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A young mountain gorilla scratching as it rests in the Virunga Volcanoes of Rwanda (image: BBC/Tigress Productions/Simon de Glanville)

Natural World celebrates 25 years



Natural World, BBC Two's award-winning natural history series, has been re-commissioned for a further three years in the year it celebrates its 25th anniversary.

 

The series, produced by the BBC's world renowned Natural History Unit, started over 40 years ago in 1967 as The World About Us, and in 1983 it became Natural World.

 

Consisting of mainly one-off in-depth films, the series commissions the very best individual natural history programmes from BBC producers, UK independents and top international wildlife filmmakers.

 

Head of the BBC's Natural History Unit, and former Natural World editor, Neil Nightingale, said: "By continually reinventing the way it explores exciting wildlife stories, Natural World remains as fresh and relevant to audiences today as when it first started 25 years ago.

 

"Its quality is as high as ever, with the series regularly winning British and international awards for its beautiful filming and compelling stories."

 

David Attenborough, who commissioned The World About Us, the pre-cursor to Natural World when he was Controller of BBC Two, has been very involved with the series.

 

During its 25-year run he has narrated 45 episodes and he commented: "I have no doubt that Natural World is not only the doyen and founding member of the 50-minute natural history genre but is still the one with the best and most distinguished record."

 

The BBC Two series kicks off on 11 November with a retrospective film about one of the world's most studied gorillas.

 

Titus: The Gorilla King follows the story of a 33-year-old gorilla whose bloodline dates back to the Rwandan gorilla troupe originally studied by researcher Dian Fossey back in 1967.

 

Forty years on, the programme looks back at the dramatic life story of this extraordinary animal.

 

Titus' father was murdered by poachers in front of him. And he was abandoned by his mother in the subsequent chaos. His family had disintegrated and the young Titus should have died.

 

Using archive footage and testament from the researchers who followed his progress and continue to observe his life, the incredible story of Titus' success and survival unfolds.

 

Ape conservationist Ian Redmond said: "He's an old friend – and I use the word deliberately.

 

"I would argue that if you share 97.7 per cent of your DNA with someone, as well as a relationship based on mutual trust and – if I read him right – pleasure in each other's company, the term 'friend' feels right."

 

Natural World
Titus, the main silverback mountain gorilla, guards his territory whilst eating in the Virunga Volcanoes of Rwanda (image: BBC/Tigress Productions/Simon de Glanville)

 

The new series of Natural World will continue to astound and surprise audiences with the diversity and wonder of the natural world with films on the cuckoo, great white sharks, crocodiles and snow monkeys, and more exciting programmes to come over the next three years.

 

Natural World's Series Editor Tim Martin said: "I'm really proud that 25 years on Natural World continues to go from strength to strength, and that the BBC has awarded it a new three year deal.

 

"It's vital that we have a strand like this that brings viewers such detailed and engrossing wildlife stories from across the world.

 

"Natural World is important for the health of the wildlife TV industry – it's a place where we can try out new camera techniques, new ways of using music or new approaches to storytelling.

 

"It's also the place where many of the most celebrated cameramen and producers cut their teeth."

 

Notes to Editors

 

Natural World is the longest-running wildlife documentary strand on British television.

 

Originally named The World About Us, the series started in 1967, commissioned by the then BBC Two controller David Attenborough, who was expanding the range of colour programmes on the fledgling channel.

 

Production duties were shared between the Travel and Exploration Unit, in London, and Bristol's Natural History Unit.

 

In 1983 the films were narrowed down to natural history so were produced exclusively by the Natural History Unit.

 

Over the past 25 years there have been 436 episodes of Natural World.

 

Each year 17 individual natural history films are commissioned by the BBC from leading independent wildlife filmmakers, or produced in-house by the BBC's Natural History Unit.

 

Recent awards include IWFF Missoula – Best of Festival winner, Snow Leopard: Beyond The Myth (2008); Royal Television Society Award – Wye: Voices From The Valley (2007) and Mississippi: Tales Of The Last River Rat (2006); Grierson Award for Best Science and Nature programme – The Queen Of Trees (2005).

 

David Attenborough has had a huge involvement in Natural World, both on screen and as a narrator. He presented The Amber Time Machine, and LOBO-The Wolf That Changed America, as well as narrating over 45 episodes of Natural World and The World About Us between 1969 and 2008. In the 25th anniversary series David Attenborough narrates at least a further two films.

 

The series editors of Natural World have included Tim Martin, Mike Gunton, Neil Nightingale, John Sparks, Mike Salisbury, Andrew Neil and Peter Jones.

 

Below they give a selection of some their favourite Natural Worlds –

 

Tim Martin: series editor from 2003 to date

 

Mississippi - Tales Of The Last River Rat: "A thought- provoking portrayal of this river from 'River Rat' Kenny Salway. The most beautiful photography of any wildlife film I've seen, combined with an exceptionally poignant soundtrack, made this an instant classic and multiple-award winner."

 

Cheetahs - Fast Track to Freedom: "Simon King at his best as he tries to return two cheetah cubs to the wild, a tale that started out cute but literally ended in tears when Sambu was killed by lions. It's wonderful that a natural history film can affect so many viewers so deeply – I hadn't cried as much since watching Born Free."

 

Mike Gunton: series editor from 2001 to 2003

 

My Halcyon River: "A beautiful film made with incredible passion by a first-time film maker Charlie Hamilton James. The use of music set a trend for many subsequent films and the personal style of storytelling was highly effective."

 

Meerkats – Part of the Team: "Meerkats are always a challenge because they are such well-known animals, but this film succeeded by putting a human – Simon King – into their world. The way Simon was adopted by the meerkat family and we saw their relationship develop on screen made for a very charming film."

 

Neil Nightingale: series editor from 1997 to 2001 (currently head of the BBC's Natural History Unit)

 

Dragons of Galapagos: "Unbelievable stories and photography, making a compelling film about lizards! It was also the highest rating Natural World during my time – over five million."

 

Dolphins – The Wild Side: "Remarkable behaviour, a completely different perspective on animals we usually pigeon hole as harmless and friendly."

 

LS2/BR

 


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Category: Factual & Arts TV; BBC Two
Date: 23.10.2008
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