The plight of Samrat Gaj, a baby elephant at Sapana Village Lodge in Sauraha, Chitwan, draws the attention to the suffering of elephants born into the safari tourism industry in Nepal. Their abuse includes chaining, separation from the mother, cruel training, beatings and premature labour.
Born as a healthy calf on January 6, 2014, to mother Srijana Kali, Samrat Gaj was everyone’s darling at first. Successful births are rare among safari elephants, and Samrat seemed the happy exception. To enable the owner, Dhruba Giri, to unchain mother Srijana Kali and her calf, animal welfare organisations Himalayan Animal Trust and Animal Nepal supported with funds to build a chain free corral. The conditions were that the baby would be trained humanely, not work before the age of 13, and that the corral would be maintained.
When mother and baby were unchained and enabled to graze, scratch, play and sleep out in the open, and a humane trainer started his job, Samrat Gaj seemed to be one of the few elephants in captivity enjoying a happy childhood.
But that was about to change.