'Elephant Whisperers' director Kartiki Gonsalves gets environmental award from King Charles

Gonsalves received the Tara Award, inspired by the sacred bond between elephants and humans to recognise extraordinary achievements in storytelling and advocacy for coexistence.

Published: 01st July 2023 05:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st July 2023 05:49 PM   |  A+A-

Filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves accepts the Tara Award from King Charles III and Queen Camilla in London. (Photo | PTI)

Filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves accepts the Tara Award from King Charles III and Queen Camilla in London. (Photo | PTI)

By PTI

LONDON:  Britain’s King Charles III and Queen Camilla presented the coveted Elephant Family environmental award to Indian conservationists -- filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves behind Oscar-winning documentary ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ and the Real Elephant Collective (TREC) of 70 Adivasi artists -- at a ceremony here.

Gonsalves received the Tara Award, inspired by the sacred bond between elephants and humans to recognise extraordinary achievements in storytelling and advocacy for coexistence.

The debut director of ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ collected the award, an elephant statuette as a nod to the wildlife conservation charity Elephant Family, from the royals at an Animal Ball at Lancaster House on Wednesday.

“This powerful film explores the profound connection between humans and elephants through the heartwarming story of Raghu, an orphaned elephant from the same herds depicted in TREC’s sculptures. Gonsalves dedicated her award to Mother India and the idea of coexistence, emphasising the importance of respect for indigenous communities and empathy towards all living beings,” the Elephant Family said in a statement.

‘The Elephant Whisperers’, which won the 2023 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film earlier this year, captures the inspiring journey of an indigenous couple as they nurture and care for Raghu, forming an unbreakable bond with the elephant.

The Elephant Family said the globally acclaimed documentary stands as a “testament to the beauty of India’s wilderness, the wisdom of tribal communities, and the empathy that exists between people and animals who share the same space”.

“As Kartiki Gonsalves, a true champion for wildlife and nature, receives this esteemed award, Elephant Family honours her unwavering dedication and unyielding enthusiasm towards the preservation of our natural world,” it noted.

Meanwhile, TREC was awarded the Mark Shand Award, named in honour of the late founder of Elephant Family – an international NGO dedicated to protecting the Asian elephant from extinction in the wild.

TREC was conferred the award for their five-year meticulous work in creating the CoExistence Herd of intricate sculptural representations of wild elephants they coexist with.

Led by Shubhra Nayar, a graduate of the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, her husband Dr Tarsh Thekaekara, a pioneering conservationist, and Subhash Gautam, a coffee planter, livelihoods expert, and businessman, TREC’s extraordinary work has had a profound impact, the Elephant Family said.

“The success of TREC has paved the way for the establishment of the CoExistence Consortium, an India-wide group that brings together local experts, ecologists, anthropologists, geographers, and conservationists. Working hand in hand with communities living alongside wildlife, the consortium designs and implements coexistence solutions that prioritise the perspectives and needs of these communities,” the wildlife charity said.

Situated in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, an area with the highest human and elephant density in the world, TREC is credited with fostering a unique understanding and coexistence between people and wildlife.

The sculptures, made from the invasive weed lantana camara, provide livelihood opportunities for Adivasi communities while contributing to the removal of this harmful weed from protected areas.

Their efforts have not only benefited the environment but also enhanced the communities’ values, income, and status without compromising their indigenous way of life, according to the Elephant Family.

"Their collaborative efforts have captured the attention of millions, as over 4 million Londoners visited the CoExistence herd in June and July 2021, and the human-wildlife coexistence message reached over 20 million people through media coverage," it added.

Elephant Family supports a wide range of projects that find ways for humans and animals to live closer together – from securing a network of wildlife corridors which act as bridges between islands of forests, to relocating busy highways that slice through primary forest.

The organisation was founded in 2003 by Camilla’s late brother Mark Shand, who was deeply passionate about protecting and supporting elephants and Asian wildlife and the Tara Award is named after his elephant.

This year’s Animal Ball was a celebration of indigenous communities, hosted by the Elephant Family in partnership with the King Charles-founded charity British Asian Trust.



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