In the face of a dwindling African elephant population, activists and many people around the world called for action to save the elephants on World Elephant Day, which took place on August 12th. If you were walking along East 17th street in Union Square recently, you would have noticed that New York City also did its part to speak out. On August 11th, it became the site of a life-size ice sculpture of an African elephant in Union Square North for the whole day. While the statue has since melted in the summer heat, check out pictures and learn a little more about the sculpture’s message.
The sculpture, called “The Disappearing Elephant,” was put up to draw public attention to the issue of the dwindling African elephant population, and was part of the “Don’t Let Them Disappear” campaign by the South African cream liqueur company “Amarula Trust” and conservation Kenyan NGO WildlifeDirect. With only about 400,000 African elephants left in the world and another elephant dying at the hands of poachers every 15 minutes, it’s more crucial than ever for the public to pay attention and take action.
Understanding the urgency of the issue, Amarula partnered with second-generation ice sculptor Shintaro Okamoto, who has notably made ice sculptures for Zac Posen and Barneys New York. Sculpting it on-site for about four hours, Okamoto used 85 blocks of ice, with the final sculpture weighing about 18,000 pounds at 10 feet tall.
Amarula has a deep-rooted relationship with elephants; every year, elephants travel to the African plains to eat from the Marula tree’s fruit used to cream liqueur. It is in fact the arrival of the elephants that signifies that the fruit is ready for harvest.
The ice sculpture made a giant statement that day about the important role of the African elephant, and although it’s now gone, its message and call to action stays strong. Hopefully, New Yorkers who passed by the statue will recall their moral responsibility to do something about the plight of elephants. From speaking out against the ivory trade to donating to anti-poaching efforts, there are many ways New Yorkers can keep the message of “The Disappearing Elephant” sculpture strong.