Operation Chitwan Festival 2019

In December of 2019, ARM operatives entered Nepal to document animal cruelty and abuse at the 16th annual Chitwan Elephant Festival. 

The Chitwan Elephant Festival is the only event in the world in which elephants are shamefully abused and forced to ‘play’ polo.

Hosted over four days in Sauraha of Chitwan, Nepal, elephants are subjected to participating in football matches, races, soccer tournaments, and polo to entertain attendees and promote tourism in Nepal. 

Amidst what appears to present itself as a family-friendly event, the elephants themselves are repeatedly beaten, screamed at, and are handled in an extremely inhumane and brutal manner as they are forced to enact in unnatural activities to please the crowds. In fact, on many occasions, ARM investigators witnessed the elephants retaliating by smashing the goal areas and crushing the soccer balls during the ‘games’. 

What many visitors and tourists do not realize, is the degrading and abusive treatment that the elephants endure behind the scenes so that they cooperate on the day of the events.

Training elephants does not happen without severely abusive tactics.

Baby and adult elephants are chained whenever they are not performing or training and are tethered on short heavy spiked chains.

Their handlers, otherwise known as Mahouts, use cruel training tools like sharp machetes, hatchets and barbaric training instruments such as the ‘bullhook’. All of these instruments inflict extreme pain, suffering, and torture to the elephants during training as they are punished and beaten into submission.

During both training sessions and at events, both handlers and riders carry these tools to excessively threaten the elephants. Handlers hang the bullhooks over the elephant’s ears as they lead them around and rip aggressively at their sensitive flesh. This causes deep wounds and scars that are left untreated.

During the ‘games’, the elephants are also jabbed constantly in sensitive areas of their ears by the Mahout’s feet. This is a tactic used to steer the elephants during the games.

Outside of festivities, elephants are exploited and used for tourist rides daily.

The elephants, who are naturally intelligent and curious animals, suffer from psychological, mental, and emotional trauma after being removed from their natural habitats and being bound on short chains.

ARM’s investigations and eye witness expos’e must continue to end the abuse and cruelty that is happening in Nepal. We must keep the pressure on to educate society on the realities of elephant rides and ‘games’ that ultimately exploit defenseless elephants and wildlife.