Inside Nature’s Giants – The Elephant Review: Getting To The Heart of The Matter

June 29, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

INSIDE NATURE’S GIANTS: THE ELEPHANT, Monday 29th June, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME

What does an elephant do? How does a cat work? What is a giraffe?

If you’ve ever found yourself pondering these questions – perhaps ensconced in a cloud of blue smoke in the early hours – then Inside Nature’s Giants should be compulsory viewing.

The show features live-action autopsies of some of the most iconic and extraordinary animals on the planet, quite literally getting to the heart of things to find out what makes them work.

What’s more, there’s commentary on the evolutionary path of these wonderful creatures from none other than the infamous God-disputer Richard Dawkins.

Also, biologist Simon Watt, the dissecting woman’s crumpet, will be seeing how his own body matches up to that of the perfectly engineered animals.

The first episode features one of the most unique mammals on earth: the elephant.

It quickly emerges that there’s more to elephants than Dumbo and footage of them smashing up safari trucks, however fun those two things are.

However, if you are a huge fan of cute baby elephants that can fly be warned; as is the case with autopsies, when it’s over, the unfortunate subject looks like it’s just gone ten rounds with Jack the Ripper.

Not a fun image to go to bed on, especially if your mind is still in the grip of some potent Californian Skunk.

As you’d imagine, going to work on the heaviest thing on two legs is a hefty undertaking, and to start with the dead elephant has to be bled of the 2,000 or so litres of methane which its massive digestive system produces every day.

A team of scientists then systematically strip away the outer layers to reveal how the elephant’s insides have evolved over time to cope with the pressures of such an enormous frame and unbelievably heavy skeleton.

The autopsy really does throw up a number of very interesting facts about the workings of these amazing mammals, from the sheer size of their digestive tract to their ingenious pogo feet which allow them to place all of their body weight on an area the size of a dinner plate.

The elephant’s trunk, as well as being used as an extra arm and a snorkel, is also one of the most unique pieces of evolutionary engineering to be found anywhere in the animal kingdom.

With a good breadth of reporting and concise biological analysis, Inside Nature’s Giants: The Elephant does what it sets out to do; reveal how much more there is to the animal than immediately meets the eye.

With a brain larger than any other animal that walks the earth elephants have shown clear signs of cognitive behaviour. And, amazingly, I learnt that aside from humans, elephants are the only other animals to ritualise death.

Oh, and they actually can’t fly.

Jack McKay

Aw, bless ’em. Aren’t they cute? Like puppies, right? Check out our review of My Weapon Is A Dog and you’ll never look at mutts the same way again. Or sneak a peek at our review of Monkey Mums, another fuzzy-wuzzy animal show that’ll make you cry for different, more hilarious, reasons.