Living with the enemies
Gordon Buchanan gets the local lowdown on those animals we fear the most.
Tribes, Predators and Me (S2) TV BBC Two Catch up on iPlayer
The ever-popular naturalist and film-maker Gordon Buchanan returns to our screens this month for series two of Tribes, Predators and Me. In the footsteps of his trips to Ecuador, New Guinea and Botswana, this watchable three-parter sees the Scottish presenter travel to another trio of remote locations to spend time with people for whom interactions with predators are part of everyday life.
“The purpose of these programmes is to understand the real nature of the world’s most reviled creatures through the eyes of people who have lived alongside them for thousands of years – it’s a viewpoint that we don’t usually hear,” says series producer Ted Oakes. “We wanted to get an insight into cultures where these animals aren’t persecuted, and show how humans can – and do – live alongside them.”
To get a true sense of these relationships, Gordon sinks himself into local life and culture and has a literal stab at traditional hunting methods, attempting to spearfish in the waters off Owarigi Island in the Solomans, an area of reef habitat frequented by sharks (though less so these days, thanks to the rate at which we’re slaughtering them for soup); and learning how to hunt with eagles – on horseback no less – with Kazakh nomads against the bleak mountainscape of western Mongolia. Neither prove easy to master, even for this highly capable cameraman: boats capsize (“you are too fat”); talons slash hands; corals gash legs.
From swimming with sharks and launching raptors, part three sees Gordon travel the breadth of Ethiopia to investigate the relationship between humans and hyenas – arguably the most despised species on the planet. Attitudes vary enormously in this last species stronghold, from the cattle-rearing Bodi community, who would “kill every last one if they could” to one man in Harar who loves them like his children. “People become hysterical about predators, which leads to a generalised fear of nature – some of us are now too scared to go to Cornwall for fear of sharks,” says Ted. “This series is trying to go some way to redress that, by showing how we can have a deeper empathy with nature. After all, something you fear is not something you’re going to preserve.”
SOME OF US ARE NOW TOO SCARED TO GO TO CORNWALL FOR FEAR OF SHARKS.”
Gordon with spotted hyenas in the graveyard of Harar, a city famously tolerant of this usually unloved species.