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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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