Under a blanket of stars on an African night, in the serene grasslands of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, something rarely witnessed by humankind is about to happen: the much-anticipated birth of a baby elephant.
An emotional life-or-death drama that champions the struggle of Africa’s native elephant population, Naledi: A Baby Elephant’s Tale tells the urgent story of an international crisis. The big picture is framed, however, by the close-up portrait of a newborn elephant who inspires hope for the preservation of the continent’s endangered giants.
Naledi is the newest arrival at Abu Camp, a safari lodge and elephant research center. Naledi’s human family stands close by, watching as the adorable infant takes her first stumbling steps, padding aside her mother, Kiti, and bonding with the other females in the herd as they graze on the sweeping savanna. But tragedy intrudes into this idyllic world when Kiti dies unexpectedly, and newborn Naledi’s health goes into a downward spiral. She stops eating and begins to lose weight, a decline that requires biologist Mike Chase and his colleagues to take desperate measures to save her. They succeed, giving this charming and irresistible animal the help she needs to flourish and discover her place in the herd. Inside the camp, Naledi is safeguarded by her herd and nurtured by the soulful bond she has made with her human caretakers, who protect her from poachers and predators. Outside the camp, however, life for Naledi’s fellow elephants is fraught with peril.
Naledi’s struggle and resilience are not hers alone. Across the continent, her species fights for survival as African elephants fall prey to poachers at the rate of one every 15 minutes, up to 30,000 per year. To fathom the tragic magnitude of this threat, conservationists must understand how many elephants are left on the continent. Part of Chase’s mission is to count the remaining herds for the Great Elephant Census, a mammoth aerial survey of the African elephant population. As Dr. Chase flies in a small plane across Africa, he discovers former nature preserves gone asunder and the lifeless bodies of elephants slaughtered for their ivory tusks.
As audiences are drawn in by Naledi’s vulnerability and charisma, they come to understand the urgency of the campaign to keep her, and all elephants alive. This epic portrait of a young elephant mirrors the fight for the survival of the species, revealing a journey of tragedy and triumph that allows us to discover the extraordinary inner life of an animal as complex as any person, and as iconic as Africa itself.