Elephant Diaries – Series 1
Meet some of Africa’s most troubled youngsters. A company of elephants that are being raised by humans are now on a challenging journey back into the wild. Jonathan Scott and Michaela Strachan gain unprecedented access to the only elephant orphanage in Africa, to follow their progress over a year.
For a baby elephant, family life is everything and losing your mother is the worst possible starting point. Elephant Diaries captures on film for the first time, the dramatic rescue and reintroduction of fragile young elephant orphans by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.
Michaela meets the orphaned baby elephants brought to the Nairobi nursery for 24 hour intensive care. The leader of the nursery herd is an elephant named Wendi, now two years old. She was brought to the trust soon after her birth, and although she’s still a baby herself, she’s now helping other vulnerable orphans cope with loosing their wild families.
At around two years old the young elephants can begin to look after themselves, and join other young orphans in Tsavo National Park for the second stage of their journey back into the wild. Jonathan follows the older elephant herd on Tsavo’s vast plains. At 10 years old, Emily is the matriarch of 30 orphans that have graduated from the nursery. She is reaching a cross-road in her life and is nearly ready to take her final step back into the wild. With the responsibilities of leading the large orphan herd Jonathan is trying to find out if she’ll go, but first he needs to meet her, be accepted by her, and be allowed into her herd.
Back at Nairobi, an emergency call alerts the nursery to the plight of a motherless baby elephant in Samburu which is being aggressively rejected by other elephants. Head keeper Edwin flies off on a mercy mission and after a dramatic rescue, the little orphan, now named Naserian, is rushed back to the nursery. Not all elephants survive the trauma of their rescue and no-one knows if she’ll survive the night.
From bottle feeding young elephants and tucking them up at night under an elephant blanket to playing an unusual game of football on Africa’s Great Plains, the keepers at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provide round-the-clock care for some of Africa’s most vulnerable youngsters. Michaela Strachan and Jonathan Scott spend a year following the lives of a unique group of orphaned elephants as they try to recover from losing their mothers and face up to the challenges of taking their first steps into the wild.
At Nairobi’s nursery, which cares for the milk dependent youngsters, Naserian, a newly rescued baby elephant is naturally scared and wary of her new surroundings. She meets the other orphaned elephants for the first time, and mini-matriarch, Wendi takes her under her trunk.
In Tsavo East National Park, Jonathan spends time up close and personal with the big matriarch Emily as she guides her herd of 30 larger orphans, teaching them the life skills they will need in the wild. Emily’s herd are visited by Dika, a magnificent bull who was once a member of the orphan herd and is now living wild. As other waterholes across the park dry up, they come face to face with a heard of wild elephants wanting to share their waterhole.
Back at the nursery, Michaela follows Naserian’s integration into the baby herd and charts the preparations for splitting the herd and moving Wendi, and five older babies, to a brand new release site in a remote corner of Tsavo. Long-term friends say goodbye, and, as the move begins, Michaela’s in the thick of the action when one of the baby elephants being transported panics in the back of a truck.
On the dry plains of Kenya’s national parks, orphaned elephants are being nurtured and introduced back to the wild by a dedicated team of keepers. Becoming surrogate mothers, the keepers look after every aspect of the vulnerable elephants’ care, bottle feeding them for the first two years of their lives and walking with them in their own orphan herd as they learn the skills needed for life in the bush.
In the wilds of northern Tsavo, in Ithumba, six little elephants arrive with Michaela Strachan at their release site after a long and dramatic journey from the nursery at Nairobi. Their mini-matriarch, Wendi, is out of her depth in their strange new environment and the six little orphans desperately need the guidance of older elephants if they are going to survive here.
Back at the nursery, the four baby elephants left behind are struggling with the grief on losing their leader Wendi. Fortunately the dedicated team of keepers are on hand to give them the love and reassurance to help them move on.
In southern Tsavo, Jonathan Scott follows the action as four much bigger and older female orphans are separated from Emily’s large orphan herd in preparation for a move to join the six young orphans at Ithumba in the north. They are being moved to help the little ones settle in and establish a brand new orphan herd. The hope is that one of these four older females will also rise to become the matriarch of the new herd. Jonathan follows the entire move, and is on hand when events take a turn for the worse.
Finally, the larger females with Jonathan meet the six little orphans with Michaela at the new release site. How they react to one another will determine the future success of the new herd.
As the sun dries the Kenyan Plains, a tide of vulnerable young orphaned elephants arrive at the only elephant orphanage on the continent. A traumatic experience at a tender age can leave elephants depressed, vulnerable or aggressive, and the stress of the rescue mission, plus poor health on arrival can spell disaster for a youngster.
At the nursery, dedicated keepers care for the elephants’ every need, nursing them to health and teaching them the skills they’ll need to survive in the wild. Michaela Strachan meets a happy little baby called Jipe. He’s the nursery favourite at only a few weeks old, and recently rescued Naserian has a new lease of life as she takes him under her large elephant ears.
In the wilderness of southern Tsavo, Emily, the matriarch of the large orphan herd is behaving strangely. Normally calm and gentle, she starts behaving like an adolescent teenager as she throws her trunk about. Her keepers think she may be ready go back to the wild, so they leave her out of her stockade overnight to help her make a choice.
Up at the new release site in northern Tsavo, Jonathan Scott follows the newly formed herd of six nursery orphans and four older orphans as they begin to bond. The dry season makes life harsh and the herd need to work together to survive, the older females guiding the young ones. After a savage attack by a rabid dog leaves the elephants fighting for their lives, Jonathan is on hand as they are vaccinated and quarantined in a desperate attempt to save them.
A family of baby elephants, raised by humans are on a unique journey back into the wild. A dedicated team at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust provide intensive 24-hour tender loving care as the vulnerable giants are given a second chance of life on the African plains.
Tonight’s episode concludes Jonathan Scott and Michaela Strachan’s time at Africa’s only elephant orphanage. Jonathan finds out the future of the 10 orphans who were thrown into danger after being attacked by a rabid dog as they slept in stockades and Michaela faces some deeply distressing news about nursery favourite Jipe.
The herd of elephants attacked in northern Tsavo continue to receive treatment and are reunited after spending months separated in quarantine. However, they still need regular treatment and no-one knows if they will avoid the disease, and even if they do, they still need to survive until the rains come.
Back at the Nairobi nursery, Michaela follows the progress of two new orphans. Happy little Jipe is everyone’s favourite, but is suffering as he begins to teethe. And Lualeni, rescued after her family were killed by poachers is all consumed by grief and unable to join the rest of the herd. To kick start her recovery, the keepers organise a football match – Orphans VS Keepers!Down in southern Tsavo, Emily, the matriarch of the big orphan herd appears to have finally made up her mind to return to the wild and pays one last visit to the stockades to say farewell to her adopted herd. As the rains transform the national park into elephant heaven, Jonathan sets out to find Emily living in the wild.