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PETA's eyewitness footage shows elephants who were forced to participate in the cruel Chitwan Elephant Festival in Nepal being repeatedly struck and gouged with bullhooks—spear-like weapons with a sharp hook on one end—and their ears being violently yanked. Mahouts (handlers) also beat frightened elephants with other weapons, such as sticks and makeshift wooden knives.
One mahout can be seen repeatedly jabbing a baby elephant behind the ear to force her to "play" football. Right after the match, eyewitnesses saw that she was suffering from several fresh, painful, bloody wounds.
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As the video above shows, elephants suffer for this festival. Since hearing from PETA and our affiliates, all of the festival's former sponsors have cut ties with the event. However, the cruel festival is still set to take place again this year. When these elephants aren't being forced to perform at this festival, they're used for rides by tourists visiting Chitwan. Elephants who are forced to "play" football or give rides are controlled through physical violence and psychological domination. They're chained and beaten with bullhooks or other weapons and constantly threatened with violence to keep them afraid and submissive.
Elephants used for polo "games," rides, shows, and other forms of entertainment suffer tremendously. Even when not performing, they're typically deprived of everything that's natural and important to them.
If we take an honest look at the reality of life in captivity for elephants compared to the life that they would have in nature, we can see that the "trainers" have utterly degraded these magnificent animals. Elephants are highly social beings who thrive in matriarchal herds, protecting each other, caring for their babies, and traveling many kilometers a day. They experience joy, sadness, and fear. Their rituals of mourning the deaths of family members rival any that humans have developed. But throughout Nepal, baby elephants are routinely beaten and subjected to other egregiously cruel forms of "training." Their complex emotional states and multifaceted relationships are left in tatters.
Using these majestic, endangered animals in silly spectacles is shameful. Nepal should be focused on protecting them in their natural habitats, not exploiting them for human amusement.
Last year, more than a dozen companies dropped their support of the King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Thailand after a PETA eyewitness exposé revealed abuse similar to that documented in Nepal, and the tournament's organizers ceased their operations in Thailand—making the Chitwan Elephant Festival the only event in the world in which elephants are shamefully abused for and forced to "play" polo. And for good reason—others have recognized the cruelty inherent in making elephants perform and have stopped abusing animals.
The Chitwan Elephant Festival also hurts Nepal's tourism industry. Please fill out the form below to tell the Nepal Tourism Board that it's in its best interest to cancel these cruel "games."
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