This was a very cool experience and totally unexpected.
I was working with the Wildlife Conservation Society making a short film on their project in the Keo Seima Protection Forest last August. I arranged to take a quick drive up the main road early one morning to try to get some new Douc Langur footage. We left the HQ around 5:30am just as the sun was showing the fist signs of life. I was busy putting my 70-200 stills lens on the video camera when we rounded a corner and came across a large elephant, feeding on some grass by the side of the road. For a moment my heart sank. I felt sure it would move off into the forest before I could change lenses. I scrambled to remove the big lens and its cumbersome plate as we pulled up about 15 meters away from the grazing, tusk less male. It’s not always obvious what sex an elephant is but this one was definitely a male, as we would discover later. As I finally got the right lens on the camera I began to realise that he wasn’t remotely bothered by us. He gave us a kind of hard stare for a couple of minutes but carried on munching away.
As the engine rattled to a stop and I started filming he began to move a little closer, giving me some very nice shots despite the poor early light. He was clearly very interested in us and despite his ear flapping, which can be a sign of aggression, he didn’t stop eating and I felt he was just being nosey. He moved even closer, to about 7 meters away and the nervous driver decided to start the engine… just in case. The, presumably young, male didn’t come any closer and slowly moved away. The engine stopped again and I finally relaxed knowing I already had some really nice footage in the bag.
For no apparent reason he became rather excited at one point as you’ll notice in the footage.
Definitively a boy. Not sure if this qualifies as Elephant Porn!
After a while other vehicles began using the road. Moto’s off to market; taxis making the five-hour journey to Phnom Penh, he ignored them all. Except for a large black Landcruiser, which he seemed to take exception to, giving it a fake charge as it disappeared into the distance. After about 25 minutes I decided to get the driver to move back as I couldn’t get the road in the shot. I realised that everyone would think it was at the zoo if I didn’t get a wide shot.
In the end we watched him for around 40 minutes before he slowly moved off into the forest. At times he stood with his back to us and almost seemed to doze off he was so relaxed. This was not my first experience with wild elephants, but my first in Cambodia. It’s absolutely wonderful when a wild animal becomes so at ease with your presence, it doesn’t happen very often, especially in Indochina. With some lovely footage on tape it took a while to lose the silly grin I had on my face as we drove back to camp.