Why Saving the Elephants is a Mammoth Task (India)


Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena, Verve

Date Published
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An aesthetic initiative by Maneka Gandhi and People for Animals promises to help India’s dwindling elephant population

In a country where elephants are revered by three major religions — Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism — it is tragic that the condition of the gentle behemoths is ignored. The elephants — whose numbers are dwindling — are looked upon as symbols of friendliness, sacrifice, dignity, majesty, prosperity and luck. Quite a few of them are in illegal captivity and many are paraded in inhuman conditions during festivals, while some are used for begging!
The Asian elephant is a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. In 1998, the first Elephant Conservation and Care Center in India was established in Mathura by an NGO, Wildlife SOS, headed by Kartick Satyanarayan.
To raise awareness and funds for the cause, Maneka Gandhi and People for Animals have organised a fundraiser. Fifty of the country’s best artists including S. H. Raza, Jogen Chowdhury, Subodh Gupta and  Binoy Varghese and celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan have painted on fibreglass elephants which will be on sale, at an exhibition curated by Sunaina Anand of Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi.
The fundraiser and exhibition will take place from November 28-30, 2015 at the Le Méridien hotel in New Delhi.
“There are only 22,000 elephants left in India and less than 700 tuskers. This is because people illegally own them even though it has been forbidden since 1972. The catch is that elephants that were owned then were allowed to be retained till they died. The forest department chose to look the other way. Six hundred elephants were killed by their owners last year, some for insurance, some because they became too expensive to keep, and some because they had gone wild with rage at having been beaten every day. The government has been asked to set up rescue centres for elephants that have been abandoned or tied up for years.
The entire infrastructure for animal welfare has been strengthened by the efforts of the creative community — painters, singers, actors, and designers. Every time we need help, they come forward and give their time and talent to help raise funds for ambulances and hospitals. We would be nowhere without their active cooperation and there is not a single day when I do not feel grateful to them. Even for this exhibition the absolute cream of India’s artistes has come forward. I hope now that art lovers (and those concerned about a vanishing species) will buy these treasures.”