Elephant football match held in Nepal
This week saw Nepal host an elephant football match alongside a number of other events as part of a festival celebrating the important role the pachyderm plays in the country.
The three-day festival, which came to a close on Wednesday (December 28th), included an elephant football match, racing and even a beauty contest.
It is hoped that the event will help raise awareness of conservation issues in Nepal as well as attract a greater number of those travelling around Asia to the country, the Associated Press reports.
The festival was held in the Chitwan region of Nepal, home to a conservation forest inhabited by rhinos, several species of deer and crocodiles, as well as elephants.
"We hope that the elephant festival will help bring more tourists to Chitwan. We need both foreign and domestic visitors," organiser Ghanashyam Shrestha told the news provider.
Located around 106 miles south of the Nepalese capital Katmandu, the area is a popular destination for those on an adventure holiday in Asia and the elephants were given time off from their normal jobs carrying tourists through the jungle in order to train for the event.
Among the biggest challenges the trainers faced was teaching the animals to play football, with teams of four elephants competing using a normal sized ball, blocking passes, kicking the ball and batting it with their trunks.
"Training the elephants to play soccer was not easy but they learned the basic command. They understood they need to hit the ball when I yell 'kick' at them," said Basudev Mahato, an elephant mahout who has been training and riding elephants for 15 years.
Nepal is also famous for its elephant polo competition, with the annual World Elephant Polo Tournament, held at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in the Royal Chitwan Park, a major draw for visitors to the country.