Last chance to see herd of elephants in Chelsea

A herd of sculpture elephants will soon move on from their temporary home in Chelsea.

A partnership between UK wildlife conservation charity Elephant Family and the Real Elephant Collective in India has brought a herd of artistic sculpture elephants to the King’s Road in Chelsea and they will soon migrate to the Royal Parks from the 14 June until 23 July.

This environmental art installation is part of the CoExistence campaign which was launched on Saturday 15th May on The Mall.

This project was five years in the making and aims to shine a light on humans and wildlife being able to successfully live and thrive side by side, a topic which has gained even more attention over the course of the pandemic as people retreated from cities and wildlife came back.  

Ruth Ganesh, a co-founder of the exhibition and trustee of the Elephant Family said: “The idea is really to put the issue of animals existing in urban and human-dominated spaces on the map, and the elephant is really a poster child for that whole issue of overlapping worlds between humans and animals because so much of their range is outside of these national parks and reserves.

“We’re really trying to raise awareness of the fact that if we really want to save our wildlife, we can’t imagine that that’s just going to be done by protecting it and putting them all in a protected area which is kind of like a big zoo in a way.

“We’re putting fences around them, and thinking they’re going to stay in those spots because there’s places are just too far and few between.

“I think that that the pandemic in a way is helpful to us because that message is there about the overlapping worlds and human-dominated spaces and how if we just retreated a bit, how much we can help solve the biodiversity crisis that we’re all facing.”

Away from Chelsea, a herd of 30 elephants is in residence at Sudeley Castle until Sunday was visited by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.

The Duchess of Cornwall has also helped with the campaign and now you can adopt one of the sculpture elephants or buy one of them as part of the fundraising initiative.

The India-based Real Elephant Collective is the organization of talented creators of each sculpture elephant in the herd.

Each sculpture elephant is handmade by Adivasi craftsmen from the Paniya, Bettakurumba and Soliga tribes and a lot of them live near elephants and know them personally.

A spokesperson for the Real Elephant Collective Ierene Francis said: “The elephants all have different personalities just like humans.” 

Francis also revealed it takes about a month and a half to complete one elephant modelled on a real elephant and they are constructed in a similar way to a wicker chair out of an invasive weed lantana which is overtaking Indian forests.

HAVE YOU HERD OF THE ELEPHANTS IN CHELSEA? Elephant sculptures at Duke of York Square as part of the ‘CoExistence’ campaign by wildlife conservation charity, Elephant Family

Not only do these elephants raise awareness for wildlife conservation and cohabitation but they also provide employment for these indigenous communities and have a positive environmental impact by using this weed.

Every member of the herd is life-sized, named and then shipped from India.

Shipping the herd from India, safely installing them in their new home and keeping them secure is a huge logistical challenge for IBI Logistics which is in charge of this operation.

The herd of 50 or so elephants is currently located at the Cadogan Estate in Duke of York Square outside the Saatchi Gallery, close to Knightsbridge and Sloane Square tube stations and they will stay there until 9 June, three days later than originally anticipated.

They will then move to join even more elephants in Green Park, St James’s Park and Berkeley Square from 14th June to 23rd July with a closing event held on 14th July between Green Park and Lancaster House.

The exhibition will also be multisensory with their headline sponsor, Italian perfume brand Xerjoff, creating unique scents of the Indian jungle habitat like sandalwood to be used throughout the herd.

While the Asian elephant sculptures may seem to focus on wildlife and conservation projects far from home, the hope is that as the herd moves through London people are inspired by their story so we in the UK can also learn to live with our smaller species more harmoniously.

In fact, CoExistence is fundraising for conservation projects at home and abroad with collaboration with charity Wild East in East Anglia and funding wildlife corridors and early warning systems in India for Asian elephants and indigenous communities to coexist harmoniously.  

After their stay in London, the next stage of the elephants’ migration will be for 100 of them to travel from coast to coast in the US driven by women lorry drivers as a reference to elephants’ matriarchal family structure.

For more information you can visit the CoExistence website and follow @elephantfamily @coexistence.story @therealeleco on Instagram.

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