In London, a Royal occasion to save Asian elephants

Travels to My Elephant Event

The rickshaws looked familiar. The brightly coloured outfits looked familiar. Even the sweltering sticky heat felt familiar.

But I was not in India. I was in London (arriving at the same time as the record-breaking heatwave!).

I was thrilled to be attending the Royal Rickshaw Reception organised by the charity Elephant Family.

They were holding an auction of 20 designer-decorated auto-rickshaws to raise money for Asian elephants, and to launch an exciting new Asian Elephant Alliance.

The alliance is made up of five leading conservation organisations; as well as Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and partner International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), we are also joined by Elephant Family, IUCN Netherlands and the World Land Trust.

The alliance was officially launched in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and His Excellency Mr Ranjan Mathai Mathai , the High Commissioner for India.

We all signed an official declaration stating that the Asian elephant is an endangered species that requires immediate conservation assistance from governmental, non-governmental and corporate bodies for its survival.

Our aim is clear. We want to raise £20 million to fund 100 new elephant corridors in India by 2025.

Asian elephants don’t get as much attention as their African cousins, but they really are in a crisis situation. There are less than 50,000 of them left in the wild. Around half of them are in India.

Poaching plays a part in the decline of Asian elephants, but another key reason is habitat loss and fragmentation. Elephants roam for huge distances between watering holes and favoured food sites, but when human development gets in the way, trouble is inevitable. Each year India loses nearly 400 people and about 50 elephants to human-animal conflict due to ever shrinking elephant habitat.

In consultation with forestry departments IFAW-WTI has documented 100 elephant corridors to join up fragmented bits of land, which would help elephants migrate in search of food and water. With these, the Asian Elephant Alliance aims to secure a safe passage for India's elephants.

IFAW-WTI have already worked together on elephant corridor projects in India. One such corridor connects the elephant population of Kaziranga National Park and South Karbi Anglong Wildlife Sanctuary, an area that supports nearly 2,000 elephants. IFAW-WTI worked with the local community and bought land. In addition IFAW-WTI is providing clean drinking water after installing two hand pumps, and has improved the local primary school with repairs, furniture and teaching equipment.

The rickshaw auction event raised £700,000, which will go towards the fund for elephant corridors.

There is a long way to go, but we cannot sit back and allow our grandchildren to grow up in a world devoid of Asian elephants. We will all work together to put the conservation of Asian elephants centre-stage.

--VM

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