‘Secrets of the Elephants’ Is An Intense, Moving Look Into The Lives Of Elephants

Desert elephant Secrets of the Elephants
A Desert elephant comes face to face with the film crew in a rigged film vehicle, showing the gigantic size of the elephant in full. (National Geographic for Disney/Robbie Labanowski)

Sometimes things are absolutely on fire everywhere and you want comfort food on Earth Day. Other times you want something a little more dramatic, with the promise that it won’t be absolutely devastating in the end. If you’re in this mood, check out NatGeo’s Secrets of the Elephants and let Natalie Portman’s narration carry you away.

Most of the time I like to recommend chill, inspiring, comfort-food style shows for Earth Day. You may remember me loving on Secrets of the Whales, for example. Though Secrets of the Elephants has a similar name, the tone of this show is pretty different. It’s a four episode miniseries that opens with desert elephants, who live in a hostile landscape. An incredibly hostile landscape. I was shocked to hear that it had been 8 years since an elephant survived its first six months in the valley where the first episode took place. 

Six months? What??

Don’t worry. This specific baby I’m talking about makes it past six months. I wouldn’t do that to you. Secrets of the Elephants may be more dramatic and intense than my usual recs, but not “unalived baby elephant” intense. It was produced by James Cameron – and that shows in the sweeping landscape scenes and emotional close-ups on the elephants.

Natalie Portman does the voiceover. I spent the first five minutes going, “Wow, this person sounds a lot like Natalie Portman,” until I checked the credits and yes, that’s her. I shouldn’t have been surprised. She’s well known for her work in conservation and has even won awards for it. I love her for this. She gives the script enough drama to be compelling without making it cheesy or grandiose. 

Past the first episode, which gives very little screen time to humans, there are more segments with researchers and conservationists. The focus stays on the elephants, though. We see them living in four different environments. After the desert we go to the savannah, Asia, and the rainforest. Here’s the trailer:


 

I learned a lot from Secrets of the Elephants. First off, grade school taught me that all elephants were either Asian or African. Not true – and even the ones who are the same species are highly specialized in behavior to adapt to different environments. 

Also? Elephants are pregnant for 22 months, the longest of any mammal. Let me tell you, I did just over a third of that with my twins and I was 100% done.

Earth Day is April 22nd, but you can watch Secrets of the Elephants starting on the 21st if you catch it on National Geographic. All four episodes hit Disney+ the next day. Go check it out, then come let us know what you think!

Author: Khai

Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.


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