Mumbai auction raises $750,000 for Indian elephants

October 18th, 2011 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Oct 18 (IANS) A collection of African gemstone jewellery fetched $750,000 at an auction here by Sotheby’s, part of a fundraising initiative for conservation of Indian elephants, the organisers said.

India is home to about 27,000 wild elephants, which is more than half the Asian elephant population. But experts say they are endangered today due to the shrinking of habitat and man-animal conflict.

The results from last Friday’s auction were announced Monday. The gemstones were donated by the Britain-listed Gemfields company, a leading producer of gemstones and a partner of the Emeralds for Elephants initiative.

The precious stones, produced in Zambia, were brought to the country to be made into jewellery by 10 selected Indian designers.

“We started working on this project from February onwards wherein we tied up with 10 jewellers across nine Indian cities, as well as contemporary sculpture artist Arzan Khambatta,” said Rupak Sen, the company’s representative.

“The basic objective was to raise awareness for Asian elephants and also crucial funds to protect the elephant corridors,” said Sen.

The corridors are a conduit for elephants to move between viable habitats that helps facilitate their genetic viability and larger space and food availability.

The Mumbai auction was a follow up of another fundraising event for elephants held in London last year organised by the NGO World Land Trust. Gemfields also participated.

Some 200 life-sized elephant models made up of material such as metal, paper, clay and wood by reputable designers were exhibited across the city. They were later auctioned.

“Since we are a gems mining company we thought we could also probably help this cause. So we got seven of best jewellery designers to make seven pieces of jewellery using our emeralds.

“These pieces were displayed in high-end stores in London and then auctioned off. We were able to raise close to 700,000 pounds in less than half an hour,” said Sen.

“India is a very important market for us. About 90 percent of our productions are bought by customers based in Jaipur, one of the biggest hubs for emerald cutting and polishing.

“Therefore, we wanted to do something as part of our corporate social responsibility,” Sen told IANS on phone.

Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit had joined the initiative in July as its brand ambassador to lend support to the cause.

Earlier, a nationwide survey by the NGO Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) had identified 88 corridors that needed protection. After which, WTI in partnership with the World Land Trust (WLT) have secured a number of corridors in Uttarakhand, Kerala and Meghalaya.

Securing of corridors involves working closely with the local communities and governments, which renders the entire process time and resource-intensive.

Gemfields has pledged to support the World Land Trust and WTI’s corridor projects in India.

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