France confers knighthood on elephant researcher


The Hindu

Date Published


The founder of Aane Mane Foundation has been recognised for advocating the cause of wild Asian elephants

Film-maker and elephant researcher Prajna Chowta has been appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (Knight in the National Order of Merit), one of the highest civilian recognitions of the French government.

The appointment by the President of the French Republic comes “in recognition of a life devoted to caring for wild Asian elephants,” says a letter to Ms. Chowta earlier in June. The official ceremony is expected to be held later this year in Bengaluru.

The 46-year-old Ms. Chowta is the founder of Aane Mane Foundation, which for the past 16 years has been researching and conserving wild Asian elephants. She has also authored the Elephant Code Book on captive elephant management as well as the French book Enfant d’Elephant (Elephant’s Child) in 2014, which is based on the sketches of tribals and their relationship with elephants. As a researcher, she was also instrumental in developing an online monitoring system and one of the first GPS collars for elephants in India.

“The appointment has come out of the blue, and we are certainly proud of it,” said her father, D.K. Chowta, a businessman and art connoisseur. Her husband, Philippe Gautier, is a French documentary maker. Ms. Chowta spends much of her time in France screening her films as well as advocating the cause of elephants.

She is among the few Indian women to be appointed a Knight. Earlier this year, businesswoman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and actor Kamal Hassan were recognised under the French government’s Legion of Honour award.