Must-Watch Elephant Documentaries

Here is The Sanctuary's must-watch list of elephant documentaries.

Learn more about the life of elephants in the wild and in captivity through these films.

Akashinga: The Brave Ones (2000)

With many of Africa’s key species, including elephants, reaching levels near extinction, Akashinga is a radical, new and highly effective weapon against poaching. Founded in Zimbabwe by former Australian special forces soldier and anti-poaching leader Damien Mander, the women-only team of rangers, drawn from the abused and marginalized, is revolutionizing the way animals are protected, communities are empowered— and its members’ own lives are being transformed. Mander’s innovative approach to conservation calls for community buy-in rather than full-on armed assault against poachers: If a community understands the economic benefits of preserving animals, then it will eliminate poaching without an armed struggle. Executive produced by three-time Academy Award winner James Cameron and directed by Maria Wilhelm, AKASHINGA: THE BRAVE ONES is a celebration of the courage, conservation and unorthodox thinking that’s leading to massive positive change.

One Lucky Elephant (2010)

Sixteen years after adopting Flora, a 10,000-pound elephant that is the main attraction of a St. Louis circus, trainer David Balding resolves to return Flora to a more natural home. This documentary follows Balding as he investigates suitable new habitats, journeying from Botswana to Miami and finally to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

An Apology to Elephants (2013)

Few animals hold more fascination for humans than elephants. For centuries they’ve been adored, inspired great works of art, and even been revered as gods, yet they have also been treated with cruelty. AN APOLOGY TO ELEPHANTS explores the abuse of these ancient and intelligent animals and shows how some people are reversing the trend. Narrated and executive produced by Lily Tomlin and directed by Emmy® winner Amy Schatz, with narration written by Jane Wagner.

Tyke: Elephant Outlaw (2015)

Honolulu, August 20, 1994. Tyke the elephant goes on a rampage. What happens next will traumatize a city and ignite a global battle over the use of performing animals. Tyke: Elephant Outlaw is a gripping and emotionally charged documentary about one elephant’s break for freedom and the profound questions it raised about our connection to other species.

Gardeners of Eden (2014)

Africa's elephants are hurtling toward extinction to fuel the worldwide ivory trade. While conservationists howl and corrupt governments fail to address the ongoing slaughter, one brave family has been working for decades to stem the tide, one elephant at a time. Gardeners of Eden is a gripping, first-person experience inside the operations of Kenya's David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. From the front lines of the crisis, we witness their heroic efforts to stop the poachers in the bush, rescue the orphans of slain elephants and raise them by hand, until one day, returning them to their home in the wild.

The Urban Elephant (2000)

Produced for PBS and National Geographic, this documentary journeys into the realm of Asian elephants living under human care. Traveling across North America and Asia, the film reveals the stories of eight elephants whose lives have been touched by humans. Through their remarkable tales, we will come to understand the precarious world they live in and the challenges they face in the future.

Gods in Shackles (2016)

This documentary reveals the dark side of the southern Indian state of Kerala's glamorous cultural festivals where temple elephants are exploited for profit under the guise of culture and religion.

Mind of a Giant (2016)

Mind of a Giant gets to the heart of what it is like to be a modern elephant surviving in a world of poachers, new human settlements and other dangers, as revealed by revolutionary new research. Together with the top elephant scientists in the world, we learn that elephants are smarter than we ever knew before.

The Ivory Game (2016)

The African elephant faces extinction as poachers wreak havoc in pursuit of the ‘white gold’ of ivory, considered a symbol of luxury and power amongst the new rising Chinese middle-class. Watch now on Netflix.

Attenborough and The Giant Elephant (2017)

David Attenborough investigates the remarkable life and death of Jumbo the elephant – a celebrity animal superstar whose story is said to have inspired the movie Dumbo. Attenborough joins a team of scientists and conservationists to unravel the complex and mysterious story of this large African elephant - an elephant many believed to be the biggest in the world. With unique access to Jumbo’s skeleton at the American Museum of Natural History, the team work together to separate myth from reality. How big was Jumbo really? How was he treated in captivity? And how did he die? Jumbo’s bones offer vital clues.

Love & Bananas (2019)

Ashley Bell and a team of elephant rescuers, led by Asian elephant conservationist Sangdeaun Lek Chailert, embark on a daring 48-hour mission 500 miles across Thailand to rescue a 70-year old captive blind Asian elephant and bring her to freedom.

Elephant (2020)

Narrated by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, Disneynature’s “Elephant” follows African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo as their herd make an epic journey hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert, from the Okavango delta to the Zambezi river, just as countless generations of their ancestors have done before.

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