Elephants and wildlife – 2 May 2017

Eva Sifis

Today, after a morning thunderstorm (you should have seen the colour of the atmosphere while it was laden and waiting – a dusky orange beige suffused the sky), our guide from yesterday’s safari, Kisan (meaning ‘farmer’ for that is what his parents are), awaited us in the foyer. The three of us, our perma-guide Mahesh (tour and trekking extraordinaire – ask me for his details!), Mum and I went for an amble through grassed areas, woodland edge, tracked past the elephant mounting (for client carrying) pen, along the rivers edge to a village behind the resort set up for people who lost their homes in the quake and migrated to this region – ‘Sundar Basti’ and along further agricultural fields to arrive on the steps of Green Valley Resort just in time as another downpour began anew.
This morning’s tour was a bird watching one but ended up being a sweet exchange of knowledge and stories between Kisan (30) and Mum (68). Mahesh and I hung back and he explained the situation behind just one of the hotels (Baghmanra Wildlife Resort) backing on to reserve ground river side that, even though was grand once, has been allowed to run down, like so many other hotels we have encountered. Though the owner owns other hotels in Kathmandu, Mahesh does not understand why, even with the donation the owner received from the Maoist party here 10 yrs ago, it has been ignored. We are talking about a prime tourism enterprise here.
Anyway, so as we were wandering along the river’s edge and watching the elephants we may be riding this afternoon ford the river after having a drink, (Elephants drink the running water from the river the town used to drink from also and eat medicinal plants in the forest and keep their well being) Kisan shared with us the problem the country’s vulture population are fighting and failing against. There is not a lot of carrion available in Nepal. When family cows come to the end of their lives they are put to sleep. As the cow is a sacred animal in a Hindu country, it is illegal to kill them. The drug used to end cow’s lives, Diaclofenac, also kills carrion birds like vultures. He said that a ‘note’ has been made about this fact and a breeding program has begun.
We were told the story how one night early this year a wild elephant could smell elephant grass behind a wall in the village. So at 3am he pushed the bamboo mud wall in and helped himself, to the absolute terror of the family inside the home.
The photos show Concrete fence posts levelled by wild elephant in order to reach the crops.
The Rhino Apple Tree has fruit not edible for humans but rhinos love the fallen fruit.
Another photo shows a Grow House of a whole different kind. This one has plants growing on the outside. Imagine. It’s here.
The Watch Tower in fields is used by people of the household on-which to sleep in order to protect the crops from wild animals.

So my fears pre-elephant ride were transformed post-elephant ride to be sure to be sure. A more uncomfortable 90 mins never passed as quickly and my abs and quads got quite a working from where I sat, straddling the front left hand corner of the wooden passenger crate atop our rebellious mount.

Her driver/carer/buddy Swom at first worried my rampant, investigative, animal libber mind with the frightening shape of metal hook/prod he brandished as well as an innocuous bamboo pole to slap her cranium. His ‘reigns’ were roped stirrups that positioned his feet behind her ears. Control was exercised via kicking at this spot and nudging his knees at the back of her skull.
After a while though, her pure cheekiness, independence and ‘tude shone through and I was satisfied we were atop a thoroughly obvious teen. At 15 she is ripe for some stern talking to however Swom always did so with a exasperated chuckle as a finale.
I dubbed her ‘Princess’ Puspakali as her disdain of walking where others had shat was quite obvious from the start. That did not deter her from studying a pile formerly left as inspiration (I’ll name it) to trigger her own release, a gushing accompaniment to the bird calls surrounding us.
Swom pointed out huge crocs in the river below our embankment and gigantic carp in the shallow waters. He also gestured towards the many spotted deer in the area, grazing Bambi-like in the dappled shade. Imagine our glee when a rhino was feeding (perhaps a little too conveniently) at our journey’s end. Made for some very close up shots of this truly prehistoric creature. I honestly felt as though I was in Jurassic Park with the intimate space shared.
We headed back to the enclosure after snapping photos. She backed neatly to the raised platform and we awkwardly dismounted, clambering down wooden steps to connect face to face with our Princess.
After feeding her bananas as thanks, we tipped Swom and made our way to a man seated weaving miscellaneous vessels, hats and mats. He was blind and I had already asked him to wait for my return as I wanted to support him.
His story, told to us by Kisan was he is a landowner with a family who still works the land and weaves at the elephants as he wants keep busy.
Of course, it wasn’t until after we had purchased items (bargained for us by surrounding locals) that we were reminded we likely would not be able to take them into Australia as they are made from grass or reed. We will check it out online and if not, gift them away. No mind, I am happy we have supported yet more Nepalese people today.
Tomorrow we return to the big smoke (literally) so I can be checked out at a hospital and connect with the org supporting those sold into childhood servitude – Local Women’s Handicrafts.
Then, home to Melbs.