You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Nepal hopes elephant soccer will boost tourism

PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images

As part of a three-day elephant festival in Chitwan, four teams of pachyderms played soccer. They trained for weeks for the games, which are geared toward attracting foreign visitors.

CHITWAN, Nepal - Soccer-playing elephants used all four feet and even their trunks trying to score goals. Racing pachyderm thundered to the finish line to the cheers of the crowds. And in the elephant beauty pageant, contestants sported nail polish on their not-so-dainty toes.

It was all part of an elephant-themed festival in Nepal that wrapped up yesterday. The three-day event was held to promote conservation awareness and lure visitors to Nepal.

Continue reading below

The elephants were trained for weeks for the games, taking time off their normal jobs carrying tourists through protected jungles near Chitwan.

The conservation forest has rhinos, several species of deer, and crocodiles, and it is a popular tourist spot some 106 miles south of the capital, Katmandu.

“We hope that the elephant festival will help bring more tourists to Chitwan. We need both foreign and domestic visitors,’’ said Ghanashyam Shrestha, one of the organizers.

Tourism is picking up in Nepal as it slowly recovers from a 10-year Maoist insurgency that killed more than 13,000 people. The conflict ended after the rebels joined a peace process in 2006.

But the tourists who mainly come to hike the Himalayan country’s mountains aren’t returning fast enough for some. Nepal received some 600,000 visitors in 2010, short of the goal of 1 million set by the government.

Organizers of events like the elephant festival - which draws on a popular elephant polo event held elsewhere in Nepal - hope more colorful events will increase interest in tourism.

The final event, a 300-meter race, was won by an elephant named Bajadur Gaj, who pounded his way to the finish line in 69 seconds as thousands of locals and foreign tourists cheered.

Teams of four elephants also played soccer matches using a standard-size ball.

The elephants blocked passes, kicked the ball, and batted it with their trunks, pushing each other for control of the play.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.