A Virtual Weekend Festival Raising Voices for Asian Elephants

Colin & Cecilia Hay (a virtual concert - Elepalooza)

2020 will go down the history books as the "home-stay" year - a year that people experienced isolation and emotional upheavel. On the bright side though, it gave us the opportunity to reflect on our priorities, reach out to people virtually accross the globe, strengthen relationships, and organize events focused on improving the world for all sentient beings - humans, animals, and the planet, as a whole.

One such virtual event was Voice for Asian Elephant Society's virtual weekend festival for The Forgotten Elephants of Odisha. This 2-day event brought together activists, artists, and prominent leaders for change, lending their voices for the elephants of Odisha, India.

Day 1, Saturday November 7th, was co-hosted by animal activist/actor, Dan Richardson,

and activist/writer/producer/model, Katie Cleary. The day featured Sangita Iyer’s multiple award-winning, U.N. nominated feature documentary, “Gods in Shackles.

The virtual screening was followed by a lively and informative discussion with a panel of experts, including Sangita Iyer, who, in addition to producing and directing “Gods in Shackles,” is also the founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society (VFAES); a National Geographic Explorer; a broadcast journalist and biologist. Joining her were wildlife crime specialist, Dr. Biswajit Mohanty; Belinda Wright, Founder, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI); renowned British actress, model and activist, Rula Lenska and journalist and animal rights activist, Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Adding to this exciting and enlightening day was an exclusive screening of “Treacherous Crossings,” a short film, part of the 26-part National Geographic funded documentary series, ‘Asian Elephants 101’, produced and directed by Iyer. This short ground-breaking film exposes the life-threatening challenges that Odisha elephants face, as they're losing their habitats to reckless development.

And if all of that weren’t enough, the VIP Guest of Honor was none other than the world renowned primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall (DBE, Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute)! Aside from discussing her own personal bond with elephants, Dr. Goodall also shared her profound insights on how we can use the lessons learned from the pandemic to move forward in a more mindful way, inclusive of the environment and all beings on the planet.

Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute

Day 2, Sunday November 8th, was Elepalooza, a virtual concert hosted by poet/ animal activist, Sean Hill, who balanced his whimsical energy with Sangita Iyer’s expertise, as they discussed the importance of saving endangered Asian elephants – particularly in India, where the 60% of the world’s wild Asian elephants precariously co-exist in one of the most densely human-populated countries.

Written, produced and directed by Maureen Mahon, Elepalooza featured musical performances by Grammy-winning artists, Colin Hay , Lisa Loeb , Tia Carrere , as well as Cecilia Noel , Victoria Summer , Libby Lavella , Steve Wood and Beth Fitchet Wood , Donald Quan and eaoh Argos , Dyna Shirasaki and Carlos Villalobos , CUSH,, Muddy Elephant, Lila Rose (f/k/a Aniiml), Holly Henderson, Wendell “Shine” Hayward, WonderBOOM and BlVd HVnny.

Interspersed between musical performances were informative clips about the importance of elephants to the Earth’s ecosystem by notable personalities including:

Lori Alan , who explained how elephants are the gardeners of the earth, Fia Perera emphasized that elephants are keystone species and that all of our survival relies on the survival of elephants, Mark Thompson discussed how elephants help mitigate climate change, Kelly King compared taking a baby elephant from its mother to kidnapping one of our own babies and subjecting it to a life of slavery, and Nick Jaine