The following article, written by The Duchess of Cornwall, appeared in The Times on 11 September 2014, the day of the memorial service for her brother, Mark Shand:
On a glorious early Spring day in Scotland where red squirrels scampered over the lawn, breakfasting on a conveniently placed bucket of nuts, and birds of all sizes sang away in their morning chorus, peace reigned and all seemed well until the shrill ring of the telephone broke the magic. An anguished voice on the other end told me that something terrible had happened to my brother; my indestructible brother, Mark. Surely nothing could have happened to him? He was in New York raising money for his beloved elephants, but an unfamiliar pavement had claimed his all-too-short life following a hugely successful auction for "The Elephant Family", a charity he co-founded in 2002. My charismatic and sometimes infuriating brother, who had survived tsunamis, shipwrecks, poisoned arrows and even the fearsome Komodo dragons, was no longer with us.
We were lucky children; we spent an idyllic childhood living in Sussex under the South Downs. It was happily before the advent of political correctness and health and safety, to neither of which Mark in his later life ever conformed. He metamorphosised from rather a bad-tempered, fat child into a golden boy, blessed with good looks, charm and a "devil may care" attitude to life. If a problem arose with an irate bank manager (finance not being his forte!) or a difficult romance, he packed his bags and set off, usually with his friend Don McCullen on another "boys own" adventure; much to the chagrin of my parents.
But in 1988, on a visit to India, something happened that was to change his life. Mark arrived in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa in Eastern India, and rescued a beautiful female elephant from a life of begging and misery. Her name was Tara. They embarked on a thousand mile journey across the North of India (which he recalls in his best-selling book, "Travels on my Elephant") and by its finale he was in love. This was the start of his life-long passion for India and his quest for the survival of the Indian Elephant...
Mark's ultimate goal was to secure elephant corridors in India and Thailand, where people and wildlife are fighting for the same space. The reality of living in a basic home, close to the world's largest wild and starving species, poses a daily threat to people and their livelihoods. Mark discovered a solution that would work for both; the project would build safe new homes and secure agricultural land for the families living there. In 2011 he secured the Kerala corridor.
Last year, when we were visiting India, he took my husband to see it. In monsoon-like conditions and, much to Mark's fury, in the absence of any elephants at all (for every living creature, except for two cows, had been frightened off by the hoards of police) my husband was at last able to meet some of the people who had helped with, and benefitted from, Mark's extraordinary legacy; a legacy which as co-Presidents of the Elephant Family, my husband and I will strive to fulfill. They say that elephants never forget; Tara never forgot him and neither will we...
Elephant Family was co-founded by Mark Shand in 2002 and has invested over £6m into Asian elephant conservation. Their mission is to save this endangered, iconic species of global importance from extinction before it is too late. We have an estimated thirty years. www.elephantfamily.org