Animal lovers charge at legend of the doco
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
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