(Julie Larsen Maher/WCS)
(Julie Larsen Maher/WCS)
(Julie Larsen Maher/WCS)
(Julie Larsen Maher/WCS)
(Julie Larsen Maher/WCS)

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World’s Largest Herd of Origami Elephants Takes Over the Bronx Zoo

People around the world folded the paper pachyderms to raise awareness of the elephants’ plight

smithsonian.com

This week, a massive herd of elephants took over the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Luckily for the zookeepers, however, they're made out of paper. Clocking in at 78,564 beasts, the collection was just officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest display of origami elephants and stands as a part of a larger campaign to raise awareness about the fight against elephant poaching.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which runs the Bronx Zoo, put out a call to amass the largest collection of origami elephants in one place. And the world’s paper-folders responded, sending in 204,481 ​paper elephants from all 50 states and 40 countries. Though the final display only contains 78,564 of the paper beasts, the number nearly doubles the previous record set by the United Kingdom’s Zoological Society of London/Whipsnade Zoo, Tia Ghose writes for LiveScience.

“WCS’s Bronx Zoo received these gems of folded paper from all over the world and assembled them into this gorgeous display as a simple gesture that sends a powerful message to the world that we are standing together to save these majestic animals,” John Calvelli, the WCS executive vice president for public affairs, says in a statement.

The display may be colorful, but the problem it highlights is far more somber. The idea to break the Guinness World Record was sparked by the WCS’ 96 Elephants campaign, which is named for the number of elephants killed every day for their ivory tusks by poachers, CBS New York reports. That’s about 35,000 each year.

“The United States has one of the largest illegal ivory markets in the world,” Calvelli, who directs the 96 Elephants campaign, tells Lisa Colangelo at the New York Daily News. “The problem is right here in New York.”

Unfortunately, due to the size of the collection the entire display won’t be open to the public, Ghose reports. Even so, many of the origami pieces will be on display through December as part of the Bronx Zoo’s holiday celebrations, including a piece by the artist behind the American Museum of Natural History’s origami holiday tree. Hopefully, these paper pachyderms will help inspire people to lend a hand to the living creatures.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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