Death of two safari elephants owned by local hotels in Sauraha in Chitwan National Park (CNP) within a week has sparked concerns over treatment of working elephants.
Laxmi Kali, 70, Sauraha’s largest elephant, owned by a private hotel in Sauraha died last week. The animal was suffering from malnutrition, spinal infection and digestive problems, according to Animal Nepal, a civil-society group engaged in advocating animal rights in Nepal.
The second elephant, also named Laxmi Kali, 35, was suffering from tuberculosis. Despite the illness, the elephant was put to work, without proper treatment or rest.
“The two elephants died of systematic mismanagement that has become a feature of Nepal’s elephant safari industry,” mentioned Animal Nepal in its statement.
Carol Buckley, who is closely working with CNP to construct corals to accommodate chain-free elephants since 2012, said as the elephants are forced to make up to seven trips a day, even in the hot season, their health is largely compromised. Lack of treatment, care, food and the culture of chaining the elephants have made their situation unbearable.
Suman Ghimire, vice-chairperson of Sauraha chapter of Regional Hotel Association Nepal, agreed that the care and management of working elephants was not satisfactory. “There is a growing concern on whether the hotels are only focusing on money making business by ignoring the health and physical state of the animals,” he said. According to Ghimire, the association has been conducting regular discussions with hoteliers and requesting them to work towards improving the treatment and care of elephants.
“We have been requesting concerned hoteliers to allow elephant safari during morning and evenings to provide adequate rest to these animals,” Ghimire said. Due to lack of adequate technical and financial resources, the hotel owners are still engaged in poor care and management of working elephants.