Whenever someone mentions elephants, the first words that probably come to anyone’s minds are haathi mere saathi loosely translated to ‘my friend the elephant’. But, did you know that our heavy, big- eared friends are in danger? According to experts, the number of Asian elephants have faced a 90% decline in the last century. But what can be done about it?
Elephant Family, a dynamic NGO, is on a mission to study the decline and save the species. However, in order to do so, they need to raise funds and at the same time, spread awareness about this grave issue. Thus, they organise the Elephant Parade across the globe, in which sculptures of 5 ft. baby elephants are showcased in places of prominence and are auctioned. Aiming to raise Rs 181 crore by 2025, these parades have been held in 24 cities such as California, Milan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and more.
The parade came to India for the first time last year, when a small preview was provided in Jaipur, Delhi and Calcutta, with around 40 statues in all. Moreover, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, both patrons of the NGO, attended the preview of the parade in New Delhi. The preview was also a part the 2017 UK India Year of Culture.
The exhibition was held on a large scale in Bombay with 101 elephants showcased across the city for 16 days. Why the number 101? 101 elephants represented the 101 elephant corridors to be secured by the NGO, in conjunction with Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). Elephant corridors are routes that elephants take to migrate from one food source to another.
The NGO engaged with India’s leading actors, fashion designers, artists, design institutes and celebrities to design and paint the sculptures. Celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra and more contributed to transforming the sculptures into beautiful pieces of art, along with companies such as BMW.
The parade was officially inaugurated in Bombay on Sunday, 25th February 2018. The colourful elephants dotted the city scenes and were open for viewing to the public in South, Central and Western Bombay. Thousands of people, right from children to senior citizens, flocked to see the charming sculptures. A few schools also organised trips for students to see the parade.
The event came to a close on March 18. The grand finale was held in Bombay and the statues were auctioned. The bidding for each elephant started from Rs 5 lakh. Savitri, a brass elephant by interior designer Vikram Goyal, made of brass and covered in intricate jaali work, fetched Rs18 lakh. The elephant by Amitabh Bachchan, which bore his father’s poem, was sold for Rs 10 lakh. Out of 101, around 80 sculptures were sold, which raised an amount close to Rs5.75 crore. The collected money from the auction will to go NGOs such as WTI, the Wildlife Protection Society of India, the Nature Conservation Foundation and the Wildlife Society of Odisha.
Ruth Ganesh, a trustee of the Elephant Family, is planning to collaborate with artists in Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu, to sculpt 100 elephants for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an international art exhibition to be held in Kochi. We look forward to seeing more of these beautiful elephants, and hope that they can triumphantly trumpet in the safety of the green jungle.