AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
KATHMANDU: Elephant drivers in the Chitwan National Park, home to the endangered royal Bengal tigers, the rare one-horned rhinos and other rare animals and birds, have gone on strike demanding higher pay, industry officials said today. The drivers, or mahouts, are employed by the hotel industry to take tourists on elephant-back safaris.
The drivers want their monthly pay of 4,600 rupees increased to 5,400 rupees, claiming that their current pay is not enough to eke out a living. They also claim that they have not received the pay hike promised in a deal clinched with their employers two years ago. Shankar Saij, who represents the hotels that own the elephants, said the two sides are working to reach an agreement.
The rides are hugely popular among tourists – every day around 200 visitors pay Rs. 1,300 per person for the ride, Saij said. The strike came after the elephant drivers held a wildcat stoppage earlier in the month to protest over their pay. Every year, thousands of people visit the national park.