Chitwan National Park, the first national park in Nepal, established in 1973 A.D. is famous not only for its unique composition of flora and fauna but also due to the various conservational efforts. The place had been made popular by the Kings and Princes of ancient time, but the biodiversity in the area was hampered due to their hunting activities. The species like Royal Bengal Tiger, Rhino, and Gharial crocodile were almost depleted. However, they protected the elephants because they need them for hunting purpose.
Previously, the number of Asian Elephants was more than 2,000 in Nepal which came down to only about 200. Out of the 200 Elephants, the tourist village of Sauraha inhabits 40% of the population. Majority of the population in the village is dependent on tourism mainly based on elephants. Elephant’s safari is entertaining in one hand and the other; it is environmental friendly irrespective of the jeeps safari which could be noisy and polluting.
Elephant conservation in Nepal
Chitwan is among the few places in the world where the population of elephants, tiger, and rhino are increasing. Elephants in Chitwan have become a part of livelihood. Some mahouts spend their whole life looking after the elephant and thus have developed a strong emotional bond with it. The elephants not only contribute to the economy of the public but also aid to enhance the conservation of other species in the park.
Elephant conservation in Chitwan is sustainable and does not hamper their rights. The Mahouts who used metal rods previously nowadays can only use a wooden stick. Each elephant used to serve the safari five times a day which has been now decreased to only twice a day. And most importantly, the elephants are now chain free except those of the bull elephants.
Elephant Festival in Chitwan (Elephants as a part of the culture)
The elephant being an integral part of the tourism in Sauraha, Regional Hotel Association Chitwan (RHAN) organizes an annual Elephant festival to boost the tourism in Chitwan. The five-day festival is based on the theme: ‘People, Preservation and Prosperity.’ Last year the 14th elephant festival was organized on December 26- December 30, 2017.
Elephant festival is a major attraction for tourist from the home country as well as from the world. Here are some of the interesting events that you will get a chance to experience at the elephant festival:
The elephants are run in a straight track of 300 meters long and 10 meters wide. Six elephants take part in the race at a time, and the elephants for the participants are selected by the lottery system and grouped in a group of 5 from 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15 and so on. In case the elephants go beyond the track, and if the participants are found to use any kind of alcohol, they are disqualified from the race. During the semi-finals and the final, the participants will participate with their respective elephants.
Elephant Polo is somewhat similar to Horse polo, but you can easily notice the difference. Polo with elephants and a longer stick is possibly the biggest sport in the world.
The game is played between four players in each team. The game uses a standard polo ball and consists 20 minutes of the time, with an interval of 15 minutes. The referee whistle indicates the pause and resume of the game. The 140 × 70 meters pitch consists of a central line, a 15 meters radius circle at the center and a semi-circle of 30 meters radius measure from the center of the goal line. The elephants and the ends are changed in the second half of the game.
Teams from all over the world participate in the tournament including Scotland, Thailand, England and Hong Kong. The Tiger Tops Tuskers, the favorite of the locals also takes part.
Elephant beauty contest
Each year, many beautifully decorated elephant line up in a row to participate in the Elephant beauty contest in Chitwan. The people decorate their elephants with beautiful colors and paintings in their huge bodies. They also apply the nail polish in their toes. This reflects how beautiful the creature is and how much affection their Mahouts have towards them.
This event is more like a party to these large mammals. They are provided with their favorite foods like sugarcane, cabbage, pumpkin, rice, and porridge. Plenty of these foods are kept in a long row, and the elephants enjoy their meal. The elephants surely enjoy the event while the visitors are also amazed to see the large mass of elephants taking part in the event.
Elephant bathing is an exciting and entertaining activity you can be a part of. The tourists can enjoy the travel in the back of the elephants and also dive in the Rapti River sitting at the back of the elephant when it is bathing. The elephant bathing activity is so much fun only in the watching as well, left aside the participating.
Elephant calf football
Watching elephants trying to make a goal with their four feet and their trunk is a rare experience you will ever have. Eight calves take part in the football match. The huge animals running around the ball to score a goal and a huge crowds cheering up is a game you should not miss to watch.
Chitwan is organizing this event on a yearly basis. Through the event, the festival conveys the message of how important the animals are and we the one who is responsible for their conservation. Linking animals in the culture and festival give a sense of attachment and importance in the local as well as the national levels. Isn’t is an amazing approach towards conservation?