THE ELEPHANT IN the room is something about which we prefer not to speak. This is not the case for the herd of over one hundred elephants that can be found in London’s Green Park today. This is not a change in the creatures’ habitat caused by global warning, because the elephants are not real. They are life-size models of the creatures, constructed with strips of Lantana camara, an invasive weed that thrives in the tropics. Despite being made of strips of this woody material, each one is a fine representation of an elephant. From afar, the sculptures look quite lifelike. Some of the elephants have models of birds found in the UK perched on their backs.
The elephants, so we were informed by a helpful volunteer from Goa who is working for an organisation called Coexistence, are manufactured by local craftsmen living the district of Gudalur in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu state in the south of India. By using the Lantana, the craftsmen not only create the models but also clear deleterious plants from their land.
Apart from looking great, the model pachyderms have arrived with a message. Known as the ‘Coexistence Herd’, the beasts have arrived:
“… at a unique moment in time when a global reduction in human activity has had a positive effect on wildlife. Elephants may be giants but they tread softly. This 100-strong herd reminds us that when we lighten our footprint, wildlife bounces back.” (https://elephant-family.org/coexistence/)
So, it seems that the herd has not arrived merely to enhance our enjoyment of Green Park but also to heighten our awareness of the desirability of humans living in harmony with the rest of the animal kingdom.
Green Park is not the only site in London where these elephants from India can be spotted. There are others currently on display at places such as Berkeley Square and St James Park. The elephants are all for sale. The proceeds of the sales:
“…will be directed to grass-roots organisations across India that allow people and wildlife to live together more peacefully.” (https://coexistence.org/elephant-shop/).
Whether or not you are concerned about the message that is supposed to be conveyed by these superb models of elephants, it unlikely that you will be disappointed by seeing them.