"Unforgettable Elephants"


The last elephant I encountered blessed me. My father and I were in Chennai, India at a temple teeming with monkeys and humanity alike. I had invoked all kinds of gods and goddesses as I made my rounds of the temple and prostrated before various idols. But the elephant was different. She was big and musty and looked as old as I envisioned the creator to be. I paid the requisite rupees to her minder (what is the going rate for a blessing?) and bowed, secretly worried that the elephant would eat my hair or inflict some kind of damage a western city dweller couldn't even conceive of. The pachyderm raised her trunk and, with a quick whoosh of air, blessed me with a light brush across the top of my head. I glowed for a few minutes afterwards and think fondly of that moment when I see the "moment of blessing" picture in my sister's home. (Useful, since the rest of the trip was a disaster.)

In Indian culture, elephants are ubiquitous in the form of Lord Ganesha, the pot-bellied god riding astride a mouse, symbolizing success and the destruction of obstacles. Lord Ganesha is present in most homes, regardless of the resident's religious affiliation, because he is so auspicious. Actual incarnations of elephants are also ever-present at religious festivals, on movie sets, and at weddings, which animal-rights organizations maintain have taken a severe toll. J.C. Khanna, a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says: "Walking on the streets of Bombay is difficult for a person. Imagine what it's like for an elephant." I lived in Bombay for two years. Being an elephant in Bombay would be tough.

So what if we put the animals back in their original context and took them back to the jungles and deserts? Wildlife cameraman and elephant expert Martyn Colbeck does just that in the Nature episode "Unforgettable Elephants." Colbeck documents life, death, and birth through a combination of still and moving photography, and speaks of elephants in the way that only someone steeped in the pachy-culture could:
"I like to think that like [my] photographs, these elephants will be around for a long time. They're like my second family. I've come to realize just how intelligent, sensitive, and tender elephants are. And now I can appreciate why the Maasai believe that these are the only animals that have souls."

I'm not that steeped in pachy-culture. But I was impressed by the commitment of Colbeck and others, traveling months at a time to document the migration and everyday lives of elephants (from a mother teaching her calf to walk to an alleged elephant kidnapping). He names his elephant compatriots (Ebony, Echo, Enid, etc.) and explains how he had become a member of one herd he'd been following.

Colbeck's passion is undeniable. His observations about elephants resonate with the Hindu belief that Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, is also the god of knowledge and wisdom. During moments of "Unforgettable Elephants," I felt the same kind of awe I experienced in the presence of the elephant at the temple in Chennai.


After reading the review in todays NYT, I am very interested in seeing this program. I am afraid I will not be able to watch it on PBS, does anyone know how to purchase this program on DVD?

I saw Unforgettable Elephants last week on PBS in Phoenix. Best show I've ever seen on elephants or any animals. I too want to buy this episode as a gift. Does anyone know where to find it? I've perused Shop-PBS with no luck.

Help!! Thanks.

Thanks for your interest about this film. DVDs for NATURE Unforgettable Elephants can be purchased at www.shopthirteen.org.

does Martyn Colbeck have any of his elephant photos for sale anywhere? last year i attended the Gregory Colbert exhibit Ashes & Snow" and they had many extraordinary photos for sale - Martyn's passion and work remind me of this - so thought i would inquire- thanks for such great programming-

I watched your incredible Unforgettable Elephants and enjoyed every second of it. I would like to know when it will air again.

A friend of mine is Director of PETA India and is currently in NYC. Can you tell me when Nature's Incredible Elephants will be airing again? She very much like to see it.
thank you

I just watched this special in the beginning of April, and I was so amazed. The black and white stills that the photographer captured were timeless and superb. I haven't been able to stop thinking about elephants since. I would love to see this again, when will it air again?

Instead of watching the US Superbowl, I just had the pleasure of viewing "Unforgettable Elephants" on PBS.
It is captivating and full of emotion. Martyn Colbeck's dedication is truly admirable.

I, too, viewed "Unforgettable Elephants" last night on PBS, and shed a few tears, sported a few smiles and laughs as well. What a most touching documentary. I'm happy to know it's available on DVD. However, I do wish to purchase his b/w stills. If anyone knows how/where.

Hi again. There seems to be a site that sells Martyn's b/w photos. It's gallery2c.com
The email address for purchasing is:
haven't tried it yet though......

After watching Unforgettable Elephants, which was a very special program, my question for the author is:
What ever happened to little Email? Did he survive after adoption by the family?

This was one of the most incredible, moving stories I have seen so far and am going nuts trying to find out when this airs again-

How do I get an e-mail to Martyn?I cant understand why he wouldn't help the tiny newborn elephant that was born premature
and why they just filmed it sick and starving and watched it die? The least he could do since he is mking dollars off
the elephants would be to help them if they need it. Please get this message to him to prevent future tragedies as this from happening.

Thank you,

Why did you just sit around and let the premature baby elephant starve and die?
Please do no allow this to ever happen in the future.You could have a rescue group get involved if you can't handle it.


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