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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Karen's Thesis on Elephants - December 2009

Animal Planet presents “Elephants” DVD includes 2 incredible documentaries.

The first, “Africa’s Elephant Kingdom” was watched by my whole family – mom, dad, and 3 daughters – ages 14, 9 and 4. This is the story of a close-knit family of forty African elephants led by their “matriarch” as they confront everyday life raising their young, looking for sustenance and staying away from predators.

This is the family of “Old Bull” – the first majestic elephant we see in the documentary – and the narrator speaks in the first person as if he is Old Bull.


The matriarch, “Torn Ear” is the cousin of Old Bull and is the ultimate guide and protector of her family that includes daughters, sons, sisters and grandchildren. Torn Ear is responsible for remembering where the family needs to go to thrive. As Old Bull says, “Without her, the family would be lost.”


Amidst all of the kid-pleasing footage of wrestling baby elephants, there are compelling stories of lone bull elephants looking to mate and the family’s need to travel great distances across dry desert terrain looking for food and water. The character of the elephant comes shining through as we witness how loyal and gentle they are to each other.

The camera angles draw you into both the breathtaking scenery and the intimacy that is an elephant family’s inner circle.


I would recommend this 38-minute program for any age. There are a couple images of elephants that succumbed to the brutal drought, but they are coupled with amazing footage of unrelated elephants comforting the grieving. All in all, I think any family would enjoy this unusal look into these remarkable wild animals.

The second documentary “Queen of the Elephants” gives an eye-opening account of the plight of the Asian elephant as the population of mankind continues to explode in India and neighboring countries.

Writer and narrator Mark Shand takes the viewer along on a unique journey where he is invited to share the world of Parbarti Barua, an Indian woman who was raised among elephants, learning to love and respect them from her elephant trainer father. She owns two elephants and uses them to help educate her fellow countrymen on how to exist in peace with elephants, both domesticated and wild.

This documentary is long (approximately 2 ½ hours) and will probably not hold the interest of younger family members, but I found in very captivating. Parbarti was a little difficult to understand, but her dedication to the elephants of Asia is unmistakable. Raising, training, maintaining and loving two grown elephants takes all the hours of each and every day. She guides Mr. Shand (and in turn us, her rapt viewers) through the intricacies and details of every day life with elephants. Once he is able to gain the trust of Parbati, her fellow mahouts (elephant handlers), and most importantly the elephants themselves, he is invited to ride the elephants along the old wild elephant trails on one of Parbarti’s educational missions.They encounter the reality of the wild elephant’s struggle to survive at almost every stop along the way.

As mankind continually encroaches on elephant habitat, the inevitable occurs. The very animal that was revered as almost deity for centuries and was the animal of choice to carry royalty was now reviled and feared. In their search for food, wild elephant herds have destroyed farms and homes and in some cases have killed villagers.


Parbarti’s vision is to constantly try to do what most times seems impossible - bring the two worlds together in peace – to try to achieve understanding of the inherently peaceful nature of elephants and their unique familial loyalty, something that should appeal to villagers.

I enjoyed this program and the revelations it constantly unfurled about these majestic mammals and the urgent need to find balance between conservation and the ever-increasing demands of mankind. I would recommend this for teenagers and above – the story would be difficult for younger children to follow.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Karen! It sounds captivating. :)

    ReplyDelete
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