Deeble & Stone / Waterhole Films Ltd.
Watch It Again: Nature’s The Elephant and the Termite
Giant elephants and tiny termites create lifesaving waterholes for thousands of other creatures
In arid regions across southern Kenya, the waterhole – created by elephants and termites – is vital to life. It’s where animals visit to drink and where some creatures are born and die. Every visit is fraught with tension. A waterhole, after all, is the perfect place for predators to wait to ambush their prey.
That’s the traditional view, but there is an entire community of creatures that calls the waterhole home. Many of them live at an elephant’s toenail height – frogs, dung beetles, and chameleons. The film also features animals in between, like the cheetah, yellow baboon, lungfish and yellow-billed stork.
Waterholes, which are the oases of life in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, rely on elephants and termites for their creation. The termite mounds contain rich nutrients that elephants love, and their constant excavation creates a hollow in the landscape that is filled with water when the rains come. Each time a family of elephants visits, they wallow in the mud and the hole grows even bigger.
Nature: The Elephant and the Termite is the remarkable story of the relationship between Africa’s largest and smallest creatures, and the unique wildlife they support.
One of the first animals to arrive at the waterhole is the killifish, whose tiny eggs are transported by the elephant’s feet. Lungfish, who also call waterholes home, spend each dry season asleep underground, lying in wait for the waters to arrive each season before emerging.
Millions of red-billed quelea rest at the waterhole during their migration, and these small birds are prey for larger birds, including steppe eagles. And insects are plentiful at the waterhole, too. They provide a much-needed meal for other predators. Chameleons snatch up butterflies with their long tongues, bat-eared foxes catch dung beetles, and bullfrogs learn the correct way to eat crunchy termites. (Hint: It’s not face-first!)
Peabody Award-winning filmmakers Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone and their dedicated team spent two years camped out at a waterhole in Kenya to share the story of life at Africa’s greatest wildlife meeting place.
Watch the replay of The Elephant and the Termite on WITF TV on February 1 at 8pm, or stream it on demand for free using the PBS Video app starting February 2 through March 2.