Why shun Elephant Ride?
There has been an intensive campaigning against elephant riding safari activities by different Organizations concerning animal rights. Most travelers from Europe, Australia, Canada and America seem to be much obsessed about Elephant safari. Therefore, they strongly avoid Jungle Safari in Nepal. while people from china, Malaysia, Japan, India and middle east are just indifferent and hence purchase elephant safari happily.
The argument goes on that riding on innocent elephant for human recreation is absolutely unethical. Actually people started to show this deep sympathy for the elephant in the aftermath of a video that got viral. The video shows how elephants are captured and brutally treated to break their wild spirit.
We human being definitely do not have privilege to trouble any animal (not only elephant). Human even cannot slaughter any other species who co-share this wonderful Earth, our habitat. In other world, if we be honest by heart no one can deny that it is wrong to ride elephant, horse, Bull…. It is wrong to capture elephant, horse, birds…. It is wrong to slaughter Dogs…. It is equally wrong to slaughter cows, lambs, chicken, buffalo, pigs……. The one who slaughter cows is morally not in position to criticize those who slaughter dogs.
From this point of view, human are the real beast creating havoc in the world. Because it is human who slaughter animals, birds and fish for food. It seems only the handful of people who are aware enough to be sympathetic to animal and raise voice for animal rights are free of this common sin human commit in this world.
Ironically, Most of those who scorn at elephant riding, do not mind munching chicken, Pork and fish. All those who can feel the agony that elephant goes through cannot feel the fact that the horses do go through the same agony when someone hop on their top, similarly, all the species go through the same agony and cry while being slaughtered by human for food. Unfortunately, the voice that rises against elephant riding remains silent in other cases.
The craziest fact that I have read recently is how Tiger Tops owner and stake holders in Nepal are trying to legalize Elephant polo, while they strongly agree that elephant riding is wrong. Are they trying to make us believe that the elephants enjoy Polo and it is also a recreational for them? Fool!!! Who do not understand that it is the same job for elephant whether they carry people for jungle safari or Elephant Polo. In both cases, the mahout appears aggressive at the elephant and coerces them to comply.
I was literally stunned at the cunning business policy of Tiger Top. They claim that in coordination with Carol Buckley, founder and Director of Elephant Aid International, they have unchained the elephants in corrals (they try to sound less harsh but corral remains still a cage!). They said they discourage elephant riding safari, but at the same time they are doing every possible cunning diplomacy to continue Elephant Polo which is extremely pathetic!
Who wants to thwart Elephant Safari?
No one is eligible to manipulate any animal for their vested interest. But, it is utterly skeptical that the voice that goes so loud against elephant riding remains silence in other cases. What can be the reason? Obviously, a grand conspiracy to thwart elephant safari tourism in Nepal is at work.
What can be an outcome of avoiding elephant ride in Nepal?
1. Over 208 domesticated animals including their Mahout will be job less. The Mahouts are basically marginalized indigenous Tharu people. Elephant driving is what they have learnt from their ancestors.
2. In that case, it will be a big financial burden to feed those giants. It will be almost impossible to keep them with human. Obviously, the owners will abandon them in the jungle.
3. In absence of domesticated elephant, it will be a big challenge to patrol in national park which will encourage the poachers.
4. The elephants are used to rescue people when they are engulfed by flood in Terai low land. People will obviously feel the inconvenience in absence of domesticated elephants.
5. Elephants are used for locating endangered animals like Tigers and keep record. The elephant are also used to count the number of different wild elephant. In absence of elephant, more jeeps will ply through the jungle spoiling the jungle atmosphere.
6. Quite often, the herd of wild elephants enters villages and creates havoc. The domesticated elephants are also used to chase the elephant back to jungle. This will be more challenging in absence of domesticated elephant.
7. It seems, to release the elephants and set them free in the jungle is what happy note would be for the activist who are not happy about elephant being in captive. But in that case, the possibility is that elephants will be attacked by the wild ones, or die in deprive of proper food and care that they are used to.
8. In absence of elephant, safari tourism of Nepal will be crippled.
Why should Nepal tackle the anit elephant ride campaign ?
The history of Human civilization shows that, when survival is at stake, they have cleverly managed to skip the trouble manipulating not only animals but also group of other human being who are less privileged. The history of colonization, practice of Slavery, Rwanda genocide, Current Syria Crisis, interference in Nepalese Politics causing 10 years long Maoist Rebel which took about 14000 lives and many other similar shameful incidents were designed and maneuvered by the so called stronger/bigger/richer country for their vested interest to remain influential.
In compare to what Europe and America have done so far to remain in world power, trapping wild elephants and to train them for their perusal is extremely negligible.
I wonder, those who could get so upset and spit their anger at the practice of taming elephant can enjoy human genocides and pretend that they know nothing.
Can there be any bigger hypocrisy than this?
History of Elephant Taming
Tame elephants have been recorded since the Indus VAlley civilization around 2,000 BCE. With mahouts, they have been used as working animals in forestry, as war elephants (by commanders such as Hannibal), for cultural and ceremonial use (such as temple elephants), as a method of execution, for public displays such as circus elephants , in elephant polo and in zoological gardens.
The largest land mammals were used in many battles including against Alexander the Great's forces, by Hannibal's Carthaginian army against the Romans and by the Sultans of India when fighting the Mongols.
Elephants are an integral part of Nepalese culture and Nepal has a long history of domestication of wild elephants for various purposes. Hindu religious books are replete with stories about elephants.
The use of domesticated Asian elephants ( Elephas maximus ) in Nepal can be traced from as far back as the times of King Man Dev of Lichhavi Dynasty. According to historian Baburam Acharya the kings of Makwanpur captured wild elephants from the Bhabar forests and sold them to the Mughal rulers of India . Jung Bahadur Rana, the first Rana Prime Minister, is said to have captured three wild elephants in 1851 AD using the daunting technique of kheda .
Elephant taming continued and got worse during the British reign in India because of more advanced weapons.
Many of these elephants owned by elites, nobles and states got shelter in the 'Elephant breeding center' which otherwise would have been sold, starved or killed. These elephants used now for safaris are not recently captivated from the wild. In a way they are rescued and are now are used for safaris for their living.
Way of Elephant Taming
Elephant management was a highly recognized profession during the times of the Sinhala Kings. In order to tame an elephant, the animal’s wild spirit had to be broken first. It was only then that the elephant could be made to obey the commands given by a mahout.
As a part of taming the captured animals, they are deprived of food and sleep. Without food and sleep, the animal’s resistance drops and it becomes subdued easily.
Over days and weeks an elephant learns that he or she has to obey human control. Later, at work, many mahouts use certain weapons such as the goad (ankus or henduwa in Sinhala), sticks, spear and chains. Among these, the goad which is a metal cap tapering to a sharp point, fitted on to a stick about four to five feet, plays a key role.
Being a mahout is no easy task. Even after an elephant has been tamed and trained by the experts, the mahout’s job does not end; he has to be constantly alert and in full control of the elephant at all times. No other animal in the world is looked after and guarded in the manner an elephant is. So, a mahout has a huge responsibility.
An elephant needs over 150 Kg of grain and fodder as an award for complying job
Elephants have been held in captivity for various purposes for thousands of years. They are seen by many as a natural resource to be exploited to meet human needs. Elephants are put to work in forestry enterprises, religious institutions, tourism, circuses and zoos, and serve as subjects for captive propagation programs.
Elephant-back safaris have been very popular in Asia. To persuade an elephant to work - including to carry tourists - a mahout must ensure that it follows instructions at all times.
Without the use of elephants, it is almost impossible to capture large mammals and carry out research studies. For example, the DNPWC was successful in translocating five rhinos between 1986 and 2000 from RCNP to RBNP and RSWR to establish a viable population there. In total, 58 rhinoceros were translocated to RBNP and four to RSWR. Similarly, elephants are being used for counting rhinoceros. The service provided by these elephants in all aspects of park management cannot be evaluated in monetary terms.
The elephants are also being used for conducting wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching activities in the parks and reserves. Moreover, the elephants are being used for rescue operations during natural calamities such as floods. The elephants are essential to the performance of special ceremonies such as royal weddings and during the coronation of the heir apparent.
In addition to all the above mentioned, the elephants are being used for defending villagers from wild elephants. The wild elephant from the nearby jungle trespasses into human settlement and create havoc stampeding anything that come across. Elephants are used to chase them back to jungle.
Rescue Operation and initiation taken
Available records indicate that the management of domesticated elephants in Nepal has a long history and is said to have begun in 1903. At one time there were 31 elephant camps throughout the lowlands of Nepal. The capture and training of wild animals was a common practice in the past. A total of 17 domesticated elephants were released into the wild in 1914 and 10 wild elephants were captured for domestication during 1954-1970.
Since the enactment of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2029 in 1973, the capture of wild elephants for domestication has been strictly prohibited and no wild elephant has been captured. There is no report of breeding among the cow elephants kept by the private sector at hotels and safari camps, except one at the Tiger Tops in 1980 and one very recently in 2000, in KMTNC/RBNP. The Tiger Tops calf was later trained at the government-owned elephant breeding center in RCNP and the recently born calf is being taken care of by the KMTC/RBNP itself.
Sources: interview with Mahouts, Local hoteliers and various articles published in national Daily Newspaper.