John and Viv Burton, founders of World Land Trust (WLT), were honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award for their contribution to Asian Elephant conservation by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change at the Gaj Mahotsav Elephant Festival in Delhi, India on World Elephant Day.
John Burton, World Land Trust’s Founder CEO spoke highly of the work carried out by WLT’s partner, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), to protect India’s elephants and said, “We were surprised and honoured to receive this award and it was wonderful to be at the Gaj Mahotsav festival and to meet some of India’s top conservationists and politicians. WTI have worked tirelessly for 20 years to protect India’s wildlife, with the elephant as its flagship and, in a country of 1.3 billion people what they have achieved to create safe passage for elephants through this landscape populated by humans is remarkable.
“We congratulate WTI on the organisation of this wonderful four-day festival that, as well as putting elephant conservation firmly at the forefront also included magnificent performing arts and a fantastic exhibition of 101 half-size elephants made by artists from across India bringing attention to the need to create 101 protected forest corridors for elephants throughout the country. While there is still a much more to be done we came away feeling optimistic about the future for elephants and the goodwill that was generated at the festival.”
The festival was organised by Wildlife Trust of India and partner International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
WTI has been a conservation partner of WLT since 2003. This partnership has led to the establishment and extension of several elephant corridors across India, as well as the ongoing protection and management of India’s threatened habitat and working with local communities to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
WTI’s Brand Ambassador, acclaimed Indian actress and producer Dia Mirza was in attendance throughout the festival and joined WTI CEO Vivek Menon in presenting the Burtons with their award. Vivek spoke about their commitment to conservation. “John and Viv Burton were honoured with the Global Conservation Award at the Gaj Mahotsav of Elephant Festival to honour their lifetime of conservation achievement that impacted amongst thousands of other species, elephants. We at the Wildlife Trust of India celebrate the passion, dedication and focus that both John and Viv have displayed over a remarkable innings in conservation and hope that they will continue guiding younger conservationists and their partner organisations for many more years to come.”
WTI has identified over 100 elephant corridors across the whole of India and these are prioritised according to their conservation importance and feasibility of protecting them. Since 2003, WLT has supported the protection of four important corridors, most recently the Mudahalli corridor which was the focus of WLT’s Elephant Corridor Appeal in 2016.