Maneka meets the elephant
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2000:
Udhagamandalam, India––Fed up with recurring allegations by the U.S.-based India Project for Animals and Nature that an elephant IPAN calls Loki is being abused, despite the findings of five different teams of investigators over a year’s time that he is not, Indian minster of state for social justice and empowerment Maneka Gandhi and federal director of animal welfare Dilip Singh visited the elephant in person at the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu state on December 30.
According to the December 31 edition of The Hindu, the largest newspaper in India, Maneka inspected the elephant, fed him sugar cane, pronounced his condition and care good, called the IPAN allegations a “non-issue,” and warned Indian media and animal protection donors about foreign advocacy groups that might make sensational claims for fundraising purposes.
Maneka, before entering politics, founded the activist group People For Animals. Now India’s largest animal advocacy group, it still maintains offices in her home.
The elephant in question, known as Murthy in India, was apprehended in July 1998 after killing as many as 36 people in a five-year series of dawn attacks on either side of the Tamil Nadu/Kerala border. He had suffered several untreated wounds during the attacks, and also suffered injuries to his feet and ankles by resisting chaining when first captured. He was later trained by “carrot and stick, i.e. appreciating him by feeding when he obeyed a command, and beating him with a stick when he didn’t,” Animal Welfare Board of India assistant secretary K. Babu reported after an inspection visit in July 1998. That ended when he learned to respond to the basic elephant care commands, and was given the freedom of a walled forest habitat, which he shares with other elephants.
IPAN is headed by Deanna Krantz, wife of Humane Society of the U.S. senior vice president Michael Fox, who has amplified her claims about the elephant via the Internet.
In 1997 Maneka flew from New Delhi to Tamil Nadu to investigate an earlier Krantz claim that she had been physically assaulted by an alleged animal abuser, after taking over management of the Nilgiris Animal Sanctuary begun in 1954 by the late Dorothy Dean. Maneka’s investigation found that Krantz’s claims were not verifiable in that case, either. Krantz eventually withdrew from the sanctuary in an out-ofcourt settlement of various charges brought against her by other trustees, and later founded her own animal refuge in the same region