Supporting Mahouts & Their Elephants
An ongoing program to give mahouts (elephant handlers) the tools, equipment, supplies and education they need to do their job.
EAI is able to make life better for hard-working elephants because of the respect we have for people whose job it is to care for them.
The mahouts’ duties include caring for dangerous captive-held bull elephants in musth (heightened testosterone level), hand-making 150 pounds of kuchi for their elephant daily (kuchi is a traditional food ball made by folding elephant grass into the shape of a bowl and filling it with rice, salt, molasses and any necessary dietary supplements) and providing assistance to the veterinarians when their elephant is unwell.
Mahouts and elephants in Nepal work in harsh conditions in the wilderness, rain or shine, seven days a week. Patrolling Chitwan National Park for poachers and collecting fresh-cut jungle grass for their elephants exposes mahouts to the threats of poisonous snakes, hungry tigers, deadly rhinos, renegade bull elephants and rifle-welding poachers.
But the government has no budget for the supplies mahouts need. Nothing in the way of equipment — raincoats, rubber boots, wheelbarrows and grass cutting tools — is provided to improve their working conditions. Even their very basic housing lacks running water, electricity, showers, a modern kitchen and functioning toilets.
Chain free makes more work for mahouts
Going chain-free changes the lives of elephants in very positive ways. The mahouts are pleased to see their elephants chain free, playing and calm, but they pay a price.
When Nepal’s 15 government-owned hattisars (elephant stables) in Chitwan converted to chain free, it added demands to the mahouts’ job that call for new gear.
Instead of cleaning a 20×20 area each morning, a chain-free corral means each mahout has a multi-acre area to clean. Instead of stockpiling manure feet from a stable, mahouts now have to transport the manure some distance.
Instead of storing grass and browse in close proximity to chained elephants, a chain-free corral means elephant food has to be stored in a remote location. At feeding times, it must be carried in and dispersed throughout the corral.
Not only is this more work for mahouts, it has to be done by hand since they have no motorized equipment, wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes or other tools. By supporting the mahouts you supply them with the tools they need to maintain the corrals and keep their elephants chain free.