Nepal-Bardia 12-25 April 2012
In the Sal forests of Western Nepal there is a wild life reserve known as the Bardia National Park. Here, in 1992, John Blashford-Snell (JBS) and a team from the Scientific Exploration Society discovered the largest elephant ever seen in the Indian sub-continent. Standing 11 ’3″ at the shoulder, the giant was thought by local people to be a mammoth but he turned out to be an unusual Asian elephant with a pronounced domed head. Numerous expeditions to study this creature and his herd were made up to 2001. A book entitled “Mammoth Hunt” was published and a TV film won large audiences.
The discovery of Raja Gaj or King Elephant as he became known, led the Nepalese Wildlife Department to protect the area and this also preserved the endangered Indian rhino, the Bengal tiger, other animals and birds living in this sanctuary.
Five years ago Raja Gaj, disappeared, but in 2010, hearing he had returned, a new team sought him only to discover he had possibly been swept away in a flood. Happily the expedition found wild elephants including two large tuskers thought to be the descendents of the great Raja Gai.
Now, the Colonel and his team plan to return to collect the data needed to ensure the future of this herd of spectacular animals.
- Expedition Leader – Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE DSc(Hon) DEng(hc) FRSGS
- Expedition Leader – Prof Adrian Lister, Natural History Museum, Palaeontology Research Division
- Expedition videographer and research photographer – Sarah Lawton (Yup! That’s ME!!)
- +17 other scientists
The aim of this expedition is to study the wild elephants and catalogue the tiger, rhino and wildlife in the Bardia reserve. The results will be passed to the Nepalese Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
John Blashford-Snell will lead the expedition. Up to 18 persons will take part.
The team will assemble in Kathmandu on 11h April to acclimatize before flying to Nepalgung, two hours’ drive from the tented camp in Bardia. Trained domestic elephants and their handlers will then be used to carry the team into the riverine grasslands and the sal forests seeking the giant wild elephants. These will be measured with a special optical instrument, their condition noted and photographed for the record.
It is also planned to spend two nights in the picturesque Babai valley, where an herd of elephants was tracked in 2010, and to visit villages outside the reserve and provide some help for local schools. In the camp there will be instruction on the bathing and care of the domestic elephants.
The Scientific Exploration Society is a UK-based charity founded in 1969. As a non-profit making organisation we initiate a worldwide programme of scientific expeditions focusing on scientific, conservation, education and community aid projects.
How I got involved
On my return from San Diego this April, I decided that the time was right to start pursuing a lifelong dream. Having followed the Scientific Exploration Society for the past three years, I dropped a brief email of intent to Colonel Blashford-Snell. Much to my surprise, he called me at home within ten minutes of receiving my email and invited me to an interview at the famous Travellers’ Club, Pall Mall, London (one of the last few Gentlemans’ clubs still around). Following a strange yet rigorous interview was offered the position of videographer and research photographer.