Elephants’ upkeep turning costly for Sauraha hoteliers

Chitwan, December 8

Keeping an elephant has proved costly for Sauraha hotel entrepreneurs with tourist arrivals sharply declining in Chitwan of late.

According to entrepreneurs, the number of tourists visiting the city has declined massively after the April 25 earthquake.

Moreover, the blockade at Nepal-India border points has added to their woes.

The elephants in Sauraha, which used to be busy ferrying tourists, have been left idle. There are as many as 62 privately owned elephants in Sauraha.

An elephant costs from eight million to ten million rupees.

Each hotelier in the city owns at least one to three elephants on an average. It costs at least Rs 100,000 per month to feed an elephant, say entrepreneurs.

Bishnu Prasad Aryal, proprietor of Rhino Hotel, said each elephant eats at least one kg sweet potato, five pathi rice, one kg pulses, three quintal grass and 15 kg straw per day.

At least two mahouts are required to take care of an elephant for which they get Rs 30,000 each per month.

However, an elephant has hardly been earning Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per month, said Aryal.

Deepak Bhattarai, chairman of United Elephant Cooperative, said elephants hardly get people to ferry three days. “Tourists who wished to ride an elephant had to wait for at least three days this season last year.

An elephant used to take four rides per day,” lamented Bhattarai.

Tourists are given elephant rides around Chitwan National Park and adjoining areas, including Baghmara, Kumroj and Chitrasen Community Forest and Mrigakunja Madhyawarti Forest, among others. “Compared to past years, only around 20 per cent tourists have visited Sauraha of late.

Tourist arrival has dropped following the deadly April earthquake and the recent border blockade,” said Bhattarai. “Even school and college students from various parts of the country have not made any visits due to the prolonged fuel crisis,” lamented Bhattarai.