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April 12, 2020
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PUBLIC-PRIVATE EFFORT AVERTS CRISIS FOR
OUT-OF-WORK TOURIST TRADE ELEPHANTS IN NEPAL
Nepali government ensures that privately owned elephants will be allowed to graze
along the Rapti River as coronavirus pandemic curtails tourism.
ATTAPULGUS, GA – Nepal’s government has acted swiftly on concerns and solutions suggested by US-based Elephant Aid International (EAI) concerning the welfare of ride elephants idled by lack of tourists during the coronavirus crisis.
Thanks to a collaborative effort, Chitwan National Park Chief Warden Narayan Rupakheti has agreed to allow privately owned elephants into the Park to graze the grasses along the bank of the Rapti River and to provide cut browse from inside the Park, keeping elephants fed, watered and free from chains during a portion of the day.
As tourism slowed to a trickle and stopped in recent weeks, EAI founder and CEO Carol Buckley became concerned that the elephants would suffer, since their owners depend on tourist dollars to feed and care for them. She feared that without work, the elephants would remain chained 24 hours a day and receive reduced rations of food and water.
Buckley reached out to Dr. Bijaya Shrestha, head government veterinarian, and former Chitwan National Park Chief Warden Kamal Kunwar to see if there was a way to help. As a result, Chief Warden Narayan Rupakheti convened a meeting of interested parties, including Dr. Shrestha, Sauraha’s Elephant Owners Cooperative and a representative from the National Trust for Nature Conservation, Nepal’s leading conservation NGO.
Together they agreed upon an innovative solution using the country’s existing resources.
Chitwan National Park staff is currently clearing an area of overgrown forested area to create additional grasslands for their tiger and rhino populations. The by-product of this project, cut tree branches, will be made available for the elephants.
Under the new agreement, the cut branches will now go to feed the elephants. Their owners will be allowed to pick up the cut branches and their elephants will be allowed into the Park to graze grasses along the bank of the Rapti River. This is the first time privately owned elephants have been given access to the Park.
EAI has hired a team to monitor the elephants’ activity and health and to assist mahouts and their elephants with their needs.
Elephant Aid International (EAI) works to end the worldwide suffering of elephants by creating innovative approaches to the care and management of elephants in captivity. EAI gives hands-on assistance to improve standards of care; teaches humane methods of training and handling; raises public awareness of the lives and needs of elephants; and models new standards of care at its Elephant Refuge North America, where elephants can retire, recover and thrive. Learn more at http://elephantaidinternational.org.