Journey Across the Kalahari With the Elephant Queen

For African elephants, survival depends on successful migration to and from their ancestral feeding grounds each year. They must constantly follow the rhythms of the seasons, treading the millennia-old paths to reliable sources of food and water—and away from dangerous predators. During the dry season of late summer and autumn, elephants must risk the journey toward water and the promise of continued survival for the herd.

Crisscrossing the continent from watering hole to watering hole, the herd can only survive if its leader remembers the exact location of each crucial pit stop. This responsibility falls to the matriarch of each elephant herd: the eldest female has a long memory, coupled with a lifetime of honing her instinctual awareness of the landscape around her.

Lion and elephant standing in the brush.
Lions have difficulty taking down strong adult elephants, but on the herd’s taxing journey west through the desert, hungry lions present a very real threat. (Photograph by Earth Touch LTD)

On the way to their ancient feeding grounds, in the Flooded Swamp oasis of the Kalahari Desert, each herd of elephants must face a series of tests. We follow one herd led by their matriarch, Mensa, out of the Chobe National Park in northeast Botswana on their way to the feeding grounds of the Okavango River delta. On their journey, they must face prides of roaming lions, hungry crocodiles, scorching heat, and the looming threats of dehydration and starvation—and, above all, they must not get lost.

Straying from the herd, even for a moment, spells disaster for any elephant. Young calves and even adults can easily be separated from the group out on the open plains. However, once lost and disoriented, these unlucky elephants have a hard time finding the herd again and make easy prey for nearby lions.

But as dangerous as this journey is, these elephants have no choice but to take the risk. Experience their desert crossing this Sunday with Elephant Queen at 9/8c, only on Nat Geo WILD. Need more time in the world of elephants? Join us an hour early to get an inside look at the shadowy world of ivory poaching and trade on Warlords of Ivory beginning at 8/7c on National Geographic Channel.


  1. juvi
    August 31, 2015, 8:19 am

    Saw this last night, excellent. I felt especially sad when Chuma (her son) lost his trunk to lions. Even though the show ended with the Queen saying her son would grow up to be strong, I find it hard to believe that a wild elephant could survive trunkless. If anyone knows of followup on Chuma, I’d be very interested.

  2. Sobelle
    August 31, 2015, 7:07 pm

    I too saw this show and was left wondering about little Chuma. On another NGW show about elephants, an adult’s trunk was grabbed by a crocodile however, the trunk survived. The show said at that time that an elephant cannot survive without its trunk, – can’t drink, can’t eat, so I too was left wondering about Chuma’s fate. Poor little guy hadn’t even learned how to fully use his trunk!
    I hope NGW is tracking him and will update us as to his outcome.

  3. Araceli
    September 3, 2015, 10:30 am

    Nat Geo Wild, please let us know what happened to Chuma. The ending really left me distraught and I just want to know if he is ok.

  4. Camille
    St. Louis
    September 8, 2015, 1:20 am

    I agree with Araceli… the ending left me troubled as to what will happen to Chuma. A follow up on his status would be appreciated.

  5. Naomi
    Toledo OH
    September 10, 2015, 9:08 pm

    Please update us on baby Chuma’s status!

  6. Zina
    September 11, 2015, 11:21 am

    Would like to know the outcome also.

  7. Tiffany
    September 11, 2015, 9:12 pm

    The episode left me very concerned for the calfs welfare. Was a wildlife veterinarian contacted?? Please update!!!

  8. Eric
    Salt Lake City UT
    September 17, 2015, 5:09 pm

    Yes please update Chuma and the calf lost I’m the sandstorm. Incredible creatures

  9. Grim Reaper
    October 12, 2015, 2:11 am

    He died.

  10. Yuri
    November 7, 2015, 6:37 pm

    Please we need to know about chuma. Can’t sleep! !

  11. Heather W
    December 13, 2015, 7:31 pm

    Can we please get a update on Chuma?
    My son and his class would love to know if he was able to survive his first year after the lions took his trunk or if it was to much for the little guy. You would be doing a me a huge favor letting this group of 28, 9 year olds know something, anything. Even if it’s there is a show to come about him. 😉

  12. Natasha Kelly
    January 13, 2016, 3:09 pm

    So I seen this as well and started serving now although it doesn’t have a lot of detail it shows he is still alive and healthy
    The original taping of the show from my understanding was in 2012 and this siting is from Feb 2015 so it’s 3 yrs later and he is still alive and well what a trooper

  13. B Merry
    Banff, AB, CDN
    January 14, 2016, 1:08 am

    Yes, please let us know about Chuma.

  14. David Harper
    United States
    July 25, 2016, 5:30 pm

    This “documentary” was completely annoying… Voicing the narrator as a 1st person elephant account is ridiculous and stupid. The same narration from a 3rd person narrative would have been just fine and made it a “documentary”…

  15. Demi
    March 17, 7:33 am


    Actually the same question again.
    I saw the documentary today. What happend to Chuma? (ore Tuma because our undertittled documantary said Tuma).
    Please let us know!


  16. Harinath Bingi
    United States
    April 27, 10:29 am

    Chuma, Hope we can get a update on him