Animal Planet is providing a portal into the Secret Life of Elephants a special debuting on May 16, 2010. The show allows viewers to experience the world through the eyes of majestic elephants. Join Animal Planet in a two-hour journey through the lives of more than 900 elephants that roam Kenya’s National Samburu Reserve. With the help of Iain Douglas-Hamilton and Saba Douglas-Hamilton, this picturesque documentary explores the secret beguiling world of elephants as never seen before
Elephants are seen as mammoth beasts because they are prehistoric looking animals with incredibly large features that distinguish them from any other animal known. Elephants are majestic in their demeanor; they seeming to rule the African landscape, living and traveling within large herds.
To the unknowing eye, this ancient beast will live forever on Earth. Many people still do not realize that the African elephant is a highly threatened species. Sure, their sheer size seems to intimidate all who share their land; however, this behemoth’s existence is being threatened at an alarming rate…by both man and nature.
From the producers of LIFE and PLANET EARTH, SECRET LIFE OF ELEPHANTS, is shot in glorious high definition, providing an intimate window into what it’s really like to be an elephant by focusing on several dozen of these creatures. Stripping away their incredible size and their unique appearance, elephants are surprisingly like humans. Elephants exhibit distinct emotions, from sadness to anger and from jealousy to concern for their loved ones. They live in family groupings – herds – and make difficult decisions that affect all the members of the family. They seem to want nothing more than to survive and keep their loved ones close.
Meet the Elephants
Meet Harmattan, the matriarch of the 18-strong Winds family. Harmattan just gave birth to the19th member of the herd, baby Breeze. Even though she has just given birth, Harmattan must keep focused. The welfare of the entire family depends on her decisions. Harmattan knows the herd must cross the river for the water and vegetation that lay on the other side. There’s no time to coach baby Breeze through her first steps. It’s sink or swim – quite literally – as the newborn hobbles her first steps. She’s so small and pitiable that no one really notices when she wanders off while the others are drinking. This is just the kind of slip up that predators anticipate; luckily, Breeze’s mother realizes this mistake before it’s too late.
Then there’s Buster, Breeze’s older brother. He feels compromised by Breeze’s arrival, and he’ll do anything to keep his mother’s attention, even setting up physical roadblocks to stand between Harmattan from nursing Breeze. The jealousy he feels is palpable but similar to human familial relationships; the bond between older brother and younger sister eventually develops, and soon little Breeze depends on her big brother for protection.
Elsewhere, members of the Artists Herd, Chagall and her young calf Miro separate from the rest of the family as the mother slows her speed to accommodate her limping child. Miro suffers greatly from her injury as it impedes her physical and mental development. The situation warrants intervention from Save the Elephants,’ whose team of doctors and researchers quickly separate mother from child, assuring the mother she’s in no danger while sedating the daughter to fix her fractured limb. What occurs afterward is both touching and heart wrenching as mom and child struggle to reunite.
Some elephants face a different kind of danger – poaching – and when Mungu – the elephant with the largest-known tusks – turns up dead, the researchers believe that poaching was the cause. As the human population increases along with farming, the elephants’ migration paths are wandering into threatening territory, and it’s up to Save the Elephants to come up with brilliant ways to keep the peace.
With all things in life, there’s a season for everything, including birth, mating, violence, maturation, aging, injury and death. As the pendulum swings to one end, bringing about the birth of Breeze, it swings back in the opposite direction, and death claims a mother elephant, leaving her male calves confused and orphaned. Rarely captured on film, these young bulls see their lifeless mother and gently nudge her with the most sensitive part of their foot. Nearby elephants hear their cries of anguish, and one by one in large numbers, they visit the fallen matriarch. Similar to how people approach funerals, the elephants “pay their respects” touch the matriarch and impart a message of farewell.
SECRET LIFE OF ELEPHANTS shows that every elephant is important for the future. With the use of pioneering technology and steadfast dedication to the survival of elephants, Save the Elephants and Animal Planet give viewers a strong understanding of how elephants perceive their world, how they think and how they make decisions…surprisingly a lot like us.
SECRET LIFE OF ELEPHANTS is a BBC/Animal Planet co-production. Series producer for the BBC is Nigel Pope. Mick Kaczorowski is executive producer for Animal Planet. The special is narrated by Novella Nelson and music is composed by Richard Fiocca, whose most recent credits include Discovery Channel’s LIFE. Charlie Foley and Marc Etkind are vice presidents of development.
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