An­i­mal lovers charge at le­gend of the doco

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Cover Story - DAR­REN DEV­LYN

THERE are those who say David At­ten­bor­ough has a ten­dency to fo­cus too heav­ily on death in his wildlife doc­u­men­taries.

At­ten­bor­ough, who can be a right old cranky pants, con­cedes with a grum­ble that he un­der­stands why some view­ers turn away from the screen as a life is about to be taken.

When his new se­ries, Africa, screened in Bri­tain and showed the painful and lin­ger­ing death of a baby elephant, view­ers de­manded to know why the BBC crew didn’t step in and save the crea­ture.

Se­ries pro­ducer James Honey­borne ex­plains why.

‘‘ When you go to Africa, you have a plan of what you want to achieve, but the sub­jects you’re film­ing, the an­i­mals, haven’t read the script,’’ he said.

‘‘ The death of the baby elephant was some­thing we hadn’t planned and it was some­thing we could not pre­vent. We wished we could have but it was im­pos­si­ble. You have to un­der­stand the scale of the prob­lem. The year be­fore the elephant’s death, a drought was al­ready start­ing to take hold. We saw hip­pos in a spring. They were thin and ill be­cause there was no grass to eat.

‘‘ A year on, there was not enough hay in the whole of Kenya to feed the an­i­mals of the Am­boseli park, even for just a week. To have fed them at all would only have pro­longed their agony.

‘‘ It was heart-wrench­ing to see the baby die. The crew were haunted by it.’’

At­ten­bor­ough has long de­fended the de­ci­sions he must make in his edit­ing suite.

‘‘ I don’t want to make fairy sto­ries,’’ he protests.

‘‘ We are pro­grammed to feel pro­tec­tive to­wards a small, furry an­i­mal that’s be­ing stalked by a chee­tah. There is a temp­ta­tion in us to say to that an­i­mal about to be at­tacked, ‘ run, lit­tle one’. But that would be in­ter­fer­ing with na­ture.’’

Be­sides tak­ing four years to make, more than 2000 hours of raw footage was taken dur­ing the mak­ing of Africa. Eight cam­eras were dam­aged — one was eaten by a lion and an­other by an elephant. with AAP David At­ten­bor­ough’s Africa, Chan­nel 10, Satur­day, 6.30pm

Like a rhino cow­boy: David At­ten­bor­ough gets up close and per­sonal.

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