Our CoExistence campaign highlighted the importance of living in harmony with wildlife, halting the destruction of forest homes and protecting rural people’s livelihoods. CoExistence charged at the horizon for Asia’s wildlife, it raised awareness, raised money and supported local communities. Find out how the CoExistence herd grew, and the remarkable legacy your support has helped foster.
The beginning of our CoExistence journey
In May 2021, the launch of CoExistence was marked by an unforgettable image as a herd of 50 elephants brought London to a standstill by marching across The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace. The exhibition which followed saw 125 life-sized lantana elephants transform London’s Royal Parks into an Asian forest, delighting members of the public and triggering a moment of collective empathy for one of the world’s biggest and most intelligent animals.
The elephants in the exhibition were so popular, an additional 110 elephants were commissioned.
In total, CoExistence saw 235 lantana elephants brought to life by artisans in the Nilgiri Hills in Southern India. Of those, 230 elephants crossed the seas on an epic adventure and have been delivered to 140 different homes and locations around the world. Members of our CoExistence herd can now be found in places as diverse as Bahrain, USA, Puerta Rico, Spain, Sweden, Greece and of course all corners of the UK!
We were truly humbled by the reception the CoExistence herd received and for the support from our partners, sponsors and supporters. Having raised over £4million from the sale of 235 lantana elephants, we are now able to substantially increase the scale and impact of our conservation programme on the ground.
The real herd and the artisans – where are they now?
A year on from the Coexistence exhibition in London, the elephants and people in the Nilgiris continue to grow in their relationship over the land.
In the real-life herd, five calves have been born over the last few years with local people welcoming them despite all the challenges of living alongside one of the world’s largest land mammals. One of these was very special. Meenakshi’s new born calf was found very ill and near dead by the forest department field staff. With a dose of antibiotics and IV fluids, they managed to revive the little one, and reunite it with the joyous herd!
The oldest and most famous elephant Ganesan sadly passed away and was mourned by the elephants and humans who lived alongside him. He lived a full life and was a stellar example of adapting to living peacefully among humans.
The 70-strong indigenous team of artisans who produced the lantana herd has now grown to about 120. The team continues to make lantana elephants alongside a few other animals crafts that have come through the pipeline, as the coexistence message spreads across the globe.
They’ve also branched out into the large scale harvest and pulverisation of lantana from the forests, to be used as a fuel source/construction material. The first trials of this are in the hands of people who have traditionally been custodians of the forest – even mechanised processes are ethically guided by them. We are hopeful this may be the beginning of a solution to a 200 year old global problem.
The profile of lantana has also grown significantly, and the new Terminal 2 at the Bangalore International Airport, made entirely of bamboo and natural materials, features a small herd of five Lantana elephants, with plans to use lantana as a construction material in some of the newer parts of the terminal now under construction.
A new CoExistence Fund
In 2022, the British Asian Trust’s CoExistence Fund was launched as a result of money raised by the CoExistence campaign. More than 35 applications have been received for some truly inspiring projects focussed on reducing human wildlife conflict in north-eastern India and the Western Ghats. We will be announcing the successful submissions in 2023 under the guidance of our CoExistence Advisory Group, consisting of expert conservationists and specialists in their fields.
A ‘CoExistence Fellowship’ has also been launched. Twelve young people from around India are working to understand and safeguard the strong cultural link and tolerance Indians have to wildlife around them. They are closely mentored by conservation practitioners that are members of the consortium that has grown around the concept of Coexistence.