Zwemmen in spoor van Evert van Benthem

Korstiaan de Boer zwemt wekelijks tien kilometer. Hij popelt om aan de Overijsselse Merentocht mee te doen.
Korstiaan de Boer zwemt wekelijks tien kilometer. Hij popelt om aan de Overijsselse Merentocht mee te doen. | beeld Lucia de Vries

The Gangster of Love

Trilochan Shrestha was a hippie even before the word was invented

Lucia de Vries  October 12, 2018

When Nepal became a destination for overland travelers in the 1960s, one young man was ready: Trilochan Shrestha, probably Nepal’s first hippie. Born in 1945 as the oldest son to a wealthy Newar family, he grew up in Jhhochen where his aunt lived.

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Drones to the rescue

Being taken for a ride

First published by Nepali Times
We need to better manage human-elephant conflict, understand the elephant’s value in the wild for the eco-system, and step away from exploiting them in captivity

Jan Schmidt-Burbach is an adviser at World Animal Protection (WAP) and recently completed a detailed study into the conditions of elephants used in tourism in Nepal and other parts of Asia. He spoke to Lucia de Vries about his findings. Continue reading

Feeling Groovy

Feeling groovy

Finding rare images of Kathmandu’s colourful hippie era

Relics of the hippie era in Kathmandu have been slowly erased by the passage of time, and whatever remained in Jochhen from that psychedelic period was brought down by last year’s earthquake.
One of the few hippie hangouts that is still intact on what used to be called Freak Street is Snowman Café. On a recent afternoon, it was packed with Nepali youngsters but none of them had any idea how the street got its name.

William smoking bong “I brought this bong from Kathmandu and used it for a while. It is basically a bamboo water pipe. It got me so stoned that I forgot what day of the week it was. So I gave it up.”

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Walking the holy river

First published by Nepali Times
One man’s journey to trace the 160 or so traditional bathing places along the now-polluted river


When American researcher William Forbes recently surveyed some of the temples and ghats along the Bagmati River to see if they survived the earthquake, he was greeted with much enthusiasm at a small tirtha just north of Pashupatinath called Hatyamochan.

The smiling face was of social worker Rohit Limbu, who has made it his personal mission to preserve the temple. Limbu led restoration of an old well which is now being used as a sacred bathing spot for women during Rishi Panchami. “I dreamt about you the other night,” Limbu told Forbes. “You were one of the few people who believed in my dream, and look what happened.” Continue reading

War is the crime

First published by Nepali Times

Photographer Stephen Champion goes from covering war between men to war on nature

Photo Willemijn Van Kol

Where to go after the war is over? Many photographers and reporters are confronted with this question after documenting violent conflicts. For Sri Lanka-based British photographer Stephen Champion (above) the answer was obvious: to nature. Or more precisely, to the war being waged on nature in the island.

Stephen Champion was only 25 when he witnessed a man being torn to pieces by a bomb. He did not do what was expected of him: focus his camera and shoot. He crouched down and wept. Continue reading

Healing together

First published by Nepali Times
Religious organisations show solidarity with earthquake survivors
Lucia De Vries in RASUWA

HELPING TOGETHER: IRW officer Bilal Agmad Zargar (left) and LWF officer Chenyen Nekor (right), together with a volunteer hand over construction materials to Nirmala BK in Kalikasthan of Rasuwa.

A Muslim relief agency joining hands with a Christian organisation to help Buddhist earthquake survivors in a largely Hindu country may sound implausible but that is exactly what happened in Rasuwa earlier this month. Continue reading

Born to be free

First published by Nepali Times

Instead of riding them to observe wildlife, elephants themselves are now tourist attractions 
Lucia De Vries in CHITWAN

Photo Lena Quenard

Saraswati Kali enjoys her daily bath in the river.

Raj Kali is 42, and walks surprisingly fast and light-footedly along a forest track in the Amaltari buffer zone of Chitwan National Park. Her trunk sways as if it has a life of its own: Sniffing out edible greens, snapping the branches of acacia, and slipping it into her mouth while on the move. Her friend, Dibya Kali is 46, and follows close behind. Visitors are guided by naturalist Shambhu Mahato on a jungle walk to observe the rhinos wallowing in a muddy pool by the river. Continue reading

Brick by brick

First published by Nepali Times

How Sanogaun’s women are rebuilding better quake-resistant homes
Lucia De Vries

Pics: Paul Jeffrey

Sanogaun, a small Newar settlement on the southern fringes of Kathmandu was flattened by the earthquake last year. Now, the community is using an innovative technology to rebuild all its 49 homes so they are cheaper and resistant to future quakes.

The interlocking brick technique developed by Nepali inventor Gyanendra R Sthapit at the Habitech Center of the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand combines the strengths of rammed earth and compressed blocks. It has been used in post-tsunami reconstruction in Thailand in 2008 and after Cyclone Nargis ravaged Burma in 2010 to build more than 1,000 homes, schools, and health clinics. In Bhutan, over 100 quake-proof houses and schools have been built using the technology. Continue reading

The belly of the beast

First publishd by The Kathmandu Post

The recent decision to phase out slaughter places in the Valley will not change the way animals are killed inhumanely across the countryThe belly of the beast

Een onmogelijk dilemma

First published by Trouw

Orgaanhandel | reportage | Nepal worstelt met zijn huidige transplantatiewet. Die is te strikt en houdt daardoor de illegale orgaanhandel in stand, zeggen experts.

Hoe koop je een nier? Met wat valse documenten kom je een heel eind. Dat leerde Nepalees Sarju Shrestha, illustrator en kunstenaar, toen zijn schoonvader vorig jaar begon te sukkelen met zijn nieren. Continue reading

The birdman of Gadhimai

First published by Republica

Among the many disturbing images of the animal sacrifices at the Gadhimai festival that took place in November 2014, there was one that stood out. It is that of a young man standing in a large field littered with buffalo heads and corpses, holding up a banner. The banner says ‘Windows of Choice’ and shows pictures of animals, both loved and abused. On the man’s shoulder sits a young, white pigeon, perched firmly, as if holding on for its life.

The image was uploaded on Facebook and went viral. Campaigners drew strength from the lone crusader and the surviving white bird. The unknown campaigner became known as ‘The bird man of Gadhimai’. Continue reading

Circumambulating with Swayambu Billy

First published by Nepali Times
On the trails of Gunadhya with the yoga teacher who translated ‘Nepala-Mahatmya’


When yoga teacher William Forbes suffered a serious accident in 1985, some predicted he might never walk again but fate had something else in store for the American iconoclast better known as ‘Swayambu Billy’.Forbes came to Nepal in 1970, and like many of his contemporaries, took the long road to Kathmandu overland on the hippie trail. The young adventurer flew to Luxembourg, where he bought a Volkswagen van, crashed it in Morocco and continued by local buses, travelling through Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. His wife, Susan Burns followed a few years later. Continue reading

Get off that elephant back

Photo Lucia de Vries

Exploring Nepal’s wilderness on the back of an elephant seems like a perfect way to spend the holidays. In bygone eras only aristocrats and kings had access to elephant safaris, mostly organized for hunting. Nowadays any tourist can afford to mount one of the 45 privately owned elephants in Sauraha, the main tourist hub of Chitwan National Park. After the jungle safari one can opt to bath the elephant in the river. With the jumbo splashing water on the tourists standing on its back, that seems a lot of fun too.

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Vrouwen zijn de motor achter wederopbouw van Nepal

First piblished by Trouw

Vandaag werd in Nepal de aardbeving officieel herdacht. Op het moment dat de Nepalese premier een krans legde bij de Dharahara-toren, waar veel mensen om het leven kwamen, versjouwden Sunita Tamang en Srijana Maharjan gezamenlijk een partij modder. Ze droegen rubber handschoenen, veiligheidshelmen en stofmaskers. Samen met zo’n dertig andere vrouwen restaureren Sunita en Srijana een waterreservoir in hun dorp Dakchhinkali.

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Nepal: Door blokkade van de grens met India dreigt een humanitaire ramp — ‘Tweede aardbeving’ treft Nepal in het hart

First published by Het Parool

Nepal lijdt onder een politieke crisis die wel ‘de tweede aardbeving’ wordt genoemd. De impact van een wegblokkade door oppositiegroepen in het zuiden van het land, is volgens economen nu al erger dan die van de aardbeving die Nepal eerder dit jaar trof. Voedsel, bouwmaterialen en benzine komen het land maar mondjesmaat in. De steun, toegezegd door overheid en hulporganisaties, zal veel slachtoffers daardoor dit jaar niet bereiken.

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Kinderhandelaars slaan toe in Nepal na de aardbeving

First published by Trouw

Een maand na de aardbeving die Nepal eind april trof, arriveerde een groep mensen in een afgelegen dorp in de grensstreek met Tibet. Ze spraken over ‘De Meester’ en ‘De Liefde’ en waren op zoek naar weeskinderen. In hun tehuis zouden ouderloze kinderen goed eten en onderwijs krijgen. Twee jongetjes van 5 en 7 jaar werden opgespoord. Omdat beide ouders waren omgekomen leek het de beste oplossing hen met de onbekenden mee te geven.

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Nepal krijgt miljarden van de wereld

First published by Trouw

Wie dat geld verantwoord gaat uitgeven is onduidelijk. Internationale hulporganisaties niet betrokken bij herstelplan.

Op de internationale donorconferentie die gisteren in Kathmandu plaatsvond, werden twee dingen duidelijk: Nepal heeft minimaal vijf jaar nodig om de aardbeving van 25 mei te boven te komen, en het Himalayaland weet zich in de donorgemeenschap goed te verkopen. Maar hoe en door wie de toegezegde miljarden op een verantwoorde manier gaan worden uitgegeven, is vooralsnog een raadsel. De internationale hulporganisaties waren niet uitgenodigd. Continue reading

Sujal troost Sandip (12) die zijn been heeft gebroken

First published by Trouw

Traumacentrum Kathmandu bergt slachtoffers. Vrijwilliger Sujal Tundakar helpt.

Na een uur rondrennen neemt Sujal Tundakar de tijd om op adem te komen. “De verhalen zijn het moeilijkst”, zegt de stoere marketingmanager, gekleed in zwart T-shirt dat de talloze tattoos op zijn onderarmen vrij laat. “Ze zijn stuk voor stuk verdrietig. En dan te bedenken dat ze het topje van de ijsberg zijn.”
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Kathmandu probeert de regie te krijgen

First published by Trouw

Vertrouwen in overheid is laatste dagen hard gedaald

LUCIA DE VRIES 2 mei 2015, 2:46
“De regering? Daar wil ik niet over praten!” De ogen van Hira Kumari Bhandari, een jonge moeder uit Sindhulpalchok, spatten vuur als haar mening over de Nepalese overheid wordt gevraagd. “In mijn dorp ligt een man onder het puin. Van zaterdag tot donderdag riep hij om hulp. Niemand kwam ons helpen. Sinds vanochtend is hij stil. De regering heeft geen enkele belangstelling voor de ongeletterden in de dorpen. Ze gebruiken ons alleen om verkozen te worden en hun zakken te vullen.”

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Hemanta’s home in the wild

First published by Nepali Times

One of Nepal’s foremost tiger and rhino conservationist, Hemanta Mishra began his career in 1967 as part of the government’s pioneering team that created Chitwan National Park in 1973. He then went on to help establish a network of protected areas in the Tarai and the Himalayas. In 1987, the native of Kupondole was awarded the prestigious J Paul Getty Conservation Prize for his outstanding efforts in protecting the country’s endangered species.

Mishra, who has a PhD in natural resource management from the University of Edinburgh, joined the World Bank in Washington DC as an environmental specialist in 1992. A decade later, he moved to Manila to work with the Asian Development Bank. He also did a teaching stint at George Mason University in DC. The author of The Soul of the Rhino (2008) and The Bones of the Tiger (2010), Hemanta’s next book, Nepal’s Chitwan National Park – a Hand Book, is scheduled for publication in April.

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Working elephants rise up, you have nothing to lose but your chains

First published by Nepali Times

Man Kali is a 35-year-old working elephant in Chitwan. She and her two off-spring, eight-year old Prakriti Kali and seven-month old Hem Gaj, recently became Nepal’s first working elephants to be rehabilitated in a chain-free pen.

The enclosure in Chitwan houses six elephants, ranging in age from seven months to over 70. All of the pachyderms here used to be chained with their front legs hobbled together, preventing natural posturing or healthy physical activity. The corral also had a fence that administered a mild electric shock upon contact. It has since been replaced with a solar-powered fence that transmits a clicking sound. The elephants naturally avoid the fence because their ears are so sensitive.

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Blood bricks

First published by Nepali Times

A network of social workers, environmentalists, child rights and animal rights advocates who form the BrickClean Network (BCN) have termed traditional bricks ‘Blood Bricks’. They say the industry is one of Nepal’s ‘dirtiest little secrets’ and are lobbying responsible citizens to opt for clean and green bricks.

The kilns exploit the most desperate people, thousands of children mould bricks or work as donkey handlers. “Each time I visit a brick factory I am outraged,” says Pramada Shah, activist with Animal Nepal. “The mules and donkeys are almost always overloaded, underfed, and made to work even when they are sick or pregnant.”

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An elephant is not a machine

First published by Protect all Wildlife

A very important report by Animal Nepal looking at Elephant trekking in Nepal. Its results show the conditions that Elephants must endure for the Elephant trekking business – and has relevance to all countries that practice Elephant trekking. Care for the Wild part-funded this report. Take a look below and click on the links to read the full report.

Animal Nepal published the important outcomes of a detailed survey into the welfare conditions of safari Elephants in Sauraha, Chitwan, called An Elephant Is Not A Machine. The survey of 42 privately owned ‘safari Elephant’ in Sauraha learns that their welfare is greatly compromised.

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Blaming it on the birds is foul

First published by The Kathmandu Post

Animal Nepal’s animal sanctuary is located on the banks of Bagmati River, at Chobar. Our neighbour is a makeshift farm rearing pigs and ducks. A little further away there are three pig farms which also farm ducks or chicken. The animals either roam freely in a heavily contaminated area or are kept in extremely dirty sheds. The question in our view is not if bird and swine flu will hit these farms, but when.

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Through our eyes

First published by Nepali Times

Just a few minutes into Narbahadur’s film the audience gasps. After four days of walking the 18-year-old former child soldier arrives home in a remote part of Humla district. He has warned the viewers: ‘There is nothing in my village.’ But they are unprepared for the images of grinding poverty in the young filmmaker’s home: malnourished sisters swatting flies, an emaciated mother, and his grey-haired father, a blacksmith who is going blind.

Narbahadur’s film, My Sun Rise, is part of the Through Our Eyes trilogy produced by three teenagers who joined the Maoists when they were only twelve. Like Narbahadur (back centre, pic), Sukmaya (centre) comes from a Dalit background, and as a child was painfully aware of the fact that she was ‘at the bottom and always the last’.

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Green bricks

First published by Nepali Times

The Kathmandu Valley’s smog owes much to the highly polluting brick kilns that dot its southern expanses. What’s worse, the smoke billowing out of these towers obscures the terrible conditions in which its workers – including many children and donkeys – slave for minimal reward. These are the victims of the capital’s housing boom.

It’s time we moved away from ‘blood bricks’. This may be possible now, as Animal Nepal’s award to Indra Tuladhar of Bungamati Itha Udyog last week indicated. Tuladhar was honoured for producing ‘clean and green’ bricks using Chinese technology, and the animal welfare organisation hopes other brick producers will follow suit to reduce pollution and stop the exploitation of kids and animals.

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Ban Blood Bricks

First published by The Kathmandu Post and Asia News Network


Two weeks ago the Animal Nepal rescued a blind working horse and her foal from a brick kiln in Harasiddi, Lalitpur. They were skin and bones. We named them Shakti and Mukti. The rescue again reminds us of the importance of advocating against brick factories that abuse people, animals and the environment. On World Animal Day today, we invite the public to join a consumer campaign to ban ‘blood bricks’.

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Yes, E-bikes!

First published by Nepali Times

When my Hero Honda Splendor bike got stolen last year, I felt a deep sense of loss. The Honda had grown on me like no other bike had before. The bike (re-baptised as ‘Heroine Honda’) took me to remote destinations inside the Kathmandu Valley, opening my eyes once more to the beauty of this place we live in.

Buying a new Honda did not seem like a good idea. Valley bikes get stolen at the rate of 140 a day. Queuing for petrol for hours no longer appealed to me. So instead I decided to find an e-bike: the Foton TDP33ZWG, fresh from Zhucheng, China. It somehow reminded me of a centaur. The bike’s front looked feminine, with a cute white basket and a scooter-like dashboard. It had an extended back part, with a solid battery compartment and tool box under a comfortable seat, and a sturdy back seat. I did not even take a test drive. Just paid and drove off.

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Dana’s gift

First published by Nepali Times

Yesterday I heard the news: Dana had died. She probably died the way we knew she would go, on a cold winter day, on the street, unwashed, staring at occasional passers-by with her unwavering dark eyes until they became uncomfortable and left her to die.

A train of memories. Her first appearance in my Patan neighbourhood. One day a well built, barely dressed person collapses in front of my two-storey house, face down in the mud. When the person is still there some hours later, in the same position, I start to worry. “Dai, please wake up!” I call and shake the foul smelling body.

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First published by Nepali Times

The first time I came across a jingle word, a fast growing phenomenon in the Nepalese language, I was in a taxi. The driver hailed from Dapakhel and I asked him what his village was like. Dapakhel was something out of this world, he explained, as from there one can see ‘Airport sairport’. I thought I misunderstood the last bit, and asked him to repeat. At night, from his house, the driver said, one can see all the lights of ‘airport sairport’. I asked him for the meaning of sairport; he merely shrugged his shoulders.

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Donkey in the back

Night was falling when I drove Animal Nepal’s rickety ambulance towards the Donkey Sanctuary. A man on a motorbike passed the car and looked inside. His face froze; he decreased his speed. Soon he drove along the ambulance, glancing inside.

The man was not eve teasing. He was looking at the patient in the back of the car, an adult white donkey, positioned rather uncomfortable in the tiny car. The donkey’s head partly stuck outside the window, her nostrils flaring. Once in a while she tried to reach me with her nose, as if to say, ‘please take me out of here.’


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Picturing war

First published by Nepali Times.

War is hard to capture. The heart of war is a schizophrenic place where extremes of love and hate, heaven and hell, touch and ignite each other.

Few photographers can capture this. But when they do the image is never forgotten and sometimes even change the course of history. A little Vietnamese girl, naked, fleeing a napalm attack, the soldier in the Spanish civil war caught at the moment of his death, Saddam’s teetering statue or prisoners being tortured at Abu Gharib, these images lie buried in our minds and hearts and have become part of humanity’s common consciousness.

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Little Heroes

First published by Nepali Times

When Pabitra Tamang’s parents found out she was suffering from a life-threatening disease called a-plastic anaemia, they took a desperate decision: they left their jobs as daily labourers to take care of five-year-old Pabitra and her two sisters.

With no money to pay the rent, the landlord threatened to throw them out of their tiny Bhaktapur room. All three children left school and moved into the hospital, much to the chagrin of the medical staff. Only Pabitra kept smiling: she loved the extra attention and her chance to visit the hospital’s playroom.

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Final farewell in a distant land

First published by Knack. Published in English by Nepali Times and in Nepali by Himal Khabar.

How did a popular university graduate from Myagdi end up jumping off a bridge in Belgium? 

On a cold December afternoon Prem Prasad Subedi, aged 32, climbed onto the railing of the Muide Bridge in the town of Gent. While cars sped past on the frozen asphalt, he jumped into the dark waters of the harbour below. Someone screamed. A passing boat threw a life buoy, he did not take it.

It took divers from the Gent Fire Brigade two days to retrieve Prem Prasad’s body. Police found his landlord’s address in his pocket. The Nepali Embassy was informed, and it says the information was passed on to the Home Ministry in Kathmandu.

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Kathmandu’s street cattle

First published by Nepali Times.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” By that yardstick, Nepal lags behind in greatness. In fact, there is almost a total absence of animal welfare in the country. The worst problem is that of wandering cattle injured in road accidents in Kathmandu’s streets. For all the reverence, the fate of a fatally injured cow is unholy.

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How to name a revolution?

First published by Nepal Times.

Epic moments, never to be forgotten. Thousands of people marching around the capital, waving green leaves, defying tanks and machineguns. Worn out, yet their spirits soaring. We might never know exactly how many people left the safety of their homes, braved injuries, hunger, thirst and possibly death, in order to establish a truer, safer and more inclusive society. But those who did and those who witnessed, will never be the same again.

Image by REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

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Jong zijn in Nepal

First published by Onze Wereld.  Also published by Landenreeks Nepal, Amsterdam: KIT.

Het is donderdag en bijna donker. De straatjes die naar de Banglamukhi tempel in het hart van Patan leiden, een oude koningsstad vlakbij de hoofdstad Kathmandu, zitten tjokvol. Jonge stelletjes op Suzuki motoren navigeren via de eeuwenoude toegangsweggetjes naar het tempelcomplex. Donderdag is de dag om de godin Banglamukhi te vereren. Die is verantwoordelijk voor het liefdesleven van haar gelovigen, wat met name jongeren van heinde en ver naar de tempel doet komen. De Banglamukhi tempel staat symbool voor zowel de oude als de nieuwe cultuur in het snel veranderende Nepal.

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First published in Mountain Bound.

Image by Steam Community

The sun touched the crowns of the pine trees when Chandra returned to his village. It was Spring, the skies were clear. In the distance the snow-capped Himalaya shone like queens. It was half past eight, time for the Brahmin priest to wind up the daily rituals in the temple, a simple whitewashed structure containing a few holy stones representing Shiva. Most of the women were busy collecting water and preparing food. A few children were already on their way to school, some dressed in a neat uniform, others in tattered blue clothes, saved by numerous rounds of stitching. The headmaster opened the school gates and was about to enter the teachers’ office when he paused. From below, from the steep valley embracing the mighty Kali Gandaki River, three gunshots roared.

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Chandra’s story

First published by Nepali Times. Full story published in Mountain Bound

It was a picture-perfect day. The snow mountains to the north were shining, and the Kali Gandaki flowed placidly at the bottom of the steep valley. Children, some in neat uniforms and others in tattered blue tunics were on their way to school. The women were busy collecting water, Saraswati had a doko on her back and was on her way to her field. Then, three gunshots.

Two weeks after Chandra’s death, villagers look away when his name is mentioned. His sister Laxmi and sister-in-law Nila bury their heads and cannot speak. Nila hasn’t been able to inform her husband, who works overseas, about his brother’s death. “He’s got many problems of his own, the news would only make him worry.” The security forces come by often, interrogating and sometimes beating family members of Maoists, and going through their things. “We can’t even show you Chandra’s pictures,” says Nila. “We burnt them the day he died.”

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Get off that elephant back

First published by World Animal Protection

Exploring Nepal’s wilderness on the back of an elephant seems like a perfect way to spend the holidays. In bygone eras only aristocrats and kings had access to elephant safaris, mostly organized for hunting. Nowadays any tourist can afford to mount one of the 45 privately owned elephants in Sauraha, the main tourist hub of Chitwan National Park. After the jungle safari one can opt to bath the elephant in the river. With the jumbo splashing water on the tourists standing on its back, that seems a lot of fun too.

However, with mass tourism coming to the national parks, and the absence of welfare rules, the conditions of Nepal’s working elephants have severely deteriorated[1].

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A poisoned plan

First published by The Kathmandu Post

Pramada Shah and Lucia de Vries, volunteer directors, at Animal Nepal, expose the regular poisoning campaigns by local governments in Republica. “Betraying our canine companions by feeding them poisoned meat is an example of unmatched cruelty,” they write.


Earlier this month our friend Urmila woke up when her dog started running around and twitching uncontrollably. He soon developed epileptic attacks and started vomiting. Urmila realised her beloved pet had been poisoned, ran out into the street to find a taxi and called the vet.

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Beast of Burden

First published in The Kathmandu Post

Lulu, a malnourished working donkey, died last week night at our shelter. She died from colic, a disease that is mostly caused by eating plastic, often fatal in equines. Today, on World Animal Day, I wonder what Lulu’s life must have looked like. What is it like being a common Nepali donkey, employed in one of the country’s countless brick kilns?

The first thing Lulu must have experienced on this earth is dust. Dust marks the lives of working equines in Asia, home of half of the world’s 50 million working donkeys. Nepal’s working equines (horses, donkeys and mules) have never been counted, but 100.000 is a fair guess.

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