In 1943, as World Battle II raged on, the mayor of Tokyo issued an order to kill the three elephants lodged in Ueno Zoo, Japan’s oldest zoo, positioned within the northern a part of the town. There have been fears of what would occur to the native populace if these elephants broke free throughout air raids.
Of the three elephants, two have been introduced from India — Jon (male) and Tonkī (feminine) — again in 1924, whereas the third — Hanako — got here from Thailand. Over time, they turned very talked-about sights on the Ueno Zoo, particularly with younger youngsters. However out of worry for his or her escape throughout bombing raids, the mayor of Tokyo confirmed no mercy and issued an order to kill them.
First, authorities sought to euthanise them with needles, however their hides have been too thick. They even tried to poison their meals, however the elephants have been sensible sufficient to not eat the meals served their manner. Ultimately, it was determined that the three elephants can be starved to demise.
Suffice it to say, it was a disturbing set of occasions. “There are accounts of how Tonki, who lasted the longest of the three, desperately carried out tips each time a human handed his enclosure, within the useless hope of some meals,” wrote Pallavi Aiyar in her e book ‘Orienting: An Indian In Japan’.
Whereas the adults had no time to grieve their loss amidst different tragedies, the kids by no means forgot. A number of years after the warfare, as Japan started selecting up the items, two plucky seventh-graders submitted a petition to the higher home of the Japanese Parliament expressing their unhappiness at not having the ability to see an elephant on the zoo and requesting whether or not a brand new one may very well be procured. This petition would finally snowball right into a public marketing campaign.
As Pallavi notes, “Ultimately, the Tokyo authorities collected over a thousand letters from youngsters, all addressed to the prime minister of India, pleading with him to ship them a alternative elephant.” A 4 July 1949 report in Time Journal confirms the identical information.
Right here’s the place the story will get attention-grabbing. In response to Time Journal, “Not too long ago, Tokyo moppets made pals with personable younger Himansu Neogy, a Calcutta exporter who had taken break day throughout a enterprise journey to go to the town’s faculties. They gave him bouquets of flowers and posed with him for group footage. When Neogy was about to return to India, they begged him to intercede on their behalf with the then prime minister Nehru to ship them an Indian elephant.”
A couple of week earlier than the Time Journal report was revealed, Neogy dropped in at Jawaharlal Nehru’s workplace and left a pouch of 815 letters from youngsters in Japan.
One such letter in English written by Sumiko Kanatsu, a woman pupil in Negishi major faculty, acknowledged: “At Tokyo Zoo we are able to solely see pigs and birds which give us no curiosity. It’s a lengthy cherished dream for Japanese youngsters to see a big, charming elephant … Are you able to think about how a lot we need to see the animal?” In the meantime, one other letter written by Masanori Yamato of Seisi Grade Faculty famous, “The elephant nonetheless lives with us in our desires.”
Upon receiving these letters, Nehru directed the Ministry of Exterior Affairs to coordinate with the princely states to obtain an elephant and organise funds and transportation. Procured from the erstwhile princely state of Mysore, Nehru named the elephant, Indira, after his daughter. Barely months after Nehru acquired these letters, Indira (the elephant) made her approach to Tokyo.
As Aiyar wrote, “Nehru acquiesced, and Indira’s arrival at Ueno on 25 September 1949 brought on a lot pleasure in Tokyo. The zoo was packed to capability with 1000’s of individuals making an attempt to glimpse the brand new elephant. Tadamichi Koga, who was the pinnacle of the zoo on the time, later mentioned that receiving Indira was one of many happiest moments in his life.”
Nehru additionally took the time to deal with the kids of Japan when he despatched them an elephant.
In a letter, he wrote, “I hope that when the kids of India and the kids of Japan will develop up, they are going to serve not solely their nice international locations but additionally the reason for peace and cooperation throughout Asia and the world. So you could look upon this elephant, Indira by title, as a messenger of affection and goodwill from the kids of India. The elephant is a noble animal. It’s sensible and affected person, robust and but, mild. I hope all of us will even develop these qualities.”
Since Indira may solely observe instructions in Kannada on the time, Aiyar wrote how her two Japanese handlers learnt the language from “the 2 Indian mahouts who had accompanied the elephant from Mysore”. It took each Japanese handlers two months to study sufficient Kannada that allowed them to ascertain some rapport along with her. About eight years later in 1957, Prime Minister Nehru and his daughter Indira met her namesake in particular person once they visited Japan.
Until her demise, the elephant Indira served as an emblem of the friendship between Japan and India.
Not the final elephant
However this wouldn’t be the final time that Nehru would obtain such uncommon requests. Throughout World Battle II, zoo animals in Berlin additionally confronted related therapy as they did in Tokyo. A few years after the warfare, it was the kids of Berlin who lamented the sight of no elephants within the Berlin Zoo. They too wrote letters to Nehru requesting him to ship an elephant.
He acquired these letters and pledged to ship one for the kids of Berlin. In June 1951, a three-year-old feminine elephant named Shanti, which suggests ‘peace’, made her approach to Berlin.
Quick ahead greater than two years later within the winter of 1953, Nehru acquired one other letter from a five-year-old boy in Canada named Peter Marmorek. “Expensive Mr Nehru,” it started. “Right here in Granby, a small city in Canada, we now have a beautiful zoo, however we now have no elephant[s].”
A younger Marmorek had heard from his father that Nehru was in possession of “plenty of elephants and will in all probability dig up one for us.” Taking his father’s phrases severely, the five-year-old added, “I by no means knew that elephants lived underground, [but] I hope you’ll be able to ship us one.”
In early December 1953, Marmorek acquired a response to his letter from none apart from India’s prime minister. Whereas Nehru didn’t promise an elephant outright, he assured the five-year-old that he wouldn’t overlook his well mannered request. Additionally, in a second of humour, Nehru addressed the boy’s confusion, when he wrote, “Elephants don’t dwell underground. They’re very large animals and so they wander about within the forests … It’s not simple to catch them.”
The Canadian Press obtained information of this letter and it was reported extensively. Even the Canadian prime minister was notified of the letter. Naturally, the five-year-old boy turned a neighborhood movie star. Over the Christmas holidays, in the meantime, a petition based mostly on his letter to Nehru was circulated by his hometown of Granby, garnering the signatures of over 8,000 youngsters.
Writing for The Caravan, Nikhil Menon, a historian, famous, “The kids of Granby finally had their want granted. In 1955, a two-year-old elephant calf named Ambika was transported from the forests of Madras state to Montreal, earlier than being moved to the Granby zoo. Peter Marmorek was there to welcome her and even gave a speech to have fun her arrival.”
“Regardless of Ambika’s friendliness, he [Peter Marmorek] was nervous about her dimension. His dad and mom reassured him that Ambika was vegetarian and subsequently not a risk. The boy responded, ‘However how does the elephant know that I’m not a vegetable?’,” he wrote.
Within the following 12 months, a really related situation performed out within the Netherlands. It resulted within the arrival of a calf named Murugan from the Malabar forests to Amsterdam in November 1954. Murugan would thrive within the Amsterdam zoo and die in June 2003 on the ripe outdated age of fifty.
However why did the Indian authorities ship elephants as presents to youngsters abroad? Though Nehru liked youngsters, there was an even bigger motive at play. Menon makes a point out of what the Indian Excessive Fee in Canada wrote to the Ministry of Exterior Affairs.
“Little question it will likely be an interesting gesture of friendliness and goodwill,” the letter acknowledged.
Menon additionally makes a point out of what Kameshwari Kuppuswamy, a social employee nominated by the Planning Fee to check rural neighborhood growth programmes in North America within the Nineteen Fifties, wrote in a letter she addressed to the mayor of Granby.
“India has been receiving a number of presents out of your nation, notably foodstuffs like wheat and milk powder. The one manner by which we are able to present our appreciation and return the kindness is by means of sending one thing which your nation doesn’t possess,” wrote Kuppuswamy.
Menon, nevertheless, presents an attention-grabbing clarification.
“Moreover gratifying youngsters, the gesture of gifting elephants, reminiscent of Ambika and Murugan, symbolised how postcolonial India wished to be seen on the worldwide stage: beneficiant and pleasant, with a eager sense of fostering ties with the peoples of the world. Throughout a interval by which it relied so closely on exterior support, these presents supplied India laudatory information protection and helped form a flattering picture, as an indulgent younger nation that showered presents on youngsters the world over,” he wrote.
Ultimately, such presents can be made unlawful following a 2005 ban issued by the setting ministry on transferring animals throughout worldwide borders.
Coming again to Marmorek, nevertheless, he would frequently go to Ambika on the Granby zoo, however quickly misplaced contact along with her as soon as he moved out of city.
However in a weblog revealed in the identical 12 months (2005), he wrote, “Ambika from whom I had realized that India was a magical nation; when you wrote to it, they’d ship you an elephant.”
(Edited by Pranita Bhat)
Sources (textual content and pictures):
‘Orienting: An Indian in Japan’ by Pallavi Aiyar; Revealed on 3 August 2021 courtesy HarperCollins India
‘Jumbo Exports: India’s historical past of elephant diplomacy’ by Nikhil Menon; Revealed on 1 March 2019 courtesy The Caravan
Koehl, Dan. Indira, Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) positioned at Ueno Zoo in Japan. Elephant Encyclopedia
‘JAPAN: The Charming Elephant’; Revealed on 4 July 1949 courtesy Time Journal
‘Photograph 9794’ courtesy the archives of Exterior Affairs Ministry
‘The Tragic Ordeal of the Berlin Zoo in World Battle II’ by Khalid Elhassan; Revealed on 10 Might 2019 courtesy Historical past Assortment