Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park invites for wild safari in a land of jungle, grasslands and water roamed by magnificent Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinos, elephants and infested with crocks. The wild adventure starts with the visit the Elephant Breeding Center.

Chitwan National Park:   Welcome to the wild!

Located at the foothills of an imposing Himalayan Range of mighty Annapurna(s), the area of today’s Chitwan National Park since long served as hunting grounds for those privileged - Nepalese nobility and British rulers.

Fortunately in recent years thanks to rising pressure from environmentalists and generally our higher nature-oriented consciousness “things” changed.

The area of Chitwan National Park started the painful recovery from the steep decline throughout the last century.

Tall native grasses, bamboo, and all kind of subtropical bushes recaptured once deforested areas creating back a thick protective environment for wildlife.

Forests are roamed once again by wildlife kings – magnificent Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinos (found only in Nepal and some parts of India), elephants, leopards, deer …. (altogether about 50 species of mammals) . Mugger crocks reappeared in the waters of the East Rapti River washing the northern border of the park. Resident and migratory birds (about 450 species) re-took the sky sharing the canopy and the dense foliage with colorful butterflies…..

Map of the Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park: Map of the park.
Source: Wikipedia (
Author: BhagyaMani
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This was good news – now shortly about the opposite side of the coin. To disgust of visitors in a sort of “take it all or leave” but clearly hard to reject deal leeches and ticks still keep infesting seemingly every inch of the park, especially during the wet summer season.

Chitwan National Park - rhino

One-horned rhino grazing on grass....

Fortunately unlike those in the Continental US and Europe, local ticks are more visitor-friendly as apparently they do not transmit any disease – at least so far. Well, having said that, let me repeat - it is still wise to check for potential outbreaks before leaving and get vaccinated prior to landing in any subtropical country. Nepal is part of this rule rather than exception.

Thanks to its uniqueness, in 1984 UNESCO declared the Chitwan National Park as a World Heritage Site! No wonder that Chitwan safaris, (this time with all sorts of cameras) are gaining popularity among tourists and visitors to Nepal. Actually besides Kathmandu and Annapurna’s trekking adventure, Chitwan’s jungle-safari is one of the top Nepal’s destinations.

Chitwan National Park - grasslands

Tall grass is a favorite meal of elephants and great hideout for smaller animals.

Note: The best time to visit the Chitwan National Park is the winter season (October- March). This is the “dry” season with warm sunny days and chilly nights. Mornings are foggy but that only adds to the mysticism of this place. March through May is “hot” with temperatures easily reaching three digits on the Fahrenheit scale (35-to 40 degC).

It is followed by “wet” season (June-October), with torrential rains pouring from the sky like there is no end. Possibly you may survive that in Kathmandu, but not in the jungle. Here, on top of the miserably steamy and wet weather, the Chitwan National Park offers an extra bonus – an army of leeches and other “unpleasant” flying and swarming around bloodthirsty creatures just waiting for you to be there. So plan your trip wisely!

Chitwan National Park:   Elephant Breeding Center

The center is located next to the Badrahani (Tharu Village) across the East Rapti River on the grounds belonging to the Chitwan National Park. After crossing the river in one of dugout canoes you enter the elephant compound. Unlike in ZOO, here elephants are not separated by any barrier, but chained by front feet to huge blocks or poles.

It’s certainly a highly “unpleasant” situation from their point of view and at first glance shameless (probably no one ever asked elephants for their opinion). But most likely it makes it easier to handle relatively large herd of elephants when restrained from mingling together (fortunately sometimes baby-elephants are allowed to walk freely in the compound).

Chitwan National Park - Elephant Breeding Center

Mother with calves at the Chitwan Elephan Breeding Center

Every day the elephants are taken for a walk to the nearby jungle for feeding.

Elephants are grazers and browsers and each of these giants consumes hundreds of pounds daily - mainly tall grasses (favorite meal), but also foliage, shrubs, soft shoots, fruits and bark.

They also require a lot of water - drinking about 60 gallons per day, not even mentioning their need for taking a bath. Fortunately both needs can be relatively easily satisfied thanks to the park’s grounds and the waters of the nearby Rapti River.

The breeding center includes an impressive exposition room displaying elephant’s skull, parts of the skeleton as well as a lot of relevant educational information. You will find there texts about Origins of elephants, History of keeping elephants in Nepal, Captive and wild elephants, Training of elephant calves and the History of Chitwan Elephant Breeding Center. 

Chitwan National Park - Elephant Breeding Center

Elephant skull on display in the exposition room.

Traditionally captive elephants were not raised for breeding because (sorry to say this) it was a very expensive process.

The mother with calf cannot be used for work for the next 3 to 4 years.

In the past, abundance of young elephants in the wild was more than sufficient to answer all needs. With the dramatic decline of the wild population of elephants the need for breeding centers became urgent.

The elephant breeding center on top of conserving the genetic resources of Indian (Asian) elephants, provides also the opportunity to retain the old training and handling skills. The training of calves begins when they are 2 to 4 years old.

The first and most important part of the training lasts about one month. During that time, the calf learns essential commands (like turn left, right, go forward, sit-down, get-up etc..). He is also getting familiar with his mahout and a “working environment”. Training includes walks on the roads and visits to villages to become familiar with all sorts of vehicles, presence of people and domestic animals. In reality however, the training is a life-long process as elephants learn many more verbal commands from their mahouts during their working days.

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park

full size: 1.52MB 1.68MB 1.86MB

The Rapti River marks the border between the Chitwan National Park and its protective Buffer Zone.

Chitwan  Elephant Breeding Center

Chitwan  Elephant Breeding Center

Chitwan  Elephant Breeding Center

full size: 1.72MB 1.46MB 2.01MB

Government Elephant Breeding Center is located in the Chitwan National Park just across the river

Chitwan  Elephant Breeding Center

Chitwan  Elephant Breeding Center

Chitwan  Elephant Breeding Center

full size: 1.25MB 3.08MB 1.20MB

The best way to cross the river is by using one of dugout canoes.

Chitwan  Elephant Breeding Center

Chitwan  Elephant Breeding Center

full size: 1.67MB 1.69MB

The captive elephants from the breeding center play an important role in the park. They are used for patrolling the park in an effort to protect wild animals from poaching, for transporting park’s staff to difficult to access areas, for monitoring the wildlife, for promoting eco-tourism, for chasing rhinos too closely approaching villages – to name only few.

In most of these tasks, truly nothing can replace these beautiful and intelligent creatures rightfully called all-terrain and all-weather vehicles.

The captive elephants are not alone in the Chitwan National Park. There are also about 25-to-30 wild elephants sharing the wilderness of the Chitwan park and the neighboring Parsa Wildlife Reserve. And just the short genealogical note - elephants evolved about 50 millions years ago.

Out of the large family of about 350 different species, today survived only two: Indian Elephant and African one. In general the Indian elephants are smaller than their African relatives, but they have broader skulls, longer tusks and more proportional bodies. Mammoths, extinct about 4500 years ago are the best known and widely recognizable elephants’ close cousins.

The Elephant Breeding Center is just a beginning of your journey in the wilderness of the Chitwan National Park. Canoeing on the waters of the East Rapti River and then wild elephant safari are the next steps to follow, by selecting the link:
Chitwan Wild Safari

You may also try to see the Tharu village, a place where the time goes at much slower pace. Please select the link: Chitwan Tharu Village 

Chitwan National Park: See it yourself :-)

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