In a bid to “promote conservation awareness and lure foreign visitors to Nepal,” a massive three-day event celebrating, well, elephants was held in a conservation forest near Nepal.
The elephants, all of which are around four or five years old, are trained, cleaned, and fed a special rice-sugar-grass meal before the events.
Among the many events included in the festivities were a game of soccer, using four elephants per team that trained for weeks leading up to the event; a 300-meter race; and a beauty pageant.
According to Basudev Mahato, an elephant rider and trainer, “Training the elephants to play soccer was not easy, but they learned the basic commands. They understood they need to hit the ball when I yell ‘kick’ at them.”
The winner of the big race was Bajadur Gaj (an impressive name for an elephant), who made it to the finish line in 69 seconds. Other elephants had their large toenails painted for the beauty pageant.
After a decline, tourism is picking up in Nepal, and Ghanashyam Shrestha, one of the festival organizers, hopes this event will draw more people to the area.
While most visitors come to hike, the conservation site itself is a tourist dream, playing host to rhinos, deer, and crocodiles.
Here’s to hoping that tourism starts to climb.