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.