GUWAHATI: Conservationists on Tuesday hailed socialite Paris Hilton, who has been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, for trying to highlight the cause of binge-drinking elephants in the northeast.

Activists said a celebrity endorsement was sure to raise awareness of the plight of the pachyderms that get drunk on farmers’ homemade rice beer then go on a rampage. Last month, six wild elephants that broke into a farm in Meghalaya were electrocuted after discovering and drinking the potent brew then uprooting an electricity pole.

“There would have been more casualties if the villagers hadn’t chased them away. And four elephants died in a similar way three years ago. It is just so sad,” Ms. Hilton was quoted as saying in Tokyo.

“The elephants get drunk all the time. It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them,” she said in a report posted on the World Entertainment News Network website. Her comments were picked up by websites and newspapers around the globe.

“I am indeed happy Hilton has taken note of recent incidents of wild elephants in northeast India going berserk after drinking homemade rice beer and getting killed,” Sangeeta Goswami, who heads animal rights group People for Animals, said.

“As part of her global elephant campaign, Hilton should, in fact, think of visiting this region literally infested with elephants.”

The real problem

While welcoming Ms. Hilton’s interest, another conservationist said elephant alcohol abuse was just a symptom of the real problem. “Elephants appear on human settlements... because they have no habitat left due to wanton destruction of forests,” said Soumyadeep Dutta of Nature’s Beckon, a conservation group. “A celebrity like Hilton must focus her attention on this fact.”

Ms. Hilton promised to improve her bad-girl image when she completed a three-week jail term in June for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case. She had announced plans to do charity work in Rwanda for the Playing for Good Foundation, but the trip was postponed until next year. — AP


"The AP issued a story, 'Conservationists hail Paris Hilton's efforts to save binge drinking elephants", at 3.29 p.m. on November 13, 2007. The Hindu carried this story, headlining it "Paris Hilton seeks to save drinking Indian elephants", on the last page/"Newscape" page on November 14, 2007. At 4.09 a.m. on November 14, 2007, The AP issued an advisory, "The story 'India-Elephants-Paris Hilton' has been killed. A publicist for Hilton says she never made any comments about helping drunken elephants in India. A kill is mandatory. Make certain the story is not published." The advisory came after The Hindu of November 14, 2007 had been printed and distributed."