Hey baby, time to stop the trum­pet­ing

The Ele­phant Di­aries 8pm, ABC

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Stephen Matchett

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

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