Friday, January 8, 2010

Elephants In Race

Elephants are great runners. During the Sixth International Elephant Race, some 22 domestic elephants assembled in the ground of Baghmara Community Forest, Chitwan to compete the grand contest.

Regional Hotel Association has been organizing this mega event in the eve of new year to promote tourism in Sauraha.

Tanga race and bullock-cart race were also organized.
However, main attraction was football game played among the baby elephants.

Their great skill of attacking and defending was really entertaining.

Among the thousands of spectators, live cultural programs and concerts were also organized in the grand stage that is temporarily built at the western part of the ground. Distinguished artists performed their lively shows to excite the crowd.
Elephants are running on behalf of their corporate sponsors. A representative of sponsor seated on the back while the mahute gave command to his animal to sprint faster than others. As the race began, thousands of people who were surrounding the rectangular ground, cheered up in great excitement.

As the first round of the race concluded people were pouring in the ground. There was neither announcement nor the display board about the winners. This poorly managed event and new year parties as a whole were also marred by frequent political activities like banda (strike) and chakkajam (road block). Many outside visitors could not make their visit to Sauraha.
Domestic elephants have been widely used for carrying visitors in their back with the help of hauda (wooden box) and taking them to jungle for wildlife viewing. Especially private elephants, that is owned or hired by hotels or individuals, have been excessively used. They have to do trip maximum 5 times a day during tourist season. It takes about one and half hours for each trip. There are currently 41 private elephants operating in Sauraha.

Along with private elephants, two government elephants had also been used in the race. Even in the racing day, private elephants had to do their normal duties of carrying people before the event. As the event progressed for three days, winning elephants were given rest to contest for next day.

Elephants are naturally agile and active. But, what will be the physical and mental implication if these mammals are put under the tremendous stress and constant work load. Two years ago, an elephant knocked down mahute by its trunk and crushed to death under its feet. About 4 months ago, another elephant named Laxmi Kali squeezed a foreign visitor by its massive trunk and killed him instantly. On the other occasion, a mahute had been attacked and injured by his animal. These horrible incidences suggest that elephants become rogue and act wildly if they are put under the duress.
Fortunately, no such incidences have occurred during these international events so far. But, such possibilities can not be ignored. Because some of the factors like loud noise of thousands of people coupled with loudspeaker might prompt animals act wildly at any moment. People often approach close to elephant to take photos with them, which animals may not like. During these grand events, in case elephant acts wildly, obviously there will be havoc. Who take responsibility of the unimaginable disaster?
Surely these events help to promote tourism. But wildlife conservation and animal welfare should come first. People's live should not be put in jeopardy. In the light of execution of such events, proper management and safety precautions should be in the first place.
Elephants should be selected depending upon their previous nature and behavior. On the particular day of event, elephants should not be given extra work load. They should be kept separately out of reach of crowd and noise, before and after the event (race, football). Favorite foods for elephants like sugarcane, banana, rice mixed with salt, molasses etc. and water should be sufficiently provided to them.

These precautions might help to check unwanted incidences. Animals might also enjoy the game along with human.

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