BBC TV wildlife presenter and cameraman Gordon Buchanan has travelled the planet, visiting South America, Asia, Africa, Papua New Guinea, Russia and Alaska. On Monday night at Buxton Opera House he shared footage of his series with large mammals, black bears, polar bears, the white wolves of Ellesmere Island, elephants and gorillas. He had several important things to tell the packed Opera House.
Firstly, the natural world is a beautiful place. A loop of beautiful time-lapse video shorts from across the natural world ran on a screen before the performance and during the two times for audience questions.
Then we were shown how we can recognise much of our own behaviour among animals. He showed a short clip of two capuchin monkeys in an experiment where one was rewarded for fulfilling a simple task with slices of cucumber, the other with grapes and the monkey receiving the cucumber went frantic at the unfairness of the rewards, so illustrating the response we can all feel when resources are unfairly distributed.
We learned that black bears are not the fearsome beasts we imagine them to be, but naturally timid, still cautious from the eons when giant cave bears and sabre tooth tigers roamed their territories. Gordon demonstrated their natural lack of aggression in the company of Lynn Rogers from the North American Bear Centre, cuddling a lost cub and even introducing his own young family to grown black bears at the centre. Polar bears weren’t so easy to get close to, in fact alarmingly determined to break into a metal and perspex viewing box he had constructed, presumably with eating Gordon in mind. W
hite wolves who had never seen people before were curious, playful and full of character, having never learned to fear man.
After a time for questions and a break we were shown footage of Gordon’s time with elephants and with gorillas.
All these great mammals he showed us are under threat, with reduction of their territories from climate change and the expansion of the world population so forcing a battle for land for food. And of course, from the hunters.
Gordon Buchanan sees that the future of the animals depends on us, but that we can’t fully protect them if we don’t understand them. He celebrated the work of the Born Free Foundation working to protect animals, stop suffering and keep wild animals in the wild.
MARION CODD AND FLYNN CODD