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10 Best Documentaries About Elephants

These documentaries about elephants show their intricate social structures, deep familial bonds, and extraordinary cognitive abilities that have intrigued and inspired humans for centuries.

The films delve into the complex lives of these gentle giants giving you a window into their natural habitats, the challenges they face, and the urgent conservation efforts required to ensure their survival in a rapidly changing world.


Documentaries About Elephants

Elephants in the Masai Mara in Kenya.

This is a cinematic journey through the vast landscapes that elephants call home, where you not only witness the beauty of their existence but also gain a profound understanding of their critical role in maintaining our planet’s ecological balance.

On a personal note, I have spent several months across East Africa going on many safaris and seeing elephants in the wild. They are one of my favourite animals in the world.

There are many documentaries about elephants to watch but these are a good overall collection showing many aspects of them, from older documentaries to more recent ones.


The Elephant Whisperers (2022)

The Elephant Whisperers follows a couple in South India, Bomman and Bellie who spend their life caring for an orphaned baby elephant.

That baby elephant is named Raghu and this documentary explores their intimate connection with the elephant and how they have become a family like no other, one which tests the barrier between the human and the animal world.

This documentary is so good it won an Oscar award.


The Secret Life of Elephants (2009)

The Secret Life of Elephants is a three-part documentary series that provides an in-depth look into the lives and behaviour of African elephants. It was produced by the BBC Natural History Unit and follows a team of scientists and filmmakers as they study elephants in the wild.

The documentary explores various aspects of elephant life, including their social structures, communication, migration patterns, and the challenges they face in their natural habitats. The filmmakers used advanced technology, such as special cameras and tracking devices, to capture intimate moments and gain insights into the elephants’ daily lives.

The series not only showcases the fascinating behaviour of these majestic creatures but also highlights the conservation issues they face, such as habitat loss and poaching.


The Elephant Queen (2018)

The Elephant Queen is a wildlife documentary film that follows the journey of an elephant matriarch named Athena and her herd as they embark on a journey to find water during a severe drought in the African savannah.

The documentary provides a close and intimate look at the life of elephants, capturing their challenges and triumphs in the wild. It showcases the strong bonds within the elephant family, the struggles they face in their quest for water, and the threats posed by predators.


The Ivory Game (2016)

The Ivory Game focuses on the illegal ivory trade and its impact on African elephants and provides a detailed and investigative look into the activities of ivory poachers and the organized crime networks involved in smuggling ivory across borders.

The documentary follows undercover activists, conservationists, and law enforcement officials as they work to expose and combat the illegal ivory trade. The filmmakers aim to shed light on the urgency of protecting elephants and preventing their extinction due to poaching.

“The Ivory Game” has powerful and impactful storytelling, and shows the efforts to raise awareness about the threats faced by elephants. The film was executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been actively involved in environmental conservation efforts.


Elephants: Spy in the Herd (2003)

Elephants: Spy in the Herd is a wildlife documentary that was originally broadcast as part of the BBC’s “Natural World” series in 2003. The documentary utilizes innovative filmmaking techniques, including the use of hidden cameras disguised as various objects, to provide an intimate and unique perspective on the lives of elephants.

The “Spy in the Herd” series, which includes episodes on various wildlife subjects, uses these disguised cameras to capture animals’ behaviours in their natural habitats without human interference.

In the case of “Elephants: Spy in the Herd,” the focus is on African elephants, and the documentary showcases their social structures, communication, and daily activities.

By employing the “spy cameras,” the filmmakers aimed to capture more natural and uninhibited behaviour from the elephants, allowing viewers to witness aspects of their lives that might be challenging to observe directly. This approach often provides a more immersive and insightful look into the world of elephants.


Soul of the Elephant (2015)

Soul of the Elephant is a documentary film that originally aired as part of the PBS series “Nature” in 2015. The film focuses on the lives of African elephants, specifically a mother and daughter elephant named Shani and Seeta, as they navigate the challenges of the African wilderness.

The documentary delves into the intricate social structures and emotional lives of elephants, exploring their deep family bonds, communication methods, and the threats they face from poaching and habitat loss.

The filmmakers, who are also wildlife conservationists, aim to raise awareness about the importance of protecting elephants and their ecosystems.

The Jouberts, known for their work in wildlife filmmaking and conservation, have a particular focus on African wildlife, and “Soul of the Elephant” is part of their broader efforts to promote conservation and understanding of these majestic creatures.


Gardeners of Eden (2014)

Gardeners of Eden focuses on the work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), an organization founded by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick in memory of her late husband David Sheldrick. The trust is known for its efforts in elephant conservation and the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned elephants in Kenya.

The documentary provides an inside look into the work of DSWT and their dedication to protecting and preserving elephants. It highlights the challenges faced by the organization in the fight against poaching and the illegal ivory trade.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust plays a crucial role in rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned elephants, with the ultimate goal of reintegrating them into the wild.

The film also explores the broader issue of wildlife conservation and the impact of poaching on elephant populations.


 Hoanib – The Secrets of the Desert Elephants

How Elephants Survive in the World’s Most Hostile Desert takes a look at the elephants of the Namib Desert in Namibia, Africa.

In a valley named Hoanib, desert elephants have developed unique ways to adapt to harsh life in such a hostile and dry environment. During the dry season in particular the elephants must go in search of life-saving water and food.

This is a fascinating one of these documentaries about elephants that shows how elephants survive in the desert.


Elephant: King Of The Kalahari

Elephant: King Of The Kalahari explores the elephants that live in the Kalahari Derest in Botswana, Africa, in a similar theme to the documentary about elephants in the Namib Desert mentioned above.

Botswana has more African elephants than anywhere else in the world and in this documentary, you can watch thousands of elephants that trek over 7,000 miles in search of life-giving water and food.

The desert is a hostile environment for the elephants, and during the dry season in particular they must use their strength and wit to survive.


Elephants Being Elephants 

I’ll end this list of best documentaries about elephants with quite a simple one that, as the title says, just shows elephants “being elephants.”


Elephants

Documentaries about elephants serve as powerful tools to raise awareness about the threats elephants face and advocate for preserving their habitats, emphasizing the importance of coexistence between humans and these awe-inspiring creatures.

For more wildlife have a look at the 10 best documentaries about lions.

Also, have a look at my guide to the 10 best safari destinations in East Africa and Southern Africa.


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