From legendary war machine to most revered deity and great giant of the savanna, for the elephant, anatomy has been destiny. Brett Westwood tracks the beast through human history.
In 1903 Topsy the elephant was given copper sandals to wear at the amusement park in Coney Island. Hundreds of spectators and photographers crowded close, Thomas Edison's film crew got the camera in position. With the flick of a switch, steam filled the air and electricity ran through her body.
The electrocution of Topsy the elephant in New York is just one low point in man's long and complex relationship with the animal. The elephant's huge size has allowed us to load it with attributes like supernatural strength, great wisdom, phenomenal memory. And we've always wanted to be close to it, to harness the power, to use it, to destroy it.
Brett Westwood tracks our cultural relationship with the elephant, from battlefield to big top, via Swahili proverbs, artworks on the streets of Sheffield, DH Lawrence, and the festivities for Lord Ganesha at the Hounslow Ganeshotsav Mandal in West London.
Producer: Melvin Rickarby.
Dr Maan Barua
His doctoral research on The Political Ecology of Human-Elephant Relationships in India looked at the cultures, spaces and politics of elephant conservation. His current postdoctoral research is an engagement with urban animals, waste and livelihoods in South Asian cities.
Dr Ida Hadjivayanis
Dr Desmond Morris
The studies that followed from this discovery have shown that elephants use their low-frequency calls to coordinate their social behavior over long distances. She founded the Elephant Listening Project in 1999, and was the leader of the project until 2006, when she officially retired. Katy is now writing a book about forest elephants, and continues to play a critical role in Elephant Listening Project's activities.
Ian Redmond, OBE
He worked behind the scenes and on screen in numerous documentaries and was responsible for introducing Sir David Attenborough to mountain gorillas in 1978 for the famous BBC Life on Earth sequences and he taught Sigourney Weaver to grunt like a gorilla in 1987 for her award-winning role in the film Gorillas in the Mist. More recently he advised on the 3D movie The Last of the Great Apes.
Picture: Michael O’Donnell
Sutherland is Lord Northcliffe Professor Emeritus of Modern English Literature at University College London and author of A Little History of Literature, Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives, How to Read a Novel, a bestselling trilogy on literary mysteries, and the memoir Last Drink to LA.
Professor Vanessa Toulmin
She is a leading authority on Victorian entertainment and film and author and editor of several books, including The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon, Electric Edwardians, and Pleasurelands. Her recent publications include four major works on the architecture and history of Blackpool's attractions: Winter Gardens, Blackpool Tower, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and the Blackpool Illuminations.