Our vision is to create sustainable communities through caring for and protecting endangered Asian elephants.
During the production of Gods in Shackles documentary in 2016 we realized that there’s so much work that needs to be done to protect the endangered Asian elephants. No doubt, the film has been a phenomenal educational tool to enlighten people. But we felt that simply creating awareness is not good enough, and that there is a significant communications gap between the government agencies that actually need to be working together.
Furthermore, we realized that after the awareness had been created we need to actually rescue these animals. And so evolved Voices for Asian Elephants (VFAE), empowered with an ambitious mission, to not simply create awareness, but also better living conditions for elephants, while at the same time create sustainable human communities and provide alternate employment by engaging those in the elephant entertainment industry.
VFAE is the brainchild of Sangita Iyer. She recounts, as a three-year-old girl her grandparents used to take her to a temple in Palakkad, Kerala, where she met a majestic bull elephant. She remembers vividly how her grandparents and handlers felt comfortable enough to leave her unattended with the bull.
When Sangita became a teenager her grandmother told her that she was a curious child with rare questions. One of them pertained to why there were shackles on the bull elephant’s legs and not hers. So her grandma bought a pair of anklets, explaining to Sangita that she could also wear shackles
But she had more questions - why were the elephant’s shackles hooked together and not hers. Her grandma was left utterly speechless! Sangita is eternally grateful for her grandparents who fostered the special bond with elephants.
Iyer says, “Elephants are my soul animals and any pain or suffering inflicted upon them deeply hurts me as though I am being personally tortured physically, emotionally and spiritually. It seems my fate was carved out at three years of age. Decades later, here I am, trying to unshackle the shackles that confine these majestic animals.”
Our Humble Beginnings
In June 2013 when Sangita visited India for her father’s first death anniversary she made a spontaneous visit to the forests of Wyanad. It transformed her life forever, guiding her to her ultimate mission: to save Asian elephants.
Voices for Asian Elephants is a culmination of Iyer’s lifelong work. She started out as a biologist and realized the interdependence of so many organisms in the intricate web of life. She yearned to share her knowledge with the masses so people will revere the laws of nature and become empowered to protect our magical natural world. With a bachelor’s degree in Biology, she pursued studies in broadcast journalism and a Master’s degree in environmental education communication. Her academic background, exceptional communication and production skills have equipped her with knowledge and tools to influence changes.
Thus, VFAE is an intersection between science and storytelling – a unique way of communicating scientific information in a manner that would resonate with people, and inspire them to end elephant slavery. By helping people understand that saving elephants would really mean saving all of the species in the forest ecosystems, people will realize the significant role that elephants play in weaving together the web of life.