Here’s how to save the Scot­tish High­lands . . . un­leash the aris­tos!

Scottish Daily Mail - - Television - CHRISTO­PHER STEVENS

Pa­tri­otic Scots should look away now. So, too, all who love roam­ing in the High­lands, where the ma­jes­tic sight of a red deer stag could thrill an un­sen­ti­men­tal Sasse­nach heart.

the Scot­tish wilds are a ‘down­graded ecosys­tem’, ac­cord­ing to bi­ol­o­gists on Un­lock­ing Na­ture’s Se­crets: The Serengeti Rules (BBc4), a laboured ex­pla­na­tion of how to make conservati­on work bet­ter.

the windswept moor­lands of the cairn­gorms ought to be cov­ered in thick for­est, ap­par­ently. they used to be, un­til the deer be­came too abun­dant and started strip­ping the saplings and de­vour­ing the shoots.

and why the epi­demic of deer? Be­cause, in the 18th cen­tury, wolves be­came ex­tinct. With no apex preda­tor to keep the herds in check, they bred un­con­trol­lably and ate all the veg­e­ta­tion.

i find this the­ory a lit­tle sim­plis­tic. if there are too many deer, and we don’t want the wolves back, why not sim­ply re­lease more aris­to­crats into the wild? a cou­ple of dozen dukes and earls armed with Purdey shot­guns would soon re­store the nat­u­ral bal­ance.

the pat­tern of im­bal­ance was re­peated all over the world, with dif­fer­ent species. Wipe out the sea ot­ters of the North Pa­cific, for ex­am­ple, and there’s noth­ing to stop urchins from spread­ing like

RE­VER­SAL OF THE WEEK: BBC bosses are rumoured to be plan­ning a bid for the jewel in the Dave chan­nel’s crown, the daft panel-cum-party game Taskmas­ter. That’s a turn-up — usu­ally, we see Beeb come­dies reap­pear­ing end­lessly on Dave.

crazy. Urchins eat all the kelp and soon there’s nowhere for fish to live. all that’s left is an ‘urchin desert’.

Sea ot­ters have been hunted to near-ex­tinc­tion once be­fore, by fur­ri­ers who found their thick pelts made ex­cel­lent coats. But the crash in their num­bers in re­cent years has not been caused by hu­man hunt­ing — not di­rectly, at least.

Killer whales (or­cas) are gob­bling up the sea ot­ters. to an orca, an ot­ter is a pretty poor meal, but they’ve al­ready eaten all the seals and sealions: ot­ters are what’s left.

or­cas used to feast on the great whales — un­til hu­mans slaugh­tered al­most all of them dur­ing the last cen­tury.

Hump­back and fin whale num­bers are slowly be­gin­ning to re­cover, but in the mean­time killer whales must eat what they can get . . . sea ot­ters.

this the­ory was pro­pounded very slowly, with ex­am­ples from the work of five vet­eran sci­en­tists. their sto­ries were told with a mix of re-en­act­ment and ar­chive footage, which sim­ply didn’t work: one minute we were watch­ing an ac­tor on high-def­i­ni­tion video, the next a sliver of grainy footage show­ing the real sci­en­tist as an en­thu­si­as­tic young­ster.

it was con­fus­ing and dis­tract­ing, and wasted the his­toric home movies.

We saw far too many shots of science labs and writ­ing desks, too. though the cen­tral theme was in­ter­est­ing, this 80-minute pro­gramme was a trudge, the sort where you keep pausing to make another pot of tea.

More ab­sorb­ing an­i­mal an­tics were pro­vided by The Se­cret Life Of The Zoo (c4), a brisk diary of life among ch­ester’s menagerie. Nar­rated by ac­tress tam­sin Greig and smartly edited into a flurry of glimpses from around the park’s en­clo­sures, this show de­liv­ers non-stop entertainm­ent with lots of hu­mour.

Blink and you’ll miss clips of chimps giv­ing each other thick ears as they swat flies, or camels fall­ing over their own hooves as they dodge a bray­ing don­key.

Subtle be­hav­iours are high­lighted by the knowl­edgable and ar­tic­u­late keep­ers. this time, we fol­lowed baby asian ele­phant an­jan, who was grieving the loss of two play­mates that died af­ter con­tract­ing a virus.

an­jan took out his dis­tress on the rest of the herd, un­til his fa­ther aung Bo took the be­reaved baby un­der his trunk. the adult ele­phant ap­peared to love be­hav­ing like a big kid — just like a good hu­man dad.

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