Creating the first elephant-friendly destination in Asia
We are working to transform Nepal’s Chitwan National Park into the first internationally recognised elephant-friendly destination in Asia.
We are working with Sauraha’s Elephant Owners Cooperative and the Jane Goodall Institute to transform Nepal’s Chitwan National Park into the first internationally recognised elephant-friendly destination in Asia.
Sauraha is the third most important destination in Nepal with around 150,000 visitors per year (about 20% of Nepal’s total visitors). There are 65 privately-owned elephants in the area that have been used primarily for elephant riding.
However, recent revelations about the cruelty involved in this industry has led to a shift towards more ethical tourism. This in turn has had an impact on the local economy.
Profits from elephant rides have supported local conservation projects such as saving neighbouring rhinos for years, so it is important that the destination continues to be profitable.
Venues that offer elephant rides typically keep the animals chained when not being used for tourist rides. They are deprived of basic welfare such as medical care and kept on a very limited diet with a lack of social interaction with other elephants. They usually suffer in miserable conditions, taken from their mothers at an early age and their spirits broken to make them submissive.
Lightening the load
Our recent study (carried out with the Jane Goodall Institute) found that a staggering 97% of tourists would prefer to see wild animals in the wild, socialising with each other. More than 60% of tourists would pay up to $50 for this experience, much more than the current $20 price tag for an elephant ride.
We want to create a safe haven for elephants where they can live as naturally as possible in a protective environment. We will also ensure mahouts (whose lives revolve around taking care of the elephants) do not lose their livelihoods and the Cooperative is able to make a profit.
A bright future
In our new sanctuary, elephants will not be bred, bought, sold or traded. They will be protected for the rest of their lives.
The first step of this project is to introduce elephant owners to cruelty-free venues that are profitable so they can learn good practice. Then we will train selected mahouts in elephant health care and safety. We will then build the new sanctuary, as well as a state-of-the-art visitor centre. The final phase is for us to socialise the elephants step-by-step into the sanctuary with the help of elephant behaviour specialists and their caretakers.
We are sure that when the sanctuary is up and running, and elephants are enjoying their new environment, it will attract a lot of attention and soon become a key tourism magnet for the region, as well as Nepal as a whole.