Nature: The Elephant and the Termite

Air date: 11/03/2021

Nature: The Elephant and the Termite


Premieres Wednesday, November 3 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app as part of series’ 40th anniversary season



In arid regions across southern Kenya, the waterhole, created by elephants and termites, is central to life. It is where animals visit to drink and where some creatures are born and die. Every visit is charged with tension; a waterhole is the perfect place for predators to wait in ambush. That is the traditional view, but there is an entire community of creatures that call the waterhole home, many of whom live at an elephant’s toenail height such as frogs, dung beetles and chameleons. This is the remarkable story of the relationship between Africa’s largest and smallest and the unique wildlife community they support. Peabody Award-winning filmmakers Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone (Nature: The Queen of Trees) and their small, dedicated team spent two years of their lives camped out at a waterhole in Kenya to record life at Africa’s great wildlife meeting place.

Featured Creatures:

  • Elephant
  • Termite
  • Yellow-billed stork
  • Killifish
  • Lungfish
  • Yellow baboon
  • Dung beetle
  • Bat-eared fox
  • Grass yellow butterfly
  • Slender Chameleon
  • Bullfrog
  • Red-billed quelea
  • Cheetah
  • Fishing spider
  • Terrapin
  • Steppe eagle
  • Thumbelina frog

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • Waterholes, the oases of life in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, rely on elephants and termites for their creation. Termite mounds contain rich nutrients that elephants love. Their constant excavation becomes a hollow in the landscape that is then filled with water when the rains come. Each time a family of elephants visits, they wallow in the mud and the hole grows even bigger.
  • Among the first animals to arrive at the waterhole are killifish, whose tiny eggs are carried by the elephant’s feet. Lungfish, who spend each dry season asleep underground, lie in wait for the waters to arrive each season before emerging.
  • Ten million red-billed quelearest at the waterhole during their migration. These small birds are prey for larger birds, including steppe eagles. One quelea escapes the jaws of a terrapin only to be spotted by an eagle and must hide in a log before making a quick escape.
  • Insects are plentiful at the waterhole and provide a much-needed meal for other predators. Chameleons snatch up butterflies with their long tongues. Bat-eared foxes catch hapless dung beetles who escape with their dung balls. Bullfrogs learn the hard way the correct way to eat crunchy termites – not face first! 

Short TV Listing: Giant elephants and tiny termites create lifesaving waterholes for thousands of other creatures. 

Long TV Listing: Witness the creation of the waterhole, one of Africa’s greatest wildlife meeting places manufactured by giant elephants and tiny termites. From baboons to dung beetles to chameleons, an entire community of creatures call the waterhole their home.

Series Overview:

For 40 years, Nature has pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry, bringing the natural world to millions of viewers. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 19 Emmys and three Peabodys. Consistently among the most-watched primetime series on PBS, Nature continues to innovate through original digital programming and a commitment to converting viewers into doers. A new podcast, Going Wild with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, launches on September 28. Nature’s award-winning website,, features full episodes, short films, digital series, behind-the-scenes content, news articles, educational resources and more. Nature is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

Production Credits:

Nature is a production of The WNET Group for PBS. For Nature: Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer, Bill Murphy is Series Producer and Janet Hess is Series Editor.

A film by Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone, Nature: The Elephant and the Termite is a Deeble, Stone & Oliff production with The WNET Group in co-production with Terra Mater Factual Studios in association with NHK. The film is directed by Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone. Etienne Oliff is Assistant Director and Victoria Stone is Producer. Written by Mark Deeble and narrated by Noma Dumezweni.


Support for Nature: The Elephant and the Termite was provided by the Bradley L. Goldberg Family Foundation. Series funding for Nature is also made possible in part by The Arnhold Family in memory of Henry and Clarisse Arnhold, The Fairweather Foundation, Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao, Charles Rosenblum, Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, Leonard and Norma Klorfine, Sandra Atlas Bass, Colin S. Edwards, Gregg Peters Monsees Foundation, Koo and Patricia Yuen, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by public television viewers.

Websites:;, #NaturePBS 

About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.



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Yellow bill stalk looking for food in the water

Yellow billed storks have one of the fastest reactions in the animal kingdom when closing their beaks. They fish by probing the water with their beaks open and snapping up anything they sense. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

Two baboons drinking from a waterhole

A troop of baboons drinks at the waterhole. They take turns to drink as others keep watch for predators. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

A waterhole with many elephants around it

A typical waterhole with a family of elephants around it in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

Man and woman holding filming equipment walking in the grass

Directors Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Mia Collis / © Wild Inspiration Ltd

Baby elephant drinking water

Baby elephants cannot suck up water with their trunks after they are born. This takes some time to master, during which they have to kneel or crouch to drink. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

Elephant walking in the grass at sunset

Bull elephant in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya with oryx in the background. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

Waterhole with termite mound next to it

A termite mound next to a waterhole. The mound’s clay manufactured by termites provides nutrients for elephants. A waterhole is excavated by elephants as they eat the clay, and the hole is also enlarged by them when they lather on sticky mud created from clay after rain. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

Huge flocks of red-billed quelea drink at temporary waterholes in Tsavo East National Park - generally at dawn and dusk. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

Dung beetles are the main recyclers of elephant dung in the wet season. They form dung into balls that are then rolled away and buried as food for the beetles themselves or as a food source for their grubs. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

Elephants come down to drink at a waterhole in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd

A hatchling slender chameleon takes its first drink after emerging from its egg. Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Credit: Deeble & Stone / © Waterhole Films Ltd