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 where 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 handled in an extremely inhumane and brutal manner 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.’

Many visitors and tourists don’t realize the degrading, and abusive treatment elephants endure behind the scenes so that they cooperate on the day of the events.

Training elephants does not happen without severely abusive tactics.

The trainers chain up the baby and adult elephants whenever they are not performing or training and kept 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.’ 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 threaten the elephants excessively. Elephant handlers hang the bullhooks over the elephant’s ears as they lead them around and rip aggressively at their sensitive flesh, causing deep wounds and scars left untreated.

During the ‘games,’ the elephants are also continuously jabbed in their ears’ sensitive areas by the Mahout’s feet, 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 exposé must continue to end the abuse and cruelty 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.