The best place for viewing the endangered one-horned rhino and the royal Bengal tiger is Chitwan National Park. However, a much-debated issue relating to this is the use of riding elephants to get closer to them. Although we do not endorse elephant trekking at Responsible Travel (read more in our guide toElephants in tourism
), we do recognise that in Chitwan, the survival of the highly threatened tigers and rhinos is heavily reliant on the funding gained through elephant rides in the park. Allowing elephant back safaris is far from an ideal solution, but it is the 'least bad' solution to a complex problem.
However, this is a rare exception to our stance on wildlife, in which we generally discourage any interaction with wild animals or the altering of behaviour in any way. We do not support local 'sports' such as elephant polo, or traditional practices such as snake charmers, or the use of parrots (which are usually illegally taken from the wild) by soothsayers, who claim they use them to predict the future.
is also, sadly, common in Nepal; on particularly auspicious days, many thousands may be ritually slaughtered at temples or festivals. Some rituals are even sponsored by the Nepalese government.
You may come across animals forced to perform for tourists, or take tourists for rides in sweltering temperatures without sufficient food or water. Some are malnourished, abused, old, injured or pregnant. In the Terai, tongas
(taxis) are pulled by horses or donkeys who often literally work till they drop. When you are trekking, your luggage could be carried by an overloaded and underfed yak or donkey.
What you can do
Be mindful of what these animals are going through
and simply don’t participate; there is ample opportunity to see animals being animals in their natural habitats in Nepal, which will give you a lot more pleasure and cause them a lot less pain. If you do see a working animal being maltreated, be sure to let the owner why you have not chosen to employ them. Conversely, thank and tip owners of well treated animals to encourage better practice.