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London, July 1 – Kings Charles III and Queen Camilla presented the prestigious Mark Shand Award and the Tara Award to Oscar-winning filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves and a wildlife conservation group from India, at the 2023 Animal Ball in London.
Kartiki, the director of ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ and the Tamil Nadu-based The Real Elephant Collective (TREC) were honoured by the Royals on June 28 for making significant contributions to human-wildlife coexistence.
“The Tara Award, inspired by the sacred bond between elephants and humans, recognises extraordinary achievements in storytelling and advocacy for coexistence. We were delighted to present this award to Kartiki Gonsalves,” the award citation read.
‘The Elephant Whisperers’ explores the profound connection between humans and elephants through the heartwarming story of Raghu, an orphaned elephant and an indigenous couple in the forests of Tamil Nadu.
Honouring the filmmaker as a true champion for wildlife and nature, the citation further said that 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”.
The Mark Shand Award, named in honour of the Queen’s brother and founder of Elephant Family that works to protect Asia’s wildlife, went to The Real Elephant Collective (TREC) — a community of 70 Adivasi artists and wildlife conservationists.
Led by Shubhra Nayar, a graduate of the National Institute of Design in India, TERC works with indigenous communities to present intricate sculptural representations of wild elephants they coexist with.
Situated in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu — an area with the highest human and elephant density in the world — TREC has “fostered a unique understanding and coexistence between people and wildlife”.
The sculptures, made from the invasive weed lantana camara, provide livelihood opportunities for Adivasi (indigenous) 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,” the citation read.
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 Animal Ball is London’s most inspired and creative tribute to the Animal Kingdom.
Presented by Elephant Family and Tintra Foundation, the famous masked Animal Ball aims to raise vital funds for conservation programmes in South Asia.
Conjured up by fashion’s greatest creative minds including Prada, Chloe, Burberry, Charlotte Olympia and Missoni, each iteration sees a collection of sustainable animal headgear adorn London’s bright and beautiful, in a homage to endangered animals everywhere.
India was represented by designers Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Manish Malhotra, and Anita Dongre, who created masks for guests at the event.
In an Instagram post, Mukherjee said the King and Queen wore Shola masks that paid homage to Bengal’s heritage and culture.
Shola is the craft of carving sholapith, a spongy cork from the aquatic plant that grows in the marshlands of West Bengal.
The multi-coloured menagerie was previously hosted by the royal couple and has raised millions for conservation efforts.