottles, seven per feeding.
"Maybe at first they can't find their own food. So we bring it to them here," said Idris Salley, a caretaker at the elephant farm.
Outcasts like Raja, an old blind elephant who was wounded by hunters, live on the farm, as does an elephant rumored to have killed more than a dozen people.
The farm supports itself in part through tourists, who come for a rare close-up view of the animals.
The orphans arrive from across the country, rescued from remote villages where they have lost their mothers to quarry accidents, shootings or lynch mobs.
At the Elephant Orphanage, deep in the tropical hill country of central Sri Lanka, the motherless calves are raised by human foster parents who ply them with bottled milk five times a day and give them an occasional swig of beer in an effort to help preserve Asia's dwindling wild-elephant population.
"Without the orphanage, most of them would be left to die or be killed," said Wijepala Ranbanda, curator of the elephant orphanage.
In Sri Lanka and throughout Asia, some of the world's larger remaining wild-elephant herds - about 50,000 animals across the continent - face threats to their survival from burgeoning human populations that are bulldozing forests into farmland and severing centuries-old migration routes with highways and urban development.
In recent months the competition for space between man and beast has led to unprecedented clashes as the giant pachyderms, squeezed out of their native habitat, have attacked villagers, raided farm crops and, recently, stormed the outskirts of Calcutta.
India is home to an estimated 40 per cent of the world's Asianelephant population, which is overwhelmingly wild, with only a few thousand domesticated and used for work or religious purposes.
"The scenario is rather bleak," said J. C. Daniel, a member of the steering committee of India's Project Elephant, a new government effort to protect wild elephants. "The main problem facing us today is habitat destruction. There is frequent straying into human settlements, where they raid the crops and people shoot them."
A single rogue elephant was blamed for the deaths of 27 villagers during a 10-day rampage in the northeastern Indian state of Assam last fall. Other marauding elephants also attacked farmers, razed crops and guzzled barrels of rice beer stored in village huts. The government dispatched mounted troopers to hunt down the beasts.
In January, panic-stricken residents of Calcutta erected giant walls along the city's borders to stop a herd of elephants that had strayed from customary migration paths.
"There has been a human explosion in the area," said Ashish Ghosh, director of the Calcutta-based Zoological Survey of India, which has been studying elephant-migration patterns. "There have been more and more disturbances in their normal migration routes. This is the first time in recent memory that these herds have come so close to urban habitat."
In Sri Lanka, a small island nation that is home to an estimated 3,000 wild elephants, the problem of diminishing habitat is even more acute. The island has been stripped of 50 per cent of its forest land in the last three decades, dramatically affecting the elephant herds.
"They want to roam, and they overlap with the people," said curator Ranbanda of the Elephant Orphanage, which was created in 1975 by government officials worried about habitat encroachment.
In the last 19 years, the number of deserted, maimed and impaired elephants that are provided foster care has jumped from about 10 a year to 56 last year. Some of the orphans raised in the sanctuary of palm groves and rolling grassland are now rearing their own babies at the orphanage.
The sheer size of the elephants makes them far more susceptible to the problems of human encroachment than tigers, rhinoceroses and other endangered animals that tend to live in small pockets, wildlife officials said.
The orphanage's newest arrival weighed 60 kilograms (132 pounds) when she was born nearly two months ago. She will drink about 25 litres of milk a day until she's weaned after 4 1/2 years.
For more pictures of Sri Lankan elephants and the Elephant Orphanage click below......
Pictures of elephants at Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
More Pictures of elephants at the Orphanage
Wild elephants at Udawalawe National Park
Click here for ALL ABOUT ELEPHANTS
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