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

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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].

Continue reading