I fell into wildlife presenting. People think I’m an expert but I didn’t even do biology at school
MICHAELA STRACHAN TALKS TO MARION McMULLEN ABOUT THE DANGERS OF WORKING WITH ANIMALS... AND DINOSAURS
You’ve encountered many animals during your career. Are you looking forward to working with dinosaurs?
IT’S going to be amazing. These are life-size animatronic dinosaurs. They are absolutely huge!
I think it helps having a person on stage with these enormous creatures just to show just how big they are.
Walking With Dinosaurs is a real live spectacular. It’s playing in arenas because it is so big it can only play in arenas.
It goes through all the different periods to the end of the dinosaurs and we have everything from raptors and stegosaurus to the terrifying tyrannosaurus rex. I’m going to bring my son Olly over from our home in South Africa to see it.
Were you interested in dinosaurs growing up?
I WAS not one of those kids obsessed by dinosaurs. (Laughs) I met some boys when I was at the National Pet Show and they had dinosaurs on their t-shirts and everything. You can spot them a mile off. They are obsessed.
I’m sure my knowledge of dinosaurs will develop doing this show, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a match for an eight-year-old who is passionate about dinosaurs. They seem to soak it all up.
Are you surprised sometimes at the jobs that come your way?
ALL the time. This one in partiuclar came out of the blue.
There have been world tours before with different people playing the role of palaeontologist Huxley, but I’m the only female who has done it.
You’ve done a lot of animal shows over the years. Do you have a favourite?
THE Really Wild Show is one of my favourites because I did it for so long – 15 years.
I fell into wildlife presenting really. People think I’m an expert, but I’m not. I didn’t do zoology. I didn’t even do biology at school.
My knowledge has grown over the programmes I have done. I love the fact my career is so varied. It keeps it fresh.
Do you have any pets at home in South Africa?
A DOG called Rio. She’s a rescue puppy and is absolutely gorgeous.
We’ve had her for a year-and-ahalf now. We also had a Jack Russell who died at 16 and we’ve a cat that has decided to live with us. It belonged to someone down the road, but kept coming to us to eat.
Then four houses in a row said it had been eating with them as well. It’s getting fatter and fatter.
How do you deal with being allergic to elephants?
I come out in a rash when I’m really near elephants. Not many people would even know they are allergic because they only come into contact with them in a zoo.
When I’m that far away it is not a problem, but up close, especially when I’m with orphan elephants and their trunks and saliva, I am sneezing and my eyes are swollen. It’s bizarre.
Is it scary being around dangerous animals?
I HAVE great respect for animals. I have never been one of those who feel they have to be on an animal or next to one that might bite my head off. I know when to respect them and to keep my distance.
You do a lot of travelling. How do you deal with jet lag?
(LAUGHS) I’m flying all the time. It’s probably why I pick up lots of germs, but even when I lived in the UK I was travelling a lot. It’s always been my life.
There’s no jet lag from Cape Town though. It’s an hour or two’s difference so it’s not a problem.
I’ve definitely got worse with jet lag the older I’ve got though. I went to New Zealand to do some filming. We were only there three-and-a-half days and I had jet lag big-time.
When you are in a place for just a little time it’s hard to beat it. We all just struggled through.
Is it tough being away from home?
OLLY is used to my being away. He’s not phased at all.
I try and show him what I’ve been doing when I get back. It would be different if he was here in the UK and he was going to school and there were people saying ‘I saw your mum on the television.’ He’s a little bit removed from all that back home.
Have you ever had any animal injuries?
I WAS bitten by a lemur in Madagascar. It was not that dramatic, but it drew blood and they were concerned that the lemurs could have rabies. I’d had a pre-exposure jab, but I had to have a post-exposure jab so the good old BBC sent me to the NHS casualty.
I sat in casualty for three hours and then they started laying out a bed.
I asked the nurse what they were doing and they looked at the notes again and said ‘Oh, bitten by a lemur. I thought it said broken femur.” (Laughs) I could have left hospital with my leg in plaster instead of just getting a jab.
WALKING With Dinosaurs The Arena Special opens its new world tour in the UK on July 20. Go to dinosaurlive.com for ticket details.
Michaela comes face to face with some formidable giants in Walking With Dinosaurs
Michaela with a lemur in 1992