At present elephant safari is the primary source of income for these communities and it will be unwise to stop it immediately regardless of how strong the voices against it are, as it will mean negatively impact the welfare of these magnificent pachyderms.
But elephant-based tourism does not have a long future either, people are essentially riding endangered wildlife. Developing elephant-friendly alternative products and activities that ensure their welfare in the long term and generate good revenue to sustain their cost should be the priority.
At the same time, specifically for elephants that need support like Kajalkali, we should establish a sanctuary or a retirement centrewhich can be integrated with the government-planned wildlife rescue centre.
At NTNC’s Biodiversity Conservation Center, we already have some experience caring for 80-year-old Melkali, who is living a proper retired life with care and support.
Read also: Set the elephants free, Michelle Szydlowski
Babu Ram Lamichhane is with the Natural Trust for Nature Conservation – Biodiversity Conservation Center in Sauraha, Chitwan.