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The Elephants of India with Goldie Hawn


On a train traveling from Delhi to Jaipur, Goldie Hawn anxiously begins her journey through India in search of a blind female elephant she first saw seven years ago in the wild. Fingering through old photographs and paging through her personal journal, Hawn reminisces about her first encounter with a wild Asian elephant herd. "I don't know exactly what it was that captured my heart. But as soon as I saw them, I was enchanted," she says. She wonders whether she will see the blind elephant again.

Hawn's return to India to find "her elephant" and help heighten awareness of an endangered species is chronicled as Thirten/WNET presents IN THE WILD: THE ELEPHANTS OF INDIA WITH GOLDIE HAWN, Sunday, October 17 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).

Through close friend Mark Shand, a wildlife enthusiast and writer who has dedicated his life to preserving the Asian elephant, and Indian guide Aditya Patankar, Hawn explores a complex country whose people revere the elephant god "Ganesh." At the same time, however, they push the species toward extinction through poaching, overpopulation, and development. Today, only 30,000 to 50,000 Asian elephants remain where millions once roamed freely in wilderness from Syria to China.

Hawn and her Indian guide head down the river, traveling for several days, and search through numerous herds before finally locating the blind female elephant she had seen years earlier. Not only has the elephant survived, but she also now has a newborn calf. Hawn is struck by the similarities between human and elephant behavior. The elephant's first-born helps care for the newborn sibling. Other female elephants hover protectively over the younger members -- whether or not the babies are their own -- and care tenderly for the older elephants.

The 600-square-mile sanctuary where Hawn has sighted her elephant is made up of three adjoining national parks offering protection to many endangered species. Hawn, while enchanted with the Asian elephant, is realistic about what can be done to help preserve the species. Her hope is that all Asian elephants will continue to have areas to roam free and call home. "We can't save all the Asian elephants. There's not enough room. But we can reduce the problem. People like Mark are working on a detailed international plan to save the key herds in Asia like this one. So long as they get the support they need to protect those elephants' homes, the Asian elephant will survive."

Goldie Hawn is currently supporting Fauna & Flora International on a public awareness campaign to call attention to the plight of the Asian elephant. She is committed to helping save this majestic creature.

IN THE WILD: THE ELEPHANTS OF INDIA WITH GOLDIE HAWN is a Tigress Production for Meridian in association with Thirteen/WNET in New York. The program is produced and directed by Andrew Jackson.

Series producer for IN THE WILD is Jeremy Bradshaw. Executive producer for Thirteen/WNET is Fred Kaufman. The series is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the nation's public television stations.


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