101 lantana elephant models to trumpet biodiversity message

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Kochi: Hundred and one elephants made of lantana branches will soon line up in Kochi to spread the message of eco-conservation and peaceful coexistence of man and animals. ‘Co-Exist’, an exhibition by The Real Elephants Collective, an international organisation working to protect wild animals especially elephants, will be held on February 7 at the South Beach, Fort Kochi.

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The event will then head to Bangalore and New Delhi. In 2020, the elephant models will be taken to England where they will be displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Parks, both in London. The next year, the jumbos will travel in huge trucks across the United States of America, where they will finally be auctioned, the proceeds of which will go to preservation of wild animals.

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Elephant Family, an NGO formed to preserve Asian elephant habitats, will also be part of the event.

Lantana is a plant species that first reached South America from British colonies and later spread around the world. Animals, including elephants, keep off the plant because of the presence of a poison in their leaves. The plants are quite invasive and destroy bio-diversity.

Sometime ago, the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), an Indian non-profit conservation organisation, realised the potential of lantana in making

furniture and curios. This gave birth to the idea of making elephants with lantana branches to deliver the message of eco-conservation and meaningful coexistence of humans and animlas.

Tribals from Paniya, Betta Kurumba and Soliga communities have designed the elephants to be used in the expo. They have combined their knowledge of jumbos and artistry to make life-size Indian elephant models, including calves. All 101 lantana models were designed after individually studying the features of real elephants.

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