8pm on Channel 5
The documentary series examining freak occurrences in the natural world continues. This instalment focuses on the circumstances surrounding the gruesome events of January 2004 when a dead sperm whale exploded in the middle of a Taiwan street.
At 6.30am on 26 January 2004, police were called to a grisly scene on a busy street in Tainan, southern Taiwan. A huge dead body lay on the back of a truck, while blood and entrails were spread across the road, nearby cars and shop fronts. All the stunned bystanders knew was that a whale had just blown up in the street.
The 50-ton sperm whale - the biggest ever recorded in Taiwan - was being transported from the coast where it had washed up 24 hours earlier to a university for examination. But the journey was cut short by the unimaginable event. Large parts of intestine, chunks of blubber and gallons of blood burst from the tail section of the animal, bringing traffic to a standstill.
Before long, local news cameras arrived on the scene and began to capture the surreal images. The man in charge of transporting the whale was Professor Wang Chien-ping, of the National Cheng Kung University, who wanted to perform a necropsy on the animal. While the rest of the city cleaned up, the indefatigable professor began the long, unpleasant process of collecting the miscellaneous body parts from the street.
The whale eventually reached its destination and was placed under a huge canopy, where a 60-strong team of scientists and volunteers started the immense task of dissecting the animal. By this time, hundreds of onlookers had gathered to watch the scientists at work.
Four years on, the skeleton of the whale is a popular tourist attraction in Taiwan and its story has become part of local folklore. But the cause of the explosion is still the subject of much debate.
Now, a team of international experts attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery. What could inflict such a huge trauma on the biggest predator on the planet?
From parrots and pirates to shipwrecks, sharks and glittering seas, this wonderful series reveals what really lies behind a mysterious eden. The Caribbean is a glorious spectacle of sun, sand and warm blue seas, spiced with areas of incredible cultural diversity. In our minds, it is the embodiment of paradise crystal waters, magical coral reefs, white sandy beaches an ideal holiday destination. But the real surprise is that there is a lot more to the Caribbean than this.
It has some amazing and mysterious wildlife with strange creatures found nowhere else on earth. Fluorescent hummingbirds buzz around, impossibly bright scarlet ibis fill the sky, Cuban crocodiles patrol the waters and thousands of flamingos dance in an unrivalled spectacle.
Yet behind its tropical beauty the Caribbean conceals many dark and mysterious secrets. Its violent past is manifested in volcanic eruptions, both destructive and creative, mammoth tidal waves that can flatten whole islands and powerful hurricanes that sweep a destructive passage. The cultural past has also left its mark, scarred into the character of the individual islands.
In a land we may think we know this is still a time of exploration and discovery with new locations and stories to explore. Many secrets are still hidden and many questions remain unanswered.
The Caribbean is a region consisting of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (most of which enclose the sea), and the surrounding coasts. The region is located southeast of North America, east of Central America, and to the north of South America.
Situated largely on the Caribbean Plate, the region comprises more than 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and cays. Also called the West Indies, since Christopher Columbus landed here in 1492 believing he was in the Indies (in Asia), the region consists of the Antilles, divided into the larger Greater Antilles which bound the sea on the north and the Lesser Antilles on the south and east (including the Leeward Antilles), and the Bahamas. Geopolitically, the West Indies are usually reckoned as a subregion of North America and are organised into 27 territories including sovereign states, overseas departments, and dependencies. At one time, there was a short-lived country called the Federation of the West Indies composed of ten English-speaking Caribbean territories, all of which were then UK dependencies.
The Caribbean islands are an island chain 4,020 kilometres (2,500 mi) long and no more than 257 kilometres (160 mi) wide at any given point. They enclose the Caribbean Sea.
The region takes its name from that of the Carib, an ethnic group present in the Lesser Antilles and parts of adjacent South America at the time of European contact. In the English-speaking Caribbean, someone from the Caribbean is usually referred to as a “West Indian,” although the phrase “Caribbean person” is sometimes used.
It's started! Love-him-or-hate-him Bill Oddie and glowing BBC icon Kate Humble returned to our screens last night for the opening of Autumnwatch 2008.
Having just had one of the coldest Summers in years, some of us may feel cheated at how soon Autumn seems to have arrived, but the Autumnwatch team have already been hard at work for weeks preparing our new Autumn adventures for the screen!
Based at Brownsea Island, home to one of the last groups of red squirrels in the British Isles, Autumnwatch 2008 is promising to take us on a journey through the season's true wild mysteries unravelling stories on land and beneath the surface fo the oceans around Britain.
Simon King has returned to us from the Masai Mara to take on the much less dangerous challenge of examining the rutting and lekking behaviours of the beautiful fallow deer population at Petworth.
The lovely Gordon Buchanan has been struggling his way out to the Farne Islands to check up on the grey seals out there whose freshly born pups are learning to suckle and of course to cope with the elements.
If you want to get involved in Autumnwatch check out the Autumnwatch website, at which you can upload your own footage of Autumnal behaviours, chat on the messageboards about your sightings and even contribute your photos to their Flickr group.
For the full article please visit Giants Orbiting.
By Samantha Dixon
The Awards, which have been running for 26 years, are firmly established as the most prestigious in the natural history filmmaking calendar. Over 420 entries were received this year, with 22 prizes being awarded.
At the Awards Joanna Lumley said, “It’s very heartening this year to see so many films with a strong environmental focus – it seems at last the environment is going mainstream, and is on everyone’s agenda.”
The top award, the Golden Panda, has been awarded to Armoured Giants – The Cold Blooded Truth a BBC Natural History Unit programme presented by wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. Sir David joined colleagues from the Natural History Unit to collect the Award.
Miles Barton, from the BBC Natural History introduced Sir David, “There is only one person that you can get a commission about a load of slimy, scaly cold-blooded creatures on BBC 1 these days, that is of course David Attenborough who is as enthusiastic about these underdogs of the animal world as anything else!”
Sir David continued “This Award means something particularly important for me, because over the past 25 years I’ve been making series’ of programmes about whole groups of the animal kingdom and amphibians and reptiles were the last group. The BBC was not always so keen on amphibians and reptiles…they’d say ‘why don’t you do something you can pat, or something that flies?’ This series has completed the final ‘set’ for me and I am thrilled beyond measure it should receive your approbation.”
The Award ceremony was attended by over 600 people from all over the world. Guests were in Bristol attending the Wildscreen Festival – a week of seminars, discussion and debate.
Click here to see a full list of this year’s winners.
This report won the Wildscreen 2008 News award.
The judges stated that this was a report everyone should see.
Please be aware that this contains footage of a disturbing nature.
by Samantha Dixon
Natural World, BBC Two's award-winning natural history series, has been re-commissioned for a further three years in the year it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The series, produced by the BBC's world renowned Natural History Unit, started over 40 years ago in 1967 as The World About Us, and in 1983 it became Natural World.
Consisting of mainly one-off in-depth films, the series commissions the very best individual natural history programmes from BBC producers, UK independents and top international wildlife filmmakers.
Head of the BBC's Natural History Unit, and former Natural World editor, Neil Nightingale, said: 'By continually reinventing the way it explores exciting wildlife stories, Natural World remains as fresh and relevant to audiences today as when it first started 25 years ago.
'Its quality is as high as ever, with the series regularly winning British and international awards for its beautiful filming and compelling stories.'
David Attenborough, who commissioned The World About Us, the pre-cursor to Natural World when he was Controller of BBC Two, has been very involved with the series: 'I have no doubt that Natural World is not only the doyen and founding member of the 50-minute natural history genre but is still the one with the best and most distinguished record.'
The BBC Two series kicks off on 11 November with a retrospective film about one of the world's most studied gorillas. The Gorilla King follows the story of a 33-year-old gorilla whose bloodline dates back to the Rwandan gorilla troupe originally studied by researcher Dian Fossey back in 1967. Forty years on, the programme looks back at the dramatic life story of this extraordinary animal.
Using archive footage and testament from the researchers who followed his progress and continue to observe his life, the incredible story of Titus' success and survival unfolds.
'He's an old friend – and I use the word deliberately. 'I would argue that if you share 97.7 per cent of your DNA with someone, as well as a relationship based on mutual trust and – if I read him right – pleasure in each other's company, the term 'friend' feels right.' - Ape conservationist, Ian Redmond
'I'm really proud that 25 years on Natural World continues to go from strength to strength,' said current series editor, Tim Martin 'and that the BBC has awarded it a new three year deal. 'Natural World is important for the health of the wildlife TV industry – it's a place where we can try out new camera techniques, new ways of using music or new approaches to storytelling.'
DID YOU KNOW?
Natural World is the longest-running wildlife documentary strand on British television.
Originally named The World About Us, the series started in 1967, commissioned by the then BBC Two controller David Attenborough, who was expanding the range of colour programmes on the fledgling channel.
Production duties were shared between the Travel and Exploration Unit, in London, and Bristol's Natural History Unit.
In 1983 the films were narrowed down to natural history so were produced exclusively by the Natural History Unit.
Over the past 25 years there have been 436 episodes of Natural World.
Each year 17 individual natural history films are commissioned by the BBC from leading independent wildlife filmmakers, or produced in-house by the BBC's Natural History Unit.
David Attenborough narrating over 45 episodes of Natural World and The World About Us between 1969 and 2008.
Wildlife filming legend Sir David Attenborough presented the top award, the Golden Panda, to Bristol's very own BBC Natural History Unit for its programme Armoured Giants – The Cold Blooded Truth.
Life in Cold Blood, Golden Panda award winners
The Natural History Unit had a successful night, picking up five awards. As well as the Golden Panda, the Bristol department won the Earth Sciences Award for Earth: The Power of the Planet – Atmosphere, in which presenter Dr Iain Stewart shows how the atmosphere has shaped the world we live in.
It also picked up the Natural History Museum Environment Award for Battle to Save the Tiger, which examines the threat of extinction faced by the tiger, and the Films at 59 Award for best sound for Galapagos: Born of Fire, which follows the lives of the animals living on the group of islands that shaped Darwin's theory of evolution.
The Bristol Natural History Unit also won the best editing award for Expedition Guyana, in which an international team of naturalists, filmmakers and climbers travel deep into the heart of the jungle to search for animals that live in the little-discovered South American country.
The unit was also co-producer on a number of other winning programmes.
The Panda Awards, which have been running for 26 years, are the most prestigious in the natural history filmmaking calendar.
More than 420 entries were received this year, with 22 prizes handed out at the Bristol ceremony.
This is Bristol
The Daily Mail - This final part of what has been an entrancing documentary series
Radio Times - 'Beautifully filmed and meticulously researched'
The Daily Telegraph - This evocative series concludes with
The Independent - This fascinating series end with
The Times - In the final episode of this evocative series
The Observer - Pick of the Day 'This illuminating programme'
As a volunteer you have access to almost every area of Wildscreen from cinema screenings to the celebrity green room, from workshops to the watershed cafe, from the registration desk to the prestigious Panda Awards!
Sir David Attenborough with volunteers Jonas Stenstrom and Samantha Dixon at the Panda Awards 2006.
Nikki Waldron (volunteer coordinator) is responsible for making sure the 30 strong volunteer team maintain order at the festival to keep it running smoothly. The volunteers must man events, screenings, talks and workshops and check that only those who've paid (dearly!) for the Festival's activities are permitted. Nikki is there to ensure that the excited volunteers keep to their schedules and ensure an enjoyable event for all.
Wildscreen Film Festival is a whirlwind adventure for everyone especially the volunteers! Keep an eye on GiantsOrbiting to find out all about the goings on behind the scenes for the Wildscreen 2008 volunteers.
By Samantha Dixon
The documentary series examining freak occurrences in the natural world continues. This instalment uncovers the mystery of a group of hideously disfigured Tasmanian devils discovered by scientists in the late 1990s.
The devil is a carnivorous marsupial unique to the Australian island of Tasmania. It is the size of a small, sturdily built dog, and the name ‘devil’ comes from its loud and fiendish shriek. Due to its status as the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world, the animal is of great interest to conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts alike.
One night in 1996, a wildlife photographer set out to capture these fascinating nocturnal creatures on celluloid. The resulting pictures sent shock waves through the scientific community. “What we saw was both disgusting and spectacular,” says Nick Mooney, a biologist who has studied the Tasmanian devil in its natural habitat for 30 years. The pictures showed the devils emerging from the forest with grotesque disfigurements in the form of monstrous facial growths.
It was not until five years later that zoologist Dr Menna Jones came across another group of devils with the same affliction. “They were horrific,” she says. “Teeth falling out, jaws breaking off, tumours protruding into eye sockets.” The growths had all the hallmarks of cancer. But cancer is not contagious, so why were so many devils suffering the same symptoms? “You cannot catch cancer from someone else,” confirms immunologist Professor Greg Woods, “so something unusual was happening with these Tasmanian devils.”
Experts looked to the past for answers. Devils have been extinct on the Australian mainland for over 600 years because they were easy prey for dingoes. Yet the devils were not safe in Tasmania either. For over a century, they were hunted and poisoned by local farmers. It was not until 1941 that a new law was introduced banning anyone from harming the creatures. As a result of inbreeding within the dwindling population, the devils’ immune systems had weakened. This meant their bodies had no defences against foreign cells, and diseases such as cancer became transmissible.
The mystery of the ghastly tumours was eventually solved once and for all when scientists diagnosed the growths as a new type of cancer exclusive to the species – devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). Only two other strains of transmissible cancer have been recorded in the world, making it incredibly rare.
On learning about DFTD, conservationists feared the worst for the future of the devils. “An island is a very finite place, and extinctions have a very nasty habit of occurring on islands,” says Nick. Indeed, DFTD is a particularly aggressive form of cancer, with death almost certainly resulting within three to eight months of contracting the disease. In an attempt to halt the advance of DFTD, authorities launched the Save the Devil Campaign in 2003. Donations made to the cause help fund research into and management of this devastating disease.
New to the awards this year we have the Natural History Museum Environment Award, the Animal Planet International People & Animals Award and the Presenter-led Award.
If it wasn't for this event we couldn't have imagined the leaps and bounds this industry has taken to be possible.
Time and time again we see the BBC Natural History Unit raise the bar for wildlife filmmaking with pioneer blue-chip programmes and unique multi-media ventures, but without this review of their competition would they push so hard and so far? Would their competitors have been left straggling behind?
Here's a quick look at the BBC NHU entries to the Panda Awards this year.
Extreme Animals: Sports Stars has been nominated for the UWE Children's Choice Award. Extreme Animals: Sports Stars examined who would win the race to be the tip top fastest fittest animal from ten contenders. Although the fastest animal is the Peregrine Falcon, reaching speeds up to 200km/h, the Cheetah took the top position!
Galapagos: Born of Fire is up for the Panasonic Award for Cinematography for its spectacular images of outstanding natural beauty and the camerawork that brought them to the public eye. This Award actually marks the competition between three nominees all produced or co-produced by the BBC NHU: one of which involves co-production with previous Panda Award stars Halcyon media. Wye: Voices from the Valley has similar undercurrents and tone to the award-winning My Halcyon River which wowed the judges at Wildscreen 2004, and, like Galapagos: Born of Fire, was nominated for both best cinematography and the Films @59 Award for Best Sound.
Expedition Guyana (Programme 1) is a hopeful nominee for the Best Editing Award. Expedition Guyana followed a group of adventurers and scientists into the unexplored depths of the jungle to seek out new species and behaviours. The team made exciting discoveries and conquered dangerous landscapes to make this fantastic programme but the editors had to wade through hundreds of hours of footage and reduce them to a few succinct episodes!
Buddha, Bees and the Giant Hornet Queen, one episode of an outstanding Natural World series by the BBC, is up for the Parthenon Entertainment Award for Innovation. This programme shows the unique and mysterious connection between a monk, his bee colony and the hungry killer hornet army that amasses on his doorstep. Definitely a strong contender for this award and definitely worth finding on DVD or borrowing from your local video library.
Elephant Diaries (programme 4) has been nominated for the Five Award for Popular Broadcast Programme. The diary format is one with which we are all familiar and the recent successes of the BBC NHU with Big Cat Diary demonstrates how popular their work in this genre will continue to be. Competitors in this category are up against the best in the business!
Life in Cold Blood: The Cold-Blooded Truth is a strong nominee for Best Series Award. What would a Panda Award ceremony be without David Attenborough? And yet they may find themselves pipped to the post by Ammonite Ltd's fantastic series Smalltalk Diaries which makes up for in character, what it lacks in cinematography.
All in all this year's nominees represent the consistently improving quality of Wildlife film being churned out around the world. Without Wildscreen we couldn't qualitatively scrutinise such programmes to push them forward in their own creativity; and without the BBC's NHU who would set the bar to get the rest of the industry to keep their socks pulled up?!
Follow the Uncut diary of Wildscreen Film Festval volunteer Samantha Dixon at Giants Orbitting.
'Hermione Cockburn breathes life into British fossils, stirring up the sediment of palaeontology to take us on an exciting whirlwind journey of discovery."
Accompanying the BBC2 TV series from the award-winning BBC Natural History Unit, Fossil Detectives is packed with over 150 vivid colour images, including striking photographs and stunning illustrations, and provides an in-depth look at the most exciting fossil stories from history as well as cutting edge modern day science. It also includes an extensive regional gazetteer of fossil-hunting locations and places to visit, and practical guidance on how to identify your fossil finds. It is a wonderful title for all the family to enjoy.
So take a journey back in time to prehistoric Britain and discover a whole new country and history.
Wed 15 Oct, 23:40-00:40 60mins Stereo Widescreen
Australia's stark and beautiful red centre is now seen as part of the country's national identity, with Uluru, or Ayres Rock, a national symbol. But this vast desert centre was originally seen as a place of death and silence by the first white explorers. It has taken 200 years for a new perception to emerge, one that recognises it as a place of life and creation - the way it has always been seen by the continent's original inhabitants, the Aborigines.
'Aerial views of the weirdly wonderful Australian interior make this second slice of cultural history a visual feast, as well as brain food. Its a fascinating journey through history, geography, colonialism, climatology, art and , most of all, European and Aboriginal myth.' Radio Times
"..this fabulous series..a superb essay.." Sunday Times
"Glorious documentary ...fantastic." - Guardian
"..stunning footage, great interviews.. an entrancing piece of cultural history" - Radio Times
"Awe inspiring footage..epic stories for an epic landcape" - Daily Mail
"..this excellent series.." The Observer
"..stunning panoramas and expert commentary..unusually evocative'" - The Times
(A Provider of High Definition (HD) Nature and Wildlife Stock Video Footage, Still Images, Nature Books, and Custom Video and Photography Services.)
The outdoors are a totally different world at night. In fact, many if not most wildlife are more active at night. However, the darkness of night is not suitable for normal videography. Fortunately, the nature filmmaker has a couple of options. One is to use a very powerful spotlight to film critters. The downside to such an approach is that many species are frightened by the light, or at the least may not act normally. Furthermore, a spotlight makes for a harsh image and doesn't always convey the feeling of a nighttime shot. A second approach is to take advantage of infrared (infra-red or IR) technology. Essentially, the technology uses a portion of the wavelength that is invisible to us and to most wildlife species. Several camcorders come equiped with infrared technology which is often marketed under names such as "Nightshot" (in the case of Sony camcorders). The downside is that most of these camcorders are designed for the consumer market and they lack important features such as manual focus or they are hampered by small lens in terms of focal length and diameter. There is more professional equipment available, but it can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Here we describe some affordable configurations that should meet many needs for filming wildlife at night or in special situations such as animals in caves, nest cavities, and underground burrows.
As mentioned above, you will need a camcorder with infrared capability. Examples of high definition cameras with infrared capability include the Sony HDR-CX7 and the HDR-HC1 through HC12 models. The Panasonic AG-DVC30 may be the most famous infrared camcorder because it was used in "ghost hunting" television shows; however, it is not a high definition unit. Infrared filmmaking requires not only a camera capable of recording infrared wavelengths (about 830nm or greater), but also an infrared emitter. Although the camcorders come with a built-in emitter, the range is usually rated at less than 10 feet; in fact, image quality drops off after just a couple of feet (the Sony camcorders also come with a "Super Nightshot" mode, but don't use that; while it does gather more light it does so at the expense of shutter speed resulting in jerky motion).
Sony makes an infrared emitter they sell for about $40 (Sony HVL-IRM). Two of the units, one on each side of the camcorder, will give you good lighting as well as usuable video out to about 30 feet. For tight work, such as filming an animal in a burrow or cavity, an infrared flashlight may be all you need. Simply tape the flashlight to the side of the camcorder opposite the built-in LED emitter and you will get good shadow-less lighting. For studio work a panel LED emitter will work well as a key light (you will want a second or third light off to the side to lessen shadows). As for the amount of lighting needed in a situation, its as much art as science. Suffice it to say that you should error on the side of having too much light. Moderate lighting may look okay on the camcorder LCD screen, but once you look at the footage on a HD monitor you will see graniness. In addition, good lighting helps with the autofocus feature on the consumer camcorders. Not surprisingly, you should test your system and look at the footage on a decent monitor before heading into the great outdoors.
Nighttime Infrared Equipment for Wildlife
For longer range work you'll need to buy a powerful infrared emitter or customize a spotlight for infrared work. A Google or EBay search on infrared flashlights, spotlights, emitters, or illuminators will bring up many items. However, take the given range estimates with a healthy dose of skepticism; while the emitters may allow you to see critters that far out with infrared goggles or binoculars, you will only be getting useful wildlife footage at about half that distance. For decent outdoor work you should expect to spend hundreds of dollars for top-end infrared spotlights.
A workable "poor-man's" version is to acquire a superbright spotlight or two and place red filters or gels over them. Good battery powered spotlights can be had from $100-$150. We've had good success with HID (high intensity discharge) lights, but halogen and flourescent lights should also work well (don't use spotlights with LED bulbs has they emit very little light outside of their intended range). An HID spotlight will give you about 60 minutes of lighting from a full charge. Cover the bulbs with a filter that cuts all or most light except for the infrared wavelengths. Frankly, we prefer to have a little bit of red light emitting as it helps to track the animal and wildlife don't appear to be spooked by it. Infrared filters can be purchased from most lighting specialty stores for only a few bucks. You can also buy plastic sheets about 1/4" thick and cut your own filters. We actually prefer the roll sheets afixed to clear plexiglass. That way we can combine sheets to reduce the light or to spread out the beam for a wider angle (by using a diffusing gel on one layer). One word of caution, allow air to circulate between the filter and the lens or you may end up melting your filter or burning out a bulb.
We've afixed two of the spotlights to a board which then sits on top of a tripod. Another board is placed on top of the spotlights as a platform for a camcorder (and it provides additional support for the spotlights). At close range this setup may give you some vertical shadows on top of your subject, but at longer ranges it works fine. A setup like this will get you out to about 50 yards, depending on your target (for dark subjects such as bison it may not extend that far; for lighter animals such as pronghorn antelope your range may be even greater). It is a bit top-heavy so you should use it with a good steady tripod.
Night-time videography for wildlife is a special experience. You see and experience things few people ever do. For examples of night-time infrared video go to www.hdnaturefootage.net and type "infrared" in the search box.
Have you always lived a nomadic existence?
Yes. I was born in London, then soon went back to Ghana where my parents were living. When I was 5 we moved to Nepal, where I stayed until I was 14, then went to school in England. In the meantime, my family moved to Tanzania, so I would go there on holidays.
Were those years formative in terms of your wanting to work with animals?
In Nepal, during the holidays, we'd go trekking in the Himalayas. Although you don't see a great number of mammals there, it is fantastic for birds, and you get a sense of being in beautiful, wild spaces. My love of the natural world came from those early years.
It must have been a shock to go from Nepal to an English boarding school.
At first I felt like a caged animal. I was used to wandering around barefoot with a whole lot of stray dogs to look after, and then suddenly I was at an all-girl's boarding school where I wasn't even allowed to leave the school gates. It was quite a shock to the system.
You went on to study zoology and psychology. What came next?
I was working as a researcher at the BBC Natural History Unit when I heard that primatologist Jane Goodall was looking for a field assistant. I jumped at the chance, and went to Burundi to help establish a research and conservation project looking at chimpanzees living in fragments of forest right up against human habitation where no one expected they could live. Then I went to Goodall's main site at Gombe National Park in Tanzania to study chimp communication. I lived in a tiny hut near Lake Tanganyika and spent two years roaming the forests with the chimps, recording their vocalisations.
What did you discover about chimp communication?
I was concentrating on the males' long distance calls, and I found that there are at least three acoustically distinct types of calls used in different contexts. The alpha males call much more than the low-ranking males - it is advantageous for a dominant male to keep the males together to protect his group from neighbouring chimps, as he benefits most in terms of access to females and resources. The alpha male often calls in others when he finds a good food supply, whereas lower ranking males are likely to stay quiet so they don't get usurped and lose out on food.
You must have got to know the chimps well.
They become almost like close friends, except of course you don't interact with them so they will continue with their natural behaviour. The chimps at Gombe have been studied for so long that they just ignore you, though occasionally one of the little ones will come over and try to pull something out of your pack. I still keep in touch with Gombe to find out what's happening to the adolescents I once knew.
What's your most memorable encounter in the wild?
I've had endless days with the chimps where I've been blown away, but I've also swum with humpback whales, which was amazing, and been chased by an elephant, which was pretty scary!
Why did an elephant chase you?
I was in the Central African Republic on foot in a bai, or forest clearing, where a lot of animals come for the mineral salts as well as to drink. A female elephant and her calf came out of the forest very close to where I was sitting and talking to camera for the BBC series Jungle. I stayed still, hoping she would carry on past me when she suddenly picked up my scent from about 12 metres away and charged. I don't blame her - there is a lot of elephant poaching in that area so they really fear humans and she was protecting her calf.
For a brief moment I thought I would stand my ground - but made a split-second decision that she would probably flatten me if I didn't get out of her way fast. I managed to get to the shelter of a tree where an elephant researcher and local tracker were and we hid while the elephant crashed about in the undergrowth. She finally decided to go in search of her calf which had run off. That's the only the time I've been filming or researching wild animals and really thought, "This could be it".
It was the one time I really thought, 'this could be it'
In the field, you have lots of uncomfortable encounters with snakes, or elephants around the camp. I've been kicked by mountain gorillas and dragged down a hill by chimps.
That all sounds pretty dangerous!
I knew they weren't out to kill me. Male chimpanzees put on a display to assert themselves within the community, and this often involves charging through the undergrowth, tearing off branches and sometimes hurling rocks. That time, they incorporated me in the display. Drag a branch, chuck it to one side, charge past Charlotte, grab her ankle, charge down the hillside - they're very strong, so there's not much you can do about it. I knew it was a show of bravado. I came back with a few cuts and bruises, but not badly hurt. The most dangerous situations in the wild are either when you are a potential meal for a predator, or when an animal feels very scared. It was the same with the gorillas - the males were just showing off. It is an adrenalin moment when a large gorilla comes over and flattens you, but I didn't think they were going to kill me.
Now you're going back for more?
Yes, I'm working on a UK television series about primates for Channel 5. I went to Uganda last month to film chimps. Next it will be baboons, gorillas and orang-utans. I want to take the audience right into their society by following some principal characters and revealing what extraordinarily complex relationships they have.
David Attenborough has tipped you to be his successor. How do you feel about that?
It is a huge compliment but quite daunting. David Attenborough is a hero of mine, but I don't think anybody can step into his shoes. He's a one-off.
Your life sounds very glamorous. Is there any downside to your nomadic existence?
Yes, there is, though I feel churlish saying that because of the amazing experiences I've had. But I think as humans we also need the quiet, ordinary aspects of life, we need to be with family and friends - and sometimes that can go by the wayside.
Does that ever make you want to settle down to a desk job?
No, I'll carry on doing what I do, sometimes at my desk writing, sometimes travelling. I don't really look too far ahead.
Friday 17 October, 2008 14.15
This promises a labyrinthine, multi-layered plot about a visit to a Scottish island, an old man reflecting on his life, and a tale of two children trying to escape an abusive situation. Sounds like fun… http://blogs.thestage.co.uk
A fictional story written and narrated by Paul Evans and based on an island legend about a brother and sister who were bound by a wish sworn on a barn owl feather, which in turn became a curse that proved fatal. Recorded on location in Scotland; isolation, human desire and the supernatural are explored in this unsettling drama about the relationship between hope and desire, Man and Nature.
Old man … ………………..Jimmy Yuill
Sister ...……………………..Alyth McCormack
Old man as a young boy…. .David McLellan
Sister as a young girl ……….Michaela Sweeney
WILDLIFE SOUND RECORDIST: Chris Watson
PRODUCER / DIRECTOR: Sarah BluntListen here
Three-part documentary series telling the stories of early European explorers who reached the wildernesses of Canada, the Congo and Australia.
200 years ago, the Arctic was largely a great blank on the map for would-be explorers. It captured their imagination as a place of sublime beauty and yet also as a desolate frozen landscape, home to the deadly polar bear. It was a place where heroes attempted to find the North-West passage and where whole expeditions disappeared without trace.
In the last century, the polar sea has become a region of vital strategic significance where the great powers built secret bases, transforming the lifestyle of the Inuit. Now, as the Arctic ice melts, the polar bear has become an emblem for the fragility of our planet.
The series, for which cameras were placed around Kenya's Masai Mara game reserve, opened with 4.2 million and a 19% share between 6.10pm and 7.10pm, according to unofficial overnight figures.
Shakira and her cubs still doing well.
Snapped early this morning.
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The BBC believe this is the first live lion kill broadcast on the internet. Recorded at approximately 16.15 BST, 3 October 2008.
Four years ago two scientists led a Timewatch investigation into whether or not a tsunami could have struck England in 1607. Two weeks after we completed the film, the world was stunned by the Asian tsunami, making their work even more pertinent.The same team believe they may have discovered a whole series of forgotten British tsunamis – does this mean the risk to Britain is much greater than we think?
Radio 4's Vanessa Collingridge goes on a journey of discovery around the British coastline to find out.
Monday 6th October - Friday 17th October
Cbeebies channel at 09.00, 12.00 & 17.10 as part of an African themed fortnight to tie in with BIG CAT LIVE!
Watch the Trailer:
Wild about Animals
CBBC on BBCtwo - 07.35 Monday - Friday until Wednesday 22nd October
Sam and mark's Guide to dodging Disaster
THURSDAY'S 16.30 CBBC CHANNEL weekly until Christmas day!
first episode yesterday - catch it on iplayer
The story team are watching the cams and on the messageboards around the clock.
New videos are live including an interview with Simon King and Chris Howard's latest Camp Reports, with a look through the lens of a the thermal cameras.
Last Nights Camp report
The crews have got their mobiles out and been tracking lions and buffalo.
Big Cat Live is coming to BBC1 on Sunday (in the UK) and every night next week.