KATHMANDU, Jan 29: Fifty international experts on elephants have urged the government of Nepal to stop elephant abuse during the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign.
Submitting a joint letter to Minister for Forest and Environment Shakti Bahadur Basnet on Tuesday, they urged the government to end elephant abuse.
“Although we respect Nepal’s age-old traditions, we believe the tourism industry fails to respond to the needs of the elephant, a highly social and intelligent animal,” they stated in the letter.
The petitioners also expressed their concerns about the expansion of elephant safaris in Nepal. While most global travel agencies have omitted elephant rides and games from their itineraries, the government introduced elephant riding in Banke National Park this year, the experts said in a statement.
Elephant polo, which was stopped by Tiger Tops in 2017, was reintroduced by Hotel Association Nepal with the support of Nepal Tourism Board and Visit Nepal 2020 Secretariat.
The experts argued that it isn’t too late for Nepal to join the worldwide movement for improving the condition of elephants. They said 2020 can still be a good year for animals, and a year in which tourism activities that tackle climate change.
Among the experts are representatives of Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Animal Welfare Institute USA, Born Free Foundation UK, Elephant Aid International USA, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, Kerulos Center for Nonviolence USA, Elephant Specialist Advisory Group South Africa, Humane Society International (USA/Nepal), Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) USA, Wildlife Direct Kenya and World Animal Protection International.
From Nepal, representatives from Animal Nepal, Animal Rights Club and Elephant Watch Nepal supported the plea.
The experts said they were speaking on behalf of ‘countless concerned tourists’ who share their experiences and concerns with them.
“It is on behalf of them and the international community at large that we urge you... to promote responsible activities and events that support the welfare of Nepal’s endangered animals, and reflect the good intentions of the Nepalese nation,” the experts wrote.
Back in 2012, Animal Nepal released a study showing that the welfare of Sauraha-based captive elephants is greatly compromised.
After that tourism entrepreneurs took an important step by introducing elephant-friendly tourism at Tiger Tops Elephant Camp. Elephants at the camp live free from chains and are no longer used for elephant-back safaris and elephant polo.
In 2018, World Animal Protection and Jane Goodall Institute released a viability study for elephant ride-free community alternatives at Sauraha, Chitwan. The study shows that a sustainable new business model and creating an elephant-friendly sanctuary is feasible.
Following six years of campaign led by Animal Rights Club Nepal (ARC) against abusive activities in Chitwan Elephant Festival, ARC and PETA released a video in 2019 to make people aware of the abuse of captive elephants in Sauraha, Chitwan.