Herd community? Elephants show us how to coexist

·2 min read

By Barbara Lewis

LONDON (Reuters) - A herd of life-size model elephants will be paraded through central London on Saturday to trumpet the idea that humans and wild animals can share space in this crowded world.

The 125 elephants, brought to London by the conservation group Elephant Family, are the work of indigenous people who live alongside real beasts in southern India's Nilgiri Hills.

The organisers hope to highlight the need for coexistence with wild animals after lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down human activity and helped some threatened species to recover.

It's a matter of mutual survival, said Ruth Ganesh, Elephant Family's principal trustee.

"Saving them is really about saving ourselves," she told Reuters.

Following the parade in the Mall, the model elephants will be displayed in London parks - guarded by ex-Gurkhas - and be on sale for 30,000 pounds ($42,000) each to raise funds.

Elephant Family will use the money raised for conservation activities, such as planting crops for elephants to eat on the edges of farmland to distract them from food grown for humans.

It is also working with WildEast, a charity trying to return English farmland to its wild state to help reverse declines in bird populations.

Sculptors have made birds to stand on the elephants. Some will be on display at London's Sladmore Contemporary gallery as part of an exhibition on coexistence in June and July featuring artist George Butler.

Until lockdown, Butler documented war zones such as Iraq and Syria through illustrations.

Lockdown shifted his focus to the conflict between man and nature. The result is depictions of elephants next to London landmarks and two giant maps.

One shows the areas where man and nature compete - bears in North America, for example. The other shows successful coexistence, such as among people and pachyderms in southern India.

($1 = 0.71 pounds)

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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