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Walking with Elephants Review 2020 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
Stars: Levison Wood, Kane Motswana
The adventurer’s passion project, new book and upcoming TV show The Last Giants: Walking With Elephants, sees him follow the African elephant migration across north Botswana. Wanderlust’s editor-in-chief Lyn Hughes caught up with the award-winning travel writer and presenter to find out more…
Well, I wanted to do something a bit different. I wanted to write about a subject matter that was really important for me. I’ve always been interested in elephants ever since I was a kid. I do a bit of conservation work, I spend a lot of time in Africa, I’m an ambassador for a few elephant charities, so I thought, ‘Why not investigate the subject a bit more?’
So, doing this journey through Botswana was one part of it, but part of a wider interest really for me in Africa in general but particularly the African elephants.
I love the story about how you were inspired as a kid by David Shepherd. Do you want to remind us about that?
I remember my dad taking us to David Shepherd’s art exhibition when he came to my hometown and just being really impressed that this guy was running around Africa painting pictures of elephants. So, that was what I was determined to do… so, while I’ve never really been a painter, it built that dream of seeing elephants in the wild and doing something with it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the length and breadth of Africa several times, so this [project] for me was a more focused way of looking at a particular subject, and while it’s looking at elephants, it’s also a wider look at conservation in general.
They’re incredibly intelligent, they’re very sociable creatures. They live a very long time. They’re very, very similar to humans in many, many ways, and we’re only really beginning to understand that.
The way that elephants interact and can communicate over big distances; the way that their social structures work is so familiar in many ways that I think deserves more attention than it gets.
Well, it’s very difficult to study African elephants in the wild. It’s very difficult to do controlled studies on any part of their behaviour – not just their biology, but their cognitive abilities. You can’t simply go traipsing up to a herd of elephants and examine them.
And equally, elephants in captivity are outside of how they normally behave. They’re such social creatures that they simply can’t [function] on their own. And that’s why they’re so misunderstood in so many ways. That’s had a massive impact on conservation, because people don’t really get how they function in their own societies.
That’s why a lot of translocation projects don’t work. That’s why they let hunters kill off a lot of the old elephants, thinking that they’re just the old ones, but actually it’s the old ones that are doing the breeding; it’s the old ones that pass on this genetic information to the younger ones. So there’s a lot of things that we’re only just now understanding about elephants.
Yeah. They try to avoid us where possible, but ultimately, we’re competing for the same re-sources, whether that’s water, whether that’s a grazing area where people are building farms on or building roads across wilderness areas.
Elephants know we’re here; they know what we’re doing and they kind of try and avoid it, but sometimes there’s going to be that overlap and conflict. So it’s about how we can manage that, and that’s what I wanted this book to be: a study of how we can interact with elephants and share the same space.
Well, in my lifetime the number elephants has halved. And I’m not that old! Elephants are drastically in decline. Mainly, as a result of poaching and loss of habitat. Elephants need huge areas to roam, to feed. If we’re building roads and farms on that land that was their ancestral migration route, then elephants aren’t going to get water and they’re going to die. Simple as that.
Poaching is one aspect of it. The market [for ivory] in China, that’s the biggest problem. And if there’s one or two good things to come out of the coronavirus crisis, is that whenever the Chinese economy slows down, frankly, so does animal trafficking and poaching as a result. Obviously, these are small blips, but you can [understand] the poachers in Africa, usually just some teenagers who are tempted by the prospect of a couple of thousand dollars, which is five year’s wages for some people.
Luckily, there are lots of organisations like Tusk that have been lobbying hard for the Chinese government to stop this happening. But while there have been big leaps being made to stop poaching, a greater issue is the fact that we’ve kind of turned a blind eye to unregulated development of human growth in Africa, because nobody wants to talk about that.
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