Running time - 89 minutes Director - Suzanne Campbell-Jones Filmed entirely in Myanmar / Burma Produced in Bath, UK by Mostly Movies
Myanmar (Burma) is the last country in the world to have working elephants logging their forests. Their riders are called oozies.
In this absorbing film scientists travel through Myanmar to investigate whether working in this way might be the key to saving all the Asian elephants from extinction.
Being the first film crew in since the re-opening of Burma allowed the team to capture scenes seldom if ever seen. Access to the elephant camps was unique. Camp life gives the scientists a ‘living laboratory’ to collect data about height, weight, blood, hair and faeces. No camera has been so up-close and so very personal with elephants before.
There are more than 4,000 working elephants in Myanmar. Burmese timber elephants are semi-captive. Each has its own oozie and is brought home to the family in the evening. They work during the day and are let out into the forest at night to forage and socialise, sometimes even with wild elephants. Each oozie begins his day by tracking his animal and bringing it back to camp for a hilarious bath before the day’s work begins.
Elephants feature in almost every aspect of Myanmar life and culture including the Buddhist pantheon. Love of elephants is palpable. Oozie skills are passed down from father to son. Timber is worth 30% of the economy and Myanmar has the biggest area of deciduous forest in South East Asia. By logging with elephants, taking out one tree at a time without damaging other trees, they have saved Burma’s forests. The elephants need the forests to survive. The scientists believe the Burmese timber elephants may yet save their entire species from extinction. That is a huge thought.
The group of international scientists were led by 'elephant lady' Dr. Khyne U Mar. The scientists came from the UK, from Finland, Germany, Thailand and the USA to share their work with Myanmar vets. They teach the use of ultrasound technology and how to masturbate bull elephants to collect semen for artificial insemination and genetic research. They also began the first TB testing of elephants in Myanmar. The elephants make it quite clear vocally when they don’t want to co-operate. They are truly amazing animals.
Suzanne Campbell-Jones started out as an anthropologist and has a Ph.D from the London School of Economics. Her book IN HABIT, a study of Roman Catholic nuns was published in London by Faber & Faber and in New York by Random House. At the age of 35 she joined the BBC making programmes for the Open University and remained for 8 years. She made an award-winning film on computer languages for HORIZON. In 1995 while writing a book in Papua New Guinea she met an American vet in a rainforest. She introduced the idea of making a film about Khyne U Mar and her work with elephants. Meanwhile as a free-lance director she has made many award-winning science documentaries in many different parts of the world. Also quite a few arts documentaries including ‘Field in China’ with Anthony Gormley and ‘A Gal and her Gallery’ about avant garde artists from around the world. She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and the Royal Anthropological Institute. For her last few projects she has undertaken the photography herself.
Simon Campbell-Jones never wanted to do anything else but make films. As a young man he worked on industrial documentaries and won a Gold medal in Venice for “Trawler Captain” a documentary on a North Atlantic fishing trawler. He moved to television made many science and technology documentaries for the BBC in London and WGBH, Boston where he was the originating producer on the NOVA series for PBS in the USA. He made the controversial “ Whales, Dolphins and Men” which started off the Friends of the Earth campaign to stop whaling. His film “First Signs of Washoe” about Chimpanzee sign language won awards in many countries. While Editor of the HORIZON series for the BBC, he was responsible for around 150 programmes on global topics. Continued making films and editing books, particularly on medicine, development and sustainability, all over the world including Africa, India, and China. Produced a 13 part series on global history and a 5 part series on global environmental movements. Many awards including two nominations from the British Academy. Recently he has taken on editing saying it takes him back to his beginnings and the language of film.
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