Today was a big day for elephants, as we joined internationally acclaimed artists Gillie and Marc for the opening of their latest sculpture, 'The Orphans', a monumental installation dedicated to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and our life-saving Orphans' Project.
Nestled in the heart of London, on the lawn of Marble Arch, 20 bronze elephants, representing real-life orphans successfully rescued by the Trust, stand around a full-size mother figure, who sits at their centre. The jumbo sized sculpture is the latest in Gillie and Marc's series ‘Love The Last’, public art sculptures that seek to raise awareness of the disappearance of wild species.
The launch, which was attended by committed ecological campaigner Zac Goldsmith MP, environmentalist and author Stanley Johnson and actor and animal campaigner Peter Egan, brought together members of the public with the artists, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the sculptures themselves. The unveiling was completed with the participation of young children from local school, Hampden Gurney, who'd all been judged winners in a competition where they used their creative skills to demonstrate 'what elephants mean to them'. Following speeches and the official ribbon cutting of the central mother sculpture, each orphan was unveiled by a VIP and the lucky competition winners who placed a blanket on the back of each of the sculptures; symbolising a shared commitment to care for the next generation of elephants – the ‘elephants of tomorrow’. In the wild, elephant babies would shelter under their mothers for protection, and for those orphaned and rescued by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, we use blankets to keep these young, vulnerable calves protected from the elements.
Without action, elephants face extinction by 2040 as a result of human actions, including poaching, human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss and climate change. While the elephants featured in this sculpture were tragically orphaned, with the help of the SWT, our supporters and the wider public, they can help change the future of the species. Supported by us and reintegrated into protected areas, they can help defy the odds, just like Wendi, Edie and Mweya, orphans rescued by the Trust who have all recently celebrated the birth of wild-born babies.
The Orphans sculpture will remain in this prime location for one year from December 4th 2019, as part of the Westminster City of Sculpture scheme and we invite and encourage Londoners and visitors to the city to meet, and fall in love with, the Elephants of Tomorrow in Marble Arch!