5 May 2010

Multicolored Elephants on Parade

You know the song Pink Elephants on Parade?  Yesterday Londoners could have been forgiven for believing they were suffering from a similar but altogether more technicolor intoxication as the city was stampeded by two hundred and fifty eight sculptures of elephants.

The elephants are being placed across the English capital in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of the endangered Asian Elephant.  Each is a work of art in its own right and they will be auctioned off once the event runs its course in June.

The elephants have been painted by a variety of artists, celebrities and sportspeople.  It is by far the biggest ever outdoor art event in London’s history and it is hoped that the elephants will not only cheer people up as they pass but convey a serious message too.

It is hoped that once the elephants are sold that they will raise over two million pounds (that’s  over three million US dollars) by auction.  If you can’t stretch to the prices (many thousands of pounds for each) or simply don’t have the room there is also the opportunity to buy smaller versions of these delightfully colored sculptures.

The artists are either celebrities such as Terence Conran, Craig Ritchie and Tommy Hilfiger or professional artists.  Even soccer player Graeme le Saux has had a go.

This is not a completely new project as the idea was born in Holland last year.  Father and son Mike and Mark Spits created the project and held two parades in Rotterdam and Antwerp.  They were hugely successful and raised over seven hundred thousand Euros.

All the monies raised from the parade will go to the Elephant Family. This is the biggest charity concerned with elephants in the world and it has been operating since 2002.  Its founder, Mark Shand is best known in the media for his BBC documentary Queen of Elephants.

One of the main aims of the charity is to identify the routes that the elephants take and secure links between them – by buying the land.  Eighty routes have been identified so far but buying up land is expensive.  One route which has recently been purchased measures only six kilometers by half a kilometer but cost over one and a half million dollars to establish.

There is an urgent need to do something – and quickly.  Since the 1980s the population of wild Asian elephants has fallen by over seventy percent.  The drop off in numbers is so worrying that they have recently been made officially endangered.

Only about 30,000 remain and it is thought that up to half of these are in India. However, should the decline continue at its present rate the Asian elephant will be extinct by 2040.

So, let us hope that as well as brightening up the day of millions of Londoners and their tourist buddies, that the project will go a long way to securing enough money to ensure that this wonderful species of animals will not disappear from the planet.

A world without elephants – imagine that.  An impossible thought but a reality for the Asian elephant if something is not done soon.