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Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Abu Dhabi, United...
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Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Our guide has booked us for 2 nights in Chitwan Safari Resort in the National Park. The package includes an Elephant Ride. I am already VERY skeptical of such rides, as I have a strong opposition with using animals for tourist entertainment. ALSO, right here on tripadvisor I saw VERY disturbing comments about the UNETHICAL treatment of the elephants like beating them with sticks that have hooks attached to them, elephants with large bleeding wounds and being chained and beaten. WTH? If that is the case, I will have to cancel this package deal. Is there ANY way we can book good lodging and safari activities with a FAIR, ETHICAL organization that provides the lodging & safari w/o having to be afraid of exploiting animals? This is all so upsetting. Any input is appreciated.

Denmark
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1. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

The elephants in Chitwan are typical breeded in the area and they live their entire life with the mahoud. The elephants are chained, when they are not being trained or working.

I have never seen elephants with large, bleeding wounds and I have never seen elephants being beaten (like in being beaten up).

The mahouds use a stick, which has form of a hook in one end to guide the elephant, if it doesn't respond to the guidance the mahoud gives to the elephant by pressing his foot behind the elehants ear.

An elephant's skin is extremely tough around most parts of its body and measures about 2.5 centimetres (1.0 in) thick. So what may seem as a hard hit with a stick, doesn't have the same effect on an elephant as on a human.

Riding an elephant for entertainment is a form of exploiting the animal. But that doesn't necessarily make it a bad life for the animal.

You can not do safari activities with out exploiting the animals...you enter their habitat to watch for entertainment and you disturb their normal life.

Abu Dhabi, United...
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2. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Thank you for your very valuable information regarding the stick being used and other issues you covered. I did do some research and found companies that do conduct 'responsible eco tourism' which includes also supporting foundations for the animals in that hemisphere some of which unfortunately are close to extinction thanks to us irresponsible egotistic humans. . At least there is a way to give back to the National Park and the animals, and not just invading it. I prefer my tourist money being used for a good cause and the last thing I want is animals being exploited. Ideologically and ethically it is indeed a difficult situation whenever we explore be it on land or sea... . We want to enjoy the safari, see the animals and their habitat, at the same time we invade their territory, that is very true. Thank you for your input, and yes, even dogs skin is way thicker than humans and it sure does not seem that way , so I can only imagine the skin of an elephant. Still.....I don't like using force on any animal period... sigh... Thank you again!

Edited: 9:23 am, October 13, 2012
Bangkok, Thailand
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3. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

very interesting point being raised – and as always lisbeth brings a sound point. For me riding animal for enjoyment – be it a safari or as a necessity for the livelihood has always been a borderline issue – just another ugliness of human dominance on all other living species – to tame large animal such as elephant does involve inflicting some degree of pain – so let’s not get caught up on how thick the skin is – unlike African savanah where you could go an a jeep safari – chitwan is thick subtropical jungle with narrow trail and high bushes – either you walk or go on a safari riding elephant – jeep tours are also there but on outer fringes - back in 2007 we ran across a Chinese tourist who got trampled by an elephant in the breeding center there while trying to feed the elephant up too close – one in a million case I am sure – but they are, at the end of the day, wild animals. Explain your concerns to the guide/agnecy - I am sure you can still get the most out of your trip and keeping your moral compass in check.

Edited: 3:19 pm, October 13, 2012
Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Chitwan NP runs a breeding centre for elephants and some of them are working elephants. I was there for a week and never saw anything but good treatment and kindness from the mahoods.

Perhaps you may wish to temper your preconceived notions with a little reality. One if the realities is that many of those elephants have been rescued and simply would not be alive, but for places like Chitwan, and the fact that they are working elephants.

Part of that work is to take tourists on walks through the jungle. They also take the rangers out on safaris chasing poachers within the NP.

They are working animals and while we don't like to see th tied up, it is as much for their protection as it is for the people in the villages and their property and crops. If you have working dogs, you tie them up at night - you don't allow them to run around where they can get into mischief or harm.

After a day out in the NP, the elephants are taken down to the river where they have a bath, being washed by the mahoods and tourists. If you ever see those lovely big pachyderms rolling over for to have their ears scrubbed & stretching out, spraying themselves & anyone around them with water, I think you will be seeing pretty happy animals.

Would they rather be roaming around in the NP? Very likely. Would they be safer?

Edited: 2:54 am, October 14, 2012
Abu Dhabi, United...
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5. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Ok, thank you again for the feedback, I read it before I left and didn't have enough time to respond. Chitwan was a place I would not include in my itinerary again. I was disappointed. The trash at the river site where Chinese tourists throw their cigarette buds and trash into the mud... careless.... NONE of that fat tourist money seems to go back to the actual PARK!! Like MOST tourist dollars it seems. The elephants were chained at the center. The handlers were kicking them, and yes, they had these sticks with hooks..are you kidding me? nope. .. sorry.. I did not care for any of it. I saw almost no wildlife.. neither on the canoe trip nor the Jeep Safari nor the Half Day Jungle Hike. Guess, we scared all the animals off. Got a leech on the walking hike through the jungle, which nobody warned me about, that's ok, though. .. .. . The local tour guide there was excellent. His English was good and he really did a great Job. I would not recommend the Elephant Ride to folks like me, who truly enjoy seeing animals in the wild and NOT carrying a dozen fat tourists around only to be chained up at night. UGH. Triple NO.!!!! We also had a general Guide /Driver for the entire trip. Actually the company gave us two different ones. Both were good. The Kathmandu guide in particular was really exceptionally good. I have the info for those who need nature guides or knowledgeable General Tour or Trekking Guides. Feel free to contact me. As far as the Elephant Safari. Animal Lovers : SKIP IT. Your heart will hurt.

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6. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

kickdiver - thanks for this useful thread. I have 6 spare days in Nepal (after about a week in Kathmandu Valley) and was looking for some additional places to visit - I am now quite skeptical of Chitwan. Do you have any recommendations? I too love seeing animals in their habitat and have enjoyed them heartily in other places (favorite was in the Amazon in Brasil), so based on your description, I think I won't get to enjoy the animals much and only see some things I dislike.

Settle, United...
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7. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Whilst I can see where the concerns are coming from, don't forget that these elephants are domestic animals, bred to work in the same way that man 'exploits' horses.

Obviously the Chitwan National Park is under pressure, mainly from humans, (a fact of life for most National Parks - I read recently that an alpha female wolf in Yellowstone has been shot by a trophy-hunter). The pressure has been there for centuries, reaching its peak in the hideous tiger hunts of late C19 and early C20. Pressure now comes from the expanding population, from poaching, particularly to feed the absurd Chinese Medicine industry, and from visitors.

Nonetheless there is some progress being made. There's a fairly healthy rhino population - on each of the three visits I've made to Chitwan we've seen several, both from the back of an elephant, and when on foot. There's a fairly major Gharial breeding programme, and I've seen several Marsh Mugger crocodiles, as well as deer, monkeys, but alas as yet no tiger ! There is not the abundant wildlife that you'd find on the plains of the Serengeti or in Amazonia, but apparently 'kickdiver' had an unfortunately barren visit . . . . perhaps living down to her expectations

Whilst obviously the wildlife would prosper more if there was no human activity in the area (though the elephant population would be in an interesting situation, as there are few wild elephants left, and I'm not sure how well the domestic elephants would fare on their own), the local Tharu people need to live, and seem increasingly to be aware of their coexistence alongside the wildlife. The 'tourist dollar' does bring some of them the chance of employment. Although much of the income from tourism probably is syphoned off in corporate profits, and possibly in various corrupt practices, some of it helps to promote the work of the National Park, amongst whose aims is the education of both the local population, and visitors. Perhaps exposure to its message might ultimately improve the poor behaviour of some of the tourists that 'kickdiver' witnessed

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8. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Thanks Alanyeti - good advice. I've tried to take all the viewpoints in, and I think I will still be going to Chitwan, and since it will be January - probably a good time to go with fewer tourists and lower grasses. Still trying to plan the whole trip too. Have you by any chance been to Lumbini?

Abu Dhabi, United...
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9. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Yes, the grass should be low. One 'problem' for wildlife viewing is the Elephant grass. The Nature Guide in Chitwan we had was fantastic, I don't have his direct number , but I know our Cross Country Guide based in KTM, 'Kumar Dahal' (also highly recommended, wonderful human spirit, we plan to tour with him again in the future and if I was you I'd explore KTM valley with him!!), has the contact. I don' t think I can display his email on here. I found the Chitwan nature guide REALLY informative and caring about the environment, also a highly knowledgeable birdwatcher. As a former Everglades Nature Guide I put him to the test and he passed with flying colors. If you hike through the jungle like we did ,beware of the wet grass, we caught leeches, they are harmless, but they cause a bloody mess on your clothing because the bleeding won't stop. I still liked the visit, I just have a problem with the Elephant handling, then again, I couldn't even bare watching the Gator Handlers in South Florida and now I live in the Middle East and I hate the Camel Races here too, which is part of the culture here... ...most people don't have a problem with it. The email where you can find out about the Chitwan guide is trektourguide (dot )com. Not sure if the system will let me post it, hence the 'dot'. Nepal is a fascinating country with beautiful people and such diversity. Have a wonderful journey! Heidi

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10. Re: Are there any ETHICAL lodging/safari companies in Chitwan ?

Thanks Heidi - your comments are useful. I have had experiences with leeches while trekking in Malaysia - so I know how nasty that gets! I am still going forward with a trip to Chitwan, but plan to skip elephant bathing and the breeding center (I've done the bathing thing in Thailand before, and the center doesn't really sound like something I want to see).

Hoping I see more on a jeep ride to a deeper part of the jungle, still doing elephant riding, and also a day's walk plus canoe. I will check out the culture show too.

Am getting excited for my trip, which is being slapped together in very little time - but hopefully with TA tips, will manage to enjoy it.

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