Travels to my Elephant: charity aims to raise £1m to protect Asian elephants with rally across Rajasthan

Ed Cumming

For a tourist, a trip across India can be the experience of a lifetime. For an elephant, however, freedom to move is the difference between life and death. As the continent develops, their habitats are destroyed, and the roaming space these enormous creatures need to survive is increasingly curtailed.

Few understood their plight more than Mark Shand, the writer and conservationist who dedicated his life to elephants. When he died suddenly in 2014, his loss was keenly felt not just by his own charity, Elephant Family, but by everyone with an interest in protecting Earth's pachyderms.

Ben Elliot was Shand's nephew, and in memory of his uncle last year he organised a rickshaw trip, Travels to My India, to raise money for Elephant Family. Shand's journey across the country on an elephant called Tara was the subject of a moving book, Travels on my Elephant.

"It was palpably clear that, in my lifetime, unless something radical happened, the Asian elephant was going to become extinct in the wild," says Elliot.

Through the luxury concierge business he co-founded, Quintessentially, and its philanthropic arm the Quintessentially Foundation, Elliot had access to wealthy clients. Many shared Shand's passion for conservation. The trip raised more than £1m for Elephant Family, and Elliot was inspired to do something again this year.

This year, for the trip's second edition, 85 guests from all over the world will ride 400km, from Jodhpur to Jaipur, in a caravan of traditional Indian vehicles, raising money for the charity. There will be Royal Enfield bikes, rickshaws, jeeps, Gujarati chagdas. The journey will last a week, from 28th October - 4th November. Participants must pay an entry fee and also achieve a set fundraising target.

Between the proceeds from the ride, and an auction of Shand's memorabilia and photographs, Elliot hopes to raise another million for Elephant Family. Among other things, the proceeds will go towards protecting elephant corridors, of which there are 88 in India, so they can roam and migrate freely between areas.

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