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A strange week

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Mark Carwardine Mark Carwardine | 11:16 UK time, Monday, 26 October 2009

It's been a strange week, to say the least.

Sirocco, the kakapo, has been taking the world by storm and made this endangered flightless parrot from New Zealand a household name. In case you missed the fifth programme, we had what can only be described as an intimate encounter (Sirocco tried to mate with my head) and the resulting two-minute clip somehow appeared on news programmes from America to Australia. Now, it has become an internet sensation - apparently, it is the most-viewed video on the BBC website and, at the last count, has been seen by more than a million people on YouTube.

We knew at the time that Sirocco's little outburst would make good television, but had absolutely no idea that it would attract quite so much attention. Meanwhile, Stephen has taken to calling me the Kakapo Porn King and I am slowly getting used to people coming up to me in the street and asking if the scars have healed.

The good news is that, as a result, the kakapo project in New Zealand has been swamped with donations and offers of help. That makes it all worthwhile.

This week also marks the end of the series - with our search for the blue whale in Baja California, Mexico. I'd been looking forward to introducing Stephen to the largest animal on the planet and it more than lived up to expectations. Stephen was so taken by the experience that he said it was one of the best days of his life. It's hard to describe what it's like being next to an animal almost as long as a Boeing 737, but suffice to say it is one of the greatest wildlife experiences anyone could ever hope to have.

The whole point of the series, of course, was to retrace the steps I'd taken with Douglas Adams twenty years earlier - and the final programme was the only time we didn't actually do that. We should have gone to China to look for the Yangtze river dolphin, but we had to cancel our plans when this troubled freshwater dolphin was officially declared extinct before we could get there. It was this, more than anything else, that brought home to me what had been happening in the twenty-year gap.

Last Chance to See was a series about endangered species and conservation, of course, but six hours of doom and gloom television ranting about all the terrible things we are doing to the planet, just wouldn't have worked. Few people would have watched and many of those would have switched off halfway through. But our hope was that, by mixing extremes such as these - the silliness of Sirocco mating with my head, the sheer joy of encountering a blue whale and the shock and sadness of the Yangtze river dolphin disappearing before our very eyes - we could make a series about conservation without anyone really noticing that it was a series about conservation. 


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