Paul O’Grady’s Great Elephant Adventure

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Week 15 2024 : Sat 06 Apr - Fri 12 Apr

Mon 25 Mar 2024

Paul O’Grady’s Great Elephant Adventure

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Series overview

This two-part series follows the late Paul O’Grady as he travels through Thailand and Laos to celebrate the wonderful work done by elephant conservation centres to rescue, rehabilitate and protect these most majestic, but vulnerable, of animals. Filmed in the months before his sudden and unexpected death, this was Paul’s final TV project and one that he was incredibly passionate about.

Thailand has the largest number of elephant rescue centres in the world, while Laos is nicknamed the ‘land of a million elephants’, and in each episode, Paul travels across the region to roll up his sleeves and muck in to help out at a different rescue centre.  Along the way, Paul also heads out from the sanctuaries to grab a slice of local life by exploring nearby colourful markets, temples and apothecaries and trying local cuisine.  

The series highlights challenges faced by elephants in the region and as ever, Paul’s love for animals shines throughout. The tone is warm, playful and heartfelt and always characterised by his much-loved wit and humour.  

Episode 2

In this episode, Paul heads south near the beaches of Hua Hin to the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, the country’s biggest wildlife hospital. Looking after any animal in need, the WFFT is sanctuary to 24 elephants mostly rescued from ‘entertainment camps’, where they performed in circuses, or work tirelessly in trekking camps taking holidaymakers for a ride.

Paul soon falls in love with 37-year-old Pun, who had been used for breeding as selling on baby elephants is a highly lucrative business for the unscrupulous. Paul oversees Pun having a full body MOT to assess her health following years spent being pregnant. This gives him the chance to enjoy a fascinating close-up view of an elephant’s extraordinary anatomy as he inspects Pun’s trunk, teeth, feet, ears and tail. He then learns Pun’s birthday is coming up and he can’t resist making her a super-sized birthday cake - although popping down to the local fruit stall for ingredients proves anything but simple.

Paul also meets 57-year-old Jum Nong, who is scarred both physically and mentally from a lifetime working in the tourist trade. She now has trouble sleeping so Paul sets to work making her a comfy bed to hopefully help her get some shut eye.  

Aside from elephants, the WFFT rescue a huge array of wild animals and Paul is given privileged access to meet their newest residents – 11 Bengal tigers rehomed from a local zoo. They include 19-year-old Susu who has arrived with a limp, so Paul helps the team to sedate her and then take her to the centre’s hospital for a full check-up and x-ray. This is the first time Paul has been up, close and personal to a tiger, and it’s an experience he’ll never forget.  

Paul then crosses the Thailand border to neighbouring Laos – it’s nicknamed the ‘land of a million elephants’ but sadly in reality, there are now less than 800 left in the country. To help arrest this startling decline in numbers, Paul heads to the Elephant Conservation Centre near Luang Prabang in the north, home to the country’s only breeding programme, to learn about what is being done to try and boost the elephant population.

Set deep inside 20 square miles of stunning jungle, Paul arrives at the ECC by longboat and is soon put to work honing his elephant midwife skills by overseeing ovulation tests for some of the centre’s thirty females. Elephants only ovulate three or four times a year, so timing is everything if a female is going to conceive. The final elephant biologist Anabel introduces Paul to is May Bo Pan, who is 12 months pregnant. She’s in to have her progesterone levels checked, and there’s an anxious wait while her latest blood tests are analysed.  

While they wait, Anabel takes Paul deeper into the Laotian jungle so he can play matchmaker to a young bull elephant meeting a new date. Twenty-year old Phai Kham Sing is a bit clueless when it comes to meeting females but with a few words of advice from Paul, signs look promising he might get the hang of the mating game.  

Paul also witnesses the heart-warming signs of a positive future ahead for elephants in Laos when he meets the ECC’s two most precious residents – babies Phu Noy and Mae Noy, who, hopefully, will one day be released into the wild.

Paul then ends his elephant adventure by taking part in a stunning Bacci ceremony, a religious Laotian ritual overseen by a local shaman to help bring good luck and fortune for the future of the Asian elephant. It’s an emotional moment for Paul giving him the chance to reflect back on all the amazing elephants he’s met during his time in South East Asia.




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