On October 17, 2015 the Memphis Zoo hosted its fourth annual Art for Elephants fundraiser where local artists, including some of the zoo’s animals, sold their artwork to help raise money for the Elephants in Africa organization.
The event featured a presentation by Dr. Kate Evans, the director and founder for Elephants for Africa, as well as a silent auction and some speeches from some of Memphis’ own zookeepers.
Dr. Evan’s presentation went into detail about the ivory trade and the damage it is doing to elephant communities in Africa. She also showed a clip of When Giants Fall a documentary she is featured in about the decline of elephant populations before moving on to the silent auction and meeting with attendees.
Some of the art from the event included unique prints from some of the animals, including a hand print from one of the zoo’s orangutans, a lamp made out of elephant dung and a series of prints made on elephant dung paper by Memphis College of Art senior Josh Strydom, who is originally from Zimbabwe.
Strydom noted that the papermaking process is common in Zimbabwe and a very sustainable, not to mention economic, way of producing art, and when done correctly is actually very sanitary.
“Elephants were a big part of my life back home, and have become a theme in some of my pieces. I grew up with them in my backyard,” said Strydom. “Our zoo has such a good elephant program, and fundraisers like these go a long way in helping these animals in their natural habitat. Seeing them in the wild is like seeing the coliseum in Rome, you just can’t replace them with something else and we have to do what we can to help.”
The MCA senior explained that he had traveled across the world to take part in MCA’s unique photography major that consisted of an equal emphasis on film and digital photography.
He was excited and honored to be a part of a fundraiser that raised over $4,000 last year towards Dr. Evan’s charity.
This year a Memphis Zookeeper was also awarded a grant to help fund and accompany Dr. Evans in Botswana, Africa, where the largest remaining population of elephants live. The funding will go towards a new technique in warding elephants away from the local farmers, which often causes conflicts between people and elephants.
The new campaign consists of arming the farmers with dried chili peppers, which evidently elephants don’t like. The farmers will mark their fences with powder made from the peppers and event burn a mixture of elephant dung and peppers as a deterrent.
With the help of the Memphis Zoo, Dr. Evans and her colleagues were able to buy three tons of dried peppers, which Dr. Evans believes will help a lot of farmers struggling with elephants.