Elephants are the largest existing land mammals on Earth; and as a result, they require large areas of land, abundant with food and water, in order to survive. As human populations have grown around the world, elephant populations have significantly decreased due to rapid habitat loss and human-elephant conflict. In an effort to draw attention to the animal’s plight, Elephant Family and The Real Elephant Collective have partnered to launch CoExistence—an environmental art installation of 100 life-sized lantana elephant sculptures that are making their way across the globe.
The CoExistence elephants started their long journey in India, where they were hand-crafted by Indigenous communities in the jungles of Tamil Nadu. They migrated into London in early May; and as of June 14, a total of eight separate herds were on public display, distributed throughout London’s Royal Parks and Berkley Square. The aim of the exhibition is to highlight the effects of human invasion and appropriation of wild spaces. While the elephant sculptures are meant to be admired, they also carry a message that encourages people to change the way we live by coexisting with the wildlife and nature around us.
“CoExistence is a call to change the global conservation paradigm,” says Dr. Tarsh Thekaekara. “From saving nature in far-away pockets to living well with nature around us. To value the human connection with nature and celebrate all life forms around us by sharing space. To encourage people to remember that they are of, and for nature. We have the capacity to heal, grow, thrive, and support symbiotically with nature, as other species do.”
Funds raised by the CoExistence campaign will be given to grassroots organizations throughout India that work to allow people and wildlife to coexist in peace. Some of their initiatives include promoting indigenous knowledge and values of tolerance to wildlife, creating technological solutions to keep both animals and people safe in shared spaces, mitigating the effect of roads and railway lines to ensure wildlife can safely get across, and many other important measures.
In addition to the sculptures, a collection of original artworks by award-winning artist George Butler highlighting the theme of peaceful human-wildlife coexistence were also on display in Sladmore Contemporary during the exhibition. “CoExistence is confirmation of a moment when society realized they had to do more,” Butler tells My Modern Met. “And the realization that this is an issue bigger than ourselves, bigger than individuals and indeed bigger than the human race, for the isolated and often solitary role of an illustrator that is a great relief to know those feelings are shared!”
Limited edition prints and memorabilia displaying Butler's illustrations are also available for sale. If you’d like to support the campaign further, visit CoExistence’s website to learn how you can donate, volunteer, or purchase an elephant sculpture for yourself.