The global elephant conservation drive could do with some sparkle. In an ingenious move last year, an international conservation charity, the World Land Trust, collaborated with UK-based Gemfields, leading producers of coloured gemstones, on the first Emeralds for Elephants initiative. The glamorous event, which was staged in Selfridges, London, in June 2010, was designed to create awareness and raise funds for the protection of the critically endangered Asian elephant and tiger. Leading jewellers from around the world—including Gem Palace from Jaipur, Rajasthan—created elephant-themed pieces for a charity auction.
This initiative is now travelling to India and 10 Indian jewellery retailers, across nine cities, have agreed to create special pieces for the project this year. After a two-month tour across the country, the works will be auctioned at a Sotheby’s event in Mumbai on 14 October.
The organizers expect the sale to raise funds for the World Land Trust which will, in turn, channel these directly to its Indian project partner, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), a non-profit conservation organization committed to urgent action towards the protection of India’s wildlife.
The WTI says its mission is to conserve nature, especially endangered species and threatened habitats, in partnership with communities and governments. The money raised by this project will be used to reconnect isolated pockets of forest habitat. By funding land purchase and allowing wild elephants to follow their traditional migration routes, the WTI aims to create wildlife corridors that will protect not just elephants but a huge range of other wildlife as well. These elephant corridors will also make it possible to reduce human-elephant conflict and enable elephants to have safe havens and larger, more viable habitats. Research shows that funding the purchase of every identified wildlife corridor and therefore safeguarding the Asian elephant in a sustainable manner would cost around £10 million (approx. Rs 71 crore). This translates into only £500 for each of India’s 20,000 surviving elephants.
Cricketer Yuvraj Singh with the ’Emerald Queen’ at the Emeralds for Elephants event in London in June 2010.
While the cause it funds is a grave one, the event itself promises to be high on glamour. Mumbai-based fashion photographer Jatin Kampani will be documenting the event for a series called the Elephant Diaries and choreographer Shiamak Davar will direct the live entertainment for the event.
The event has its list of celebrity supporters. The London edition last year had Sir David Attenborough, a loyal World Land Trust patron, in attendance. Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh and actor Freida Pinto were also present to host the auction event, as well as donate funds to the project.
Highlights of the Mumbai event will include a special illustration that will feature a significant emerald by architect and contemporary sculptor Arzan Khambatta. All this, for an elephantine cause.
The Emeralds for Elephants auction by Sotheby’s will take place at The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai, on 14 October.