Celebrating conservation champions: Mark Shand Award & Tara Award

The Mark Shand Award

In a heartfelt celebration of remarkable achievements in the field of conservation, Elephant Family proudly presents the prestigious Mark Shand Award and the Tara Award to extraordinary individuals who have made significant contributions to human-wildlife coexistence.

The Mark Shand Award, named in honour of the late founder of Elephant Family, pays homage to the enduring legacy of Mark Shand. It acknowledges those who embody his visionary spirit and dedication to protecting wildlife. This year’s recipient is The Real Elephant Collective (TREC), a community of 70 Adivasi artists and wildlife conservationists who spent five years meticulously creating the CoExistence Herd, intricate sculptural representations of wild elephants they coexist with.

Led by Shubhra Nayar, a graduate of the National Institute of Design in India, her husband Dr. Tarsh Thekaekara, a pioneering conservationist, and Subhash Gautam, a coffee planter, livelihoods expert, and businessman, TREC’s extraordinary work has had a profound impact. Situated in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, an area with the highest human and elephant density in the world, they have fostered a unique understanding and coexistence between people and wildlife. The sculptures, made from the invasive weed lantana camara, provide livelihood opportunities for Adivasi communities while contributing to the removal of this harmful weed from protected areas. Their efforts have not only benefited the environment but also enhanced the communities’ values, income, and status without compromising their indigenous way of life.

Their collaborative efforts have captured the attention of millions, as over four million Londoners visited the CoExistence herd in June and July 2021, and the human-wildlife coexistence message reached over 20 million people through media coverage.

The success of TREC has paved the way for the establishment of the CoExistence Consortium, an India-wide group that brings together local experts, ecologists, anthropologists, geographers, and conservationists. Working hand in hand with communities living alongside wildlife, the consortium designs and implements coexistence solutions that prioritise the perspectives and needs of these communities.




The Tara Award

The Tara Award, inspired by the sacred bond between elephants and humans, recognises extraordinary achievements in storytelling and advocacy for coexistence. We were delighted to present this award to Kartiki Gonsalves, the debut director of the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Elephant Whisperers.” This powerful film explores the profound connection between humans and elephants through the heartwarming story of Raghu, an orphaned elephant from the same herds depicted in TREC’s sculptures. Gonsalves dedicated her award to Mother India and the idea of coexistence, emphasising the importance of respect for indigenous communities and empathy towards all living beings.

“The Elephant Whisperers” captures the inspiring journey of an indigenous couple as they nurture and care for Raghu, forming an unbreakable bond wit

h the elephant. This globally acclaimed documentary stands as a testament to the beauty of India’s wilderness, the wisdom of tribal communities, and the empathy that exists between people and animals who share the same space.

As Kartiki Gonsalves, a true champion for wildlife and nature, receives this esteemed award, Elephant Family honours her unwavering dedication and unyielding enthusiasm towards the preservation of our natural world.

Thank you TREC and Kartiki for showing us all a better way forward!

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