Raising awareness of Africa’s endangered Elephants with adventure, design and passion.

British adventurer, conservationist and speaker, Holly Budge, is inspiring and educating a global audience about the devastating impacts of the elephant ivory trade.

Few people know that 96 African elephants are poached each day for their ivory. At this astonishing rate they will be extinct in the wild by 2025. Holly has turned this disheartening statistic into a powerful and award-winning campaign entitled ‘How Many Elephants’, which uses design to bridge the gap between scientific data and human connection.  

The ‘How Many Elephants’ Exhibition showcases 35,000 elephant silhouettes in a striking floor to ceiling display, the current annual poaching rate in Africa. Holly has purposely avoided using gruesome images of mutilated elephants to shock, as she believes we have become desensitized to this approach. To actually see and connect with this data visually is highly impactful.

Over a decade ago, Holly discovered a beautiful and robust material called vegetable ivory, which originates from the South American rainforests and she is using its similarity to elephant ivory to raise questions around how we perceive value and luxury. As a designer and maker, she created a showpiece necklace, which has won four awards so far. It is 96 elephants cut in vegetable ivory to show the daily poaching rate. A narrative has been weaved into the piece with one elephant hand cut in brass to represent the poachers bullet shells and one elephant is facing the other way to say that this crisis can still be turned around.

To date, over 1000 school children have visited Holly’s exhibition and taken part in her workshops. Holly feels passionate about working with these young minds, which she refers to as “the actionable change-makers of tomorrow”. 

Each child has coloured in an elephant as part of Holly’s global visual petition where each artwork is replacing a traditional signature. The children then had their own exhibitions at school to keep spreading the message amongst their peers, parents and teachers. Holly is hoping to get thousands of artworks from around the globe uploaded to #howmanyelephants. She is petitioning for rural African communities to see benefit from tourism.

Holly was quite literally on top of the world when she summited Mount Everest last year to raise awareness and funds for anti-poaching projects. To date, she has helped raise over £300k for a diverse range of charities through her adventures and charity work.

Throughout May, Holly immersed herself with the Black Mambas, an all female front line anti-poaching team in South Africa and documented her experiences with these inspiring role models on film. Her aim is to make a feature length documentary as a solo camerawoman. She comments:

"It was a privilege to immerse myself with the Black Mambas to intimately learn what drives and motivates these pioneering women to pursue their multifaceted roles as protectors, educators and beacons of hope. Their work takes them away from their young families for weeks at a time, challenging the traditional status quo. I was invited into their homes to meet their families and gain intimate insight into how their jobs empower not only themselves but also their families, their communities and beyond. Armed only with pepper spray and handcuffs, these women patrol hunting grounds of armed poachers who pose an imminent threat to the elephant species. They also strive to change attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond. I have raised £5000 so far for the Black Mambas which has bought them a new patrol vehicle.”

As a double world record holding adventurer, Holly is the first woman to skydive Everest and race semi-wild horses 1000 kms across Mongolia in just nine days. She is in a prime position to share her experiences and encourage others to pursue their own journeys with purpose and show that with self-belief, determination and resilience, even the biggest of challenges can be overcome.

Holly is an energetic and engaging motivational speaker who talks passionately about her diverse achievements in the outdoors. Her message is simple: Think Big. Dream Bigger. Her next adventure is walking the Great Wall of China in its entirety of 3000 miles to carry out research in rural communities and cityscapes to find out how elephant ivory fits into their culture and in their deep-rooted traditions and beliefs. She is looking for sponsors to come on-board.

Source: How Many Elephants