Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Natural World: Tiger Kill

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Friday 25th January, 20.00, BBC2
2.3M Viewers, 9.7% Audience Share
(Average for time slot: 2.44M, 12%)

Simon King has filmed Africa's big cats for 20 years - but he has never been to India and has never seen a wild tiger. With the catastrophic decline of the world's ultimate big cat, the chance of documenting a tiger making a kill is becoming rarer and rarer. To crack one of Natural History's toughest challenges, Simon teams up with Indian tiger expert Alphonse Roy - who after 17 years in the jungles of India knows his subject intimately. But even Alphonse has not been able to record a successful hunt. By sharing their field craft, technical skills and local knowledge, can Simon and Alphonse manage to record a Tiger Kill, and in doing so, better understand this magnificent but highly endangered species?

Narrated by Simon King
Produced by Harry Marshall
Series Editor - Tim Martin

"[…] Magnificent, illuminating both the life of the tiger, and the staggering, dedication-testing logistical nightmare of capturing it on film." - Daily Mail

"In this visually ravishing film, wildlife cameraman Simon King, with the help of tiger expert Alphonse Roy, sets out to capture an awesome, rarely seen sight on film - a tiger making a kill." - Guardian

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

As Nature Intended: Response by Neil Nightingale to The Guardian

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The Guardian,
Monday January 28 2008

Neil Nightingale writes "Steve Hewlett's piece Is It OK For Natural History Programmes to Use Fake Footage? (FAQ, January 21) gives a false impression of both the motivation for and our openness about filming animals in controlled conditions. He also suggests this is done for "entertainment". While the great majority of our footage is filmed entirely in the wild there are some animals and natural behaviours that are virtually impossible to obtain in the wild. If we did not sometimes film in controlled conditions we would be unable to bring these fascinating stories to audiences. It is for reasons of enlightenment and education that these techniques are necessary.

Sir David Attenborough has given many lectures and interviews about filming techniques; and we included explanations of captive filming in the "making of" programmes for his last series Life In The Undergrowth. The BBC is also creating a website explaining the techniques employed in David's new series Life In Cold Blood. These are a few examples of the many occasions we have explained the stories behind some of our sequences and, with the increased public interest in the way programmes are made, I'm certain we will be doing this even more in the future."

Neil Nightingale, head, BBC Natural History Unit

Original Article

This article appeared in the Guardian on Monday January 28 2008 on p4 of the Media news & features section. It was last updated at 23:48 on January 27 2008.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Wild Tales starts this week on CBBC

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Monday 28 January- Friday 22nd February 2008, every weekday CBBC on BBCtwo, 8.00-8.30am

Four mini series of five episodes each reveal the dramas of growing up in some of the wildest places on the planet. Each series follows the growing pains of three different animals as they strive to make it to adulthood and with all the dangers out there, it's not going to be easy.

Narrators: Ortis Deley, Rani Price, Adam Sopp
Series Producer: Colin Jackson
Executive Producer: Wendy Darke

Nature Shock: Dolphin Murders

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Channel 5, 8pm
Tuesday 28th Jan, 2008

The documentary series examining freak occurrences in the natural world continues. This programme focuses on a series of attacks on dolphins and porpoises in Virginia and Scotland. The victims all shared horrific internal injuries yet showed no sign of external trauma. Investigators on both sides of the Atlantic considered everything from underwater explosions to predation by other creatures in a bid to try and explain the deaths.

In 1997, marine biologists in Virginia were astonished to find the bodies of two dolphin calves with seemingly inexplicable injuries. Neither dolphin showed signs of injury on the outside, yet post-mortem exams revealed massive internal damage, including bleeding, shattered ribs and fractured organs. “We saw things like massive fractures of all the ribs on one side,” recalls biologist William McLellan. “It looked like the ribs had just been imploded.”

At the same time, Dr Ben Wilson, a marine biologist in Aberdeen, was puzzling over the corpse of a porpoise found in the Moray Firth. Although they belong to a different species, the porpoise is a similar size and shape to a dolphin calf. This creature appeared to have met with the same fate as the Virginian dolphins. “There was nothing obviously wrong with the animal,” Wilson recalls. “[But] the moment the animal is opened up, you realise it’s a mess inside... It looked like an animal that had been in a car crash.”

Establishing the cause of death would prove exceptionally difficult. Much of dolphin behaviour is poorly understood, as they spend 98 per cent of their lives underwater at depths of up to 1,000 feet. The presence of humans can also alter dolphins’ behaviour, making them extremely difficult to study. With no crime scene, no DNA evidence and no witnesses, the only clue for investigators to follow lay in the corpses.

The primary cause of marine mammal deaths is intensive fishing, yet there was no sign that the victims had been caught in fishing nets. Similarly, the physical evidence seemed to discount the possibility that they had been hit by a boat. “Boat strike is a common cause of mortality in marine animals but then again, you should have an injury that’s coming from one direction,” says military pathologist Colonel Dale Dunn. “These animals were obviously impacted from many directions.”

Investigators considered the possibility that the dolphins and porpoises were attacked by larger predators, such as killer whales or sharks, but with no bite marks, it was clear they were not hunted as food. Meanwhile, the body count continued to mount; over several months, nearly 30 victims appeared in both locations.

The next step was to look at environmental factors. These marine ‘murders’ had only been reported in two parts of the world, so the teams looked for common factors. They found that the Moray Firth is home to a number of oil rigs, which use air guns to detect hidden caverns. These guns produce sonic pulses akin to an underwater explosion. “Basically, a loud explosion underwater could shatter the ribs of a diver,” says Wilson. “So maybe that was happening to these marine mammals.” The Virginian dolphins, meanwhile, swam in waters that were used by the US navy. However, the forensic teams soon decided that the animals’ injuries were too focused to be consistent with the type of diffuse injury usually associated with ‘blast trauma’.

A breakthrough finally came when the US team discovered puncture marks on the dolphins’ lower jaws that matched the teeth of a bottlenose dolphin. For the first time, biologists had clear evidence that dolphins attack their own kind. Even more conclusive proof arrived in the form of shocking amateur footage that captured these attacks on film. But the question remained: why would these dolphins prey on their own helpless calves and the equally blameless porpoises?

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Life in Cold Blood... coming soon to BBC One

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Bill Oddie's Wild Side

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Wednesday 24th January, 20.00, BBC2
1.6M Viewers, 6.8% Audience Share
(Slot Average for Wednesday 21.00 BBC2 = 2.21M Viewers, % Audience Share)

Radio Times 3/10:
Bill Oddie, cameraman John Aitchison and sound recorder Chris Watson reveal the hidden lives of Britain's animals. Bill goes to Western Scotland to seal watch. He learns about the 'selkies', or seal people, who dominate the local folk legends. Chris records the sounds of a sea bird colony. Bill goes in search of Britain's mammal closest to extinction.

David Attenborough on Jonathan Ross - Life in Cold Blood

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David Attenborough on "Friday night with Jonathan Ross", speaking about Life in Cold Blood and the amazing Panamanian Golden Frog.

Life in Cold Blood starts February 4th, 9pm on BBC One

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Bill Oddie's Wild Side

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Wednesday 16th January 20.00
2.1M viewers, 9% Audience Share
(Slot Average for Weds 20.00 = 2.21M viewers, 10% Audience Share) Showing

Radio Times:
Bill Oddie, cameraman John Aitchison and sound recorder Chris Watson discover the hidden lives of Britain's animals. John undertakes Bill's reptile challenge: he has to film all six types of Britain's reptiles in one day. Bill learns more about the avocet, symbol of the RSPB and conservation success story. Chris helps Bill add another skill to his CV: he is now Bill Oddie, comedian, TV presenter and bird call impersonator.