While Nepal Promotes Its ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ Campaign, Animal Rights Groups Warn That Continuing to Abuse Elephants Will Turn Tourists Away

For Immediate Release:
December 12, 2019

Chitwan — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) obtained video footage recorded at last year’s Chitwan Elephant Festival showing handlers repeatedly hitting and jabbing elephants on their heads and sensitive ears with bullhooks (spear-like weapons with a sharp hook at one end), sticks, and makeshift wooden knives in order to force them to race, give rides, and “play” football and polo. In response to this damning evidence, all former sponsors have pulled their support of the festival, several travel companies have pledged not to associate with the cruel event, and thousands of people around the world have asked for it to be canceled. PETA and Nepal’s Animal Rights Club (ARC) warn that ignoring cruelty to animals will only tarnish the country’s “Visit Nepal 2020” campaign, yet the Regional Hotel Association Nepal–Chitwan—the organizer of the festival—and its recently appointed chairperson, Deepak Bhattarai, still have not called it off.

One member of the association told PETA that they were so disturbed by the cruelty at the festival that they “confronted [their] colleagues of Hotel Association” about it and were met with great opposition. As a result, this person has terminated their membership and is no longer associated with the organization.

“As much as the Ministry of Tourism pushes its ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ campaign, continuing to abuse elephants for the Chitwan Elephant Festival will just turn tourists away,” says ARC co-founder Surajan Shrestha. “To save the country from worldwide humiliation, Mr. Bhattarai must end the festival immediately.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that Nepalese travel company Tiger Tops has stopped hosting the International Elephant Polo Competition and has banned elephant-back safaris. Last year, following a PETA investigation into the King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Thailand. the event was quickly shut down. Elephant-polo tournaments have also reportedly been canceled in India and Sri Lanka.

Photographs from PETA’s investigation into the Chitwan Elephant Festival are available upon request. For more information, please visit