Quirks & Quarks

Elephant families are very like ours, according to the filmmakers of 'The Elephant Queen'

A new documentary traces the family life of a herd of elephants through environmental crisis

A new documentary traces the family life of a herd of elephants through environmental crisis

"The Elephant Queen" is a new nature documentary, following the life and death struggles of an elephant family living on the African savannah. (Deeble & Stone Productions)
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This year's Toronto International Film Festival featured a heart-warming new nature documentary that followed the life and death struggles of an elephant family on the African savannah.

The Elephant Queen, directed by award-winning husband and wife team Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone, grew from the couple's decades-long experience living in Eastern Africa.

"We've always touched tangentially on elephants, but never really approached them as a subject," said Deeble."I think it was the realization of the family structure and how they're so like us that made us determined to draw on what we've learned over those 30 years and film an elephant story."

Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble are co-directors of the new wildlife documentary "The Elephant Queen." They're based in Kenya. (Photo is supplied by Deeble & Stone Productions)

The film's star is a 50-year-old giant tusker named Athena, who is the matriarch of the herd. As the matriarch, she must make critical decisions to help her family survive during a season of drought in Kenya.

It took the filmmakers four years of living alongside elephants to tell the story. During that time, another one of the few remaining giant tuskers  — elephants with enormous tusks — featured in the film was killed by poachers.

The underlying motivation for making the film, according to Stone and Deeble, was to generate interest in and affection for elephants, who are already endangered and whose numbers continue to decline, largely due to poaching.

Elephants continue to be illegally killed for their ivory, which is used to make piano keys, brush handles, billiard balls, combs and trinkets. (AFP/Getty Images)

The number of elephants in Africa has plummeted from 10 million to less than half a million today — a decrease of 95% — in just over a century.

They continue to be illegally killed for their ivory, which is used to make piano keys, brush handles, billiard balls, combs and trinkets.

But we can curb this by reducing the demand for these products, said Stone.

The film was recently picked up by Apple, but its date of release has yet to be announced.

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