Wildlife of Nepal: Elephants and Tourism

Continuing our series of the wildlife of Nepal we introduce Elephants into the mix. Yep, you heard right, Elephants call the small country of Nepal home. It is often hard to believe that Nepal has flat lands big enough to house these mighty creatures. Especially as the county is home to the largest mountain ranges in the world, the Himalaya’s. But travel south, towards the Indian boarder and you’ll leave the mountains behind. Driving away from the mountains the temperature heats up, the shrub turns to trees and forest and the flat lands become more wet. It’s here that you’ll find Asian Elephants at home in the Terai area of Nepal. Nepal’s wildlife attracts tourists from all over the world, but none attract more numbers than the Elephants of Nepal.

Elephants of Nepal

Asian Elephant in National Park in Nepal.

Elephants of Nepal meet the People

There has been a long history between the Elephants and the people of Nepal. Elephants were once seen not just as might wild animals, but a symbol of strength and power for wealthy rulers. They were captured from the wild and given to kings and rulers across India and central Asia. Elephants were not just pets, they were often trained and used for big game hunting, transporting crops, working in war, used as vehicles and paraded in religious ceremonies. Elephants were celebrated, but also exploited and removed from their home, the wild. But thankfully this was all about to change!

Tourism to Nepal boomed when the borders were open again and climbers by the 100’s started arriving. Climbers as well as other tourists took this opportunity to explore the lands of Nepal and find the wildlife that live here. It was then that the way Elephants were being treated was beginning to be questioned. Although it is amazing to see an Elephant decorated and dressed up, people found the experience of seeing the Elephants of Nepal in the wild, much more fulfilling. Something had to change.

As global awareness of conservation and environmental issues grew, the treatment of animals within the tourism industry became a focus. People wanted change, people began to care and the tourism industry was caring as well. So the treatment of the Elephants of Nepal had to change. First stop, recognizing and protecting the environment for the Elephants of Nepal.

National Parks of Nepal gave the Elephants a home again

In 1973 the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act was passed which was a great celebration for the Elephants! This meant Asian Elephants and their environment are protected. These beautiful animals now had somewhere to roam freely, keep away from human conflict and no longer walk into wars or be used as vehicles. The Elephants of Nepal now get to live a life they deserve, a wild one.

The most popular national park in Nepal to see Elephants is Chitwan National Park. An easy few hours bus ride from Pokhara, Chitwan is not just home to Elephants, but also crocodiles, Rhinos, Tigers, Pigs and much more. For nature lovers, this is a wildlife haven and a place to get excited about! Here in Chitwan National Park they have a huge focus on conservation. Both Rhinos and Tigers have flourished here under the protection of the brave rangers. It is also a home to Asian Elephants both wild and tamed.

The National Parks gave the Elephants the space and freedom they deserve. In some places in Nepal, they even have the ability to migrate across the Indian border. This 1972 act was a great celebration for the wildlife of Nepal and specifically, the Elephants.

Elephants of Nepal

Tourism and the Elephants of Nepal

What impact has tourism had on the Elephants of Nepal then? Well, as you will have read, the influx of tourism encouraged the government and people of Nepal to care for Elephants better. Provide them with protective spaces to live and thrive. So it sounds like the lives of Elephants have improved, what else do they need? Rights.

The wildlife tourism industry around the world has exploded. People want to get up close and personal with their favorite animals and it’s hard to blame them. Most people don’t realize that some tourism attractions involving animals should be avoided. Responsible travel and ethical tourism is being pushed and promoted around the world. People are opening their eyes to the conditions and treatments of animals in the tourism industry. With many favoring to visit them in the wild.

So how can you be a responsible tourist with the Elephants of Nepal? The biggest one is, don’t ride them. Asian Elephants although big are not made to hold 5 heavy adults, the bamboo cage they sit on and the trainer on their neck. This is a lot of strain on an Elephants back and legs which will cause it a lot of pain. So what can you do instead? Walk with an Elephant, visit rescue and rehabilitation centers, choose ethical and responsible tourism companies who emphasize the care and compassion for Elephants in Nepal. By supporting the companies that care for the environment and the elephants, the ones that don’t will be forced to change or close.

Some Facts about the Elephants of Nepal

The population of wild Asian Elephants in Nepal is around, 100 – 170. The number of Captive Elephants in Nepal is approximately 170. The number of wild Elephants is slowly increasing with the promotion of responsible and ethical tourism.
Asian Elephants grow to stand at around 2.7 metres tall and will weigh up to 4,000kg. Asian Elephants are a lot smaller than their cousins in Africa who grow to around 4 meters tall and weigh up to 6,000kg!
Elephants love to eat a varied diet of roots, grasses, fruit and bark. Most adult Elephants will eat up to 300 pounds of food every day! So now you know why it’s so important we protect their environment!
Asian Elephants in Nepal’s wilds can live up to 60 years and in captivity, it varies but they will usually live until around 40 years old.
Elephants are incredibly intelligent animals. They are self aware, know how to use tools, may be able to cry, understand art and music and can create it themselves. They also understand play and enjoy it, they have death rituals and are very sociable and societal animals.

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