Lantana is a conservationists' nightmare.
The invasive weeds that spread from the Americas to all the British colonies are one of the most destructive plant species as far the ecology is concerned. Governments all over the world are taking aggressive measures to contain the spread of this plant, which is generally avoided by the herbivores due to the poisonous content on its leaves.
Elephants, at the same time, represent a fine example of man-animal cohabitation.
A project is being envisaged with a unique idea of combining both lantana and elephants for spreading the message of conservation in an aesthetic manner.
The project envisions crafting life-size elephants from stems of lantana plants with the help of tribal craftsmen. Each piece is based on a real elephant from the Nilgiris. The elephants are designed by the Real Elephant Collective, and created by 70 tribal artisans with the support from Bengaluru-based environmental research group, Asoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). It will be toured globally by Elephant Family, UK, founded by the late British conservationist Mark Shand. The traditional artisans are from the tribal communities of Paniya, Vettakkurumba and Soliga.
The idea to craft elephants out of lantana stems was derived on the basis of the concept that elephants are best suited to spread the message of conservation and peaceful cohabitation of man and nature. The massive project to make lantana elephants was inspired by the research of The Shola Trust and Elephant Family's pioneering and unique fund raising efforts for conservation.
As part of the project, 101 lantana elephants will be exhibited in Kochi, Bengaluru and New Delhi this year. Thought Factory is the designer for the Kochi event.
The lantana elephant exhibition will be organised in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Parks of London in 2020.
In 2021, the elephants will criss-cross the US in huge trucks and exhibitions will be held in historic sites.
Five lantana elephants were part of an exhibition held at Royal Chelsea Hospital in 2017.
The elephants were transported by ship to the UK. The final idea is to auction the elephants at the end of their US journey.
The proceeds from the auction would go towards the Asian Elephants Fund, monitored by elephant experts and environmental scientists.
The project will kick off from Kochi on January 26, with an exhibition of 30 lantana elephants. CEO of Elephant Family Ruth Powys and conservation experts from the WWF and other organisations will be present for the launch. The public can also interact with the experts at the exhibition venue.