Meet Bandoola, an Asian timber elephant the British Army enlisted in WWII. Purchased as a calf, the lumbering creature was shipped to a teak plantation where he was forced to drag and push logs across the landscape to construct bridges and other structures. Bandoola’s life, while fictionalized by London-based illustrator and author William Grill in his forthcoming children’s book, is based on the true story of Elephant Bill, a soldier who worked with the animals in forestry camps during the war.
In Grill’s illustrated retelling published by Flying Eye Books, Bandoola encounters veteran James Howard Williams, and the two forge an unusual friendship when they’re tasked with leading refugees and 70 elephants from Burma to India. The tale explores themes of animal cruelty and care and conservation, using textured drawings in pastel tones as a soothing complement to the story’s otherwise harsh realities. In a conversation with It’s Nice That, Grill explains that he achieved softer lines by tilting his pencil on its side, and similar to a lithograph, he drew individually colored layers for each scene before putting them together. “My drawing style is somewhat naive and simple. I try to tread a line between observation and impressionism,” he says. “I would say my visual language is observational but has some underlying character and emotion to it. Hopefully, it comes across as warm and not cold.”
Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue is available for pre-order on Bookshop, where you can also find Grill’s previous books The Wolves of Currumpaw and Earth Verse with similarly colorful drawings and nature-based themes. Head to the illustrator’s Instagram for behind-the-scenes looks at his process.
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Wander into a playground in Taiwan, and you might stumble upon an elephant in the midst of basketball courts and swingsets. Vintage slides shaped like the lumbering animal were once popular in the country, and although the equipment is generally out of use because it doesn’t match current regulations, the eclectic designs remain a fixture in both abandoned and thriving playgrounds. Photographer Pi Cheng Hsiu documents these quirky creations by the hundreds—in addition to similarly shaped animals like seahorses and giraffes—and you can find a vast array of colors and styles on Instagram. You also might enjoy these elephants squeezed into tight spots. (via Present & Correct)
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Sixty migrating elephants pass between Piccadilly and Buckingham Palace in London’s Green Park in one of nine herds roaming throughout the city. The lumbering creatures are part of an ongoing collaboration between two nonprofits, CoExistence and Elephant Family, that explores how humans can better live alongside animals and the larger ecosystem through imaginative public art projects.
As its name suggests, CoExistence’s aim is to identify mutually beneficial modes of living considering that within the last century, the balance between world population and wilderness has shifted considerably: in 1937, 66 percent of global environments were intact with 2.3 billion people on Earth. Today, those numbers have undergone a dramatic change, with a world population of 7.8 billion and only 35 percent of wilderness remaining.
The organization’s most recent effort brings the gargantuan animals to urban spaces throughout London that are typically closed off to wildlife. The herds can be spotted in St. James’s Park, Berkeley Square, and even the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s homes at Highgrove. In addition to generating awareness of environmental crises, the installations raise funds to support grassroots organizations throughout India that promote Indigenous culture and establish technology and infrastructure that allows humans and animals to live symbiotically.
CoExistence plans to install approximately 500 animals around the world in the next few years, and with the help of The Real Elephant Collective, each nation will receive a herd designed specifically for the location. The collective partners with Indigenous communities from the Tamil Nadu jungle in southern India, who live alongside the real-life animals, to create the sculptural iterations that stand up to 15 feet tall and weigh nearly 800 pounds. Each creature is constructed from long strips of lantana camara, an invasive weed that spreads in dense thickets and disturbs the environment—the video below documents the process—and by removing the plant, the artists help to reinstate the natural ecosystem.
Thirty-seven endangered and extinct birds will join the herd in Green Park on July 6. Using steel, clay, and bronze, seven artists created the flock, which includes a three-meter-tall curlew by Simon Gudgeon that’s as large as some of the elephants. The avian additions are the product of a collaboration with WildEast, a group focused on restoring biodiversity in the U.K. and finding new methods of sustainable farming, and will be sold to raise money for conservation efforts.
To support CoExistence’s efforts, you can donate or commission one of the elephants, and there are smaller goods and prints available in its shop. Follow the herds’ movements on the nonprofit’s Instagram, and see more on Elephant Family’s account.
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For decades, Falko One (previously) has been transforming blank staircases and piles of refuse around South Africa into homes for his technicolor elephants. Despite their striking hues, each mural is site-specific, allowing it to blend in with the facades and surrounding environments. The artist might position the trunk along a ventilation duct or the torso atop cinder blocks and crates, creating an optical illusion within his vivid murals. “My approach is just to add a bit of color to the space without breaking the scenery,” he tells Colossal. “I try not to make them too intrusive. I always respect that for that moment I am just a tourist to that specific community.”
Generally, the artist finds viewers are drawn in by the colors before considering the ways the elephant bends and conforms to the structured space. “The value for me is listening to the debate about it. At that moment, there are no wrong or right answers. What better way to get people to discuss something without telling them to discuss it. It’s not a formal discussion on the street but playful, honest banter. I like that the most,” he notes.
Often sharing his latest murals on Instagram, the artist’s motivation for painting the massive pachyderms is simple and about accessibility. “Everyone loves an elephant,” he says. To travel around Africa with Falko One, check out this documentary (NSFW) by Red Bull Media House about his work.
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Working with the iconic image of the elephant, South African artist Falko One brings lumbering pachyderms to the facades of homes, alleyways, and businesses across the country. The Cape Town-based graffiti artist has been painting murals in the region since 1988, and though he depicts a wide range of subject matter in his artworks, the elephants seem to most easily capture the imagination of the viewer. Many of his site-specific murals incorporate elements of the building or even items far off in the background directly into the painting, creating fun optical illusions. You can follow more of his work on Instagram and on Global Street Art.
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When trying to protect farms in east Africa from elephants, it would seem that nothing short of a giant reinforced fence or a chasmic ditch could safely keep the largest land animals on Earth away without causing harm. Unfortunately, building such barriers around every field is impractical, and the interactions of people protecting their crops frequently leads to accidents or even death of both farmers and elephants. But zoologist Lucy King had a much smaller idea: bees.
It turns out elephants are terrified of bees because when the insects sting the inside of their trunks the pain is excruciating and there’s little they can do about it. The sound of buzzing alone is enough to make elephants leave an area immediately. King wondered what might happen if a string of suspended beehives at every 10 meters around a field might be enough to keep elephants away. A pilot program in 2009 proved widely successful and soon The Elephant and Bees Project was born.
There are now active beehive fences in Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Sri Lanka. Not only do the fences help pollinate crops and safely deter elephants, they also become an additional revenue stream for farmers who harvest honey and sell it locally, a fascinating example of interspecies landscape engineering.
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