If you can't afford to travel to Africa to view the continent's most iconic species, tonight's episode of Nature is the next best thing. Last week, I had the privilege of attending the premier of the new film, Soul of the Elephant, by award-winning South African filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert. The Jouberts are well-known conservationists and two of National Geographic's Explorers-in-Residence. In addition to filming their adventures in the bush, they are the founders of Great Plains Conservation, a collection of safari lodges built and focused around "conservation tourism", which is simply placing more emphasis on the effort to reduce visitor impact, sustain the environment, and engage locals in tourism enterprise.
There is something hypnotic about being in the path of a charging elephant. It's strange that you feel most alive when you face death. - Dereck Joubert, Soul of the Elephant
The Jouberts took multiple trips into the Selinda Spillway over the course of two years to create the film. The intimate glimpse into the lives of these gentle giants is designed to create greater awareness regarding the increase in elephant poaching incidents and the illegal ivory trade. The Jouberts advised they hope to translate the film into Mandarin.
"If we don't manage to stop [poaching], your children , your grandchildren, might never see elephants. And so, by creating a film that is an ode to Elephants...that hopefully can go far and wide, and speak to the countries that are utilizing ivory." - Beverly Joubert
The film is short (39 minutes) and I was left wanting more. The aerial footage makes you realize though we are small species in relation to many of the creatures across the African landscape, we are playing a significant part in it's evolution and leaving a lasting impact in a relatively short amount of time. Their low-level footage is equally impressive. Whether it's the Jouberts wading barefoot through hippo and crocodile infested waters, or the reverberations from the massive pads of an elephant's foot coming within centimeters of the GoPro camera lying on the ground, this film really captures what it's like to have a close encounter with an elephant.