New insights into life and death of Jumbo the elephant revealed in BBC One documentary

New insights into the life and mysterious death of Jumbo the elephant – a celebrity animal superstar whose story is said to have inspired the film ‘Dumbo’ – will be revealed in a BBC One documentary hosted by Sir David Attenborough and featuring a University of Leicester archaeologist on Sunday 10 December.

Dr Richard Thomas, from our School of Archaeology and Ancient History, was invited as lead scientist on the ‘Attenborough and the Giant Elephant’ documentary and spent a week in New York analysing Jumbo’s skeleton, which offered vital clues into Jumbo’s life and controversial death.

The documentary will reveal Jumbo’s height and body mass, and establish if he was as big as it was claimed. Detailed macroscopic and chemical analysis of his teeth and bones will also reveal the stresses and strains of captive life and provide insights into how Jumbo might have died.

As part of the analysis the team were given unique access to Jumbo’s skeleton at the American Museum of Natural History.

As well as Jumbo’s skeleton, Sir David will also explore the lives of wild elephants to explain Jumbo’s troubled mind, and he discovers how our attitude to captive elephants has changed dramatically in recent years.

‘Attenborough and the Giant Elephant’ is broadcast on Sunday 10 December between 9.00pm-10.00pm on BBC ONE.