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Elephants march in London, trumpeting conservation

Although urban Britain is not the native habitat of the Asian elephant, the well-loved pachyderm has invaded London for the summer. Raising awareness and funds for the threatened Asian elephant, 250 fiberglass statues by different artists are being displayed all over London.

At the end of the summer the elephants will be auctioned off. All the proceeds from the art parade will go to Elephant Family, a conservation organization whose mission is to save the Asian Elephant from extinction.

While some of the elephants are purely decorative, many have conservation-messages mixed in. For example, conservation organization Fauna and Flora International (FFI)’s elephant, known as Nanook, has the image of a polar bear on it, linking deforestation in Southeast Asia to the survival of both the Asian elephant and the polar bear since rainforest destruction produces significant carbon emissions. The elephant was painted by Martin Aveling.

FFI elephant in London’s Elephant Parade. Photo courtesy of: FFI.

The elephant parade has also brought elephant conservation heroes to London, including recent Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Tuy Sereivathana, who successfully ended elephant-human conflict in his home-country Cambodia.

“The elephant is a flagship species,” Sereivathana told while visiting London. “To conserve the elephant, we have to think about their habitat (they need large forest), so other species can survive in the habitat. In case of water sources during the dry season, elephants make water holes by trampling, so other wildlife also use the water source. Elephants spread out seeds of trees in forest.”

Sereivathana heads the Cambodian Elephant Conservation Group, which is co-managed by Fauna and Flora International.

Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Conservationists believe the global population has been cut in half in three elephant generations largely due to habitat loss and poaching.

Tuy Sereivathana with FFI’s elephant statue in London. Photo by: Rachel Austin/FFI.

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