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Sri Lanka’s main elephant orphanage staged its biggest mass christening on Sunday by naming 15 baby elephants born in captivity.
Thirteen calves born in 2011 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,” Mr Senaratne said.
“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 calves Trinky and Elvina, while the others were given popular Sinhalese names including Mangala, meaning ceremonial, Singithi, meaning small and Ahinsa, meaning innocent.
The orphanage, in a coconut grove about 80 kilometres east of Colombo, is a major tourist attraction and large crowds were present for Sunday’s ceremony.
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 in Sri lanka and a number of the calves 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, with a survey last year showing there were over 7,000 in the wild.