Source: Nature: "Unforgettable Elephants"
Funding for the VITAL/Ready to Teach collection was secured through the United States Department of Education under the Ready to Teach Program.
In this video segment from Nature, Martyn Colbeck, an award-winning cinematographer, describes filming the tropical rainforest elephants of the Congo. When Colbeck finds the elephants, he describes them as creating a “party atmosphere.” The elephants show that they care for and protect each other in the ways they play and share food, water and minerals. There are signs of competition among the elephants, also. Colbeck is disappointed he won’t have the opportunity to know more about this elephant family. For more about elephants see "Desert Elephants" and "Grassland Elephants," two of three video segments in the series.
Animal science, elephants
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for middle school students using this video in an English language arts or science lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) What is the difference between scientific writing and narrative writing, or storytelling?
Focus (ELA) How does Colbeck describe the elephants? Does he report like a scientist? Does he tell us a story?
Follow Up (ELA) Discuss how the elements of the “Desert Elephants” video segment are scientifically reported. Discuss how they tell a story. What are the characteristics of each type of writing?
Frame (SCI) What do you know about the transfer of energy in living organisms?
Focus (SCI) How do these desert elephants transfer energy?
Follow Up (SCI) Living organisms, like elephants, transfer energy through the consumption of food. Discuss how these desert elephants can transfer energy in this environment. Do you think these elephants could be moved to the jungle and still survive? Why or why not?
MARTYN COLBECK: Now at last I had a chance to film the almost mythical desert elephants.
The landscape in which they eke out a living is one of the most austere on Earth. I fell in love with it immediately.
The desert is a photographer’s dream. Colours shimmer: everything is transformed by the heat haze. Everywhere I looked, exciting images stared back at me.
I wondered how any animals could live here, let alone elephants; and why would they risk setting out across the desert? I had to find out. Just locating these elephants in these conditions was the first hurdle.
Weeks went by as my guide, Paul Brehem and I searched. Finally, I got my first unbelievable glimpse.
What I saw was a complete contrast to the way I’d previously seen elephants, against the lush green of the savannah.
Food and water are scarce and far apart. The secret of the elephants’ survival is the hidden presence of dry riverbeds. These rivers only flood briefly, but they bring just enough water to allow some vegetation to grow.
I really wanted to film the elephants crossing the vast sand dunes.
Just occasionally they go between the river systems…so the river system we are on now
is 70 kilometers north of the next one down and incredibly, these elephants cross these
dunes behind me …just unbelievable…
I faced many more weeks waiting for them to attempt their journey.
For me, the image I remember out of that whole period …and I was here 10 months…was when the elephants crossed in front of these dunes… they were yellow dunes and they were crested by this incredible sort of red crumbled garnet.
I could scarcely believe it. This was the image I had dreamed about. The scene got even better.
The last female elephant suddenly notices the oryx walking the other way. She looks a little outraged to me.
And this is what they were heading for…an isolated waterhole.
Elephants need 70 to 90 liters of water a day. They hadn’t drunk for 5 days.
They must have an amazing mental map of this area…it is so vast, and in order to eke out a living they must know where the food is, they must know where the water is, so that requires quite a lot of brainpower.
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