By Rachel Kinley, Assistant Producer of Human Planet
The word Jungle itself comes from the Sanskrit word for forest. It was in this original jungle, on the borders between India and Burma, that we filmed people working with one the most iconic of jungle animals – the forest elephant.
It took us three days and several forms of transport, including a rickety old logging truck, to reach the camp which would be our home for the next two weeks. There wasn’t just us staying there though, this camp was home to a dozen elephants and their mahouts.
We were there to film them moving felled trees from the forest, as part of a sustainable logging business. Watching the elephants at work was so impressive. They are powerful beasts who can move a massive log as if it was a tiny twig. Amazing!
Being so strong, they really intimidated me at first. After we’d filmed with them for a while though, I realised that that their mahouts were well in control of these animals. So, when I was offered the chance, I jumped at the opportunity to take one for a ride. I was only allowed to travel on the female elephants so as not to spook the bulls. Our cameraman Robin however was game to ride any elephant any which way, and even learnt how to steer it along with his feet!
Spending time with these mahouts who dedicate their lives to looking after these animals was an empowering experience. This sequence really shows that the Human Planet Jungles programme isn’t just about living in rainforests, it’s about the incredible relationships people have with their environment and the species which live within.
The Human Planet Jungles and Grasslands episode can be seen on the Discovery Channel.