Sunday 08 Dec 2013
Wildlife cameraman and BBC Springwatch presenter Gordon Buchanan is as surprised as anyone to find himself in front of the TV cameras – as he confesses to being a painfully shy teenager. But his enthusiasm for his subject has propelled him into the spotlight and won him a legion of fans.
Gordon says: "I have always loved being outdoors ever since I was a boy and the kind of freedom that I had all through my childhood allowed me to do whatever I wanted.
"I didn't pay much attention at school because I just wanted to be outside exploring the whole time. So at 17 I was about to leave school with next to no qualifications and I just got a lucky break being offered a job as a camera assistant.
"I think the job that I am doing now is a product of never really growing up. It is an adventure and parts of it are incredibly exciting – but it probably all comes from a misspent youth!"
Gordon is now a father of two – and his son Harris aged five, and daughter Lola aged six, have made him see things with new eyes.
"It is a truism, when you have children you start thinking of things in a very different way. I think my idea of what nature has to offer has changed – I really want my children to see the same animals that I have been able to see, and sadly there is high chance that a lot of them simply won't be there by the time Harris and Lola are old enough to go and explore for themselves.
"I think it is important that we try to inspire the younger generation. I never had anyone to tell me which tree was which or which bird was which and my passion for wildlife was definitely something that grew through my adult life.
"I didn't really have an interest in wildlife as such when I was child – I liked being outside – and seeing animals was part of that. But with my son Harris, I realise that I have tried to instil a passion for nature in him and it is so easily done. He gets so enthusiastic about any animal or any part of wildlife.
"I think it is something you have to get people interested in at an early age and I think it is easier these days for children to get into wildlife just by watching what's on the television.
"There was nothing like Springwatch and Autumnwatch when I was at that impressionable age. If you are encouraging children to get out and see what is around them, regardless of where they live – town or countryside – it is important to encourage children to realise that there are other little animals that we share a life with.
"And then you can get out in your back garden and find four or five different species living there – kids just love that kind of thing. I think we have an important role to highlight for people what is right on their doorstep.
"The best thing I get out of what I do is when I hear that people have been inspired by the things that I have been able to show them. That for me is genuinely the biggest buzz that I get – bringing these amazing things to other people. I appreciate that not everyone is as fortunate as I am to get the opportunity to go to the places and see the things that I have. If I can bring the experience that I've had back to other people that's fantastic and something that I am proud of.
"And you've got to enjoy what you do otherwise you couldn't put up with some of the situations that I've got myself into – not unless you genuinely loved it."
But, admits Gordon, some of the scariest situations he has encountered were not being chased by bears and elephants but were in a car!
"In a lot of the places I visit, the roads are just a nightmare. That is when I am doing my job and genuinely fearing for my life – when someone else is at the wheel of the vehicle I'm travelling in!"
This year is the International Year of Biodiversity and Gordon says: "The one thing I have realised over all the years of doing this job is how every single species in a ecosystem relies on each other and they only survive long-term successfully if it is as in tact as possible. As we become more sophisticated as humans, all we seem to do is degrade the planet we live on even further and we really haven't learnt enough lessons over the last 100 years.
"We have had the biggest impact on the planet in that time and we are facing things like the possibility that tigers will be extinct in the next 15 years. Unless we do something now – something quite radical – it is horrifying that something as iconic as an animal as the tiger could disappear. And that is despite the fact that every effort has been made to save them for the last 20 years when the whistle was first blown and they still could go extinct.
"But it's not just about saving tigers, it's about the whole of the natural environment and the things in it. Otherwise we may just find ourselves without a home if we carry on the way we are going."
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