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 agencies) agrees 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.