Mark Shand.

Travel writer, conservationist and brother of the Duchess of Cornwall

Born: June 28, 1951;

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Died: April 23, 2014

Mark Shand, who has died aged 62, was a conservationist, travel writer and the brother of the Duchess of Cornwall who will be remembered mostly for his dedication to protecting the endangered Asian elephant. He was the chairman of the conservation charity Elephant Family which sought to prevent the extinction of the species in the wild.

He first discovered his love of the animals in 1988 when he encountered a female elephant called Tara on the streets of Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa in India. It was the start of an extraordinary 600-mile adventure in which he rode Tara across India; the journey later led to his best-selling book Travels On My Elephant and was typical of Shand's adventurous, rebellious spirit.

He was born in 1951, the son of Major Bruce Shand and his wife, the Honourable Rosalind Cubitt and had two sisters, Camilla, later the Duchess of Cornwall, and Annabel Elliot. He attended Milton Abbey School in Dorset but was expelled when he was 14 for smoking cannabis and was sent to Australia by his father to learn some life lessons. On the way, he stopped off for an extended stay in India where he was given his first taste of the country he would fall in love with.

As a young adult, he travelled the world, buying and selling antiques and decided he wanted to keep travelling. When his daughter celebrated her birthday in 2012, he reminisced about "how he had spent his own 18th birthday - locked in a prison cell in Tibet after committing some hair-raising offence".

Among his other adventures while a young man was a spell as a rally driver and a bobsleigh competitor. He also spent a time as a jackaroo in Australia, worked at Sotheby's and completed the London-Sydney motor-race. "Okay, so I haven't really made any money," he once said, "but at least I know I've lived."

It was his rescue of Tara the elephant that brought him to public prominence and started a lifetime's commitment to saving the species with the foundation of the conservation charity Elephant Family. The actress Joanna Lumley once said she believed that Mr Shand might have the blood of wild animals in his veins. "His awareness of their character and habits is preternatural," she said.

Shand wrote numerous books on his beloved elephants and featured in documentaries. His book Queen Of The Elephants won the 1996 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Prix Litteraire d'Amis, and was made into a BBC documentary. He also wrote Skulduggery which told of his travels in Indonesia where he encountered cannibals, crocodiles and much more. "We nearly got killed many times," he recalled.

He also had a reputation as a charmer and was associated with the likes of Marie Helvin, Bianca Jagger, Jackie Onassis's sister Lee Radziwill and Jackie's daughter, Caroline Kennedy. He eventually settled down though and was married for 19 years to Jemima Khan's cousin Clio Goldsmith, a French-born former actress, with whom he had a daughter Ayesha. They split up in 2009.

More recently, he had been linked to the Italian socialite Nancy Dell'Olio. Denying the reports, he said: "I am more likely to have an affair with a ripe pomegranate. And I am very fond of pomegranates."

Just before his death, Shand had been in New York attending an auction at Sotheby's in aid of Elephant Family and a charity for underprivileged children. The auction was the finale of the month-long Big Egg Hunt NYC by Faberge, which saw egg sculptures sold to the highest bidder, which had rasied £950,000.

Shand was chairman of Elephant Family right up until his death and was directly involved in its work and events. A spokesman for the charity said he was a true force for conservation.

Dan Bucknell, head of conservation and campaigns, said Shand had infectious enthusiasm for his work for Asian elephants. "He did so much for the charity," he said. "He was a very fun-loving, warm-hearted generous guy, who was always very hands-on with all the events we did and we are going to miss him very sorely."

Shand is survived by his ex-wife Clio and daughter Ayesha.