Progress Report on Chain-Free Corral Project at Kasara Hattisar

The framework for all six chain-free corrals at the Kasara hattisar is in place.

Support and brace posts are concreted. Gateposts mark the entrance to each new corral.

Heart work

Eyeing the progress of this project, my heart pounds. Here it comes, that joyfully intoxicating feeling cursing through my veins.

My eyes transport the image to my heart. My heart responds, sending a warm glow through my body, filling my eyes with tears. My heart swells with the promise of a better life for these elephants.

In this moment I stand in my personal space of pure peace. I caress it. Breathe it in deeply. I don’t attempt to own it, only experience it, knowing the feeling is a gift meant to be experienced not possessed.

Some people meditate, others run, cycle or climb mountains to connect to that place within where they feel most themselves, most centered, most peaceful.

This is the place of autonomy and personal freedom.

Such activity can literally become an addiction, in the best sense of the word.

Watching the chain-free corrals come to life before my eyes is my addiction. Knowing that my actions help reduce the suffering of captive-held elephants brings me great joy! It is heart work, soul fulfilling work. My meditation.

At times the joy is overwhelming and I just have to cry. Seeing elephants gain even a semblance of autonomy moves me to do more. Knowing that we are able to help bring some peace and freedom to their lives drives me.

I may never know any of these elephants personally. But that is not the point of my work. I am not here to expand my elephant family. I am here to better the lives of these elephant.

They know we are helping them. That is good enough for me.

Construction continues

The next step is to string the wire between support posts and hand-build the topes (post protectors).

Each corral is one full acre in size. It is equipped with six strands of wire equaling nearly one mile of wire per corral.

Ditches will be dug to bury the wires that enable each corral to operate independently.

Last, the steel box that contains and protects the energizer and batteries will be installed and wired to the solar panel that powers the system.

A perfect vantage point

From the open-air raised platform that I have claimed for my new office, I survey the work site. What a gift to witness this miracle unfolding right before my eyes.

A humble thanks to Kamal Kunwar, Chitwan National Park chief conservation officer, the entire hattisar staff, our IBEX fence crew and all of you who have contributed to this worthwhile project.

Together we are improving elephant welfare, showing due respect to these wise, kind and self-aware beings who grace our planet and our lives.


Himal Gaj

Himal Gaj is a six-year-old captive born elephant. His father is the dominant wild bull in the area. His mother is a wild born, captive resident of the elephant breeding center at Khosor, Chitwan, Nepal.









Himal  Gaj was one of five young elephants trained together at the breeding center several months ago. Until their formal training, they lived with their mothers.

All five elephants were chained from the age of three months. Chaining is the practice all over Asia. Domestic livestock and captive elephants are tied or chained. It is the cheapest way to keep them in one place.









The training technique used with Himal Gaj and the others at the breeding center was a deviation from the traditional pujan, a brutal breaking of spirit. Introduced by a foreign NGO, a mixture of traditional methods was used—including the use of koonkie elephants, negative reinforcement and punishment—combined with positive reinforcement techniques known to be successful with domestic horses.

Unfortunately, once training began, Himal Gaj showed signs of aggression and resistance. He was frightened by the training process and responded poorly to his mahouts. A few months later his training was deemed unsuccessful.

No video, photographic or written records exist to document the daily training process and Himal Gaj’s progress and difficulties.

But it does not take such documentation to see that Himal Gaj is a very insecure individual.

Although Himal Gaj responds well when his mahout is riding, his weakness is responding to commands when his mahout is on the ground.









Himal Gaj is a good example of the importance of sound training techniques, mahout training and follow through.

Captive elephants are not domesticated—they are wild animals living in a captive environment. Even generations born in captivity are not domesticated. The scientific process of breeding selected individuals for specific traits is the process required to create a domestic species. This has never been undertaken with elephants.

In the case of all elephants born at the breeding facility in Khosor, the mothers are wild born living in captivity and the fathers are wild born living in the wild.

Himal Gaj’s mahouts are as gentle as I have seen anywhere. They are patient but frustrated. What the training process failed to do was give them the tools necessary to help Himal Gaj learn.

As a result, all are left feeling like failures. Without intervention, Himal Gaj is doomed to be a dangerous elephant for the remainder of his life.

The good news is that the mahouts and Kamal Kunwar, the chief commanding officer of Chitwan National Park, are receptive to Himal Gaj receiving additional training. His private training course will begin soon.

This is such exciting news. I feared Himal Gaj would remain a lost cause in the minds of the mahouts. But before his chain-free corral is completed Himal Gaj, will be well on his way to understanding what is expected of him and his mahouts will have gained the humane tools to understand and assist him in his training process.

March 20, 2014 | Posted in: General | Comments Closed