By Natali Fusillo, Nat Geo Live
Imagine coming face-to-face with a 10,000-pound elephant charging straight for you. Would you run? Would you hide inside your truck? Or would you turn off the engine and stay calm? The later is exactly what filmmaker Bob Poole and world-renowned elephant scientist Dr. Joyce Poole did when they encountered “One Tusk”, a notoriously aggressive female elephant named for her missing front tooth.
This brother-and-sister team set out on a mission to Africa to re-habituate and rebuild trust with the elephants of Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. A 16-year-long war in the area nearly wiped out the elephant population from more than 2,000 to just over 100, and left these giants with a fear of humans.
Turns out, like many of us, One Tusk was just a misunderstood soul. “Her charge came across to me as real bravado, coming out of nowhere like that–it was a lot of bluff,” Joyce recalls. To a non-expert, this experience would have indeed been terrifying. But with over 30 years of experience, Joyce is able to discern the slightest subtleties of elephant behavior. Joyce explains that the re-habituation project is a “learning process on both sides. Elephants need to learn that we are no longer a threat, and we have to learn how to read their signals and respect their boundaries.”
Bob and Joyce hope that their multi-year endeavor at Gorongosa National Park will encourage elephants not to fear humans and entice people to experience one of Africa’s great national parks. The elephants there are such characters, each one quirky and extraordinary in their own way, and tourism will help secure their future. Bob says, “the best thing you can do to help is go to Gorongosa–go support the park there.”
On Wednesday, March 14 in Washington, D.C., National Geographic Live will be screening their new film, War Elephants, followed by a panel discussion with Bob Poole, Dr. Joyce Poole, Gorongosa Park Administrator Mateus Mutemba, and NGTV Sr. Producer David Hamlin.