Gaju the big blue elephant causes a sensation at the station

Andhra Pradesh's Ministers of Industries, Labour and Tourism with Gaju at the platform.An amazing sight greeted hundreds of spectators at platform no. 10 of Secunderabad railway station in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, India. As, Gaju, a 7-foot-tall blue elephant circulated among the crowd. As mascot of the Haathi mere saathi (“Elephant, My Partner”) campaign, the towering elephant walked among the crowds convened for kick off of the Biodiversity Express train, which will be berthed here for the next 11 days.

With the State Ministers of Industry and of Tourism and Labour inaugurating the Biodiversity Express, this is an ideal platform for raising awareness about elephants and the threats the face with both the general public and a niche audience of international officials, as the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad host the 11th Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention of Biological Diversity.

Gaju with kids, day two.Policy specialists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare and our partner Wildlife Trust of India will participate in the CoP. The Animal Action Education team and volunteers are busy on the railway platform with  “Art for Elephants,” a highlight of the Biodiversity Express events. While Gaju (in reality a volunteer in an inflatable costume) danced across the railway platform, government officials and guests pledged their support for elephants by signing a large  canvas. Nearby, children had a field day painting another canvas showing their love for elephants. About 500 children visited the station on the inaugural day and we collected 250 signatures of support for saving elephants.  

At a third canvas teachers scrawled their contact details in an outline sketch of their palms and secured Animal Action Education activity packs [ and colourful elephant posters for their schools and classrooms. This personal involvement and contact with teachers is so important to deepening our engagement for AAE school outreach in the region .

The excitement spread across age and class barriers with even the porters and security personnel reaching out to sign the canvases in support of Gaju. One attendant went to the extent of creating an elephant with cotton wool from his first aid kit!

Despite the excitement, the team is facing a challenging task to maintain participation as the Biodiversity Express train was unexpectedly moved to a vacant berthing place off the spanking new platform number 10. With very little infrastructure available at the new spot, we hope that schools continue to pour in to honour one of the world’s most beloved animals through “Art for Elephants”.

--RGC

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