Thursday, 2 August 2012

Elephant No. 305: Mini Pop-Up Book

When I was in the art store looking at fabric markers a couple of days ago, they had kits at the checkout for mini pop-up books. The kit intrigued me, and was only six dollars, so I picked it up for today's elephant.

I've covered the history of pop-up books and the like for a post on pop-up cards for this blog, so I'll just describe today's activity here.

This was the little kit I bought.

And this is what it contained. I wasn't sure I'd use everything in this package, but it's actually quite a good kit. The book is particularly nice. I expected something with glossy pages, but it's nice, thick bristol-board pages with a matte cover as well. The glued perfect-binding leaves a little to be desired, but for six dollars, it's a great value.

The big issue was figuring out what sort of story to write. With only ten pages, it couldn't be a long one. Given the materials, I thought it should also be something lighthearted. So I combed the elephant anecdotes I've already written about, as well as any elephant poems I've written.

Ultimately, I decided on one of the silly elephant limericks I wrote a few months ago. Based on the book and kit materials I had to work with, this is the limerick I chose:

Three elephants entered a farm, 
not meaning to do any harm.  
They got zapped by a fence, 
and took great offence, 
stealing fruit, smashing trees and a barn.

I started by looking at what I had to deal with on each page, and sketched things out. My original intention was to use the markers that came with the set; but I decided that I'd prefer to paint the book with gouache. Rather than show you all the sketches, I'll go through the book page by page as it looked when finished.

The first page, facing the inside front cover, had a pair of arcs for a movable piece. I decided that the only thing it could be used for in my story was a sun moving across the sky. On the inside front cover, I made a sort of publishing data page.

The next page spread was blank, so I started the text here. 

The next page spread was also blank, so I added some more drawing, and one of the foldout pieces to hide a goat.

The next spread had a pop-up shaped like a heart, which I decided to turn into a tree for the elephants to munch on.

The next spread was plain, so I added some more drawing, and another foldout piece, this time hiding a monkey.

The next spread was also blank, but fit the part of the story where the elephants get zapped by an electric fence, so I added the spiral that came with the kit, decorated to look like a bolt of electricity.

The next spread had a bar of stars at the top, so I used that to suggest high dudgeon.

The next spread was plain, so I added a drawing of the elephants eating fruit.

The next spread had a plain page on one side and a page perforated with stars on the other, so I decorated the left hand side with elephants, and the star side as a dark night sky.

For the next spread, since the righthand side would have to accommodate the star cutouts from the previous spread, I traced the star shapes onto the righthand side so that I could avoid painting those areas. I painted the lefthand side with more sky and the final line of the limerick.

The final spread included the back cover, so I used the lefthand side to finish up the illustration with the elephants walking away, and put the word "fin" (French for "the end") on the righthand side. 

To finish up the book, I painted a front and back cover, as well as the spine.

This took me about six hours to produce, partly because I had to wait for things to dry, and partly because this essentially involves producing ten illustrations. The hardest part of the whole exercise was figuring out how to fit a story into the pages. Once I had that figured out, however, the drawing came relatively easily.

I must admit that I love this little book. It's not the type of thing I'd do every day—simply because of the amount of time and brain exercise it requires—but I may actually buy a couple more of these kits to make gifts for Christmas.

Elephant Lore of the Day
As I've written before, electric fencing is frequently used by farmers to deter elephants. Unfortunately, this particular remedy often proves deadly.

In India's southwestern Karnataka province, wild elephants are a frequent danger to farmers and others. The problem is particularly acute in the province's Chamarajanagar district, which has about one million people on about 5,000 square kilometres (1,930 square miles)—most of which is either forest or farms.

For millennia, the region was relatively free of human-elephant conflict. With the rise of farming in the region, however, conflict has become more and more frequent. In the first six months of 2012 alone, 671 complaints were filed, and hundreds of hectares of crops were destroyed. There were also a number of human deaths and injuries due to elephant encounters, as well as an astonishing 41 elephant deaths.

Some of the elephant deaths were due to deliberate killing of rogue elephants by forestry officials. Far more, however, were due to the farmers themselves—and many of these resulted from fatal encounters with electric fencing.

Normal electric fencing is meant to be a deterrent to elephants, giving them a mild zap to scare them off. The recommended voltage is 12 volts, which can actually be run off a large battery. Forestry officials in Chamarajanagar, however, discovered that farmers were actually connecting their electric fencing to the mains, delivering a whopping 11,000 volts to anyone—or anything—coming into contact with it. And 11,000 volts is fatal to elephants.

In a 2012 report to parliament, local Member of Parliament V. Dhurvanarayan, seconded by conservationists and wildlife scientists, recommended digging wide trenches, along with the erection of regulated electric fences running a current of 12 volts. The combination of trenches and fencing would encircle elephant preserves, reducing the likelihood of human-elephant conflict.

Although the trench-and-fence solution would not come cheap, it was considered a bargain when compared to loss of life and crops. In addition to ensuring that trenches are not so narrow or deep that they would injure or trap elephants, district officials were also prepared to check the voltage levels on farmers' fences.

Not that trenches and fences are foolproof when it comes to elephants. Elephants have shown themselves quite capable of breaking down and filling in trenches in both Asia and Africa. They have also proven themselves rather adept at taking out electric fencing by dropping logs on it.

Limiting farm growth, preserving elephant habitat, and setting up barriers such as trenches and fencing may be the only ways to reduce human-elephant conflict in the long run.

Asian elephant pushing down fence in Sri Lanka.
Photo: © Sinclair/WWF

To Support Elephant Welfare
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information
on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Wildlife Trust of India

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