Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Natural World: Radio Gibbon

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BBC 2 - 9PM
BBC HD – 10PM

“He’s the coolest naturalist on the planet!” The Times

In deepest Borneo a remarkable young Frenchman called Chanee is combining his passion for gibbons and his love of music. These magical singing apes of the rainforest are in danger of extinction and to help save them Chanee has set up a rescue centre, and become the world expert at matchmaking gibbons - only when a pair has successfully bonded can they be released back into the wild. To increase awareness of the gibbons' plight Chanee has created his own radio station, Radio Kalaweit, named after the local word for gibbon. Its cool music and cool message has now made it the most successful radio station in Borneo.
Producer MIKE BIRKHEAD
Series Editor TIM MARTIN

Monday, 7 December 2009

'Life: Extraordinary Animals, Extreme Behaviour' - Plants

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Plants' solutions to life's challenges are as ingenious and manipulative as any animal's. Innovative time-lapse photography opens up a parallel world where plants act like fly-paper, or spring-loaded traps, to catch insects. Vines develop suckers and claws to haul themselves into the rainforest canopy. Every peculiar shape proves to have a clever purpose. The dragon's blood tree is like an upturned umbrella to capture mist and shade its roots. The seed of a Bornean tree has wings so aerodynamic they inspired the design of early gliders. The barrel-shaped desert rose is full of water. The heliconia plant even enslaves a humming bird and turns it into an addict for its nectar.

Visit the Life website

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Hot Planet

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Wednesday, 22:45 on BBC One (except Northern Ireland)

Professors Iain Stewart and Professor Kathy Sykes take a timely look at global warming ahead of the Copenhagen summit, exploring the world's leading climate scientists' vision of the planet's future.

Scientists predict that if global temperatures continue to rise at their current rate, Earth will be one degree warmer within 10 years, two degrees warmer within the next 40 years and three degrees or more warmer before the end of the century. If the Earth's temperature increases to three degrees warmer than the average pre-industrial temperature, the impact on the planet will be catastrophic. Across the Earth, ways of life could be lost forever as climate change accelerates out of control. This isn't inevitable, however: climate change is not yet irreversible.

Ingenious technology and science is currently being devised, advanced and tested around the world which could offer solutions for a sustainable future. The question that remains is, can the world embrace and implement them on a large enough scale within an effective timeline? If widespread damage to human societies and ecosystems is to be prevented, global temperature rise must be slowed and eventually reversed.

Hot Planet offers an accurate visual prediction of the planet's future, based on the findings of over 4,000 climate scientists.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Horizon: How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?

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9th December 2009: BBC2 9pm




In a Horizon special, naturalist and BBC broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough investigates whether the world is heading into a population crisis.
In his lengthy career, Sir David has watched the human population more than double from 2.5 billion in 1950 to nearly 7 billion today. He reflects on the profound impacts of this rapid growth, both on humans and the environment.
Yet, whilst much of the projected growth in human population is likely to come from the developing world it is the lifestyle enjoyed by many in the west that have most impact on the planet. Some experts claim that in the UK we use as much as 2.5 times our fair share of the Earth's resources. So finally, Sir David examines whether it’s the duty of each one of us to commit not only to smaller families, but change the way we live for the sake of all humanity and planet earth.

Director – Helen Shariatmadari
Executive Producer – Andrew Cohen
For further details, please visit the programme link below:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00pdjmk

'How Earth Made Us' is coming soon

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We're just putting the finishing touches to 'How Earth Made Us', the series that I've spent the past year working on. It will be ready to air on BBC2 as early as the first week of January 2010, to coincide with the launch of the BBC Year of Science... BBC Productions

Iain Stewart filming in Svalbard (copyright BBC)


Following on from Earth: The Power Of The Planet, geologist and presenter Professor Iain Stewart returns to BBC Two to continue the epic story of the relationship between human civilisation and Earth.
How Earth Made Us explores how geology, geography and climate have influenced and continue to shape human history. Each episode examines a different force, including the effects of deep earth, wind, fire and water. The series concludes with a look at how the human race has become a geological force in its own right.

Travelling to some of the most iconic locations on the planet, Professor Stewart discovers how the river Nile caused Egypt to dominate the ancient world, how the break up of a super-continent 200 million years ago shaped an energy revolution, and how wind changed the history of China and Australia.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

My love affair with the Natural History Museum

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The Natural History Museum stands proudly on Cromwell Road in London, a monument to great Victorian ideals and grandeur. It was built by men of god whose ambition was to celebrate creation and to share the glory of god with the great British public - it was in essence a cathedral to creation. The NHM now stands as a testament to scientific endeavor and with more than 300 scientists working in subjects across the five departments of Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Zoology and Palaeontology, it continues as one of the worlds largest and leading public academic institutions.


My eye-straining endeavor

The Natural History Museum is home to a staggering 70 million items - all of which have been meticulously catalogued by some of the most dedicated and often eccentric personalities that you could ever hope to meet. Much of my postgraduate work was carried out in the presence of these great men and women, undergoing my research in the department of Palaeontology. My research focused on probably the least glamorous, and yet the most useful, area of palaeontology - microfossils. Microfossils are the foundation of the oil industry - crucial to biostratigraphy (the dating of rocks). Extremely abundant, widespread, and quick to appear and disappear from the geological record, they are the ideal index fossils. I know people who can tell you the age of a rock, and where in the world it is from, just by taking a quick glance of its microfossils. They also provide us with a peek back through time - helping us to discover environmental changes across millions of years.


With a sense of a higher academic purpose, and motivated by the grandiosity of my surroundings, I would spend hour after hour gazing down the microscope, peering into a lost world of miniature prehistoric lifeforms. My particular expertise was in fossil algae, and while it may not have been a subject I could regale people with down the pub, it was my little corner of science. The highlight of my eye-straining endeavor was discovering a new species of Prasinophyte algae - Dictyotidium retiulatum porospora. And if you really want to learn more about that you can see the slides from one of my presentations here.


Distractions

I found it very easy to be distracted at the Natural History Museum - when the microscope became too much I would wonder over to the palaeobotany collection (fossil plants) to help the curator, Dr Paul Davis, with his gargantuan task of resorting the vast collection and in transferring data from old dusty victorian name cards into a more useful, albeit less romantic, online database. The process of refining and updating records is a thankless task that continues infinitum, as do the tantalisingly endless corridors, rooms and towers which constantly beckoned me to explore.

When I had locked my microscope away for the night, and the doors to the Palaeobotany collection had been locked, my good friend Dr Aaron Hunter and I would venture into the main hall, into an eerily silent and dimly lit world of wonder. A far cry from the bustling thoroughfare that most people experience. It was these after-hour perusals of the exhibitions that spurred me into wanting to work in Wildlife Television. I had always dreamed of being an explorer and Sir David Attenborough himself was as much my hero as he was that of just about everyone else at the NHM. He has spent his life engaged in the challenge and adventure of filming the very treasures that this cathedral was created to celebrate.

It gave me immense pride that I was allowed to participate, in a very small way, in the scientific explorations of one of the worlds foremost and prestigious academic institutions and now I wanted to go out and explore, photograph and film the wonders of the world first hand.

I was recently honoured to be asked, along with my colleague Chris Howard, to speak at the Attenborough Studio, part of the new Darwin centre, about my adventures and experiences filming wildlife and traveling around the world. It felt like my home coming, going back to where my adventures had all started only 10 years ago. I love the Natural History Museum, it will always have a special place in my heart, alongside fossil algae.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Hope in a Changing Climate

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A film by John Liu. Theatrical screening at COP15 - the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Summit - "..the most important meeting in human history.." http://www.350.org/


Airing globally on BBC World November 27, 2009.
Directed by Jeremy Bristow, Produced by Louise Heren, Music composed by Al Lethbridge.


Please take a look at www.hopeinachangingclimate.org on Monday 30th Nov, where the film of the same name will begin screening, or if you get BBC World or will be attending Copenhagen in early December, then see below.

"Hope in a Changing Climate" will be aired globally by BBC World on November 27, 2009, and screened at the COP 15 climate change summit in Copenhagen from December 7 - 18.
This documentary demonstrates that it is possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems, to restore ecosystem functions in areas where they have been lost, to fundamentally improve the lives of people who have been trapped in poverty for generations, and to sequester carbon naturally. This approach has been dramatically proven on the Loess Plateau in China, the highland area spanning some 640,000 square km in north central China. It is the birthplace of the Han Chinese, headwaters of The Yellow River and home to a new environmental and economic paradigm; a degraded ecosystem of more than 35,000 square km of land now teems with life and supports the sustainable economic, social, and agricultural activities of its people.

"Hope in a Changing Climate" is the latest documentary produced by the Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP), an organization dedicated to placing ecosystem restoration at the center of the global discussions on climate change, poverty, and sustainable agriculture. Shot in stunning HD on location in China, Ethiopia and Rwanda, the film features a diverse collection of interviews, from world leaders such as president of Rwanda HE Paul Kagame, to local people telling their own stories. "Hope in a Changing Climate" is directed by Jeremy Bristow, producer of the award-winning BBC documentaries featuring Sir David Attenborough, "Are We Changing Planet Earth?" and "Can We Save Planet Earth?"

The film is presented by John D. Liu, an environmental filmmaker and ecological field researcher who has produced and directed documentaries for CBS, National Geographic and the BBC. Financial support for the film is provided by International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-The Netherlands, Open University, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, and The World Bank.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Natural World: Black Mamba, White Witch

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Tonight - BBC 2, 9pm.
In the small African kingdom of Swaziland, the Black Mamba is a snake both feared and revered. During summer, these elegant yet lethal snakes turn up everywhere - in homes, schools and cars - and people are bitten every week. In a country with very limited health care and no anti-venom, it is becoming a crisis.  Enter Thea Litschka-Koen, a mum and hotel manager who has become known affectionately as the white witch. She and her husband are on call twenty four hours a day to rescue and release Black Mambas when they get too close for comfort. But what everyone wants to know is - "will they come back again?" We follow Thea and her team as they set up a pioneering new scientific project: to track the Black Mambas they release back into the wild, and find out just how these deadly snakes spend their lives.

Produced and directed by Jo Scofield
Series Editor Tim Martin

Monday, 16 November 2009

'Life: Extraordinary Animals, Extreme Behaviour' - Insects

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There are 200 million insects for each of us. They are the most successful animal group ever. Their key is an armoured covering that takes on almost any shape.Darwin's stag beetle fights in the tree tops with huge curved jaws. The camera flies with millions of monarch butterflies which migrate 2000 miles, navigating by the sun. Super-slow motion shows a bombardier beetle firing boiling liquid at enemies through a rotating nozzle. A honey bee army stings a raiding bear into submission. Grass cutter ants march like a Roman army, harvesting grass they cannot actually eat. They cultivate a fungus that breaks the grass down for them. Their giant colony is the closest thing in nature to the complexity of a human city.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

VIDEO: Weird Indian Bird - What is a Frogmouth?

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A frogmouth is a tropical nocturnal bird related to the nightjar. They're active at night, when they hunt insects using their large gaping mouths to scoop them up. It was during the night that we ventured into the Thattekad forest to try and find one of the smallest and most elusive of the frogmouths - the Sri Lanka Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger), endemic to South India and Sri Lanka. The only way to find one is to follow their distinctive calls - a loud descending cackly and frog-like series of 'Klock-klock-klock-klock-klock' calls (often described as sounding like rattling pebbles) the females call in response with a low long shrill 'Krrshhhh'.

The next day, with the help of local expert Eldos (who is a legend when it comes to finding birds), we found a roosting pair. They were barely visible amongst the leaves and even though we spotted them, filmed them and photographed them, they seemed pretty confident in their ability to hide and just gave us the occasional perplexed look. I was even able to interview Eldos, while we were in the company of these roosting frogmouths - they remained unfluffed by the situation!

Frogmouth-5

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Natural World: Andrea, Queen of the Mantas

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Tonight BBC 2, 8PM & BBC HD,10PM

Manta rays are one of the most intelligent creatures in the ocean and, at up to seven metres long, one of the largest. Yet, despite their size and curious nature, almost nothing is known about their lives. Young marine biologist, Andrea Marshall, has given up everything for a life in Mozambique, diving amongst these beautiful animals. Superb underwater photography reveals new manta ray behaviour including breathtaking footage of their ritual courtship dances. The film follows Andrea as she studies these endangered animals up close. With the discovery of a giant new species and remarkable insights into mantas' secretive lives, Andrea's findings are already rocking the world of marine biology.

“These huge, strangely beautiful, highly intelligent and fascinating fish certainly make for soothing viewing.” Daily Mail

Produced and directed by MARK WOODWARD
Series Editor TIM MARTIN

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Natural History Museum: Life Behind the Camera

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I'll be speaking at the Natural History Museum's Attenborough Studio on Sunday 15th November at 12.30 and 2.30pm.

Have you ever dreamt about what it would be like to venture out into the wild and make a wildlife documentary?  Ever wondered how easy is it to capture lions hunting on camera?  Come and meet a wildlife filmmaker from the BBC and discover the highs and lows of his enviable job!  Ask him your questions and discover what it’s like to be involved in groundbreaking series such as Springwatch and Big Cat Diary.  


http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/events/

Monday, 9 November 2009

'Life: Extraordinary Animals, Extreme Behaviour' - Birds

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Birds owe their global success to feathers - something no other animal has. They allow birds to do extraordinary things. For the first time, a slow-motion camera captures the unique flight of the Marvellous Spatuletail Hummingbird as he flashes long, iridescent tail feathers in the gloomy undergrowth. Aerial photography takes us into the sky with an Ethiopian Lammergeier dropping bones to smash them into edible-sized bits. Thousands of pink flamingoes promenade in one of nature's greatest spectacles. The Sage Grouse rubs his feathers against his chest in a comic display to make popping noises that attract females. The Vogelkop Bowerbird makes up for his dull colour by building an intricate structure and decorating it with colourful beetles and snails.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Natural World: Victoria Falls, The Smoke That Thunders

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BBC 2 - 8pm
This is a beautiful, intimate tale of life on the Zambezi River, set against the epic backdrop of Victoria Falls. The story is told from the point of view of a local fisherman, Mr White, who has fished these waters for 69 years, and whose riverside companions are elephants, baboons, hippos and kingfishers. We follow the fortunes of these animals through his eyes, learning how their lives are ruled by the moods of the river and the rains.



“The second in the new season is downright spectacular… This stunning film … at least gives you some idea of what everyday life is like on what Mr White calls “the edge of the world”. The Times

Producer Jamie McPherson

Monday, 2 November 2009

'Life: Extraordinary Animals, Extreme Behaviour' - Fish

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Tonight, 21:00 on BBC One
Fish dominate the planet's waters through their astonishing variety of shape and behaviour.

The beautiful weedy sea dragon looks like a creature from a fairytale, and the male protects their eggs by carrying them on his tail for months. The sarcastic fringehead, meanwhile, appears to turn its head inside out when it fights.

Slow-motion cameras show the flying fish gliding through the air like a flock of birds and capture the world's fastest swimmer, the sailfish, plucking sardines from a shoal at 70 mph. And the tiny Hawaiian goby undertakes one of nature's most daunting journeys, climbing a massive waterfall to find safe pools for breeding.

For your free Open University Tree of Life poster call 0845 300 88 54 or visit www.bbc.co.uk/Life.



Weedy Sea Dragon
If you never thought Dragons could be weedy then Watch 'Life' tonight. Things are going to get fishy...



www.bbc.co.uk/life

The tiny fins of a sea dragon beat frantically to prevent the current sweeping it away. At the beginning of spring, sea dragons begin their courtship, dancing in pairs in the evening light. In a graceful duet, each partner mirrors the actions of the other and this continues well into the dark night. Two months later, the result of their courtship is revealed. The male now carries rows and rows of eggs embedded on his tail. The female passed them over to him on the night of the dance. By carrying them with him he keeps them safe from predators until they are ready to hatch. In the calm of a summer morning, with its yolk sack still attached, a baby sea dragon is born. In the weed bed are older youngsters, already able to feed themselves. After being well looked after by their father, the new babies must now make their own way in the world.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Watch 30+ UK TV Channels LIVE

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www.tvcatchup.com

Watch 30+ UK TV Channels LIVE
In addition to BBC iPlayer it's all you could ever need.


TVCatchup is a free online service for viewing certain digital terrestrial channels live without the use of a television receiver. The service is currently under beta and is only legally available to users in the United Kingdomdue to licensing restrictions that limit the showing of streams to those users who can already legally view the same content on their television receiver. You are legally required to hold a UK TV license if you use TVCatchup.



Natural World: Bearwalker of the Northwoods

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BBC Two, 8pm Wednesday 28th October

"It’s a total joy to have Natural World back on our screens, and you couldn’t ask for a stronger start to the new series than this. Dr Lynn Rogers, a softly spoken biologist, is the Burl Ives of the bear world. He loves bears with a quiet passion, and has spent a lifetime in the woods of North Minnesota building up trust with these fabulous creatures. Unlike Timothy Treadwell, he doesn’t sentimentalise bears or claim a spiritual affinity with them. But he does believe they are grossly misunderstood and that people often have a knee-jerk fear of creatures that are highly intelligent and surprisingly timid. This film is a labour of love in every possible sense – beautifully produced, filled with stunning footage in an achingly beautiful part of the world and presented by a man of the utmost decency. What more could anyone ask for?" David Chater, The Times



Monday, 26 October 2009

'Life: Extraordinary Animals, Extreme Behaviour' - Mammals

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Mammals dominate the planet. They do it through having warm blood and by the care they lavish on their young. Weeks of filming in the bitter Antarctic winter reveal how a mother Weddell seal wears her teeth down keeping open a hole in the ice so she can catch fish for her pup. A powered hot air balloon produces stunning images of millions of migrating bats as they converge on fruiting trees in Zambia. Slow-motion cameras reveal how a mother rufous sengi exhausts a chasing lizard. A gyroscopically stabilised camera moves alongside migrating caribou, and a diving team swim among the planet's biggest fight as male humpback whales battle for a female.

The Elephant Shrew



Once known as the elephant shrew, the rufous sengi is permanently hungry and must hunt and feed industriously and efficiently in order to fuel its frenzied lifestyle. For maximum efficiency, the sengi creates an intricate netweork of pathways through the undergrowth that enable it to reach prey more easily. The sengi carries a mental map of these pathways, and should trouble appear, its speed and intimate knowledge of escape routes help it win the day. As an enemy, such as a lizard, appears, the sengi leaps into action and shoots off down the trails at high speed. Like most mammals - and unlike reptiles - the sengi's legs are directly underneath the body which makes for greater speed and agility. This female not only outruns the reptile, but outwits him and it's just as well, as she has a youngster to care for.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Panther Chameleon Tongue Firing - filming for 'Life in Cold Blood'

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50 miles of the coast of Africa is the tropical island of Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot which is home to half of the world's 150, or so, species of chameleons. I've been a fan of one species in particular since I filmed them for 'Life in Cold Blood' back in 2007, you may also have seen them demonstrate their unique feeding technique during the recent amphibians and reptiles episode of 'Life' on BBC One.


The species is Furcifer pardalis, the Panther Chameleon - perhaps the most beautiful of all chameleons. It's also one of the largest in the world, with males growing up to 20 inches (50 cm) long (more than twice the size of their female counterparts).


The males are not only larger but are much more extravagantly coloured than the females and can be found as one of a myriad of different colour-morphs - each betraying their geographical origin. The subjects of my photographs are found in the Antsiranana and Sambava areas where they are a blend of red, green or orange. If you were to encounter a male lurking in the lush vegetation of Nosy Be or Ambanjathe you might think it a completely different species for these individuals are vibrantly blue. There are many other colour types and patterns found across the island making Panther-spotting a real treat.

The Females however remain a much less exciting tan and brown colour - and so along with their diminutive size are much trickier to spot.

 Female Panther Chameleon
  Female Panther Chameleon



 Male Panther Chameleon





Here's the clip from 'Life in Cold Blood'.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Life: Reptiles & Amphibians

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Reptiles and amphibians look like hang-overs from the past. But they overcome their shortcomings through amazing innovation.

The pebble toad turns into a rubber ball to roll and bounce from its enemies. Extreme slow-motion shows how a Jesus Christ lizard runs on water, and how a chameleon fires an extendible tongue at its prey with unfailing accuracy. The camera dives with a Niuean sea snake, which must breed on land but avoids predators by swimming to an air bubble at the end of an underwater tunnel. In a TV first, Komodo dragons hunt a huge water-buffalo, biting it to inject venom, then waiting for weeks until it dies. Ten dragons strip the carcass to the bone in four hours.

The Venezuelan Pebble Toad
Venezuela pebble toads have a very unusual defence mechanism, shared with only a few close relatives. They roll themselves up into a ball and bounce down the hill, away from danger. These tiny amphibians weigh so little that if they hold their muscles rigid, the bouncing doesn't damage them at all. Pebble toads also breed communally, so a single nest can contain over 100 toads. One nest found had 103 toads and 321 eggs in it.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Life: Extraordinary Animals, Extreme Behaviour

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If you don't own a TV then get one for this (and make sure that it's HD). 'Life' is a jaw-dropping, pant-wettingly exciting visual feast that will keep you hooked till Christmas. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough this 10 part series will breathe Life back into the aching void that was left when the end credits of 'Planet Earth' rolled back in 2006. And if you thought that was mind-blowing then this is sure to blow your socks off. Quite simply 'Life' will never be the same again...

Read on for a glimpse of some of the treats coming to your screens.


Our planet may be home to more than 30 million different animals and plants. And every single one is locked in its own life-long fight for survival. Life uncovers some extraordinary strategies they've developed to stay alive and to breed.

Using state-of-the-art filming techniques, this 10-part BBC One series, narrated by David Attenborough, is about extreme behaviour. It's survival of the fittest in their battle against daily life or death challenges. Mind-blowing behaviour captured for TV for the first time includes cheetahs working together to bring down prey twice their size; the courtship battle, known as the heat run, of the humpback whale; a huge number of enormous Humboldt squid joining forces for night-time hunting; and the legendary, fearsome Komodo dragons bringing down their buffalo prey.

Four years in the making, Life is full of surprises, drama and spectacle. It's nature but not as you know it. There are strange creatures such as the star-nosed mole, the stalk-eyed fly and the weedy sea dragon. There are epic spectacles including millions of fruit bats darkening the Zambian sky, dozens of polar bears feasting on a whale, and a billion butterflies cloaking a forest in Mexico.

To find out more visit www.bbc.co.uk/life

Friday, 9 October 2009

BBC announces production of Nature's Miracle Babies

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Artificially inseminating giant pandas and administering fertility treatment to an 80-year-old turtle are just two of the challenges that will be captured on film following the announcement of a Natural History Unit commission for BBC One.

Nature's Miracle Babies will investigate the ground-breaking science, dedication and perseverance of some inspirational individuals as they endeavour to make a difference to the survival of some of the world’s most threatened species.

Presenter Martin Hughes-Games, of Autumnwatch, said the programme would be ‘a highly charged personal journey for me’. ‘Many of the animals are just a hair’s breadth from extinction and sometimes the hopes of an entire species is concentrated in a few tiny, vulnerable babies,’ he added.

Commissioning editor for science and natural history Kim Shillinglaw, who will oversee the series, said: ‘This series promises to be a fascinating look at the struggle to save some of the world’s most vulnerable creatures, and demonstrates our commitment to the Natural History Unit and its ability to make distinctive and original programmes. ‘Stable investment through the licence fee gives us the ability to take risks, innovate and take years if needed to deliver programmes viewers will love and remember.'
From a BBC Press release.

VIDEO: Why did the Chameleon cross the road?

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To get to the forest on the other side ofcourse...

As we drove through BR Hills Nature Reserve we noticed this beautiful chameleon crossing the road. Usually elusive, it stood out against the road surface. Chamaeleo zeylanicus is South India's only chameleon.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Launch of The BBC Wildlife Finder

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You may recall that the BBC launched Earth News and Earth Explorers in the Spring and animal pages in July. Since then they have been adding more content, more animals and more magic. Now its time for the launch of the much anticipated BBC Wildlife Finder, which promises to take 'Wildlife on the web' to a whole new level. What more could you expect from the worlds top Natural History producers?

50 years ago Sir David Attenborough led us into the era of wildlife Television and now aged 83 he, and the brilliant team in BBC Multiplatform, lead the way into Wildlife online. The highlight of the Wildlife Finder is David Attenborough’s Favourite Moments, two and a half hours of the most spectacular wildlife footage of the last few decades, all selected and introduced by the man himself.

If that's not enough, the site boasts an additional 550 clips from across 30 TV series and covering a whopping 370 animals - an Ark of awe-inspiring entertainment that will keep you captivated for hours. Prepare for a jaw-dropping adventure...

 

Friday, 11 September 2009

Life: Coming Soon to BBC One

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The greatest wildlife stories ever told. Witness the breath-taking ingenuity of life on Earth as its animals adapt their behaviours to overcome the challenges of both their environment and adversaries.

Starring a cast of charismatic characters, filmed on every continent and in every habitat across the world, each episode is entirely dedicated to one of the planet’s ten most important wildlife groups. Mike Gunton executive producer of 'Life' explains the premise of this series and why it will really shine when it's broadcast on BBC One in October (2009).

'The definitive guide to Life on Earth'.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

VIDEO: Encounter with a Huge Croc - The Water Monster

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My encounter with a Mugger Crocodile during our 'Chasing the Monsoon' expedition in South India. Our field guide took us a little closer than we had expected!



Directed by Kalyan Varma, Filmed by David Heath, Production Manager: Mandana Dilan.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Finchley Film Club

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I'm speaking at the Finchley Film Club on September 11th.


http://www.finchleycinevideo.co.uk/programme.html 



Monday, 17 August 2009

VIDEO: The Vine Snake: Agumbe, India

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We discovered this juvenile vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) dangling from a branch whilst tracking King Cobras in Agumbe, India. As you can see they are incredibly well camouflaged and move much like a vine blowing on the wind. They use this incredible camouflage to hide and hunt, swaying back and forth, moving closer and closer to an unsuspecting frog or lizard.  They are mildly venomous, and I can understand why a lot of the locals fear them, but there's nothing to worry about from this little chap. Its fangs would barely penetrate my skin, and although their venom is potent enough to knock out a few frogs it wouldn't have much effect on me. When they do attack they often have to chew a bit just to get the venom in! I've seen many pictures of these snakes, often with the limp body of a giant lizard dangling from their mouths, and so I was pretty excited to finally see one in person.

Although relatively harmless it's still a good idea to handle them gently and carefully - like you would any animal. The key is to just let them slide through your hands as if on a branch, and never 'grasp'.  I've read that when stressed vine snakes will inflate their bodies, making themselves look larger and more aggressive, and revealing black and white markings which look like a chequers board. The most shocking part of their threat display however, is that they gasp and open their incredibly pink mouths. I'm pleased to say that I didn't see any of this - my experience passed with a mutual understanding of curiosity!

If you're unsure about a snake then the best thing to do is keep your distance and let them get on with doing their snakey things.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Giant Crystal Cave

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13th August, 9pm. National Geographic Channel UK

Deep below Mexico lies a mysterious cave packed with extraordinary giant crystals. Among the largest crystals ever found, they have been formed by on of the deadliest environments on the planet.
Combining extreme heat with unbearable humidity, without the use of specialised suits and equipment the conditions in the cavern would kill a man within minutes. Yet, despite the danger, scientists are trying to work out exactly how the glittering structures were created. Journey underground with the experts as they embark on a daring mission to try and unlock the secrets of the crystal cave.
Naica Mine

Pandemic: A Horizon Guide

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BBC 4, Sunday 9th August, 22:00
In the wake of the swine flu outbreak virologist Dr Mike Leahy traces over 50 years of BBC archive to explore the history of pandemics - infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Inspired by the Horizon back catalogue, he tells the extraordinary story of smallpox - one of the most violent killers in history, the success of mass vaccination and the global politics of Malaria. Through the lens of television the programme charts our scientific progress from the early steps in understanding AIDS to the code cracking of SARS and deadly predictions of bird flu.

Each pandemic episode tells us something about the world - and our place within it. In his journey through the ages Dr Mike Leahy charts science's on-going battle with nature and questions which one is winning.
Producer/Director – Louise Bourner
Executive Producer – Andrew Cohen

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Walk On The Wild Side: Comedy meets Wildlife

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Coming this Autumn:
BBC One invites its audience to take a Walk On The Wild Side with a brand new comedy series that seeks to provide a long overdue forum for the views and opinions of the animal kingdom. It's a world of hip hop-loving badgers, dieting pandas and a marmot called Alan. They and a whole bunch of other characters come together in this new show, which combines comedy with jaw-dropping natural history footage.



Caroline Wright, Executive Producer, BBC Entertainment said: "Walk On The Wild Side is a potent mix of amazing wildlife photography, a fantastically talented group of comedy writers and performers and an amazing furry cast. Who could ask for more?"

The series features the vocal talents of some of Britain's most promising new comedians, including Jason Manford (Live At The Apollo, 8 Out Of 10 Cats), Isy Suttie (Peep Show), Steve Edge (Phoenix Nights, Star Stories) and Jon Richardson, combined with remarkable footage from the BBC's Natural History Unit.

Special guests will include family favourites Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Barbara Windsor, Stephen Fry, Richard E Grant, Rolf Harris and Sir Tom Jones. The regular cast comprises Pal Aron, Rhod Gilbert, Sarah Millican, Harriet Carmichael and Harry Peacock.

Walk On The Wild Side was commissioned by Jay Hunt, Controller BBC One, and Mark Linsey, Controller Entertainment Commissioning.

David Attenborough: Bristol and Wildlife TV - more than an accident of History.

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From: Made in the UK online essays at the BBC
www.bbc.co.uk/madeintheuk
(Image from Aerial online)

THE NATURAL history unit in Bristol is a rare constant in an evolving broadcast world. Whereas other specialist centres of excellence have come and gone, the NHU has always been there, or so it seems. What happy combination of circumstances and talents made Bristol the ideal habitat for the unit, enabling it to grow into the most enduringly successful out-of- London production department in the history of the BBC?
You might argue that there has always been a strong interest in natural history in the West Country, and a long tradition there of self-educated, amateur naturalists. But the truth is that the NHU would not exist in Bristol, had it not been for the enthusiasm and passion of one man, and his belief in the public service ideals of the BBC. Desmond Hawkins was not himself a trained naturalist, nor a West Countryman. He moved as a radio producer to the BBC in Bristol after WW2 and started natural history production in Bristol with radio programmes such as The Naturalist and Birds In Britain, long before the arrival of television in the area. As a boy, I listened to those programmes, and I dare say my own passion was stoked by them.
Desmond Hawkins interviewing Sir Peter Scott
(Image from WildFilmHistory)
Global reputation In 1952 I began my career with the BBC in London, at the tv talks department in Alexandra Palace. I worked on anything from political broadcasts to archaeological quizzes. But before long I launched Zoo Quest, a series which took me all over the world and helped to determine the future course of my life. Meanwhile, in Bristol, Desmond Hawkins had decided that as soon as it was physically possible to make television programmes in the West Country, his team of natural history specialists would show these upstarts in London how it was really done. Hardly was Zoo Quest on the air in 1954 than Desmond had decided to launch his own series Look, with Peter Scott, whose bird sanctuary at Slimbridge was only 20 miles away. The fact that there was still no actual tv studio in the city, or for that matter any transmitter or tv sets in the region, did not deter him. He brought in an outside broadcast unit, ran cables and cameras into the large radio studio and piped the programme by landline up to London. So natural history tv programmes were being made in Bristol even before anyone in the region could watch them. Enthusiasm is infectious, and Desmond gathered about him a core of people whose passion for natural history equalled his own, so that by 1957 it was officially recognised as a production specialism in Bristol, and he set up the NHU proper there.
When I became controller of BBC Two in 1965, I naturally wanted to indulge my own passion for natural history. When BBC launched colour tv in Britain, I could think of no subject better suited to showing off the new technology. I commissioned from the NHU The World About Us, initially a series of 26x50 minute programmes that turned into a long-running strand, and helped to establish a global reputation for the unit. Bristol also produced Life, a magazine programme that covered natural history news stories. Productions like these, building on the foundation of its existing BBC One output, secured the future of the unit and bound natural history production ever more closely with its Bristol roots.
David Attenborough outside a cave entrance during filming of Life on Earth
(Image from WildFilmHistory)

At BBC Two, I also launched a style of documentary which would now be described as the ‘landmark’ series, taking a big subject and devoting 13 onehour programmes to it. The first of these was Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, followed by Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man. An obvious contender for the same treatment had to be the history of all life on earth, but that was a subject I hankered after tackling myself. As soon as I resigned from my management job, I suggested the idea to one of the most experienced producers at the NHU, Chris Parsons, who would later himself head the unit. This was without doubt at the time the most ambitious series to be produced in Bristol. We started work on it in the mid-1970s, and the ground-breaking Life on Earth was transmitted in 1979 to huge audiences, selling around the globe so that eventually it was estimated that 500m people watched it. There is a great deal of trial and error in producing natural history programmes, and the people who make them have built up extraordinary levels of knowledge and expertise. Waiting patiently week after week in freezing temperatures for a snow leopard to creep across a mountainside, or understanding precisely when and how to film the annual hatch of turtles on a starlit beach, requires special skills. So too does the post- production of natural history series, and once a commissioning momentum was established, over the years the NHU in Bristol attracted many satellite businesses and freelancers. The city has accumulated a unique set of trades and talents.
Cultural identity At the same time the cultural life of Bristol has benefited from the existence of the NHU. The world’s first wildlife film festival, Wildscreen, was held in the city, attracting visitors from all over the world. The University of Bristol would probably tell you that its zoology department gains greatly from the fact that the best natural history television unit in the world is within walking distance, and a close and symbiotic relationship has sprung up between the two. Producers and academics drink in the same pubs and exchange ideas, and many a promising young graduate has found employment at BBC Bristol. It may have been historical accident that the NHU was founded in Bristol, rather than London, but instinct tells me that when Desmond Hawkins produced the first natural history radio programmes there in 1946, he already saw far further than the wildlife that was on his West Country doorstep. Natural history programme making has become as much a part of Bristol’s cultural identity as seafaring or the wine trade. The skills it takes to make such programmes are now woven into the fabric of the city, and long may it remain so.
Read David Attenborough’s full article and the other Made in the UK online essays at the BBC

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Inside Nature's Giants

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Inside Nature's Giants dissects the largest animals on the planet to uncover their evolutionary secrets. Most wildlife documentaries tell you how an animal behaves, but by dissecting the animal and studying its anatomy we can we can see how an animal works.

Experts in comparative anatomy, evolution and behaviour put some of the most popular and enigmatic large animals under the knife. Veterinary scientist, Mark Evans, will interpret their findings, biologist Simon Watts tests the animals' physiology in the field and Richard Dawkins traces back the animals' place on the tree of life.

Visit the website to find out more and watch online on 4OD

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

BBC Natural History Archive launched

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Following the recent launches of Earth News and Out of the Wild the BBC Natural History Unit have just launch the archive clip section of 'Earth'. This provides unprecedented access to the BBC's natural history assets combines with 3rd party data, to create media-rich pages about species, behaviour and habitat and forms the foundation of the new Nature offering on bbc.co.uk.

There aren't yet any 'homepages' to aid navigation, but if you fancy a browse here are some entry level pages to showcase the different areas of interest:


Still to come on the archive section are radio programmes, plants, season, timelapse and other special capture pages and lots more behaviour..