From Chiang Mai to the World: Elephants Parade for Conservation
The sight of a four foot elephant standing proud in locations around Chiang Mai is not an uncommon sight. Partnered with a sign that identifies their name, artist and even price – these are almost icons of the northern city and are often exported to parade in some of the biggest cities in the world all in aid of elephant conservation.
Elephant Parade is a social enterprise that runs the world’s largest art exhibition of decorated elephant statues. With designs created by artists, celebrities, and even Chiang Mai locals (like our very own editor in chief Pim Kemasingki), each and every elephant is a unique piece of art. The elephants that are paraded across the world are life-sized baby elephants whose main purpose is to raise awareness for the need of Asian elephant conservation.
All for Conservation
Thailand and its neighbouring countries are home to the vast majority of Asian elephants, along with India and South Asia. Over the last few centuries however, the land that wild elephants populated was made smaller and smaller by growing populations, industry and deforestation. Today, 90% of the Asian Elephant population has been wiped out and 95% of their natural habitat has disappeared.
For Elephant Parade founders Marc and Mike Spits, this destruction was too much to just sit back and let happen, so in 2006 they started their highly successful enterprise, raising awareness and funds to help with elephant conservation the world over.
“We wanted to help create something structural that would be profitable in the long run. This is the only way in which we can provide the elephant and sustainable future.”
Today, Elephant Parade works with Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital in Lampang, Thailand and the highly respected organisation Elephant Family, which has seen endorsements by many public figures including Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall from the British Royal Family. Elephant Family is a partnership of many elephant conservation organisations that work across Asia and Southeast Asia. Countries include India, where five projects and organisations are involved, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. Past projects included another 15 organisations over the last eleven years.
Elephant Parade is dedicated to donating a minimum of 50,000 euros to Elephant Family every year, but often exceeds that amount thanks to the generous donations and sponsorships made through elephant auctions, parades and other events.
Now, the elephants have paraded in over 20 locations, such as London, California, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Hong Kong and even Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Millions of people have visited Elephant Parade exhibitions and more than 1350 artists have participated, and over 1480 unique elephants have been created – each an original piece of art.
For those in Chiang Mai, the home of Elephant Parade, the city is in a constant state of parade. Elephants can be seen across the city in shopping malls, public places and hotels throughout the year and there are several shops where you can buy your very own elephant or merchandise and help support the cause in both standalone locations and in some of the best hotels in the country such as Le Méridien, The Sheraton, Anantara, Banyan Tree and The Peninsula. Siam Piwat Group, Minor Group, TANGS, Central and Odel shopping centres also are home to shops across Asia.
Chiang Mai is also home to Elephant Parade Land, their very own museum and tour of their headquarters where visitors can learn about their origins, watch highly skilled artists paint elephants from as small as 7cm to 1.5m that will be sent across the world to strut their stuff and help raise awareness and funds, browse the gift shop and even paint their very own elephant to take home.
This year’s Successes
2017 saw a number of highly successful parades, including one right here in own hometown of Chiang Mai. There were also parades in Laren, The Netherlands and Sao Paulo and an exhibition held in River City, Bangkok. Currently, their troops of elephants are parading in Raffles City Changing, a shopping centre in the heart of Shanghai for the first time – an event attended by thousands of locals and tourists, along with names such as celebrity actor and singer, Wu Chun, and graffiti artist Dezio, who created the elephant Urban Dawn for the occasion.
In February 2018, Elephant Parade are heading to New Delhi, India, to parade their elephants at the British High Commissioner’s residence for the 24th time. Long term patrons of Elephant Family, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will also be in attendance alongside other distinguished guests including Indian designers, Rohit Bal, Monisha Jaising, Varun Bahl and Surily Goel, among others. Although the parade begins in one place, over time the elephants will explore the city and find themselves at special events far and wide such as ones in Jaipur, New Delhi and Calcutta – events where anyone can come and enjoy the sights and learn more about elephant conservation.
To discover more about Elephant Parade or locate an upcoming parade near you, visit their website www.elephantparade.com or pop into any of their stores across Thailand, Asia and Europe.