The goal was to raise $1.5 million dollars “to go towards securing a series of pioneering elephant corridors in Asia” and to be used among other “Elephant Family projects”.
What are elephant Corridors? They are a “modern day conservation + humanitarian solution that works”.
They allow elephants the space they need to roam from “one habitat patch to another” while co-existing peaceably with humans when their natural habitat become destroyed. Instead of “stressed and hungry elephants increasingly being forced onto agricultural land, tea gardens and human settlements” these corridors provide routes for elephants to take them away from villages and the people who call those villages home.
When these all too common “encounters” between humans and elephants (almost always “deadly” in either case) can be prevented or even lessened, vital crops can be saved (elephants “eat and trample crops”), property protected (elephants “damage” the villagers’ property) and the “local community no longer has to be traumatized and “panic” over a rampaging elephant.
The Race: Well, not a race against time in the traditional sense, but time is definitely of the essence when it comes to saving the very existence of our elephants (this event raised money to build numerous elephant corridors throughout India and to help elephants in other Elephant Family projects).
So each of the 40 colorful rickshaws represented every one of the “1700 elephants in Assam, North East India” (the racers followed each other along a set course; “going from point A to B,”) and revealed how our elephants are reaching out for a “lifeline” (the elephant corridors) from mankind.
You see our elephants are not able to run along their course any more. Their course or “lifeline” has become hopelessly blocked by loss of habitat or their course has detoured into human space (villages and the like).
So, this day’s “race to the finish line” represented a new beginning and hope for our elephants. If it was possible for “a fleet of auto-rickshaws” to successfully navigate through a set path, with our help it will be possible to provide corridors for our elephants to successfully navigate their path too.
Humans and elephants can co-exist. The Assam elephant corridors (these elephants are “one of the most important populations left in the world today”), once “complete, will be replicated across India” for the benefit of those elephants too.
The Racers: “Teams of two from all corners of the globe” set off on the 500km race “across Madhya Pradesh” all the way to “Tara the elephant’s home at Kipling Camp” (Tara was the late Mark Shand’s, founder of Elephant Family, beloved elephant)
Some celebrity backers were “actress Susan Sarandon; models Yasmin and Amber Le Bon”; and the nephew of the Duchess of Cambridge, Ben Elliott.
The Rickshaws: How much more showy can you get than a rickshaw splashed with fried eggs (sans the bacon) against a bright red backdrop? (See a photo of actress Goldie Hawn in “The Fried Egg Rickshaw” )
Or how about a London taxi design all done out in black?
Then there’s the “Super Elephantastic Rickshaw” featuring elephants with trees in a meadow & the soothing and sherbet-colored “Indian Summer”.
“Princess Ticky Tuk” is just over the top.
Why, “Into the Mystic” even has eyelashes!
The designs were all so unique and they were all auctioned off for the benefit of our elephants!
So at the end of the day, the end of this unique race, after each “humble auto-rickshaw had rattled past erotic sculptures and abandoned palaces, through tiger reserves and beautiful rural places,…they were all met by Tara, “a very happy elephant”.
And, really, isn’t this what elephant conservation is all about!
Quintessentially Foundation : Travels to My Elephant Event
How Can You Help? Donate to Elephant Family
Photos credit: Creative Commons Flickr: all from animalrescueblog album: Featured Rickshaws, Rickshaws 2, Small Decorative Elephants, Small Decorative Elephants 2, Decorative Elephant