Three spirited conservationists and friends under the group name El Banditos– Waris Ahluwalia, Joshua Jackson, and documentarian and Chairman of Elephant Family USA Adam Haggiag–will take on an audacious 300-mile race on Gujarati motorbikes across Rajastan to raise vital awareness and funds to protect the Asian elephant from extinction.
Beginning in Jodphur, India on October 30th, the team will ride with roughly thirty-four other teams of charitable adventure-seekers over five days to Jaipur–through sweltering deserts, salt flats, and beaches.
Poaching and wildlife crime still exists as a considerable dilemma, especially in Asia, as competition for the same living space and food has reached an intimidating apex, forming a sweeping crisis to Asian elephants and to the communities that live alongside them.
Ahluwalia, who has been a patron for the Elephant Family endowment for over a decade, says:
“Our task is simple—to protect the largest land mammal, whose numbers have dropped 90% in the last 100 years. That’s a hard statistic for me to accept, even if I live thousands of miles away.”
It won’t be the first race for Waris or Haggiag: In 2015, they rode on tuk-tuk’s across rural Madhya Pradesh, where they engaged with vibrant, bustling communities, local vehicles, and the camels, goats, and other animals in their course.
It’s important for them to adapt to the flow of local roads—it’s part of their challenge to spread awareness of their cause locally. Haggiag, who has been friends with Waris for 15 years, adds, “The beauty of riding across India is the way you interact with the country.
At the end of the day, this isn’t really a race. Everybody stops and enjoys the surprises along the road. The best part of the 2015 journey was the reaction we received from kids as drove through town, and when we stopped to chat and have tea with the locals.” Actor Joshua Jackson, who joins El Banditos for his first trip through India, adds:
“I have tried to do my part to highlight how intertwined the future of our own species is with the health of the environments that we live in. I know that these issues can often feel overwhelming. But the process of conservation can also be something joyful.”
In memory of the late writer, environmentalist, and co-founder of the charity Elephant Family, Mark Shand, the “Travels to my Elephant” race first began in 2015 to gather supporters for conversation projects across Asia to preserve the alarmingly endangered species. This is achieved by restoring their forest habitat, supporting anti-poaching laws, and preventing conflicts between humans and elephants.