Nepal's majestic elephants rarely get a break - That's because these hard-working mammals are constantly transporting tourists across the protected jungles of Chitwan. However, during the last week of December, the Pachyderms got a three-day break to have some fun and show off their athletic talents and physical attributes.
The colorful elephant-themed festival that took place in Sauraha from December 26th-28th, featured events like soccer matches, 300-meter dashes and even, a beauty pageant. The competitors? Elephants of course!
In order to get their athletic skills on par with some of the world's best players, the Pachyderms, most of who were 4-5 years old, practiced for months on end. According to their trainers, teaching them how to play soccer was a little tricky - However, once they understood the meaning of 'kick', life became easier!
When the big day arrived, the lumbering giants did not disappoint. Playing with a standard size soccer ball, they displayed remarkable prowess, kicking the ball using one of their four feet, blocking passes and even, jostling with each other for control.
The beauty contest was a great success too. The contestants that had been fed a special diet of rice and sugar wrapped in grass, looked fabulous as they paraded in front of the judges - While most had some kind of adornments painted across their bodies, Loktantrakali, a gorgeous contestant, even had her toenails painted bright red! As with any beauty pageant the judges were seeking out contestants who were not just good-looking, but also, smart. Accordingly, each had to perform a trick in order to even be considered for the title. While bright-toed Loktantrakali did not win, she did manage to snag the runner-up title.
The grand finale of the event was the 300-meter dash. Cheered on by thousands of fans, Bahadur Guj thundered out of the starting line and completed the track 'Usain Bolt' style - In a mere 69 seconds!
All in all, the three-day festival, the first of its kind, was a great success. It was organized by the Nepalese officials to promote conservation awareness for not only the elephants, but also, the rhinos, rare species of deer and crocodiles that inhabit Chitwan National Park. They are also hoping that the success of this one will promote similar festivals and attract additional tourists to the country. We sure hope that happens, not only for the sake of the endangered animals, but also, so that the elephants can have some fun!