The Rogue Elephant

On the morning of December 8th, we got to the playing field at about 9:30. There was a rather large group of villagers sitting on the field. They were protesting the National Parks’ handling of a problem that was affecting their livelihoods and safety: a large rogue elephant had been destroying crops and houses for approximately four months in the area.

The villagers' position was that they had repeatedly requested the National Parks to capture or kill the elephant and had not had a favorable response. The Parks had loaned several of their elephants to the WEPA tournament, and had a team playing in the tournament as well. The villagers felt that if the National Parks had the resources to play elephant polo, they certainly had the resources to hunt down the rogue elephant. So they decided to mount a civil protest in order to get some action.

The play was suspended that day for nearly two hours while General Nara, an 87 year old retired general of the Nepalese Army, negotiated with them. He was able to reach an agreement with the villagers that the elephant could either be tranquilized or killed, and the play resumed.

The next day only the first chukker of the riveting battle for eighth place was played. During the halftime break, the villagers started wandering out onto the field in the mist to continue their protest. This time they were committed to staying there all day, and the tournament was eventually suspended. We all waited around for a few hours trying to see whether the play would continue.

As we were getting ready to leave the field, a huge group of children in their school uniforms came marching across the airstrip and around the perimeter of the polo field, fists raised, chanting “Kill the Elephant! The Elephant! Kill the Elephant!” They were really having a great time. It reminded me of wearing black armbands and marching down Siskiyou Boulevard protesting the Kent State killings back in 1970 when I was in the ninth grade. I wonder what’s worse, really. Kids killing kids over a ridiculous war orchestrated by delusional adults or elephants tearing houses down while rich people play polo. It’s all relative, that’s my theory.

I was particularly impressed with Jim Edwards’ handling of the matter. Obviously, it was a sensitive situation. The villagers personal property was being destroyed, and their distress was certainly understandable. In the big picture, however, the protest threatened to damage relations between the locals and the Tiger Mountain Group and various agencies and individuals connected with it. Tiger Mountain and its network of resources has not only brought a significant influx of tourist dollars into the area, but has also provided the community with a medical clinic, a school, and countless social and economic benefits.

About mid-morning, Jim walked calmly out into the middle of the huge group of protesters, sat down, and stayed there negotiating with them until late in the afternoon. The villagers made it clear to Jim that they had nothing against Tiger Tops or the elephant polo tournament, but that felt that they had exhausted their attempts to get action by the National Parks and that this was the only forum available to them. Jim and representatives of the Nepali government agreed to make an all-out effort to capture the elephant, with first priority given to tranquilizing the beast and moving it to another location for retraining.

By dinnertime no firm resolution had been reached yet and plans were underway to dismantle the tents at Tiger Tops and finish the tournament on a shortened pitch.

Thanks to some intervention by the King of Nepal, the protesters agreed to suspend their protest and the National Parks agreed to capture the elephant. The elephant was indeed captured that night. He was tranquilized and prepared to be moved. He did break out of his captivity once but was caught again.

There was speculation that the elephant had been previously trained and had escaped at some point. The mahouts had called out some commands to the beast and he had apparently responded. This would account for his lack of fear or shyness around humans. He obviously had been in the wild for some time, though, which would account for his destructive behavior.

The Powerful Elephant and The Sleeping Village

By Cameron A. Moore

Once upon a time, in the faraway land of Nepal, there was a small village. Everyone worked hard in the fields, tending their crops of mustard and rice. The people of the village that lay on the outskirts of the Chitawan National Park lived a very peaceful life. The children went to school ir the mornings and worked in the fields during the afternoons. The men worked long hours in the fields tending their crops. The women of the village took care of the smaller children and worked in the fields just as hard as the men. Little did they know that things were about to change for this sleepy little village.

The people of the village had only heard tales of the very powerful wild elephant. Until the unfortunate day the elephant chose to show its great strength in their peaceful village, they could only imagine the destruction this great beast was capable of creating. The powerful beast cam in the dark of night moving through the village looking for food. The villagers fled with panic as they were forced to leave their homes while the mighty elephant destroyed whatever was in his path. In the morning the people of the village returned to find five houses demolished and their crops trampled. This was only the beginning of the terror this deadly beast was to cause them. The people of the village lived in fear for six months as the elephant returned nightly in search of food. All together 21 houses were destroyed, four people were killed and 30 fields of mustard and rice were trampled.

The people rose over Chitawan with a loud roar. The villagers demanded action to be taken in capturing the elephant. The elders of the village went to the head of the National Parks, Ram Pritt, and asked for his help. Ram Pritt gave his word to the elders promising them that he would do something about this wild elephant. The elders went back to the village and told the people that their troubles with the elephant were over. That proved to be wrong. The elephant returned to the village every night for the next week as Ram Pritt did nothing to stop the beast.

The elders of the village devised a grand plan. The annual World Elephant Polo Championships were to take place in a few days. The elders decided to use this event to get the attention of the National Parks. On the morning of the second day of the championships the whole village marched onto the polo field and sat down during the half time break of the match between National Parks and the Gurkha Gladiators. The children came out of school and began singing "kill the elephant" while marching around the field. The sit in caught everyone's attention. Ram Pritt was summoned to the polo field to negotiate the capture of the elephant. After two hours of discussion, they reached an agreement that was satisfactory to everyone. Ram Pritt would dart the elephant and transport it to the elephant camp.

That night Ram Pritt and a group of men on elephants set out in search of the wild elephant. They found the great pachyderm in the jungle bordering the village. They shot the elephant with two darts. At first the elephant ran but after a few minutes he could run no more and he fell sleepily to the ground. While he was sleeping they tied big chains around his massive legs and fastened the chains to a very large tree. That morning all of the villagers came to see this huge creature who had brought so much fear to their community. The villagers cheered Ram Pritt and his men for bringing tranquillity back to their lives.

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Annie's Photo Essay: The Nepali People