A festival of 101 life-sized elephant art installations celebrates the grandeur of the Asian Elephant
New Delhi, August 15, 2018: The past few days at the GajMahotsav have witnessed some exciting and insightful discussions about the Asian elephant that ranged from its iconic role in shaping our tradition and culture to the policy changes needed to safeguard and protect this majestic being and its safe ‘Right of Passage’. It was heartening to see some of the leading Indian corporates sharing their support towards creating a sustainable growth model that integrates conservation efforts within the core business strategy.
Leading wildlife conservation NGO, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) launched a four-day long festival celebrating the majestic Asian elephant from August 12-15, 2018at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Arts, New Delhi. The festival is being organized in association with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and UN Environment.
Given the profound nature of the cause, Indian business leaders have lent their unconditional support to the initiative. Ms. Shriti Malhotra, COO, The Body Shop, spoke about the need for Indian corporates to understand the need for sustainable development that supports conservation efforts and further stated, “As part of The Body Shop’s Enrich Not Exploit program, our global Bio Bridges program around the world aims to build Bio Bridges and restore forests to help protect endangered species. In India, we are partnering with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) for the Garo Green Spine Re-Wilding project in Meghalaya. We have a legacy of activism, and creating a social movement around the issues that impact the planet and animals and inspiring consumers to get involved. We are working with WTI in The Garo Hills Re-Wilding project to protect the endangered gentle giants – the elephants, as also the rich bio-diversity of the region along with communities that live in the area. I congratulate the WTI for their stellar initiatives – GajYatra and GajMahotsav, and The Body Shop in India remains committed to supporting and working alongside this program.”
The plenary talk on Elephants in Sri Lanka: Culture and Conservation was delivered by Mr. Jayantha Jayewardene, conservationist and author from Sri Lanka. He provided excellent insights into the history and culture of elephants from the time of kraals organized by the Portuguese, sport hunting by the British to the present day use of elephants in temples and the plight of the 70% of wild elephants in the country that are living outside national parks in Sri Lanka.
The next elephant talk on Understanding the challenges of living with a mega herbivore in our neighborhood by Mr. Ajay Desai, Former Co-chair IUCN, Asian Elephants Specialist Group showcased the impact of the human-animal conflict and the need to support and sensitise the communities living around the natural habitats of the Asian elephants to minimize crop damage and human casualties.
India has a little over 27,000 wild Asian elephants (Elephasmaximus); about 55% of the species’ estimated global population. Yet these natural nomads face an increasingly uncertain future in the country. The resource requirements of India’s growing human population has led to the destruction and fragmentation of wild habitats across the country, depleting the area available for elephants to roam. The traditional migratory paths of the wild elephants have been adversely impacted.
The festival aims to enhance awareness for the conservation efforts necessary to protect and preserve our national heritage animal across the country. Artists from across the country have created 101 life sized elephant art pieces representing the 101 elephant corridors of India, which serves as a jumbo draw for the public. Open to public, over the four days the event witnessed active participation from policy makers, industry leaders, influencers from the world of entertainment, sports, arts and culture, eminent conservationists and artists and the people from Delhi- NCR.
The elephant is also an integral feature of our evolving pop culture. It appears as a recurring theme in our art, literature, movies, music and even fashion. The role of the elephant in our pop culture was further explored during a discussion with actor Mr. Purab Kohli, radio jockey Ms. Maliska Mendonsa and song writer Mr.Palash Sen in conversation with the WTI Brand Ambassador Dia Mirza. The panel discussion was followed by an address by Ms. Dia Mirza, aptly titled as Independence to Elephants. She also launched India’s first Wildlife anthem co-produced with Wildlife Trust of India – Mere Desh Ki Zameen at the opening ceremony of the GajMahotsav on World Elephant Day.
Dia stated that the last few days have been truly remarkable. The coming together of conservationists, policy makers, artists, children and civil society to raise awareness on our National Heritage Animal’s Right of Passage at a never seen before Festival Gaj Mahotsav! As ambassador of Wild Life Trust of India, I hope that we can bring together stakeholders from all walks of life to secure the future of our wildlife and keep India’s Wild Forever Wild.
This Independence Day holds a particularly special place in our hearts, as we gift our Nation, it’s first ever Wild Anthem – Mere Desh Ki Zameen. The ethos of the song penned by Prasoon Joshi, composed by Clinton Cerejo and sung by Shreya Ghosal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Benny Dayal and Vishal Dadlani embodies our collective love and reverence for India’s Natural Heritage. We wish for every Indian to embrace this anthem and hope that it resonates with everyone.
The anthem is produced by the Wildlife Trust of India along with Born Free entertainment, the production house which is owned by Dia Mirza and her husband, Sahil Sangha. Also the song is sung by Sunidhi Chauhan, Vishal Dadlani, Benny Dayal, Shreya Goshal and Clinton Cerejo with the latter also composing the music. It is written by CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi. Universal Music, through their global platform has also partnered to introduce this anthem not only within India but across the globe.
Dia’s address was followed by a video message from Mr. Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment who said that the elephant is one of the most majestic sights and India is home to many of them. He also stated the significance of the presence of the elephant in the ecosystem in terms of bio-diversity and having a healthy forest cover. He also pointed out that the increase in the infrastructure and expanse of railways network has severely impacted their existence and the plastic waste that is being dumped into the forests is finding its way into the elephant’s stomach, causing them serious harm. Human and animal conflict has become a serious issue and this needs to be addressed. Just like humans have the right to passage, so do elephants. India has 101 elephant corridors and we must do whatever it takes to protect and preserve these.
The evening as well as this spectacular 4 day long Gal Mahotsav was concluded with an electrifying musical performance by Kavita Seth as well as the extremely popular and talented band, Euphoria. The foot-tapping performance brought this exciting day and the GajMahotsav to an end on a melodious note and left an indelible mark on the mind of every visitor on the need to understand and address the plight of the Asian elephant and its dwindling population.
Venue – Indira Gandhi Centre for Arts, 11 Mansingh Road, New Delhi
Timings – 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Date – August 12-15, 2018
About Wildlife Trust of India
Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) is a leading Indian nature conservation organization committed to the service of nature. Its mission is to conserve wildlife, their habitat and to work for the welfare of individual wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments. WTI’s team of 150 dedicated professionals work towards securing the natural heritage of India; conserving wildlife and its habitat; work for the welfare of individual wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments.