Inside Tiger Tops: The First Ethical Elephant Camp In Nepal

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An article by Katherine Parker-Magyar, Forbes, Jan 15, 2020

Tiger Tops has been a pioneering force in responsible tourism ever since its establishment in the southern jungles of Nepal in 1964. Today, the high-end safari company is dedicated to conservation in the region (check out their work with vultures and tigers here), providing travelers with the first ethical elephant experience in the nation. At Tharu Lodge, in Chitwan National Park, there’s no shortage of elephant activities for the adventurous traveler—our personal favorite being elephant sundowners >>> more

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NEPAL: 50 International Elephant Experts Urge GoN to Stop Elephant Abuse in 2020

Fifty international elephant experts have urged the Nepal government to stop elephant abuse during Visit Nepal Year 2020. “Nepal should not endanger its reputation by continuing elephant smuggling, riding and games,” the experts say.

Fifty international elephant experts and campaigners in a letter to Forests and Environment Minister Shakti Bahadur Basnet note that ‘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.’

The authors are concerned 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. Elephant polo, ended by Tiger Tops in 2017, was reintroduced by Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) with the support of Nepal Tourism Board and Visit Nepal 2020.

The concerned experts argue that it is ‘not too late for Nepal to join the worldwide movement for better conditions for elephants: ‘2020 can still be a good year for animals, and a year in which tourism activities that tackle climate change, involve communities and are truly ‘green’ get promoted.’

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 Organizations, 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, WildlifeDirect Kenya and World Animal Protection International. From Nepal, representatives from Animal Nepal, Animal Rights Club and Elephant Watch Nepal support the plea.

The authors speak 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 write.

According to the experts the government and tourism industry has been urged to introduce humane elephant tourism for decades.

Back in 2012, Animal Nepal released a study showing that the welfare of Sauraha-based captive elephants is greatly compromised.[1]

Afterwards Nepalese entrepreneurs took an important step by introducing non-contact elephant tourism at Tiger Tops Elephant Camp. Elephants at Tiger Tops Elephant Camp live chain-free and are no longer used for elephant back safaris and elephant polo.[2]

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.[3]

Following the 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 aware people of the abuse of captive elephants in Sauraha, Chitwan for entertainment.

For more information:

Lucia de Vries, founder Animal Nepal,, + 31 6 33018985

Carol Buckley, founder Elephant Aid International,, +1 229-465-3115

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South Africa to Ban Captive Wildlife Interactions for Tourists

Interactions with all infant wildlife, walking with predators or elephants, interacting with predators and the riding of wild animals are no longer acceptable practices in South Africa, according to the South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA).

The SATSA guidelines, the result a year-long research process, is aimed at helping operators, product owners and tourists to make ethical choices. […more]

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From Journal of African Elephants, 25 JAN 2020

[Full article]

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EWN appeals to elephant polo sponsor

elephant-poloElephant Watch Nepal has appealed to ME Travel & Tours to end its support to the Chitwan Elephant Festival during which, as recently revealed by a PETA investigation, elephants are cruelly treated.

In a letter addressed to Mr Kamal Raj Adhikari, President of the travel operator, EWN says, “In line of your vision we believe that your esteemed organisation will not benefit from supporting inhumane practices involving elephants. Elephants are a critically endangered animal species that have been misused by humans for centuries. Although Nepal has much expertise in the management of elephants, tourism and outdated practices have led to increased abuse.”

For 365 years the World Elephant Polo games were organised in Nepal by Tiger Tops but the company, after unchaining its elephants and introducing non-contact elephant tourism, ended the games in 2017, stating it wanted ‘to end the suffering of the elephants.”

Continue reading

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An Open Letter to President Bidya Devi Bhandari…


Dear Honorable President,

Elephant Watch Nepal (EWN) was surprised to read that you promote elephant polo as a means to generate tourism income.

Elephant polo and other ‘games’ involving elephants is an outdated practice in most parts of the world. Science has shown that elephants are not built to play games. Also, in order to force elephants to carry out such a sport, they are trained in a cruel manner and disciplined with the help of an ankush, a tool that has been outlawed in many countries.

Across the world it has been recognised that elephants are highly intelligent, social animals, whose welfare is severely compromised when kept on chains or being made to perform. This is why domesticating elephants is discouraged and humane alternatives for the existing captive ones are found.

Recently, GoN has led the way by building chain free corrals for government-owned elephants. Tiger Tops recently became the first tourism outfit to unchain its elephants and to stop elephant polo and safaris. Instead they promote walking with elephants, elephant behaviour observation, etc.

“We too are concerned about tourism revenues but since many Western travel companies have removed elephant safaris and games from their itineraries traditional elephant activities will not yield much income in the long run. Humane alternatives like walking with elephants, elephant watching, kuchi making, etc. have much more potential as sustainable business models.”

We hope you will stop promoting elephant tourism and instead speak out for more humane alternatives to sustainable tourism.

The EWN Team

Posted in abuse, activism, Awareness Raising, chain free, Circuses, Cruel training, Elephant Rides, Elephant Watch Nepal, elephants, Nepal | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

R.I.P. Esmond Martin


Esmond Bradley Martin Jr.
(Beth Clifton collage)

Animals 24-7 reports that Esmond Martin was murdered in his sleep on February 5,  2018 in connection with a probe of alleged mismanagement at Nairobi National Park. Esmond was well known in Nepal for his 2013 research on the reduction of rhino poaching. His most recent research documented how Laos’s and Vietnam’s ivory markets are booming. See here for more on Edmond’s service to the cause…

Many activists working to stop wildlife crime have been murdered in recent years; for example, take Wayne Lotter, who was shot in Tanzania in 2017. In addition, more than 150 anti-poaching rangers in national parks have been killed in the line of duty at DRC’s Virunga and Garamba National Parks. Furthermore,  approximately 991 activists, forest rangers, or indigenous leaders were murdered in wildlife-related crimes between 2002 and 2014. Stay tuned, and we’ll try and dig up Nepal’s numbers…


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Temple Tiger Group Conciliatory, but does not Concede…

Elephant bath banner

Today myRepublica reports that Executive Chairperson Of Temple Tiger Group, Basanta Raj Mishra, held a round table discussion about whether elephant riding is against animal rights or not. According to Mishra, if elephant rides are banned in Nepal, the move will hit the tourism industry hard…

“Moreover, if elephant riding is banned, the tamers, elephant riders as well as other people assigned to take care of elephants will lose their jobs. However, keeping elephants is also an expensive task. It costs about Rs 50,000 per month to sustain an elephant and a mahout….In comparison to other countries, we don’t use elephants for circus or other activities. And during the rainy season, jeeps aren’t useful for a safari ride due to muddy roads. So elephant ride is a suitable option in the context of Nepal.”

While EWN does care about the plight of the poor, no matter how many legs they have, this statement from Temple Tiger Group (also operating under the name Venture Travel), is conciliatory and missing the point.

No one is denying that elephants cost money to own and operate as a jungle vehicle, but concerned citizens do want to see more of the capital gained, spent on animal health and wellbeing – which currently is literally peanuts when compared to what is actually needed.

EWN (along with the UN and most all other aid agenciesagrees that any behavioral change introduced to rural and poor society has an associated cost for those living in poverty, but EWN is not sure this applies to one of the most lucrative tour operators in the country (and one that bills themselves as a responsible tourism firm).  Furthermore, while EWN applauds the use of jeeps for jungle safaris (over captive elephants), we have to wonder why another solution can’t be found for “the rainy season.” Improved trails or better tires perhaps?

What do you think? Voice your comments below.

Posted in abuse, Awareness Raising, Booking Agent or Tour Guide, chain free, Circuses, Elephant Rides, Elephant Watch Nepal, Tuberculosis | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nepal’s Jungle-Safari Operators Concede, Willing to Compromise…

CNP elephant ride

Photo: THT

According to a recent Himalayan Times news story, tourism operators say that they could not entirely dismiss the concerns raised by animal rights activists, and expressed readiness to reach a “compromise.”

They suggested that they could lower the working hours for elephants, lower the number of people riding on elephant from four to two and eliminate the practice of tying elephants by their feet and leave them free.

But for that, they want the government to speak up and come up with regulation stating clearly the minimum things the owners should do to keep elephants for tourism and conservation purposes. “The government should either support us or take all our elephants and feed them. But if we need to protect the national park and wildlife tourism, elephant ride is mandatory,” one operator said.

But where does this leave the situation? The ball is being kicked into the government’s court with the a demand of support before operators make an effort to improve; this is what is seems.

In addition, nothing is being said of the barbaric harnesses used to carry even two passengers, which amount to nothing short of animal abuse when used to carry even two people all day long.

Yet this concession is at least a win for all those concerned with the plight of Nepal’s captive elephants. As with all developing-country issues, there is always a component of protecting the livelihoods of the poor whenever social change is introduced. EWN understands, but still urges tourists not to book elephant safaris until the many issues of animal abuse have been resolved (not mentioned was illegal trafficking, torture during training the young, lack of clean water and food and absence of any health care).

Lastly, this “compromise” shows that your efforts are having an effect, and those efforts may eventually bring relief to the suffering packies. Keep up the good work and stay alert for future developments!

Posted in abuse, Awareness Raising, chain free, Cruel training, Elephant Rides, Elephant Watch Nepal | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Field Report: Elephants Chained – a Sad Day in Nepal!

On October 19, 2017, my boyfriend and I arrived in Nepal anxious to see the wonderful wildlife in Shuklaphanta National Park. We arrived at the park the next day and had a generally successful trip spotting the wildlife as we saw a jackal, deer, crocodile, wild boar – and, yes, even a tiger!

As we drove back to Dhangadhi airport to catch our flight to Kathmandu about 11:00 a.m. on October 23, we saw a sight that would haunt us forever: Our guide announced that we would be stopping to “visit some elephants”. We saw three elephants with their front legs shackled so tightly, they couldn’t move! They couldn’t bend their knees, turn around or lay down at all. There were branches and leaves scattered in front of the elephants (we were told that was their “food”), but no water for them to drink anywhere in sight!

Elephant NepalThere were three elephants: two females and a male. The two females were chained next to each other and seemed resigned to their rotten situation, but the male was by himself and clearly distressed. Our guide kept telling us that he was angry and even the trainer had a hard time dealing with him. I said “Of course, he’s angry. When you keep him shackled to the point where he can’t even move his front legs, he has the right to be angry!”

“I am not a spiritual person at all, but I really did get a strong sense of communication from this poor boy. He kept reaching our his trunk to me and my boyfriend and it wasn’t in anger – he wanted to be touched and to let us know that he was clearly in distress. I swear, he was needing some human kindness from us and desperate to let us know he needed help!”

After both of us stroked his trunk. guides demanded that we stop touching the elephant for our own safety, so we moved back. One of our guides said to me “Ma’am, I know you love animals, but he is dangerous!”

While we were close enough to touch the last two feet of his trunk, he would have had a difficult time getting close enough to do any serious damage to us (maybe a hard slap or knocking us over, at worst, but nowhere near close enough to pick us up). But I honestly think he was smart enough to recognize that we were tourists and has probably experienced tourists providing him with food and affection, not as people that chain him or abuse him.

However, what really seemed to upset everyone there is that I kept asking about the shackles. And I was obviously taking photos of those shackles. This did not go over well with the elephants’ keepers, but I wanted answers about this inhumane situation.Our guides cut the visit short and we arrived at the airport very early that day.

Elephant ShacklesI vowed that I would not let this go until I know this situation was taken care of. If the keepers need to control these poor creatures, at least give them the dignity of shackling only one foot and giving them a long chain so that they can move around. And why was the male off to the side, away from the other elephants? They are social creatures and need companionship.

So I have been sending out the photos and information to every wildlife organization, elephant rescue and animal welfare group I can reach. I’ve posted this on my Facebook and Twitter pages (and the social media pages of others). I have posted a review on Trip Advisor. I will not stop until this awful wrong is stopped.

And for God’s sake, please give these poor animals some water!

This report comes to us from a tourist visiting Nepal during 2017. Please feel free to submit your own reports to:

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The Times They Are a-Changin’

When Bob Dylan wrote his seminal song “The Times They Are a-Changin’” back in 1964, he wanted to create an anthem for change. Not surprisingly, this song became the archetypal protest song for so many other movements – in addition to the successful anti-war movement of the ’60s.

Now we see the times changin’ for Nepal’s captive elephants, particularly in one of the most successful and prominent jungle resorts in the nation: Tiger Tops. Check out this new video to see how:

From about 1964 until just recently, Nepal’s captive elephants working in jungle resorts have been chained and abused, suffering under horrific conditions hidden from tourists. But now, at least one jungle resort has taken the high-road and offers a more humane way to interact with Nepal’s most magnificent creature.


circa. 1965: Bob Dylan @ London Zoo

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing

from The Times They Are a-Changin’ by Bob Dylan, 1964

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