03 May 2010

Animal Planet to air ‘Secret Life of Elephants’ documentary on May 16

On May 16 at 8 p.m. Animal Plant will be taking viewers on a journey into the world of more than 900 elephants who call Kenya’s National Samburu Reserve home. From the producers of Life and Planet Earth, Secret Life of Elephants follows a research team from Save the Elephants as they get “closer than ever before to the true nature of elephants.” (see image gallery below)

The show will feature rarely captured footage including male calves who mourn their mother’s death with cries of distress. The cries are answered as nearby elephants visit the fallen mother in a similar fashion to humans attending a funeral.

Animal Planet provides the following teasers for Secret Life of Elephants:
  • Meet Harmattan, the matriarch of the 18-strong Winds family. Harmattan just gave birth to the19th member of the herd, baby Breeze. There's not a moment for pause; Harmattan must keep focused. The welfare of the entire family depends on her decisions, and she knows they 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. This is a situation that calls upon Save the Elephants' involvement - the team of doctors and researchers must 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.
Secret Life of Elephants is a BBC/Animal Planet co-production produced by Nigel Pope (BBC) and Mick Kaczorowski (Animal Planet), narrated by Novella Nelson, with music by Richard Fiocca, and featuring world-renowned elephant conservationist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, his daughter Saba Douglas-Hamilton, and Dr. David Daballen, a leading elephant expert at the reserve.

Image Gallery: Secret Life of Elephants

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Photo Credit: Animal Planet / BBC