GAUHATI, India - Paris Hilton is being praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India.
Activists said a celebrity endorsement such as Hilton's was sure to raise awareness of the plight of the pachyderms that get drunk on farmers' homemade rice beer and then go on a rampage.
"The elephants get drunk all the time. It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them," the 26-year-old socialite said in a report posted on World Entertainment News Network's Web site. Her comments were picked up by other Web sites and newspapers around the globe.
Last month, six wild elephants that broke into a farm in the state of Meghalaya were electrocuted after drinking the potent brew and 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," Hilton was quoted as saying in Tokyo last week. She was in Tokyo to judge a beauty contest.
Her publicist couldn't immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Hilton promised to improve her bad-girl image after she completed a jail term in June for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.
She announced plans to do charity work in Rwanda, but the trip was postponed until next year.
Sangeeta Goswami, head of animal rights group People for Animals, told The Associated Press: "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."
"As part of her global elephant campaign, Hilton should, in fact, think of visiting this region literally infested with elephants," Goswami said.
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, who heads Nature's Beckon, a leading regional conservation group.
"A celebrity like Hilton must focus her attention on this fact," Dutta said.
Source : US Magazine