Hey baby, time to stop the trumpeting
The Elephant Diaries 8pm, ABC
AFTER six weeks of thick- skinned beasts bellowing and blundering across the plains of politics this may seem a bad time to broadcast anything about elephants. But these ones are far more appealing than the political variety that are still stampeding across our screens.
In fact, the cast of Elephant Diaries , human and beast, behave in ways that encourage optimism, something rarely accomplished by rampaging political pachyderms.
This series describes the work of the Kenya- based David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust with ( at the risk of giving everything away) elephants. But it is not the standard day- in- thelife documentary, with anthropomorphised animals acting out a drama of the way we think they should behave.
Rather, Elephant Diaries is about the way elephants are, which is not always nice. The Sheldrick Trust saves baby elephants variously orphaned or abandoned. Over the year the series covers, presenter Michaela Strachan focuses on infants in the nursery while co- host Jonathan Scott observes older elephants learning to live a natural life in a national park.
The first episode consists of stories about the two stages of the trust’s work. Strachan accompanies keepers who rescue a motherless baby spurned by another herd. Scott wins the trust of the teenage leader of the older orphans adjusting to the bush.
Inevitably both outcomes are contrived: there would be no point in focusing on a baby that dies and if the leader of the older elephants had rejected Scott the series would have ended in 30 minutes.
But even though there is a fair sense from the start that the baby will make it and that the young matriarch of the herd will accept Scott, the episode is worth watching. For a start it explains the way elephants behave with each other in the wild and the sorts of risks they face.
It also shows them playing with each other and their keepers, which is engaging and entertaining. The sight of elephants gleefully mucking about in a muddy waterhole is a joy. And there is some footage of the Kenyan bush that gives a sense of just what magnificent country it is.
But what makes this specially appealing television is the behaviour of its cast, human and elephant alike. The core of this series is the problems elephants orphaned at any stage from infancy to adolescence face ( their life span is much the same as that of humans) as they help each other acquire the skills they are supposed to learn from their parents.
And the obvious devotion of their keepers, who work to keep the little ones alive and then, as they grow, encourage them into the wild, is nearly enough to give a person faith in humanity. At least until the last round of electioneering starts.
Best behaviour: A keeper snuggles up with one of his infant charges