Aana Art Equaling Life-Sized Conservation

Elephants have held highest honors in our family for decades, as symbols for the importance of Nature Conservation, and later infused with the power of Ganesh when we lived in India.

Elephant conservation has taken many forms over the years. When writing about the recent Real Elephant Collective collaboration exhibit that took place in Cochin a few months ago, I realized that art installations using elephants as symbols for big picture conservation have existed for some time.

Having been unable to attend the exhibit personally, Anoodha and the Curiouser team make me feel that I was there.







Elephants By The Sea

100 life-size lantana replicas of wild elephants will travel across three continents spreading the message of peaceful coexistence with nature.

The beautiful herd of Asian Elephants calmly drinking from this watering hole poses no threat to any onlooker. They’re actually sculptures made from the invasive lantana, introduced to the Indian subcontinent as an ornamental shrub by the British. The harmless looking plant is a scourge to native flora, animals and people of the regions where it’s taken over, as it literally poisons its surroundings so nothing else can survive there, destroying the natural biodiversity of the area.

30 of these extraordinary, life-sized works of art have been on display in Kerala, at Kochi’s South Beach, coinciding with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The outdoor exhibit, entitled Co-Exist: Matriarchs for a Whole Earth, is on display for only until the end of February, after which it will travel to Bangalore and New Delhi. In 2020, the elephant models will be taken to England where they will be displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Parks, both in London. In 2021, they will travel by truck across the USA, where they will finally be auctioned, the proceeds of which will go to preservation of wild animals.

The project is a collaboration between multiple organizations, designers and indigenous community artisans. Members of the Ashoka Trust Trust for Research in Ecology & the Environment (ATREE) devised a way to safely craft with lantana as a raw material and support for the making and display of lantana elephants is through the NGOs Elephant Family, The Real Elephant Collective (TREC), and The Shola Trust.

Fort Kochi To Have 100 ‘Lantana’ Elephants. And Here’s Why You Need To See Them

Highlighting the cause of nature and wildlife conservation at a global scale, the Lantana elephants are part of a greater initiative to raise funds for conservation and help people and elephants live together more harmoniously.

On February 7, if you are wandering around the popular South Beach in Fort Kochi, you are sure to come across a magnificent herd of 100 Asian elephants.

If you are wondering about the possibility of such a huge congregation of these beings at one place, let us break the news.

These are beautifully sculpted life-size elephants that have been made by tribal artisans from Thorapalli in Gudalur using Lantana camara or Lantana, a toxic invasive weed.

Lantana elephants are part of a greater initiative to raise funds for conservation and help people and elephants live together more harmoniously.

“Our vision is to bring Asia’s elephants and the issues they face out of India and the shadow cast by the African ivory crisis. With Asian elephants numbering only a tenth of their African counterparts, the importance of this unique migration cannot be underplayed. The survival of a species is at stake,” says Ruth Ganesh, principal trustee and the creative force of Elephant Family.

She had conceptualised the Lantana herd along with Shubhra Nayar of TREC. Modelled on real elephants from the Gudalur-Pandalur region, in its bid to raise awareness and funds for the conservation of Asian elephants, this unique project is also clearing the harmful Lantana from the Nilgiri forests while providing livelihoods to about 70 artisans from the Paniya, Bettakurumba and Soliga communities.

With their inherent knowledge of wild elephants and their exceptional crafting skills with Lantana, these artisans are bringing life to the elephant forms, while earning a dignified income. The elephants are designed by Shubhra Nayar and Tariq T of TREC, with Subhash Gautam overseeing the process. Continue reading

World Elephant Day

23 July 2018. Elephant Relocation from Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve (South Africa) to Zinave Reserve (Mozambique). Picture: JAMES OATWAY

Our fascination with elephants is evident throughout the history of this site, and are heartened by actions taken toward increased conservation of these magnificent animals. Relocating large African mammals to new protected areas due to either habitat loss or overpopulation has successfully been done before, but the challenges continue.

Giants on the Move

Written by Patricia Sims, Co-Founder, World Elephant Day

Each year for World Elephant Day we put a lot of our elephant conservation attention toward the ivory poaching crisis threatening African elephants, and the tourism and captivity issues that the endangered Asian elephants face. Yet the larger conservation challenge of habitat loss for both African and Asian elephants is looming. Our increasing encroachment on elephant habitat throughout Africa and Asia is putting elephants at greater risk, resulting in human-elephant conflict issues, and the demise of elephant populations and the ecosystems that they, as a keystone species, maintain.

So what are the solutions? Can moving elephants – from one location where there isn’t enough space for them – to another location where there aren’t enough elephants, help solve this issue? At the heart of this critical elephant conservation conundrum is a partnership between the De Beers Group – the world’s leading diamond company – and Peace Parks Foundation, a leading not-for-profit organization focused on the preservation of large cross-border ecosystems. They have just completed the first phase of the largest and longest translocation of elephants ever recorded in South Africa. This translocation project is called “Moving Giants.

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An Ingenious Method for Deterring Elephants


Hanging beehives create a natural deterrent fence around crops in Kenya. Via ThisIsColossal

In Africa and India, elephants can be huge–literally–agricultural pests. Stomping casually through plantations, plowing over fences and crushing or devouring crops, these nearly unstoppable giants are often shot by farmers not for any ivory-related avarice, but rather out of a desire to protect their livelihood that lives in the form of fruits and vegetables.

A more pacific method of keeping elephants out of agricultural areas that I have seen in southern India is deep and wide trenches surrounding the plantation, which elephants are loath to cross since they are likely to get stuck. Of course, these moats are understandably impossible to replicate everywhere, and biologist Lucy King has been studying the possibility of creating another sort of fence since 2006.

As you can see from the photo above, Dr. King’s idea was Continue reading

Green Oscar For Improving Elephant-Human Relations

Elephants have to negotiate a vast expanse of tea estates to reach distant rainforest fragments in the Western Ghats of India. Photograph: Ganesh Raghunathan/Whitley award

Elephants have to negotiate a vast expanse of tea estates to reach distant rainforest fragments in the Western Ghats of India. Photograph: Ganesh Raghunathan/Whitley award

Whatever can be done, should be done, to improve the safety of humans living in the area where elephants consider home, by reducing the likelihood of encounters. This will in turn ensure the safety of elephants as well as the humans. Thanks to the Guardian for this news:

Dr Ananda Kumar wins one of seven ‘Green Oscars’ for his system of reducing human-elephant conflict by tracking and texting elephants’ locations to people

Karl Mathiesen

On the Valparai plateau in southern India people live in fear of unexpected encounters with giants in the dark.

As dusk settles, tea and coffee pickers collect rations from the townships run by the corporations that own the plantations and drift back towards their colonies. Buses drop workers on the roads and they make the precarious walk through the dark to their homes.

“They are scared. If I am there I am really scared,” said conservationist Dr Ananda Kumar, who created an SMS warning system to help workers live safely among elephants. On Wednesday at a ceremony in London, his work won a £35,000 Whitley Award, dubbed a ‘Green Oscar’. Continue reading

Elephant Pageantry – Gajamela

Photo credits : Ramesh Kidangoor

Photo credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

A Gajamela is a procession of caparisoned elephants–a feast for the eyes of Indian elephant lovers. In Kerala this means a spectacular show of the beautifully adorned creatures. They are so well-loved that the Gajamelas have became the most popular and most eye-catching events of Kerala. The elephant Pambadi Rajan won the 2014 elephant awards (Ittithanam Gajarajapattam)Pambadi Rajan is the one of the tallest elephant in Kerala.

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Temple Elephants

Photo credits :Ramesh Kidangoor

Photo credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

In the history of Kerala, elephants have been part of the festival and cultural ethos of the state. People believe that this animal is a remover of obstacles, a harbinger of good fortune and an integral part of religious and economic life. Over the years, no temple festival in the state has been complete without the participation of elephants: all major temples in Kerala have an attachment to them. Continue reading

Wildlife Santuaries of India–Kanha National Park

Who doesn’t love the Jungle Book? image © Disney

If you ever feel nostalgic and would like to relive your childhood years, you should consider visiting Kanha National Park in Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh; it inspired the Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling and served as a setting for The Jungle Book!

A sloth bear!
Photograph by Zigmund Leszczynski/Animals Animals-Earth Scenes; National Geographic

Kanha is a Tiger Reserve in the Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh, India

Kanha is a Tiger Reserve in the Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh, India

This park is known for its abundant population of royal Bengal tiger, leopards, sloth bear, swamp deer, and Indian wild dog. The park’s main flora consists of lush saal, bamboo forests, lakes, streams, and open grasslands. Continue reading

Elephants in Kerala

Photo Credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

Elephants being bathed by their Mahouts near  the Kodanad Elephant Training Center; Photo Credits: Ramesh Kidangoor

A symbol of strength and prestige since ancient times, elephants were used by royalty and feudal lords to display their power. Nowadays elephants are still part of the life and cultural ethos of Kerala. People here consider this animal a harbinger of good fortune, a remover of obstacles. It is an integral and inseparable part of the religious and economic life. Continue reading

Elephants At Work

Kerala has about 700 domesticated elephants. Of these 90 percent are tuskers (the local term for male elephants), who play a major role in religious festivals. Apart from their role in temple ritual, the elephant’s strength and power has been effectively harnessed in work in the logging industry, primarily in loading timber for transport. This is unique to this region. Continue reading

Wild Periyar – Elephant Paradise

Although the Periyar dam reservoir had cut off the traditional migratory paths of elephants way back in 1899, four years after construction of the dam had started the world’s largest land animals had learned how to overcome the watery impediment. Entire herds, calves in tow, now routinely swim across the reservoir, presenting lucky visitors with one of Periyar’s more unforgettable and thrilling spectacles.

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Wild Periyar – Elephants

The rich and productive banks of the Periyar reservoir attract Elephants (Elephas maximus) that gather in large numbers to graze on fresh fodder and drink and bath in the waters of the famous lake. In summer, when most other pastures are dry, the lake shore is a constant life source. Elephants are one of the main attractions in Periyar; according to the latest Forest Department census there are about 1300 elephants.

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Pachyderm Premonitions

At the risk of being tagged a superstitious bumpkin, I bring up the topic of auguries for the second time. My first omen of good fortune in Kumily was the appearance of an owl – the portent was indeed accurate, as shown by the success of Diwia’s paper bag workshop. Today, while in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, I sat on a bamboo raft and allowed my gaze to amble into the skies. It was a bright, sunny day (my toasted face solid evidence), with a clear sky save for a few small outcroppings of water vapor drifting in the soothing breeze. One particular puff of cloud caught my eye for a single reason – it looked like an elephant.

Amused but not particularly touched, I returned to my casual waterline eye-scanning. Not 10 minutes later, the significance of the elephant cloud hit me, albeit from about a football field’s distance.

It’s A Tough Job…

One of the many hats I wear within my La Paz Group responsibilities is orienting our new interns and visiting colleagues to the Kerala experience.

The usual itinerary includes a visit to some of the cultural sights at Fort Kochi, as well as Backwater excursions and of course, Thekkady and the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

I think I can say without reservation that each intern who enters the reserve has expressed the clear desire to encounter one of India’s most charismatic fauna–the elephant– and some have been luckier than others.

An important part of Indian mythology and culture, here in Kerala elephants were once called “sons of the Sahya”, meaning “sons of the Western Ghats”–referring to the mountain range that not only forms the border with a neighboring state but represents the heart of this one. Continue reading