When I arrived in Congo Brazaville, I had no idea what to expect. The crew was deep in the jungle, to get there I had to fly in a small aircraft for several hours over unbroken forest cover. It was a suprising and heartwarming sight. Once we landed, I felt the huge exitment about being in such a remoten location, it was so wild, everything was vivid colours, smells and textures of everything - the constant loud buzzing of insects and chirping of birds, the manic hooting and screaming of chimpanzees, the darkness of the forest undercover, the unfurling brightness of every plant growing impossibly fast, bright bright flecks of dew on everything, the sound of the river, constantly roaring outside my tent, the colourful screeching African Grey parrots, the insane diversity of flowers, butterflies, frogs, mushrooms... and there's no words to describe the insatiably hungry biting flies, and the deluge of water everytime it rained.
There was evidence of elephants everywhere, avenues criss crossing the forest, paths made by hundreds of elephants repeatedly moving up and down, footprints, mounds of dung under their favourite trees, diggings where they stopped, rested or slept, pools of smelly yellow pee, and yellow soil rubbed high up the trunks of trees. There were broken branches everywhere and tusk marks on trees everywhere. But the elephants were nowhere to be seen, or heard. It was very surprising and strange. Not what I expected at all. Everyday we woke at 4.30 am to start looking for them. I had to be ready to go on camera as soon as we found elephants - that was tough, it was ridiculously hot even at 5 am, and doing make-up and hair was virtually impossible (a story for another day!). Apart from scouring the rivers by boat, and flying the drone overhead to search the tributaries for the recognizeable grey mounds hidden in grassy tussocks, we also set up camera traps to find elephants. It promised to give us incredible unmatched footage - but we were not lucky. Here is what we got on our fancy cameras ...
Seventy-five percent of our camera traps were destroyed by elephants. pThe reality is that these elephants are traumatized and they seem to hate humans. There's a good reason for this, it's becaust hey ahve been persecuted for gnerations, in the cruelest manner possible, for their teeth, flesh, and hides.
I hope that Secrets of the Elephants episode on the Rainforest will teach us that we need to take urgent measures to protect these incredibly important keystone species of the Congo Rainforest. I love elephants. I hope that the series has convinced you to do so too.