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Natural World: Sri Lanka – Elephant Island

Natural World: Sri Lanka – Elephant Island

Fri Aug 9, 9-10pm, BBC2

By Phil Harrison
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More than any other branch of nature documentaries, films involving elephants have their own reliable checklist. Expect music which locates the exact midpoint between ponderous and twee. A higher than usual degree of anthropomorphism. A fight between two dominant males, a birth and, most importantly, some sort of tragedy which will be used to illustrate the elephant’s impressive degree of emotional literacy.

Martyn Colbeck’s visit to the elephants of Sri Lanka scores well on all these counts. Sri Lankan elephants are similar to their African and Asian cousins – but, as Vincent in ‘Pulp Fiction’ noted about life in Amsterdam, it’s the little differences that you notice. For example, Sri Lankan elephants communicate by ear-flapping. Still, the film’s money shots surround Nimal, a young elephant who lost half a leg to a poacher’s trap. Expect him to melt even the most cynical heart as he gamely attempts to walk, feed and get with the bigger elephants.
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