Nature (Season 36) – Naledi: One Little Elephant

Air date: 10/04/2017

THIRTEEN’s Nature Launches Season 36 with

Naledi: One Little Elephant, A Nature Special Presentation

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 8 p.m. on PBS

A moving story of how an orphan beat the odds with lots of help from her friends

Kiti, a gentle elephant in Botswana, was in her 661st day of pregnancy, a normal gestation period, when she finally gave birth to a baby girl. For nearly two weeks, the staff of Abu Camp, a halfway house for orphaned and former zoo and circus elephants, had been passing the time by coming up with a list of possible names for Kiti’s offspring. Perhaps because the calf was born at night, they called her Naledi, which means star in the local language.

Naledi was an instant hit with the Abu Camp caretakers including elephant manager Wellington (“Wellie”) Jana who compared her arrival to getting a new daughter in the family. Wildlife biologist and Botswana native Dr. Mike Chase, who is also tasked with looking after Naledi’s herd, hopes she will have the option to be reunited with her extended family. That’s the aim of Abu Camp caretakers, to release capable animals back into the wild. Mike and Wellie are pleased with how Naledi is being accepted into the herd and the care she’s receiving from her mother Kiti. But six weeks after giving birth, Kiti dies from a prolapse of the large intestine, and Naledi is left an orphan.

How the dedicated caretakers rallied to adopt the baby elephant, save her life, and reintroduce her to the herd that had forgotten her, is the focus of Naledi:  One Little Elephant, A Nature Special Presentation premiering nationwide Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film will be available to stream the following day for two weeks via pbs.org/nature and PBS OTT apps.

Although elephant families are close, the program shows how precarious it is for a newborn to survive once it has lost its mother. Naledi needs to be nursed, so when the herd’s matriarch can’t produce enough milk and doesn’t know how to care for her, Mike, Wellie, and the other caretakers decide to take drastic measures before it is too late. The film follows the team as they separate Naledi from the herd, relocate her to another part of Abu Camp, make sure a caretaker is always with her around the clock, work to establish a bond, and finally entice her to take milk from a bottle.

Crisis averted, the filmmakers are later on hand to document the cautious reintroduction of Naledi to her sisters and the rest of the family. She’s accepted by the herd, resumes her life in the bush, and the caretakers even celebrate her first birthday. But later, Naledi falls ill from eating palm fronds that have blocked her digestive track. The team agrees that surgery is the only solution, and the program chronicles her operation as the caretakers watch and hope for a positive outcome.

Another storyline in the film is the gathering of data for the 2016 Great Elephant Census run by Dr. Mike Chase during his time away from work at Abu Camp. Its aim was to count every elephant in Africa to help ensure their long-term survival given that Mike estimates we’re losing 96 elephants a day and between 25,000 and 30,000 annually. The results of the Census, published last year, revealed that 30 percent of Africa’s elephants have been lost since 2007.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. Executive Producer for Nature is Fred Kaufman. Naledi: One Little Elephant, A Nature Special Presentation is a Vulcan Productions film in association with Off the Fence. Executive Producers for Vulcan Productions are Carole Tomko, Paul G. Allen, and Jody Allen.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry.  Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.  The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.

Nature has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 17 Emmys and three Peabodys. The series received two of wildlife film industry’s highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media.

PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher’s guides and more.

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Halmi Family in memory of Robert Halmi, Sr., Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, the Arlene and Milton D. Berkman Philanthropic Fund, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.

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Photos
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As the days grow shorter and the nights colder, Naledi is wrapped in a blanket for warmth. Comforted through the night by Camp Assistant Kabo Kakana. Abu Camp, Botswana. Emre Izat/©Vulcan Productions

Naledi is notorious for stealing hats and hearts. Dr. Mike Chase didn’t have a hat, so Naledi settled for a hug. Abu Camp, Botswana. Tom Barton-Humphreys/©Vulcan Productions

Naledi explores her backyard, one of Africa’s most magnificent wilderness areas, the Okavango Delta. Abu Camp, Botswana. Tom Barton-Humphreys/©Vulcan Productions

Lorato enjoys being the “big sister” to all the youngsters, but keeps a particular keen eye on young Naledi as she first ventures into the Okavango’s vast wilderness. Abu Camp, Botswana. Tom Barton-Humphreys/©Vulcan Productions

Infant elephants are extremely vulnerable. Dr. Mike Chase and the handlers work around the clock to provide Naledi with all the love, care and attention that she needs to survive. Abu Camp, Botswana. Kate Bradbury/©Vulcan Productions

Baby elephants have little control over the use of their trunks and Naledi is no exception. It will take years for her to master the complex coordination needed to touching, grasping, and communicating. Abu Camp, Botswana. Kate Bradbury/©Vulcan Productions

Camp Assistant Kabo Kakana takes Naledi for her morning run around the research station. Grown elephants can travel over 50 miles a day so young calfs have to work on their marathon fitness. Abu Camp, Botswana. Kate Bradbury/©Vulcan Productions

Wellington Jana has had over 20 years of experience working with wild and orphaned elephants (Naledi pictured). Abu Camp, Botswana. Emre Izat/©Vulcan Productions

Baby elephants (Naledi pictured) rely on enzymes from their mothers’ milk to help digest grasses and other plants. Abu Camp, Botswana. Emre Izat/©Vulcan Productions

The final results from the Great Elephant Census show 352,271 Africa savanna elephants in 18 countries down 30% in seven years (Naledi pictured). Abu Camp, Botswana. Tom Barton-Humphreys/©Vulcan Productions

Naledi with Abu Camp Elephant Manager Wellington Jana. Abu Camp, Botswana. ©Vulcan Productions

Wildlife Biologist Dr. Mike Chase with adult elephant. Abu Camp, Botswana. ©Vulcan Productions