Twenty one bronze life-size elephants were unveiled yesterday in London’s Marble Arch by celebrities including Stanley Johnson and Peter Egan, joined by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and 16 local school children to highlight the plight of elephants which face extinction by 2040.
The herd will remain in the prime London location for one year as part of the Westminster City of Sculpture scheme, enabling Londoners and tourists alike the chance to meet the herd. Westminster City Council launched City of Sculpture in 2010 to bring art outside of galleries and onto the streets and open spaces of Westminster. It is a rolling programme in collaboration with local and international galleries and artists to showcase temporary installations of contemporary and traditional sculpture.
World acclaimed artists of the sculptures Gillie and Marc were also in attendance, having created the jumbo-sized sculpture to raise awareness of the disappearance of Africa’s elephants from the wild which, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust warns, are being killed at a rate of up to 20,000 a year due to poaching, human-wildlife conflict and drought.
Each elephant featured in the sculpture is based on a real orphaned elephant currently in the care of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, many of whom have been orphaned at the hands of humans. For instance Luggard, featured in the installation, was shot in the legs in a case of human-elephant conflict while Mbegu was separated from her herd in an encounter with humans and pelted with stones.
The unveiling was attended by 16 school children from local school Hampton Gurney who placed a blanket on each elephant to symbolise the promise by this generation to protect the next generation of elephants. In the wild, elephant babies would shelter under their mothers for protection so blankets are widely used at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Nursery for orphaned elephants to keep young, vulnerable calves protected from the elements.
The statues also collectively represent the “Elephants of Tomorrow” says Rob Brandford, Executive Director of SWT – “This generation of orphans have had a tough start to life but there is hope. With our help, they can become happy and healthy and become the elephants of tomorrow that will help repopulate the species. We invite all Londoners and visitors to the city to meet, and fall in love with, the Elephants of Tomorrow in Marble Arch throughout 2020.”
Gillie and Marc, the artists behind the monumental installation, hope that The Orphans will bring the plight faced by elephants today to the forefront of people’s minds. Adds Marc: “We choose urban environments for our sculptures, so that we can bring the animals directly to the doorstep of those who wouldn’t usually get to see and learn about them. We want people to become actively involved in overturning the status quo, helping to ensure that elephants can in fact continue to live happily and healthily in the wild for years to come. They can do this by adopting one of the SWT’s orphaned elephants via the Trust’s website, or even on location at the installation itself.”