A leading Scottish restauranteur and his wife are to travel through one of the world’s most inhospitable regions in a motorised rickshaw to help raise £1m for the endangered Asian elephant.
Garreth Wood, the founder of the Boozy Cow group, and his wife, Nicola, will embark on the epic journey across the Indian desert state of Rajasthan at the end of the month.
Inspired by their late friend, the conservationist, adventurer, and travel writer, Mark Shand, the couple hope to raise money for his Elephant Family charity.
The inaugural Travels To My Elephant initiative, held two years ago, raised £1.3m towards conservation efforts, and organisers hope to break the target this time. The Woods hope to raise £25,000 towards the total.
It represents the latest charitable drive by Mr Wood, whose restaurant group has donated nearly half a million pounds to good causes since it was launched in 2014.
The 39 year-old, who is the son of oil tycoon, Sir Ian Wood, has previously taken part in the Gumball 3000 rally, but described the rickshaw journey through northwest India as his most exciting challenge yet.
He said: “It is going to be a real assault on the senses. I ride motorbikes, but a rickshaw is a very different experience. We’re going to see the elephants first hand and the communities the elephant families impact on.”
The Woods met Mr Shand several years ago at an event in Edinburgh and formed a lasting relationship with Elephant Family. Mr Wood described Mr Shand, the brother of the Duchess of Cornwall, as someone who had “a real charisma and passion for philanthropy and India.”
Mr Shand, who died in 2014 at the age of 62, was travelling through India in 1988 when he came across an emaciated captive female elephant being used by beggars. He bought the animal, who he named Tara, and rode her 750 miles from Konarak on the Bay of Bengal to the Sonepul Mela, the annual elephant trading fair, held where the Ganges and Gandak rivers meet.
His subsequent account of the journey, Travels on My Elephant, was a bestseller and earned Mr Shand the coveted Travel Writer of the Year award. The experience instilled in him a lifelong love of the animals, and led to the formation of the Elephant Family charity.
Mr Wood added: “There are traditional forms of philanthropy and modern approaches, and it’s about raising money and awareness. Why shouldn’t philanthropy be fun?” ”
More than 100 people - drawn largely from the worlds of business, politics, and the aristocracy - are due to take part in the event alongside the Woods. The Woods also hope to raise money in Scotland while they are preparing for their adventure in India.
To coincide with National Curry Week, which begins on Monday, the couple have tasked Hardeep Singh Kohli, the broadcaster, comedian and chef, to create an Indian inspired speciality burger to add to the menu in Boozy Cow eateries.
The dish, called the Vindacoo, combines the flavours of vindaloo pulled pork with crisp pork garam masala crackling.
All profits from sales of the fusion treat will be donated to The Boozy Cow Foundtion,