by Mary Ferreira
For a long time — more than five years — I’ve had a burning desire to produce a story about the plight of elephants around the world. According to CITES, elephants appear on Appendix II of the endangered species list. While in India filming stories about women and population growth, I was able to capture some elephant footage and record a few interviews.
But it wasn’t an easy task since we had to wait, almost in hiding, to spot the elephants. These gentle giants are so intelligent and alert that they sense when humans are on their heels and they simply keep moving. Fortunately, we found them eating tea leaves in one of the tea gardens in Assam — an area close to the border with Bangladesh.
Our friends at WWF helped us track the elephants, shared photographs with us, and accompanied us throughout our elephant chase. But one day, we had to cross the river because villagers told us that the elephants had just passed through damaging rice fields and other crops in the neighborhood. In a very tiny wooden canoe, more than 10 people with camera gear, boarded in an attempt to find the elephants. It was frightening but no one thought of the danger since we were all excited to finally get some footage of the elephants hanging out in the nearby forest. On the way back the cameraman, Carlos, suggested that we cross the river in two groups. We took his advice and returned safely.
On a previous shoot in South Africa, the team was also able to film elephants for one day. Experts believe there’s an over-population of elephants in that country. The real argument is whether there are too many elephants or if, in fact, a rapidly growing human population is encroaching on land once known as elephant territory.
Can elephants and humans co-exist in a sustainable way? Our friends at WWF believe that it’s possible. Final video coming soon…