a family affair!
Sir David Attenborough talks about his breathtaking new series, which looks at five animal dynasties…
QYour new series took four years to make. Wasn’t that a huge undertaking?
AI thought the planners were nuts! They said, ‘We’re going to find groups of animals that are being studied by scientists all over the world, where there could be some sort of eruption, and we’ll film them for the next 18 months to two years to catch that when it happens.’ I said, ‘Well, I think you’re bonkers!’ Imagine – two years and nothing happens!
QWhy focus on chimps, emperor penguins, lions, painted wolves and tigers?
AThey’re charismatic animals. You can’t beat a penguin. You can’t beat a chimp. They’re all full of activity. It would be harder to do 18 months on sloths!
QThe first episode is about chimps. Why do you think we find them so fascinating?
ABecause we can understand what they’re doing, or we think we do. We used the names the scientists had given each animal and it was my misfortune that the old, grizzled chimp – who’s been there forever and is teetering on and just about holding on – is called David.
QWas it less dangerous to film because these creatures are used to humans?
AIt’s more dangerous because the animals aren’t frightened. Those who are working among chimpanzees have to be extremely careful not to be provocative in any way.
QHave you experienced any tricky moments?
AYes! Around 20 or 30 years ago, I was working with a smallish group of chimps. I’d been with them for about a week and I knew them quite well, and they took no notice of us. Then one morning, four or five of them were grooming one another and I was sitting next to them. I very foolishly thought, ‘I wonder…’ and put my hand out slowly and touched one – and there was the most extraordinary eruption. I was barmy!
QDo you think this series will have an ecological impact like Blue Planet II had concerning plastic pollution?
AIf people care for these animals and give them living space, then we’ll be pleased. I don’t try to make axe-grinding films, but we’re in this business because we care about the wild world, so anything that helps it flourish is a very good thing indeed.