“Did you know that in Nepal one in five elephants suffer from Tuberculosis? Still enjoying that bath?” With that slogan EWN launched a campaign to create awareness about one of a lesser known health and safety risks related to elephant tourism.
In Nepal elephant tourism involves direct contact with captive elephants. Tourists are not only riding these majestic animals, they also touch, feed and take a bath while riding them. Few tourists are aware of the health and safety risks involved. In Nepal one of five captive elephants suffers from Tuberculosis. The treatment is long and intense, and generally sick elephants are back to work in a few weeks time.
A recent publication on an outbreak of TB in the Oregon Zoo shows that TB can easily be transmitted from elephants to humans. The outbreak affected at least seven people and three elephants. In Nepal few steps are taken to prevent the spread of TB among caretakers. Tourists are not informed about the health risks involved when riding, feeding or bathing with an elephant.
Apart from the health risks involved, bathing with elephants by standing on top of them is potentially dangerous. Tourists can opt to ‘bath’ with elephants by standing on their back and being showered with river water through the elephant’s trunk. Elephants love bathing and need this time to relax and rest. When bathing is turned into a performance the elephant’s stress levels increase dramatically.
In March 2014 safari elephant Champa Kali killed mahout Moti Lal Chaudhary (50) during public bathing. Chaudhary recently changed jobs, and it was his first time to take the elephant for bathing with tourists. Champa Kali is known as an aggressive elephant, who killed someone in India before being sold to its Nepali owner, Bishnu Hari Sapkota of Nature Safari Camp. She has a history of Tuberculosis.