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Good news — the unique desert elephants of Mali are featured in National Geographic Channel’s upcoming Great Migrations series. WILD has been working for 8 years to protect these amazing elephants and promote the well-being of the communities near the migration route, so we are very excited that they are finally receiving wide-spread public, international attention they deserve.

Photo (c) Carlton Ward

Photo (c) Carlton Ward

Amazing footage of Mali’s 500 elephant herd, along with Botswana zebras and wildebeest crossing the croc-filled Mara River between Kenya and Tanzania, red crabs on Christmas Island, flying foxes in Australia, army ants in Costa Rica, and Pacific great white sharks, reveals the dangerous journeys wild animals undertake in their ancient treks for food, water and reproduction.

Photo (c) Carlton Ward

Photo (c) Carlton Ward

The Mali segment focuses on the daunting, hot and dry climate of the arid Saheel and the elephants’ survival tactic of migrating south to find water and forage. Led by the family matriarchs, the elephants join forces just before a key danger point — the Porte des Elephants an opening in the mountains where their funneled passage is vulnerable. The program offers an exciting opportunity for TV-watchers worldwide to learn about the desert elephants of Mali – we’re pleased that these elephants are getting a much deserved (and needed!) share of the limelight!

The Great Migrations series reveals new scientific insight, previously undocumented behaviors and the most-in depth visual record of a diverse range of animal migrations. Seven hours in total, Great Migrations premieres on 7 November, 2010 in 330 million homes, 166 countries and 34 languages, with the Mali elephants providing the key thread for one of the four core programmes – entitled “Feast or Famine” – that chronicle epic animal migration. The film series concludes with the Mali elephants feature on 14 November. Our science and research partner since 2002, Save the Elephants, provided technical and research support using WILD vehicles and other logistics, as documented in one of the additional hours on the “Science of Great Migrations.”

“Great Migrations has thus far been the most ambitious undertaking in National Geographic Channel history,” Steve Burns, EVP, Content, National Geographic Channel. One incredible scene captured is of the Mali elephants smelling and fondling the desiccated parts of a calf lost on the journey in an “elephant funeral.” Another heartening scene is of the elephants reaching Lake Banzena – a key site of WILD’s work with local villages to share this resource – where they enjoy wallowing in the muddy shallows and quenching their long thirst.

The focus on migration is timely as natural habitat becomes increasingly degraded, fragmented and destroyed. Animals migrate when it is difficult to find all they need, all year round, in one place. Migrations therefore allow more individuals to survive than if they were unable to move.

For many animals, such as the Mali elephants, the population would not be able to survive at all if prevented from migrating. But the rigor of the path and predators along the way render the newly born young particularly vulnerable, as the film series emphasizes. The severity of the threats to these wonders of nature means that conservation action is urgently needed.

Nature Needs Half (TM)

Nature Needs Half, our vision to protect at least half of the planet, land and water in an interconnected way, addresses such critical threats by compelling people to envision landscape-scale approaches to conservation. It is not enough to protect pockets of natural habitat. Many species — the Mali elephants included — need large, diverse, and connected landscapes in order to survive and also adapt as climatic shifts change natural resource availability. Great Migrations highlights these issues in an easy to understand and compelling way.

community workshop discussion group

In Mali, WILD’s work with the communities living along the Mali elephants’ migration route involves raising awareness as to the importance of these elephants, and empowering them to find local solutions to man-made problems the elephants encounter as they traverse habitat areas shared with people and livestock. Contributions to this project support these important initiatives that enable humans and elephants to live together so that the elephants are able to find what they need to survive throughout the year. Support the Mali elephants >

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