Football helps the animals stay healthy, may attract more visitors to the zoo
Sundori and Raja Bahadur, two adult elephants at Bangladesh National Zoo in Mirpur, have learned how to play football in just a little over three months.
The move to teach them how to play football is the brainchild of Dr Md Abdul Latif, a director of the zoo. The training is conducted by experienced mahout Md Ismail Miah, who has been working at the zoo for four years.
The Mirpur zoo is home to five elephants, including Sundori and Raja Bahadur. The others are named Rahman Bahadur, Kajaltara, and Panda Bahadur.
Sundori and Raja Bahadur get trained for an hour a day, five days a week. The others will begin soon.
Dr Latif said he conceived of the idea after watching it in action in Thailand.
“Last year, I joined the zoo as a curator and went to Thailand on an official trip. While there, I saw elephants playing football and the Thai government making a lot of revenue from people who came to watch, and I thought ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ ” he told Dhaka Tribune.
After he returned to Bangladesh, Dr Latif had a meeting with the relevant authorities and filed a proposal. He then went about arranging nets, footballs, and a playground for the elephants.
“When the zoo will open its door after the lockdown ends, Sundori and Raja Bahadur will play football with the visitors. When their training is about 50% complete, I will have discussions with the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock on what kind of fee is appropriate for an elephant football match,” he added.
Dr Latif further said they could not teach all five elephants at the same time due to a lack of manpower.
Md Ismail Miah said it was not the first-time he was teaching elephants how to play football, he had done it while working at the circus.
“It is much easier to teach babies than adult elephants, so it is quite surprizing that Sundori and Raja Bahadur have made such good progress in a little over three months,” the mahout said.
“It is not just for entertainment, football is a good exercise for them as well,” he added.