Nat­u­ral his­tory TV, books, puz­zles and more

Ex­plore the com­plex re­la­tion­ships of an­i­mal fam­i­lies with Sir David.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents - Sarah McPher­son BY STEPHEN MOSS, BBC BOOKS, £25

Au­tumn’s nat­u­ral his­tory spec­tac­u­lar is about to burst onto our screens. Dy­nas­ties, a new five-parter for BBC One nar­rated by David At­ten­bor­ough, of­fers an in-depth look at the com­plex so­cial re­la­tion­ships of some of the most charis­matic an­i­mal fam­i­lies on the planet: chimps, lions, em­peror pen­guins, painted wolves and tigers.

As is the norm for land­mark BBC pro­duc­tions, there’s a lav­ish hard­back to ac­com­pany the se­ries, each episode of which fo­cuses on an in­di­vid­ual leader and the chal­lenges they face to main­tain their power and safe­guard their ter­ri­to­ries for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Au­thor Stephen Moss de­liv­ers a rich nar­ra­tive of how each ‘dy­nasty’ lives, feeds and breeds, in­tro­duc­ing the char­ac­ters from the se­ries and ex­pand­ing on their sto­ries, skil­fully in­ter­weav­ing ex­cit­ing and in­ti­mate ob­ser­va­tions from the cam­era teams on the ground. The re­sult is a pho­to­graph­i­cally stun­ning tome that is at once a nat­u­ral his­tory ref­er­ence, com­pen­dium of won­der­ful an­i­mal sto­ries and be­hind-the-scenes tour.

As ever, we can only marvel at the phys­i­cal and men­tal ex­er­tions de­manded of film-mak­ing in re­mote habi­tats, but what is to be re­ally savoured are the re­flec­tions from those with a ring­side seat, whose en­coun­ters are tes­ta­ment to months and years on lo­ca­tion. Ob­serv­ing two pen­guins at­tempt­ing to mate is like “watch­ing a surf­ing les­son, with the male climb­ing onto the fe­male and los­ing his bal­ance;” the head of a new­born painted wolf is so large that it “teeters over its front legs like a see-saw”, and when a male chimp comes close, you “gen­uinely feel the earth move”.

Chimps – specif­i­cally a group in Sene­gal led by an al­pha male known as David – star in the new BBC One se­ries Dy­nas­ties.

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