Wildlife conservation organizations driven to protect and promote awareness of the planet’s most vulnerable and endangered species are critical in the fight against extinction. Being a voice to those who have none is an art that requires limitless compassion, relentless creativity and unwavering determination.
Meet Ruth Ganesh – Principal Trustee of the charity Elephant Family, the UK’s biggest fundraising effort for the endangered Asian elephant.
THE PLIGHT OF THE ASIAN ELEPHANT
In honor of World Elephant Day this August 12th, Ganesh and the entire team at Elephant Family urge us to get behind the most enormous, curious-looking, awe-inspiring, majestic and arguably the most intelligent animal alive today.
Elephants are endangered across Asia, with only an estimated 40,000 remaining in the wild – a 60% decline over three generations. Asian elephants live across a vast range of 13 countries, from India to Indonesia, yet their global population of 30,000-50,000 is barely 10% of their African cousins. While all elephants face the threats of habitat loss, conflict with people and poaching for ivory, Asian elephants are also threatened by illicit live trade for the entertainment industry and, most recently, by poaching for the illegal trade of their skins.
WHO IS RUTH GANESH?
Ruth Ganesh is a trustee and co-founder of Elephant Family, a charity that exists to save the iconic Asian elephant from extinction. She assumed the job in 2010 after starting with the NGO in 2004, working alongside its late founder and legendary conservationist Mark Shand (he was the brother of Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles, who with her husband Prince Charles are the charity’s joint “royal presidents”).
Ganesh joined forces with Shand in 2004 and has been at the forefront of the charity’s conservation successes ever since. Since 2004 she has raised millions for the endangered Asian elephant, its habitat and the people who share it. She has further expanded Elephant Family’s global reach by pioneering brand new and innovative ways of fundraising, breaking world records whilst doing so. Ganesh currently divides her time between Elephant Family UK and USA, as well as the organization’s projects throughout Asia. Her specialty is conceptualizing major public art events, which have raised over $10 million for conservation thus far.
WHAT IS ELEPHANT FAMILY?
For Ganesh and everyone at Elephant Family, protection of the Asian elephants’ rapidly shrinking habitat due to economic development is the number one concern. The organization’s mission is to power solutions that prevent conflict between humans and elephants, demonstrating how the two species can co-exist. That means working to create safe homes for both elephants and people by reconnecting forest fragments, maintaining elephant migratory routes and helping farmers protect their crops and homes.
While elephant ivory remains the most valuable part of an elephant, the growing demand for elephant skin and other parts continues to drive up the demand. Elephant Family has been investigating the illegal trade in Asian elephants since 2014, through research, analysis and field investigations. Initially monitoring live trade, the organization was alarmed to discover a marked increase in poaching in Myanmar, where in 2017 a herd of 25 elephant carcasses, including calves, was found stripped of their skin.
Ganesh’s latest large campaign – Coexistence – involves a herd of 100 life-sized elephants touring the Globe including the UK in 2020 and the United States 2021. Working with The Real Elephant Collective, a South Indian conservation-led organization, Elephant Family has employed a team of over 70 tribal artisans to create the sculptures, each one based on an elephant that lives in the area. The sculptures are made from the toxic, invasive weed Lantana camara – clearing the forest of it to make the herd conserves vital elephant habitat.
As well as supporting Coexistence by visiting the herd as it is displayed, you can buy a sculpture ($6,000-$39,000) or sign up to The Matriarch Club – booking themselves a place to join us on a leg of the tour in the USA. The elephants are almost ready to take their first steps on a life changing journey across the globe as part of a female led campaign which will raise $10m for human wildlife co-existence projects globally and put the issue of human-wildlife-conflict on the map.
In honor of World Elephant Day on August 12, please consider making a donation to Elephant Family. Visit www.elephant-family.com.
For more information on joining the Coexistence Tour or adopting an elephant, please visit https://www.coexistencetour.org/
Additional Photos: Ganesh Raghunathan; Compass Films; Stuart Dunn