Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Glorious wildlife films have a down side

4 January, 2013 - 16:00 -- John Burton
Glorious wildlife films have a down side

Comments on Africa, the latest BBC production presented by Sir David Attenborough, have been amazingly enthusiastic, and Sir David continues to enthuse generation after generation with a love for wildlife.

However there is a down side to these glorious films that the BBC produces.

To a large extent, they hide the true facts of the disastrous situation that faces wildlife, particularly in Africa. Within my lifetime, the natural habitats of Africa have not only declined enormously, but even the natural habitats that do remain are often seriously degraded, and even worse, fragmented. And so are the distributions of many of the animals.

Whereas not so long ago lions had a pretty continuous distribution over large parts of Africa, they are now isolated into numerous pockets, that can no longer interbreed, and could well die out. Giraffe, Black Rhino, Eland, Giant Eland and many other species are all suffering a similar fate.

Most of the really big mammals will not become extinct – they will survive on game farms. But the smaller duikers and some of the small carnivores may well disappear almost unnoticed. It’s probably happening right now.

The problem is that TV is primarily an entertainment medium. There was a time when it was considered an educational, propaganda medium, and it was pretty strictly regulated/censored by the state – at least that is how I saw the BBC in my youth. But now TV is entertainment, and virtually all wildlife films are upbeat; even those dealing with depressing stories try to give some hope at the end. And quite right too.

I realise that what I and other conservationists are trying to do is totally insignificant when compared with the impact of the Tiger economies. It would be easy to just give up. But somehow I can’t quite bring myself to do that.

Whenever one of our partners saves another few acres, it always seems worthwhile. But nonetheless it is time to wake up to the fact that the world is in a serious mess. Wildlife filming, however stunning, should not lull us into a false sense of security.


I agree that many wildlife documentaries are guilty of ignoring conservation issues, John, but with this series, please reserve judgement until after Episode 6, which deals with the future of Africa's wildlife, and looks at bushmeat, poaching and habitat loss - hopefully educating the massive audience that the first five largely natural history programmes will have built up.

Submitted by Ashish on

SA is a land of huge contrasts; by that i mean you can go from a hilghy affluent area (eg Sandton) to a poverty stricken one (eg Alexandra) in a space of say 5 kilometers.There are loads of different types of ppl, but the majority are black. That doesnt mean there a tiny amount of white ppl here! There must be about 4 million of us, from a population of 47 million (just guesswork, i might be far off the mark!)The houses can vary from a middle class type house to modern designs. But a large part of this country sadly still lives in shacks.There was once infrastructure that first world countries can be proud of, but thats detiorated quickly The cities and suburbs can be just like their american counterparts, but if you leave city limits you'll find yourself in a very different place!Theres lots of wildlife but theyre not quite roaming the streets, youll only see lions and elephants etc in wildlife reserves, but you can find intresting birds and bugs all over the place.

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