Photos: A Day In The Life of Elephants in Nepal
At best, there are 142 resident wild elephants in Nepal. The captive population stands at 208. For this year’s World Elephant Day, here is a photo feature of an explicit and typical interaction between elephants and humans in Nepal, centered around Chitwan National Park, the country’s oldest and most visited park. All photos from 2013 unless otherwise mentioned.
Private elephant are used for safaris and baths with tourists, while the Park-owned ones mostly to monitor wildlife and fight poachers. Wounds on the head and inner ear of elephants used for the safari are common. They are caused by the short and heavy metal hook, called ankus, used by the elephant mahut to train and control the animal. The wounds appear to be particularly common amongst the privately owned elephants who are under daily pressure to cater to tourists. This is a relationship that the elephants perhaps don’t want to be in.
After finishing their morning chores, the elephants get to rest for several hours in the afternoon.
Electric Fencing (Against Wild Elephants):
The relationship between humans and wild elephants is not presented kindly. Recurringly, it is one of human-wildlife conflict, with the elephants portrayed as the perpetrator. Sometimes, when they make their way through villages in and around the national park at night, they crush whatever stands in their way, including huts and its residents. In the last decade, modern solutions, namely the solar powered electric fences, have been introduced to deal with this problem. Although, a veteran conservationist
Electric Fencing (For Captive Elephants):
The Dusk and the Twins:
Forgetting The Elephant on World Elephant Day:
The Nepali press, it seems, has forgotten about our elephants. On World Tiger Day (july 29), barely two weeks ago, and even in the lead up to it, Nepal’s national dailies offered a good coverage on the species, highlighting its threats and championing and celebrating its conservation. Today, the 2nd World Elephant Day, has not seen any press coverage in the national dailies on this important and endangered species. Not even WWF Nepal has any formal event to mark the occasion.
Indeed, it is often with nudging of organizations WWF or IUCN that the media is reminded of special days dedicated to wildlife. While WWF international did tweet about it (see below), neither organizations in Nepal marked the event today. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time Nepal’s elephants got any positive press coverage at all as most news on them are confined to ‘attacks’ on villages or humans. And ‘positive’ doesn’t count the use of elephants for human amusement and indulgence, such as playing polo, or covering an elephant ‘beauty contest.’ They certainly are not mere joyrides and exotic showers either. Perhaps it is worth remembering that while we applaud the population rebound of tigers, and celebrate ‘zero poaching year’ of rhinos here in Nepal, we most probably cannot imagine conservation of either of those species without elephants.
Resident wild Asian Elephants in Nepal: 109 to 142 (DNPWC 2008)
Captive elephants in Nepal: 208 (2011)
— Bettina Wassener (@BWassener) August 7, 2013
— Yale Environment 360 (@YaleE360) August 12, 2013
— Elephant Family (@elephantfamily) August 12, 2013
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) August 12, 2013
— iWorry (@IworryTrade) August 12, 2013
— WSPA International (@wspa) August 12, 2013
— BBC Learning English (@bbcle) August 12, 2013
The website, WorldElephantDay.org is very resourceful.
An insightful article titled ‘Is This Year’s World Elephant Day The Last Chance For Elephants?” on HuffingtonPost is definitely worth reading.
EleAid has this page with concise information and data on wild and domestic elephants in Nepal.
This extensive report titled The Challenge of Managing Domesticated Elephants in Nepal by Fanindra R. Kharel for FAO, from the early 2000s is very resourceful.
Polo Playing Elephants in Nepal, a BBC report.