THE SAGA OF LOKI
To Help One Elephant
Deanna Krantz, then director of India Project for Animals and Nature (IPAN) first became involved in Asian elephant problems in the Nilgiris, South India, in 1998 after she was called in by concerned local people and some Forest Department staff over the rapidly deteriorating condition of a recently captured makhna (a rare tuskless bull elephant), aged around 35 years old. Deanna and her staff called this docile makhna, who was in urgent need of expert veterinary care and proper nutrition, ‘Loki’. The saga of this elephant reached the Indian Supreme Court, and tribal staff sang out his name into the jungle night as they gathered around a ritual fire to pray for his freedom.
The Forest Department insisted that Loki’s capture was necessary because he was a “rogue.” The Forest Department alleged that the makhna had killed up to 35 people, raided crops, and wrecked tea plantations. Some three years after his cruel and injurious capture by the State Forest Department of Tamil Nadu ( Deanna secured a video film copy of Loki’s capture taken by a local TV station that was hired by the Forest Dept. to document this event), it was reported, contrary to the reasons why he was caught, that a rich timber merchant had bribed the Forest Department to catch him. An article in the Tamil Newspaper, entitled “Makhna Would Not Have Been Captured, Environmentalists Feel “ (Dhina Malar, January 12, 2002.), stated “Forest officials have found 100,000 acres of natural forest land has been encroached and trees felled, like rosewood and various fruit-bearing trees that supported colonies of Bonnet macaque and Langur monkeys and other wildlife.. Environmentalists feel that if the makhna had not been captured, this forest destruction would not have happened because tree cutters feared his presence. It was reported that “Southern Wood Industries owner Mr. Gudalur spent a few “laks” to persuade officials to capture the makhna.”
That Loki the makhna was removed from his forest so that it could be cut down is indeed a tragedy. Loki’s saga began with many headlines. One of the most factual and objective articles was published in The Hindu, March 8, 1999, by S. Bharath Kumar entitled “Global plea to free confined elephant,” in which Kumar wrote:
- “Pressure from abroad is mounting for the release of Loki, the ‘makhna’ (tuskless) elephant, from the Mudumalai elephant camp, where it has been reportedly ‘ill-treated’ by the authorities of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department since his capture over six months ago.
- Nearly 60 (sic)#* U.S. Congressmen have in two appeals pleaded that the elephant be given proper care and attention. The U.S. House of Representatives has said: ‘Beatings, neglect and confinement to a kraal in which the elephant is unable to walk has resulted in one of the worst cases of animal cruelty ever documented.
- The ‘makhna’ is extremely malnourished and it is critical that he be released immediately so that his wounds are treated. A suitable sanctuary and support is available for the makhna upon his release.
- These appeals were faxed to the Indian Ambassador to the U.S., Mr. Naresh Chandra, and copies sent to the Union Forest Minister, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, and his Tamil Nadu counterpart, Mr. Palaniswamy. Sources in the Tamil Nadu Forest Department confirmed the receipt of the message and said there was ‘tremendous pressure’ from certain quarters not to release the elephant.
- It was in July that the pachyderm roaming in the Tamil Nadu forests was captured as it had become a ‘rogue.’ It was then shackled and dragged across 40 km to the Mudumalai camp over a period of eight days, all along gored by ‘kumkis.’ ** So bad were the injuries it suffered that since then it has not sat and slept, according to an official who did not want to be identified. The ‘makhna,’ like other elephants in the camp, is malnourished. Says a mahout, with tears in his eyes, that officials manning the camp coolly line their pockets with the funds meant to buy the elephant food.
- An American, Ms. Deanna Krantz, who is an animal activist and runs a refuge for cattle and dogs, wanted to provide food for the ‘makhna,’ but she was prevented from doing so by the officials.”
- *Actually 30 Congressional representatives and one Senator signed the petition .
- ** Kumkis are large-tusked, adult bull elephants who are trained to be the camp enforcers when any elephant tries to break free, revolts, or is a mother who will not surrender her captive-born calf to be broken into service.
The IPAN team that initially treated Loki knew that he was never a killer. He was an extremely gentle and compliant animal. He would trumpet a loud greeting whenever he heard IPAN’s jeep coming with food and staff to treat his wounds. .”
As Loki’s mobility and strength improved as a result of IPAN’s daily care under the direction of Deanna Krantz, IPAN Director, an irrevocable decision was made by the Tamil Nadu State Forest Department authorities. The mahouts were ordered to beat him daily until he obeyed the command to lie down, the first step of elephant “training.” This training was begun following approval by the Forest Department’s consultation with India’s most famous and internationally recognized Brahmin of elephant veterinarians, the now late Dr. Krishnamurthy, who was featured in the PBS documentary The Elephant Men. IPAN took video and other documentation of his non-sterile and inappropriate veterinary procedures, and evidence of other instances of cruelty, neglect and lack of veterinary care involving several other elephants at this camp, including the blinding of one after being chained and beaten, and another dying from a massive tapeworm infestation.
IPAN volunteer veterinarian Dr. James Mahoney, who had been attending to Loki every day, arrived one morning to give treatment and found two mahouts beating the elephant on his leg wounds, yelling at Loki (whom they named ‘Murthy’ in honor of Dr. Krishnamurthy) to “bite” (lie down). This systematic cruelty, which Dr. Mahoney recorded on audio-tape, along with the elephant’s cries, lasted for 45 minutes. A horizontal, partially healed cut across the base of his trunk was evidence that he had been hacked there with a machete, another “standard procedure” of elephant “training.” Loki never could lie down since the tendons in his legs were so damaged by chains, and never once did he ever lie down and rest during the entire seven months that the was confined in the small kraal at this elephant camp.
Soon after this beating incident, on Christmas Day 1998, Dr. Mahoney, Director Deanna Krantz and her staff – who had brought fresh green food for months for the makhna that they collected every day from the fields, often in monsoon rains, at 5:30 am in the morning -- were prohibited by the Forest Department from further contact with the makhna.
Thanks to the support of Union Government Minister Maneka Gandhi ( who had initially sided with the authorities to spread disinformation about IPAN), and Attorney G. Ragendran, IPAN won a High Court ruling after a hiatus of three years to be allowed back into the elephant camp and see to Loki’s condition. In early January 2002, IPAN’s team, headed by veterinarian Dr. James Mahoney and internationally recognized elephant care specialist Alan Roocroft with the San Diego Zoological Society, evaluated Loki’s condition. They began a course of treatment on Loki’s crippled and chronically infected legs and feet, made recommendations to improve his overall well-being – chains tied to his legs were causing further lesions – and leveling out his resting area which was on a slope, a very uncomfortable spot for an animal weighing several tons who was also a permanent cripple. The Wildlife Warden told Mr. Roocroft that Loki’s resting area would be seen to immediately. But it never was done.
After several days’ intensive treatment, the State Forest Department, rather than collaborating, chose to file a court injunction barring the IPAN team from further contact with the elephant. The Supreme Court gave the Forest Department 15 days to evaluate and report on the makhna’s condition. The official report submitted to the Court, according to the Dhina Malar newspaper February 20, 2002, would include the fact that the three veterinarians, whom the Forest Department had brought in, had “completely healed the elephant with a new mixture of medicines containing olive oil, honey and barley.”
Other Elephant Camp Cruelties
No one any distance from a small clearing in the Indian jungle can hear the cries of elephants. But the world must hear. Stretched out in chains, elephants are routinely beaten at this and other camps, sometimes by a gang of 6-12 men for up to an hour, by which time the men, some drunk, are exhausted. So elephants, wild caught and captive born, are still being trained (broken), and disciplined for being disobedient.
Many visitors witnessed a fiasco at this camp where a mother elephant was being prematurely separated from her 21-month old calf. The mother was semi-tranquilized and was tied with ropes to two trained bull elephants, but she struggled and protested as her infant was forced away by other elephants and men. The mother screamed when her infant screamed, held captive in a small log enclosure where he would be broken in spirit to depend on man, and obey.
The Kumkhis (bull elephants), naturally protective of their own kind, became highly agitated as the mother, screaming and fighting to be free and with her baby, was beaten with sticks from face to flank until she collapsed. One may wonder which would be the next Kumkhi to go berserk, or swipe out with his trunk, or swing a tusk at the elephant tormentors, and be chained, starved and beaten?
The widely revered elephant god of India is called Ganesh. But a real life elephant called Ganesh, who had worked many years at this camp, swung at a visiting official -- the Chief Wildlife Warden -- and broke the man’s tooth. For such “rogue” behavior, and for shaming his mahout handler and camp, a dozen mahouts chained Ganesh to a tree and beat him for almost an hour, to “take out his nuts and bolts,” they said in their Tamil tongue. They blinded him in one eye. Subsequently Ganesh was kept chained in one place and fed starvation rations for no less than five months. This is standard, traditional treatment for disobedience and injurious actions and intentions. Ganesh turned into a living skeleton, like Subramanian who was also blinded in one eye, and Vigiai, and other elephants before him.
In February 2001, I met Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Schmidt, who is associated with Barnum & Baileys and Ringling Brothers Circus, near this elephantcamp after he had been there with another veterinarian from Germany, a Dr. Thomas Hildebrand from Berlin’s Institute of Zoological and Wildlife Research. Elephant management consultant Heidi Riddle from the US was with them. They told me initially that they had been “conducting a workshop” at this elephant camp. Ms. Riddle, with husband Scott Riddle, run Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary in Arkansas and the “International School for Elephant Management” and is a past President of the US Elephant Mangers Association (EMA). The EMA has close ties with the American Zoo Association. Scott Riddle was forced to leave the UK Blackpool Zoo for using and allegedly promoting cruel elephant training and handling methods.
After Ms. Riddle told me they had been doing ultrasound tests and giving an elephant management training course at the Theppakadu elephant camp, the vocal Dr. Hildebrand told me that they had been collecting semen from the elephant bulls at this camp by putting one arm up their rectums trying to stimulate ejaculation while the animals were tightly shackled and beaten if they moved. The German veterinarian was disappointed with what little semen they were able to collect. When I pointed out that the bull elephants were chronically malnourished, emaciated and kept chained to a tree for 17-18 hours a day so they had no libido, Ms. Riddle said elephants in the wild are also often thin and quickly defended this elephant camp. But it is only nursing mothers and very old elephants in the wild who sometimes become naturally thin.
Ms. Riddle and Dr. Schmidt dismissed my concerns about the mistreatment of the elephants at this camp, contending that all was well and questioned my knowledge of elephants. They also argued that what India Project for Animals and Nature (IPAN) had documented concerning the severe injuries sustained to the wild Makhna, in the course of capturing him, and his subsequent inadequate veterinary care, confinement for 7 months in a 16x16 log stockade, and repeated beatings, was all overblown and sensationalistic, because IPAN has no expertise in elephant management and care. Yet it was the IPAN team that worked long hours for several months providing Loki with food, medicines and veterinary care, and essentially saved his life.
Veterinarian Dr. M. Sugumaran, whose medical and surgical work for the benefit of the animals and the rural poor in the Nilgiris we continue to fund, sent the following report on July 7th 2011:
Elephants at Teppakkadu camp:
There are 27 captive elephants being maintained at Teppakkadu elephant camp. For good grazing and easy management they are divided in to two or three groups. A few elephants, including Loki, are maintained at Abayarayam camp around five kilometers away from Teppakkadu and few are taken to interior camps such as Game hut and Bombox for grazing and exercise.
There are two infants, one is around five year old and the other is one year old, both are cared for at Teppakkadu camp and the five year old is under training. Both were rescued from the forest. As per my knowledge and available information the captive elephants are not breeding during the last few years.
Loki looks healthy and I am told he often evades tethering and disappears in the jungle and brought back to the camp by engaging kumkis on several occasions.
I agree with your last statement that Loki is not a happy captive elephant that is why he evades tethering.
At Teppakadu elephant camp a rescue and treatment facility for wild animals is being commenced by the Forest department last week. A vehicle for rescuing small wild animals is also available. A reasonable progress is happening but they are having much reservation on people like us because they do not want transparency. Anyhow I am keeping my touch on as much as possible. In my opinion your presence and initiation directly and indirectly is the base for these changes. I sure that but for your initiation nothing could have moved for the cause of wild animal welfare.
In the wild
In the wild one young tusker was poached for tusks last week, with that the toll for tusk goes up to three for this year but the department hesitate to disclose openly.
Man and elephant conflicts arise on a day to day basis. Last month two persons were killed and two were injured by wild elephants in the Gudalur area.
Two wild elephants rampaged in Mysore city last month and killed one person.
Yesterday (July 6th 2011) wild elephants damaged two houses at two different incidents near Gudalur.
As you always mention that the fragmentation of herds due to lack of food in the wild and interference in their corridor passage is the major cause for these types of problems.
He sent this second report on July 13, 2011:
Visited the elephant camp on July 12th evening along with 19 student of Madras veterinary college. We were able to see eight adult elephants and the two calves who were rescued from the jungle.
We also saw our Loki at Teppakkadu camp. As one of his legs (left hind) had swelling, he has been brought for treatment from the other camp.
As I mentioned last week the five year old female calf is under training. I am told that she is being treated well and the other infant is under care in a separate well ventilated room, one tribal family being entrusted with that work.
The forest department people (forest staffs and veterinarians with some elephant researchers from the World Wildlife Fund have been applying radio collars to wild elephants to monitor their movements. While fitting a radio collar onto a tranquillized elephant, another elephant died from the injuries sustained due to a fall after tranquillization. This work was being carried out in the forest near Coimbatore north east to Mudumalai.
Two persons were killed by elephants on Monday (July 11th 2011) in separate incidents, one by a wild elephants near Gudalur and the other person was killed by a trained elephant in a camp near Coimbatore.
Madras High Court issued orders to the Government to take action to vacate the resorts and other occupations from Bokkapuram area, Mavanallah area and Vazhaithottam area to clear the elephant passages (corridors) and every one is eagerly waiting for proper action without affecting the tribal people and poor farmers.
For details please browse www.forests.tn.nic.in.
The Realities of Elephant Care and Conservation
Cultures resistant to reason and sound science often adhere to superstitious and outmoded beliefs, and magical thinking. The greater the adherence and resistance, the greater is the tension and dissonance between ritual and belief, and reality and suffering, as when images of elephant gods are revered, but wild elephants are being killed, and worse, captured and enslaved to a degraded existence in a zoo, circus, or in chains to carry tourists and the last logs out of the dying forests. To be enslaved to destroy their own domain is the ultimate injustice and degradation of these pachyderms, who are more ancient, if not enduring, then we.
Saving the last of the Asian elephants through artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization, the latest cause of the zoo business, is preservation, not conservation. These great souls are becoming extinct, including one of India’s largest wild population. They so rarely breed and even more rarely produce viable offspring when held in the typical urban zoo environment, in work camps for timber and tourism, and in traveling circuses.
The Fate of the Wild and the Captive
Thanks to IPAN’s network of in-field tribal and Forest Department informants, we have collected video and photo-documentation of elephant ivory poaching, electrocution, and killing with homemade country guns and bombs for crop-raiding; also illegal tree-cutting, river diversion for irrigation, fencing, land development and sand and rock quarrying within the elephants’ ostensibly protected domain. We estimate that over 60 elephants had been killed over an 18 month period in our vicinity between 2001-2. Carcasses of killed elephants and other wildlife killed by poison bait, like hyenas, are often burned by Forest Department field staff to hide the evidence for fear of demotion and loss of pay for not apprehending the killers.
One rich land owner who was involved in the killing of an elephant by electrocution on his property had his prison sentence and charge-sheet expunged by an attorney, who heads the “Save the Nilgiris” conservation society and has served as India’s leading legal representative with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Recent National Geographic reports and PBS TV documentaries on the elephants and this bioregion, and of those involved in their captive care and conservation in the wild, are disturbingly sanguine in their appraisal of elephant welfare and conservation.
The truth about the plight of elephants, captive and wild, is distorted by so many converging and often conflicting interests, as well as vested interests, from the “sacred” to the secular, and the highly commercial. Tribal elders have told me that they remember a time when they lived in harmony with the elephants. There was never such a thing as a “rogue” elephant. In but one elephant generation they have become crop raiders and people killers. Such reactions in a highly evolved mammal are to be expected considering how their habitat has been fragmented and depleted, and how often they have witnessed their herd-mates and sons and fathers being shot for their ivory, often defending them from poachers where they fell.
We barely comprehend the dimensions of elephant consciousness, of elephant sensory, cognitive, social and emotional realities; “bush wisdom,” communication and also what vital role they play in the ecosystems that they have helped regenerate for millennia. They are a “flagship” species, King of the jungle. It is a moral imperative for the world community to be involved collaboratively in elephant care and conservation, and not to be shut out either by governmental or nongovernmental organizations when elephants continue to suffer in captivity and their wholesale slaughter in the wild continues.
The dead elephants that IPAN has seen, seem to be saying that extinction – and maybe death by fighting humans, like the mother elephant and two other females who kept poachers from taking the small tusks from her young son during my last week in the Nilgiri Global Biosphere reserve in February 2002 – is better than life in a test tube, a zoo, or the Last Circus on Earth. If they cannot exist for themselves, be themselves, and live free in the living jungle, then surely all else is human hocus pocus.
I have felt the pain of others who witnessed an elephant “skidding in her blood” as she tried to run in terror after her mouth had been blown apart by a homemade bomb placed inside a large Jackfruit set out to kill crop-raiding wildlife. I have seen the devotion of Deanna Krantz’s staff whose round-the-clock efforts to save an injured, orphaned baby elephant was abruptly terminated by one Forest Department veterinarian, who claimed jurisdiction over this endangered species and contended he was better able to care for the baby. Three days later, she died in the arms of her staff, who had been called back to save her from three terrifying days without appropriate care and love.
Baby elephants, like any human or other mammalian offspring, cannot survive without love, the bonding that comes with tender loving care. Precisely because they are highly immature, slow maturing and precociously empathic, they are highly vulnerable souls. Baby elephants rarely survive in captivity, East and West. The cost of producing one through ART (artificial reproductive technology) and raising the elephant to reproductive maturity, like the baby elephant produced by artificial insemination at the National Zoo, Washington, DC, I would estimate to be around $3 million. Make that $36 million to create a small herd in captivity, for some indeterminate time. Half that amount, if properly used, could save the Nilgiri’s entire elephant population – India’s largest.
But regrettably those purportedly involved in elephant conservation are aligned with ideologies and vested interests that are as anathema to conservation and environmental solutions as the mafia is to social justice and law and order. The alignment of Western NGOs and governments with institutions and individuals in India who have a monopolistic control of elephant conservation moneys and research and initiatives, is a matter of public record. This monopoly has been called the “elephant mafia” by local Indian observers who see no evident reduction in elephant killing and habitat encroachment and destruction. The Asian elephant situation is worsening in spite of 30 years of research studies and conservation projects, mostly funded by the West. One of Deanna Krantz’s staff, Kurumba tribal Madiga, recounted a time in his youth when he knew over 100 adult bull elephants – tuskers – by name. Now, 30 years later, there is are few if any adult bulls left in region in the Nilgiris. It is they who discipline unruly young males who may injure and even kill young female elephants, and get injured or killed themselves from electrocution or falling into trenches dug deep to protect crops.
One well-known Indian Asian elephant biologist has actually built a bungalow in his large, fenced-in estate, located in the center of one major elephant corridor in the Nilgiris. Fittingly, the bungalow is made from stones taken from blasted rock from the construction of a hydroelectric power facility that was opposed internationally by environmentalists because of its harmful environmental impact on elephants and other wildlife, and their habitat. In 2009 this award-winning elephant ‘conservationist’ Raman Sukumar, from The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, sided with a group of scientists who planned to construct an underground neutrino observatory in the heart of this wildlife preserve, which would mean constant traffic with tucks removing tones of rocks for many months, and then an increase in human settlement. I was glad to be part of a coalition that successfully blocked this multi-million $ project that had no place in the U.N. designated Nilgiri Global Biosphere Reserve. It is no coincidence that Sukumar had sided with the Tamil Nadu Forest Department during the Loki saga, telling the press that Loki’s injuries were self-inflicted because he fought the chains around his ankles, and the alleged Kumkhi gore wounds on his body were in fact old gun-shot wounds. In order to secure the necessary permits for his Institute to continue elephant and other wildlife research in the Nilgiris, and to bring in college students from the US and groups of eco-tourists from the US and Europe that are lucrative enterprises, he had a vested interest in defending the Forest Department and the status quo at the elephant camp. On at least one occasion his research team killed a wild elephant with an overdose of tranquillizer from a dart gun, shooting the wrong animal by mistake. They were to fit a radio collar for tracking in order to study elephant feeding patterns, and covered up the catastrophe by reporting that the elephant fell and impaled herself on a cut tree trunk, according to our tribal informant observers.
From my investigations this “elephant mafia” (or establishment) is not so much an organized crime network that profits illegally from the Asian elephant, but a nexus of vested interests and coincidental associations that seem to profit in more ways from the elephants than the elephants evidently benefit from them, in terms of fewer mortalities in the wild and improved welfare, husbandry standards and mahout training and support for those in captivity.
Challenging and Changing the Status Quo
This is probably one of the reasons why other researchers and involved persons have remained silent on various conservation-related issues in the area, a situation I term the “politics of extinction,” like some state veterinarians falsifying the cause of elephant deaths in collusion with certain Forest Department officials who have been bribed by rich land owners. Rather than hear what is really going on where scientists rarely tread either in the field (jungle) and talk to the tribals, or at Loki’s elephant camp and talk to those mahouts who are not afraid to speak out, the Asian elephant preservation and propagation establishment continues to protect not the elephants, but the status quo; and good money continues to go after bad.
To touch any group or individual in this network as a concerned outsider will meet resistance if there is no money forthcoming, and will face volumes of glossy and self-lauding and self-promoting booklets, reports and magazines on what progress is being made to conserve elephants and other endangered species. It seems like a charade to preserve not elephants, but the status quo that in the near future, without artificial means, will see the Asian elephant become extinct. To touch this network as a critical and questioning outsider is to face a wall of denial that is international in dimensions, and to face threats of death, deportation, and imprisonment locally.
The status quo will remain unchanged without full transparency and accountability at all levels of Asian elephant conservation and welfare work. Governmental, corporate and nongovernmental funders and financiers of this establishment must be included in a full accounting of why, in spite of billions of dollars spent on conferences, committees, reports, books, films, legislative efforts and applied research, Asian elephants continue to suffer in captivity and are close to extinction in the wild.
The evident failure of the Asian elephant establishment to conserve elephants in the wild, as distinct from efforts to preserve them in the virtual reality of a zoo or theme park, is part of a much larger failure of the human community world wide to protect biodiversity and human rights, two interdependent elements of sustainability, social justice, eco-justice and world peace. The failure of efforts to keep viable populations of Asian elephants in the wild parallels the failure of the World Bank, recently involved in wildlife conservation efforts, to accomplish its own primary mission to help people. Endemic problems of corruption, lack of oversight, and poor project management and monitoring of initiatives and their consequences are to be acknowledged and rectified. No one likes to have their credibility questioned and to be shown that they have sent good money – even out of US taxpayers’ pockets – after bad.
Former World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn blamed these kinds of problems on recipient third world countries like India, but as World Bank economist William Easterly has documented, after 50 years and billions of dollars, the World Bank has made virtually no progress in boosting poor economies and lifting billions of people out of poverty. As Easterly shows, the reasons are far more complex than the endemic problems in recipient countries. There are endemic problems within the World Bank, as with other international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, that are linked with an outmoded Western industrial-economic paradigm; and with those values and perceptions that are the antithesis of those that embrace the sanctity of life, the sovereignty of indigenous peoples, and the sacredness of elephants and all sentient beings.
It is evident that many of the larger nonprofit organizations whose original mission was animal protection, wildlife conservation, and the advancement of human rights and moral progress have gone, like the World Bank, way off course. In the quest for more power and influence through money, they have made a science (called “development”) out of mass-mailings, media-campaigns, and multinational corporate associations, forever needing more staff, branch offices and chapters. The executive level salaries that hand-picked Boards of Directors justify and approve from a corporate business perspective of equivalence for a President and CEO of a nonprofit organization, and the glossy publications and annual reports that they applaud, are looked at askance by those working at the grass-roots, --- their strongest and most loyal constituency and original supporters,---- whose increasing disenchantment should not be ignored, if not for ethical reasons, then at least for fiduciary reasons. But perhaps, when all is said and done, there are those who believe that there are no real solutions; that elephants will become extinct in the wild, along with indigenous peoples. So why not make a living from “feel-good” humane, conservation, and humanitarian projects even if they believe it is all pointless? And the best we can hope for is to preserve some of the Earth’s original flora and fauna in seed and gene banks, and in greenhouses and zoos.
Such fatalism is surely unacceptable and will only worsen the issues that could still be turned around, given the will, the integrity, the vision, effective governance, and the voice of indigenous peoples and all who would give their lives to save the last of what is wild, authentic and true.
Reducing “Human-Elephant” Conflict
Efforts to reduce “human-elephant” conflict by digging trenches around villages and tribal settlements and by erecting solar-panel-driven electrified fences, as advocated by Prof. Raman Sukumar, Chairman of the international WWF/IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, along with others, are not sufficiently in-field to know the harmful consequences of what they advocate. Solar-cell-dependent electric fences fail when not properly maintained and spare parts are not available. So landowners and tenant farmers growing cash crops connect the fence wires to the main power line (which is illegal, according to Tamil Nadu State Forest Department and Central Government laws and wildlife protection regulations). One tenant farmer was killed last year when he accidentally touched one of his field wires, and local police intervened in an attempt to cover up the cause of death, because the landowner was ultimately responsible for this illegal activity of hot-wiring field fences to kill crop-raiding elephants whose habitat is being encroached and degraded. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Performing Animal Welfare Society, in liaison with the International Rotary Club, have put much money and effort out in solar-fence construction in the Nilgiris with the best intentions, the harmful consequences of which need to be addressed.
Other government and non-government organizations have advocated the Trench solution. In June 2002, a nursing mother elephant in IPAN’s area fell into a trench and broke her leg. And there was no equipment available to pull her out – and then what? One tribal elder told me that he saw a large, old female elephant go into a trench so the rest of the herd could walk across her back to reach the fields. The herd was able to help her out of the trench later. The only solution to the human-elephant conflict in the Nilgiris and elsewhere is to remove the human element entirely from farming cash crops that the hungry wild elephants will try to reach.
A proposal to use Kumkhis (trained bull elephants) from nearby elephant camps to assist in keeping wild elephant herds away from crops is not likely to be effective, since there are no vehicles or communication system to bring them at a moment’s notice to where they are needed. Also most are weak from chronic malnutrition and lack of physical activity since most are kept on short chains 16-17 hours day and night.
Research being funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to develop various crop-repellents to deter elephant crop raiding is a paper solution, promising in theory but not realistic in practice, since even simple-to-maintain solar fences are not effectively monitored as to their integrity. Elephants will push trees across electric fences to take them down. Trenches become a trap for other wildlife – wild boar and deer – and fill up with eroded earth after the rains quickly cease to be of any use without responsible community maintenance. It is very unlikely that those communities being impacted by crop-raiding elephants will be sufficiently competent to use the proposed chemical and pheromonal deterrents currently being researched for in-field application. So the assaults of shooting elephants with homemade guns, and blowing up their mouths with explosives placed inside large jack fruits that almost invariably result in slow deaths and great suffering, are likely to continue.
Additional indirect human-elephant conflicts that IPAN has addressed include illegal real estate developments, especially of guest lodges; illegal felling of trees and diversion of streams to irrigate crops and plantations; habitat encroachment and degradation by agriculture and grazing livestock who can spread diseases fatal to elephants and other wildlife.
If those African countries win their appeal to CITES to kill elephants for their tusks and put the ivory on the world market, they will hasten the demise of Asian elephants in the wild, because ivory poaching will intensify. A total ban on all ivory trade is a vital component of Asian elephant conservation.
It may be preferable to permit rather than prohibit the exportation of Asian elephants – only if they are captive-born, and the young along with their mothers – to Western facilities that are more humane, providing better care for elephants’ physical and psychological needs and veterinary services that are evident in most zoos and elephant camps in their countries of origin. But import permits should be conditional upon all parties being committed to redoubling elephant conservation in situ, with full transparency and accountability.
Funding more field research on elephants that has been going on for the past 30 years in the Nilgiris should be questioned, considering that the precipitous decline in their numbers has not been averted. Indigenous tribal peoples see the wild elephant as part of their culture and future. More should be employed, trained, and appropriately equipped for anti-poaching and forest protection. With better law enforcement, local government accountability, land purchases, relocation of land users from core habitat areas and “corridors,” coupled with more open international collaboration and project oversight, there is a chance to save the last of the wild elephant herds. But time is running out, and the end time of Asian elephants in the wild is drawing near.
Since an earlier version of this document has been widely circulated, and following the success of the conservation coalition petition to have the Chief Conservator of Forests in Tamil Nadu not permit the underground Indian Nutrino Research Observatory to be built in the protected wildlife preserve, concerted efforts have been made to re-establish vital elephant corridors and to prohibit further encroachment and construction of guest lodges and settlements. Reducing the competing livestock population is a controversial but essential component of wildlife and habitat protection that remains to be fully addressed.
Some readers will see this report as too confrontational with those involved in elephant conservation and improved welfare in captivity. After all, I’ve been told repeatedly, we should all work together, in a spirit of cooperation, be reasonable and diplomatic. I spoke at Representative Sam Farr’s Press Conference in 1999 that was about the US government’s decision to lift sanctions against India (that were made when the Indian government violated the nuclear-weapons test ban treaty) by permitting the release of public funds appropriated under the Asian Elephant Conservation Act. At the Press Conference I said that if India, and all who care, cannot help one Asian elephant (Loki) whose videotaped capture and our ( IPAN’s) * documentation of his injuries were shown at
IPAN (India Project for Animals & Nature), founded, directed and funded by Deanna Krantz in 1996, was taken over illegally by IPAN’s field manager Nigel Otter in Dec. 2004.
this public hearing), then how can we save any elephants? When I shared my misgivings prior to the Press Conference with Rep. Farr (D-17th/CA) over the telephone, especially over the need to closely monitor where the money goes and evaluate all funded projects, he said that was not his concern or responsibility. His task, he told me, was to get the appropriated funds under the Act over to India. I surmised that there was pressure from various US corporate business interests, notably Enron, that was at high-financial risk with its investments and commitments in India at that time.
In hindsight, I feel that Loki became a political tool. In India he was politically “hot,” according to the Indian Ambassador in Washington, DC, who told Deanna Krantz that the elephant (Loki) was India’s second most controversial issue (the first being Pakistan).
IPAN’s efforts to help Loki and other elephants at the camp were met with police and Forest Department harassment, by death and deportation threats, and by a disinformation campaign that implied that we were making a big fuss over nothing, just for publicity and money, and that the severity of Loki’s condition was all a fabrication. This disinformation was spread internationally by the US publication Animal People. During this time, Paul Irwin, then president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and my employer, claimed that he was told by the Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, and by the Director of the Wilderness Trust, India, that “Dr. Fox would be killed or put in prison if he ever went back to India.” I have been back to India several times since this intimation, and have enjoyed nothing but ever increasing local support as Hon. Chief Veterinary Advisor for IPAN. Yet, I was not permitted by Paul Irwin to represent the HSUS, which had initially funded IPAN between 1996-1998, and I was told subsequently that I could “only go to India on my own vacation time and at my own expense.” Curiously, Mr. Irwin went with his wife to India around that time, at the behest of Enron corporation..
Clearly, the politics of elephant and other animal welfare and conservation issues are complex in the international arena. But the reticence of large organizations with power and influence to be more confrontational and supportive when animal suffering and species extinction have been thoroughly documented, is surely inexcusable.
KEEPING ELEPHANTS IN CAPTIVITY
My concerns about the treatment and overall well being of captive elephants in zoos and circuses are expressed in the following overview of issues. Asian elephants, who have such self-awareness shared only by chimpanzees and humans that they can use a mirror as a point of self-reference to groom and preen, are seen by many Westerners as domesticated, intelligent and compliant circus performers and, along with lions and tigers, are the heart of every zoo. So it is no surprise that a national survey in the U.S. in 2006, initiated over the issue of captive elephant welfare in U.S. zoos and circuses, revealed strong public acceptance of keeping elephants in zoos. I contend that their welfare can NEVER be adequately provided for, because, even if as adults they are compliant, they are NOT domesticated ,i.e. genetically preconditioned, to adapt psychologically or physiologically .to the conditions provided by circuses and zoos. If they were, than the many elephant keepers who are killed or maimed every year around the world would not have been harmed by these animals, most of whom are the victims of learned helplessness, and the Stockholm syndrome. Those who do not rebel, and have not been killed, or subjected to the Indian way of ’rogue rehabilitation,’( chaining, starvation, and beating, often for several weeks, (even months in India for those elephants who kill their only too often drunk and oppressed mahouts and Kavali apprentices), die prematurely from broken hearts and spirits that manifest as infertility, depression, impaired immune systems, coupled with the consequences of a life confined to a circus trailer or concrete zoo enclosure---obesity, rotting feet. chronic arthritis, and most probably other diseases similar to those that afflict their captors and exploiters, and those who enjoy seeing elephants do circus tricks, and reach for bananas at the zoo: and who believe that it is educational for children, as well as entertaining. Elephant exploitation and enslavement still has no bounds regardless of nation state, culture, or creed.
The following overview I prepared in support of a law suit being brought by a coalition of animal protection advocates against Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
WHAT HAPPENED TO IPAN?
-INDIA PROJECT FOR ANIMALS AND NATURE
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
Deanna first became involved with animal welfare and conservation issues in the Nilgiris in 1996 when she was invited by the Nilgiris Animal Welfare Society (NAWS) to restore their defunct animal shelter and Donkey Rest Home. There she lived and worked for no salary for some two years. She raised funds, trained staff, hired a veterinarian and won the support and
respect of the local community. But the Managing Trustees of the NAWS, under pressure from local vested interests, including their own, whose inhumane and illegal activities she had uncovered, eventually got her evicted under court order. They had never expected Deanna to stay and work, and
presumed that she would, like most visiting foreigners, simply send them money for the animals and to run their facility that was essentially a death-camp for spent cows, and a week-end country retreat for affluent members of the Jain community.
It was then that she became involved with a local scrub-dairy farmer, Nigel Otter, when he offered her the use of his 3- acre Hill View farm, where he kept some dairy cows and calves, as a refuge for some one hundred animals that she took with her when she was evicted from the Nilgiris Animal Welfare Society’s 120 acre animal refuge, across the river from Mr. Otter’s small -holding.
Deanna went on to raise sufficient funds from various donors to provide Mr. Otter with 16 staff, plus medical and surgical supplies, field equipment, feed for 300 resident animals, two jeeps and diesel fuel, constructed new corrals with thatched shelters and feed and water troughs, and totally restored his dilapidated buildings, putting up an additional building to accommodate volunteers. She also networked for veterinary volunteers and veterinary nurses to come from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and secured funds to have a much needed well drilled right on the property to provide fresh water year-round. Formerly during the dry season water had to be brought in by cart. Most importantly she established an effective spay/neuter and vaccination program that systematically went to every village and tribal community in and around the Mudumalai Wildlife Preserve, an integral component of the Nilgiris Global Biosphere Reserve. While donations covered her travel and living expenses during her frequent tours of duty that were up to 8-months duration, she never received any salary.
H.H. the Dalai Lama included the following statement in a Message of endorsement of IPAN:
“ Dr. Michael W. Fox, with his wife Deanna Krantz, have been instrumental in establishing a refuge for animals in the Nilgiri Hills of South India. It is a place where animals who have worked all their lives can retire, where sick animals can be healed. This work is an inspiring example of compassion in action. I firmly believe that the more
we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes.---
---“I pray not only that the help being given to animals in the Nilgiris may continue, but also that other people may be inspired to emulate this good work of setting up similar
animal refuges elsewhere in the world.”
October 31, 2002
The Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, India
Soon after IPAN was registered in India, under the advice of Chinny Krishna with the Blue Cross animal welfare society in Chennai, and the Animal Welfare Board of India, a governmental organization, as a charity organization with Deanna Krantz as Founder and co-Managing Trustee, the Indian Government, declaring that she did not have government approval to send foreign donations to support the project, had her temporarily remove herself, and Dr. Fox, as Managing Trustees until such (’FCRA’) approval was granted. In the interim, Mr. Otter was named Managing Trustee on a new Deed of Registration that was considered by all involved as a mere formality that would be rectified once FCRA approval was granted, and Krantz and Fox would then be reinstated as per the original Deed of Registration.
When government permission to receive foreign donations was eventually granted, Nigel Otter claimed all that she had built and put into Hill View Farm belonged to him, and that he was the original Founder, and now Managing Trustee and Director as per the new Deed of Registration that he filed with the local government.
Between 2003-4, while breaking protocol and having liaisons with visiting women volunteers according to staff, he repeatedly insisted to Deanna that it was not yet safe for her to return to India because she could be arrested for continuing to send funds that were desperately needed for all the animals, without FCRA approval. It was during this time that he was orchestrating the take-over of IPAN. Then in March 2004 he conceived a child with a veterinarian volunteer from Finland. Like all volunteers screened and selected by Deanna prior to coming to work at Hill View Farm Animal Refuge, this woman had agreed to never fraternize with any of the staff, but intimated that her Finnish boyfriend was planning to visit, (he cancelled out).
Deanna, uninformed by either party of this new development, continued to send funds to support the project until Mr. Otter, after repeated calls to him to send monthly reports on activities and expenditures, eventually sent clearly falsified accounts with no paid-for accountant’s signature. He even used Deanna’s own personal moneys, $10,000.00, that she wired to him in an emergency after he claimed to have run out of funds to pay staff and purchase animal feed and medicines. He then took this money, and an unapproved/uniformed leave of absence, to fly to Finland for the birth of their child.
Prior to his planned deception to take over IPAN for himself, and the Central government’s intervention on the issue of Deanna sending funds from IPAN U.S.A. to support IPAN’s work in the Nilgiris, Maneka Gandhi, as then Minister of Animal Welfare and Social Justice, had sought to discredit and defame Deanna Krantz’s efforts as Founder and Director of IPAN by calling her Hill View Farm Animal Refuge and all programs and projects a sham, amounting to nothing more than ‘country retreat for the Foxes, with just a few animals’. The rumored disinformation that eventually reached the U.S., and was spread erroneously by a misinformed Merritt Clifton, through his publication Animal People, that we were ‘getting rich off the backs of India’s suffering animals,‘ was no doubt predicated by the fact that IPAN was perceived as a threat to vested interests in the corrupt Nilgiris area, and to the broader nexus of India’s animal welfare community, both governmental and non-governmental.
Aside from the sexual proclivities and other ’impacting’ indiscretions of foreign volunteers in other cultures and contexts, the slanderous disinformation, and ideological sympathy fabricated by those who seek to manipulate and exploit the funding opportunities provided by outside, (and generally naïve), philanthropic, humanitarian, animal protection, and wildlife conservation organizations---governmental and non-governmental--- is exemplified by Nigel Otter’s repeated-to all statement that Deanna Krantz “Has left India. Abandoned her animals, and no longer works here.” Such emotional blackmail, slander and betrayal, after almost ten years of dedicated work and total commitment to IPAN by Deanna Krantz, should be a warning to all who would invest their lives and hopes in serving the greater good, put their trust in others, and go perhaps where even angels fear to tread: But better to deal with known devils than unknown angels in the knowledge that the road to hell is paved with good intentions!
IPAN’s programs and projects, from village dog spay/neuter and vaccination, to wildlife rehabilitation, local cattle population reduction, and enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Nigel Otter was entrusted to supervise with some 16 staff, including a well trained and dedicated veterinarian, Dr. M. Sugumaran, for the benefit of the local community and contiguous wildlife in the Nilgiris Global Biosphere Reserve.
This veterinarian eventually resigned, (subsequently and currently being supported by Deanna Krantz and IPAN/USA, a division of Global Communications for Conservation Inc, NY, a not-for profit organization), because Mr. Otter had essentially abandoned IPAN’s mission to help indigenous, local people, animals wild and domestic, and nature, and was instead seeking to profit by providing services to rich townships like Ooty and Coonoor, far outside of the Mudumali area where IPAN was established, respected and fulfilling its mission.
It is now on public record (The Hindu, newspaper’s “India Beats” magazine supplement, Nov. 19th, 2006, p.7) that Nigel Otter tells the press that he is the Managing Trustee of IPAN, and that ’The animal shelter was originally a cattle farm run by Nigel. In 1999-2000, it took in 60 animals at the request of an American animal lover.” Deanna Krantz, the “American animal lover”, he never mentions by name, his ‘legal’ take-over of IPAN as the Managing Trustee being documented by this bogus re-registration that he accomplished in 2004.
On his IPAN web site, he states boldly: ”We wish to acknowledge the initial help given to us by Deanna Krantz and GCC Inc., USA, who unfortunately are no longer associated with IPAN in any way since January 2005.” Web sites like Mr. Otter’s give the appearance of authenticity, especially when it shows links to other purportedly legitimate organizations such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and is filled with poignant pictures of sick and injured animals being treated. The October 2005 ’Newsletter’ on his web site reveals the kind of emotional blackmail and defamation that we thought wrongly were beneath him where it is written “As most of you know we have been left without any funding whatsoever by our founder and erstwhile principal donor Deanna Krantz since December 2004.” He fails to inform that this was a consequence of his own decision to take over IPAN for himself and to blackmail Deanna into continuing to send funds otherwise her animals would suffer the consequences. In fact, she was never the “principal donor”, but IPAN’s many donors from the US and around the world whom Deanna and I solicited through IPAN USA newsletters and web site.
In continuing to use the name of IPAN, and calling himself the Founder, Director, and Managing Trustee, Nigel Otter has become indistinguishable from those who originally tried to prevent IPAN from becoming established in the Nilgiris, and who sought to get Deanna Krantz deported and her visa revoked.
He knew full well that my wife and co-worker, Deanna and I were in the process of selling our house in Washington DC in 2003 to establish a trust fund for IPAN, and that our Wills named IPAN as the primary beneficiary. Our commitment was clear and unequivocal, but he had quite different plans. We can only wish him well, for the sake of the animals, and accept his deception and betrayal, which we erroneously believed to be beneath him, as yet another a lesson in the proclivities of human nature. But he should not be using the name of an organization in existence since 1998, and registered under Global Communications for Conservation Inc., New York, NY, namely India Project for Animals and Nature. Nor should he be using IPAN’s logo that is copyrighted by the artist, Verona Re-Bow.
But IPAN USA, and Deanna Krantz, must continue to be a presence in the Nilgiris, with the eyes and ears of a network of in-field observers, and with some financial support for Dr. Sugumaran and his staff to provide veterinary services and save the vision and mission of IPAN from becoming yet another tragic and unnecessary extinction.
*The Whistling Hunters: Field Studies of the Asiatic Wild Dog, 1984. State Univ. NY Press.