Elephant Race in Chitwan
The highlight of the 3 day elephant festival however was the ‘elephant football’ match which drew thousands to the Bagmara grounds in Sauraha. The three a side match was received well with onlookers cheering their favorite teams as the giant pachyderms raced and tussled for the ball. The 30 minute match ended with a single goal scored by “Karnali Kali” with her favorite left foot. “The elephants were trained for the match a week prior to the events and burst 3 footballs before getting used to the nuances of the game”, said Santa Kumar Chaudhary a member of the organizing team.
The events were organized by the Regional Hotel Association Nepal, Chitwan National Park with a prime objective to increase the population of elephants with good health and proper training for carrying tourists, provide rescue and difficult transport services in the deep jungles. Trained elephants have a long standing history of saving one horned rhinos, Bengal tigers and Gharial crocodiles in Chitwan National Park. The events also aim to promote elephant based Safari and cultural tourism in Chitwan and provide insurance coverage to elephant drivers (mahouts), and provide welfare services. Through the events, the organizers also aim at highlighting much needed research on ecology, infertility, food and water supply and genetic/biological problems among animal lovers, ecologists, scientific communities and the public at large.
Although the venue and the events were overwhelmed by elephant participation, the focus intermittently shifted towards the rhinos in the adjacent jungles, who have been struggling to survive a burst of poaching activities in the past few months. The events also featured cultural and musical programs which addressed and urged the local people about the plight of the one horned rhino in Chitwan.