Gene Seymour
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

National Geographic: Elephant

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
performer
E.G. Marshall
genre
Documentary

We gave it an A-

”Behold, while there is still time, the elephant,” this documentary implores. That pretty much sums up the marveling, rueful tone of this illuminating tape that, in the noble tradition of National Geographic specials, makes you smarter and humbler about your place in the world.

In its modest way, Elephant impresses you with its thorough grasp of the facts. Did you know that they walk on their toes, or that they can detect odors up to five miles away? The show also argues (as folklore has long attested) that elephants have good memories.

All this and they play soccer too — as shown in a segment in Thailand, where the elephant is revered, domesticated, and still considered an endangered species. But for every image of elephants at play or work, there is a sad image of elephants overwhelmed by man: a Bangkok man riding his domesticated animal through heavy traffic, more than 80,000 African elephants illegally slaughtered each year for their valuable tusks, and elephants being shot to prevent herds from growing too big for shrinking territories in southern Africa.

National Geographic’s Elephant capably answers nearly every question you may have had about its subject, except, perhaps, one: How is it that something so big is so vulnerable to us humans? A-

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