BBC wildlife documentary crews now intervene to save animals if the hazard is man-made

BBC TV crew sometimes intervene to save wildlife when hazards are man-made
Image: MikeB (Canva).

NEWS AND OPINION: In instances when a wild animal being filmed by the BBC documentary television crew is suffering and perhaps likely to die because of man-made problems such as climate change, nowadays they intervene and help the animal to survive whereas in the past this would have been a no-no under BBC and general wildlife documentary filmmaker policy.

The Sunday Times of October 15, 2023, states that: “No matter the brutality of nature, wildlife filmmakers have always lived by a golden rule: never intervene.”

This implies that all wildlife documentary filmmakers live by this rule but things have changed because – I can only presume – there are more instances of man-made hazards to wild animals and therefore they have to intervene.

And please note that I’ve deliberately used the phrase “man-made” rather than “human-made” because these huge wild animal welfare problems such as global warming are essentially caused by the male of the human species. They are the rampant, greedy ones who simply can’t stop digging up fossil fuels and selling it at inflated prices.

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Matt Brandon, series producer of the BBC Planet Earth III documentary, which, incidentally, begins next Sunday, said: “What we are seeing now is that many of the things that our crews are witnessing around the world are no longer natural.”

The new series is presented by the remarkable Sir David Attenborough at the age of 97! The man is a legend. And this series we are told repeatedly shows camera crews helping animals threatened by welfare hazards that are man-made.

For example:

  • Wildlife is detangled from plastic pollution;
  • Abandoned fishing nets are removed from sea lions to save their lives;
  • And turtles are carried to the sea having been exhausted by the extraordinary temperatures arguably caused by global warming.

Nick Easton, who produced and directed two of the eight episodes believes that things have changed. As a consequence he said that, “Not intervening in a hunt or saving an animal that might become food for another animal – that still applies as far as I’m concerned. And often that is what we are filming: it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. But so often now we are coming across animals that are suffering as a result of unnatural factors.”

The series documents how animals are evolving to cope with the changing planet. And Sir David Attenborough adds that, “The natural world continues to surprise us. But since Darwin’s time, it has changed beyond recognition, transformed by a powerful force: us. We will see how animals are adapting in extraordinary ways to survive the new challenges they face.”

Climate change is perhaps the biggest challenge. In one sequence in the new series, a female turtle, having laid her eggs, is shown struggling over rocks to return to the sea. She is exhausted. The sequence was filmed on Raine Island which is 75 miles off the Australian coast.

Attenborough remarks that the turtle was at risk of being baked alive as the sun rose. The crew intervened by helping the local people carry the turtle to the sea to enable them to cool down.

This has been a gradual change and even 20 years ago, on occasions, they would have intervened in exceptional circumstances.

Sometimes in specific cases even though the hazards to wildlife were not man-made, BBC television crews have intervened. An example would be the occasion when a BBC crew helped Emperor penguins and their chicks to flee after they had become trapped in a gully during a storm. It appeared that they would be drowned but they cut ridges into a slope to allow them to “get purchase with their claws [so that they] could work their way out”. The intervention caused a fierce debate according to Ben Spencer, the science editor at The Sunday Times.

The underlying principle is that you can’t change the course of the nature of another animal and in the case of the penguins they weren’t.

The new series was filmed in 43 countries and it carries an environmental message. They justify the message by saying that young people want to know the broader context.

Attenborough did not travel from Kent during the making of the series but of course provides the voice-over and I hope presents it.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful
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