Elephant Parade offers fun, aid to elephants in Chiang Mai (PHOTOS)

From now until mid-January, Chiang Mai is experiencing a stampede of colorful elephants through the city. To be specific, 89 elephant statues, painted by notable figures ranging from famous artists to Khloe Kardashian, are scattered around the northern tourist town.

The elephant statues are not only cute, attention-grabbing and a great excuse for selfie-taking, they are also created to raise awareness for the plight of Asian elephants.

Asian elephants are endangered and the biggest issues facing them are the loss of their natural

habitat, ivory poaching and human-elephant conflict. There are less than 50,000 Asian elephants left and, in the last century, their habitat has shrunk by 95 percent and their population by 70 percent. If this trend continues, elephants will become extinct in 30 years.

Elephant Parade, which has happened in 21 cities around the world over the last decade, aims to raise both awareness of this issue and money to aid the elephants.

Notable people who have been involved with Elephant Parade include: Alice Temperley, Bryan Adams, Elizabeth Hurley, Diane Von Furstenberg, Jim Thompson Design, Katy Perry, and Sir Richard Branson. Millions of people around the world have visited the attractions and 1,350 artists have submitted painted elephants, helping to raise millions of dollars for elephant conservation.

The life-size, baby elephant statues have been exhibited in international cities from Bangkok to London in order to raise awareness for the need for elephant conservation. During and after the events, limited edition, handcrafted replicas and a wide range of related products are created for people to buy as gifts and souvenirs and as a way to help raise funds for elephants.

The cheerful statues take over cities and force you to notice, them, the organizers hope this will get visitors thinking about elephant issues as well.

After each parade, the large-scale, original painted elephants are auctioned off and 20 percent of the proceeds split between elephant charities, including the first elephant hospital in the world, Friends of the Asian Elephant hospital (FAE) in Lampang, where the idea for Elephant Parade was born.
The most ever paid for one of the elephants at auction was USD196,000 (THB6.97 million) in London in 2010.
The artsy social enterprise was founded by Marc and Mike Spits, a Dutch father-and-son team. The Dutchmen were moved to do something to help elephants after a visit to FAE in 2006, where they met Soraida Salwala, founder of FAE, and Mosha, an elephant famous for losing her leg in a landmine accident and being the first pachyderm to wear a prosthetic limb.
Since then, the inspiring duo has completely changed their lives in order to aid Asian elephants.
Mike Spits, son of founder Marc Spits, said, “We wanted to help Mosha and create something structural that would be profitable in the long run. This is the only way in which we can provide the elephant a sustainable future.”
Marc, now 80 years old and the original visionary of the social enterprise, said, “We wanted to do something that was charitable but also fun. After all, there’s no use doing something that’s not fun.”
If you do miss Elephant Parade 2016 in Chiang Mai, no worries. As part of their 10-year anniversary, the Spits’ have recently opened Elephant Parade House, a permanent attraction in Chiang Mai that includes some highlights of the last 10 years’ art exhibitions, a small museum dedicated to the plight of the elephant, a shop and a studio where you can paint your very own elephant statue.

Find out more about Elephant Parade Chiang Mai and about Elephant Parade House here.


Best foot forward: Disabled elephant ‘Mosha’ gets new prosthetic leg (VIDEO)


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