The Secret Life of Elephants

March 30, 200712:00 First Ladies at river crossing drinking.15:00 Mating between Leopold and young female in First Ladies.15:10 Mating between Leopold and another female in First Ladies15:15 Patten, who was at river drinking, hears the cows cries, and arrives with the group. He chases Leopold away, and starts following the female Leopold mated with. 15:30 Patten, trying to mate with M20.99 and fending off Leopold and other bulls in the area who are also following M20.9917:00 Patten attempting to mate with M20.99 who is too young to be mated with.

© Michael Nichols        Two mature bulls weigh up their strength, communing head to head.

Elephants care for their friends and family, feel emotions deeply, and may even be aware of their own mortality.  In Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve, research from Save the Elephants (STE) is revealing new insights into their remarkable hidden world.

The series the Secret Life of Elephants was filmed in high definition, and is about our team in Samburu as they follow the dramatic and emotional stories of 500 plus individually known elephants, and reveals the groundbreaking work of the Save the Elephants research team.

Spanning two wet seasons in Samburu, the show is co-presented by four researchers from Save the Elephants – Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, David Daballan, Onesmas Kahindi, and Saba Douglas-Hamilton, with guest appearances from Kenya Wildlife Service vet, Dr. Stephen Chege.

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© Saba Douglas-Hamilton – Rommel in full musth

The most exciting part is the unexpected reappearance of an infamous bull called Rommel.  The first time the team came across him was in May 2002 when he was in full musth – a heightened state of sexuality and aggression – and in battle against a well known resident male, Abe Lincoln.  When Rommel started to lose the fight he took his frustration out on the nearest “inanimate” object, which happened to be one of the research vehicles.  The researchers inside, George Wittemyer and Daniel Lentipo, were extremely lucky to escape with their lives.

Rommel has an unmistakable tear (a bit like a half Joker’s smile) in his right ear, so he’s easy to recognise.  In all the time he’s been in Samburu the team have only seen him twice, until now.  The reserve seems to be at the far edge of his home range and he visits it occasionally when he’s searching for oestrus females.  Unfortunately, their sole attempt at collaring him in 2004 failed as his neck was too big for even the largest bull collar, so where he roams in between the rare sightings is a mystery.  Yet, despite living in an area that is dangerously hostile to elephants, somehow he survives.  His latest absence of four years convinced the team that he was dead, but they were wrong.  For he’s back – bigger, bolder and badder than ever!

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© Saba Douglas-Hamilton – Breeze and friends       

The main star of the show is much smaller, a delightful newborn baby called Breeze.  She belongs to the Winds family, led by the matriarch Harmattan.  In the film we meet her on her very first day of life, see her take her first shaky steps and follow her story through the most challenging nine months of infancy.  Her older brother Buster is a bit of a mummy’s boy.   Initially he is jealous of Breeze, until his mother teaches him to have better manners.  Then, as he starts to gain some independence, he reveals a real talent for getting into trouble.  Boys will be boys, everywhere!

Showing on Animal Planet

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