Dynasties: 'Attenborough would have rescued penguins'

Media caption,
A group of emperor penguins became stranded during a harsh Antarctic winter

Sir David Attenborough would have rescued the penguins at the centre of Sunday's episode of Dynasties, the show's executive producer says.

The latest BBC nature series, fronted by the broadcaster, saw the crew step in to help a number of trapped birds.

Mike Gunton, the series executive producer, told the BBC: "I was speaking to David about it yesterday and he said he would have done the same too."

Many on Twitter also praised the action of the film crew.

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Gunton said although he was not involved in the decision to dig steps out of a ravine the penguins and their chicks had become stuck in, he would have intervened, too.

"It's such an unusual circumstance to do this," he told BBC Radio 5 Live, "and there are lots of situations where you couldn't, and shouldn't and wouldn't - but I think in this situation there were so many factors.

"There were no animals going to suffer by intervening. It wasn't dangerous. You weren't touching the animals and it was just felt by doing this... they had the opportunity to not have to keep slipping down the slope."

A number of females were seen getting blown into a gully in a storm, unable to to get out because of the steep walls of snow and ice they were surrounded by.

Gunton said that 99.9% of the time it was not appropriate to intervene - including in the case of David the chimpanzee, featured in last week's episode.

"That would be very dangerous - but also what could you do? People don't carry around a full veterinary medical kit.

"Also, you would have upset a dynamic that was going on between the creatures in that group. That would be changing the path of nature and that wouldn't really be acceptable."

Image caption,
Last week's Dynasties saw chimp David left for dead

In 2013, Sir David defended the decision to film the death of a baby elephant in the BBC's Africa series, saying it was "very important" to simply observe.

The harrowing scene drew complaints from upset viewers, some of whom hoped filmmakers would provide the dying calf with help.

Asked why it wasn't appropriate in this scenario, Gunton responded: "That particular creature was dying of starvation, [and it was] far too dangerous to intervene.

"If you tried to go there, the mother would probably have attacked you. What could you then do? You could feed it.

"Well, if you fed it, it would survive for maybe another hour. But because there was no food anywhere, ultimately - and this is David's point - ultimately, you are just prolonging the misery and you let nature take its course."

Many on Twitter gave their approval to the penguin rescue, with Gary Lineker tweeting about the episode, along with SNP MP Pete Wishart saying it would go down as "a special moment in wildlife filming".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The programme - and series so far - has also been praised by TV reviewers, with The Daily Telegraph's Michael Hogan calling Sunday's episode "a stately hour of TV".

The Independent's Clarisse Loughrey is impressed that the series "finds the dignity in one of nature's punchlines, [the penguin]". She adds: "Attenborough's work proves that there's no animal out there that we can't forge a sense of connection with."

Writing in Metro, Keith Watson said: "This was a mini-drama, one of many in the Emperors' exhausting lifecycle, that struck a deep chord with our intrinsic instinct for survival.

"If you weren't gripping hard to the edge of your settee... then you've surely got a heart of ice."

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