________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 16 . . . . April 14, 2000

cover Elephants. (Champions of the Wild Series).

Christian Bruyere (Director & Producer). Michael Chechik (Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
25 min., 30 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9198 140.

Subject Headings:
Poole, Joyce, 1956-
Wildlife conservation-Kenya.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Gail Hamilton.

**** /4

Elephants have been on earth for 55 million years. Today, only two species remain - the Asian and the African. This video affords viewers a close-up look at the largest, most powerful land mammal in the world. Filmed in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, the video introduces viewers to Dr. Joyce Poole who came to Amboseli as a 19-year-old in 1975 to study the 1000 pachyderms who make their home in the park. Poole's research indicates that elephants are extremely bright, live in extended families and have the same life expectancy as humans. What is particularly fascinating is that elephants exhibit emotions - they have a sense of humour, self-awareness, and grieve for deceased members of their family unit. Totaling 15 members, the family unit consists of several mature females and their offspring. They are led by a matriarch, usually the oldest female, who makes important decisions for the group and teaches its members the skills necessary for their survival. Young females stay with their mothers all their lives, but males leave the group at 14 or 15 years of age. Showing compassion, elephant mothers will often take on orphaned calves. In fact, females are greatly concerned with the group, sometimes caring for babies at age four, whereas males are very egocentric and are usually engaged in play.

Besides everyday life in the family unit, the video shows mating rituals, play fighting (to hone skills for fighting predators and to declare supremacy over other elephants), and the elephants enjoying a mud bath. In play fighting, elephants use their tusks and their agile trunks. With 150,000 muscle units, the versatile trunk is used to caress, smell, dust, mud splash, drink and eat.

In her lifelong study of elephants, Poole has discovered that humans can only pick up one-third of elephant vocalization. With sophisticated recording equipment, Poole found that elephants are capable of making 20 low frequency sounds, each of which has its own meaning.

One of Poole's greatest concerns has been the decimation of elephant herds by poachers. The numbers are staggering. From a population of 165,000 in the early 1970s to only 20,000 by 1989, the elephant was on the verge of extinction. For four years, Poole worked with the Kenya Wildlife Service to declare an all-out war against poaching. As a result of the service's efforts, there was an international ban on ivory products, and the elephant population began to increase. As the elephants return to their former habitats, conflicts with farmers, now using the land for cattle grazing, are occurring with greater frequency. Poole, who has left the wildlife service to resume her research, remains devoted to the cause of elephant conservation and creating public awareness about the ivory trade. She maintains that the more people learn about elephants and how similar they are to humans, the greater the chance that humans will become involved in the preservation of the elephant species.

Excellent footage, depicting some rarely seen action, will make this video a hit with students. The vocabulary is fairly easy to understand, though teachers might want to preview the video before showing it to determine its suitability for their students. One scene, in particular, talks about Poole's observation of a fluid leaking from the male elephants' genitalia, which Poole thought might have indicated a disease in the herd. In fact, it corresponded with the females' oestrus cycle. Close-up shots of the elephants' genitalia might elicit a few giggles from a young audience.

Inside the video case is a brief summary of the video as well as a few pre-viewing and post-viewing questions and two suggested websites on elephant facts and conservation. The video is close-captioned (requires a decoder).

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School in East St. Paul, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364