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New Attenborough series highlights ‘huge problem’ of saving space for animals

Sir David Attenborough is hosting new BBC series Dynasties (BBC NHU/Nick Lyons/PA)
Sir David Attenborough is hosting new BBC series Dynasties (BBC NHU/Nick Lyons/PA)

Sir David Attenborough has spoken about the “huge problem” of how to allow animals enough space as the human population encroaches on their habitats.

The naturalist fronts BBC One’s new landmark series Dynasties, which follows the in-depth stories of five different endangered animals – the chimpanzee, emperor penguins, hunting dogs, lions and tigers.

Sir David said: “When you think of the range, going from the South Pole to West Africa, I think the common factor and the common concern and the common worry is space, allowing animals space.

“The telling shots and long shots show the encroachment of human population and that is the case in every one, except conceivably the Antarctic.

“With all the others the factor, unspoken, is the acceptance that they are under pressure, their space is under pressure.

“It’s a very difficult thing to deal with. Men, women and children, they need space too, but how do you solve this?

“It’s a huge problem not just for animal behaviour. It’s raising people’s passion and people’s belief and people’s desire to recognise that animals have a right to some sort of space that this programme and series does.”

Dynasties follows the success of Blue Planet II, which was effective in showing audiences the impact plastic has on sea life.

Mike Gunton, the executive producer of Dynasties, added: “Space is not as sexy as plastic and it’s a harder thing to get your head around and a it’s much bigger issue.

“The individual struggles of these creatures lives, that is a very good way of bringing it to attention.”

He added: “You’re down to individual lives directly impacted by a much bigger problem, which is people and animals bumping into each other.”

Sir David also addressed the issue of anthropomorphism, saying: “If you look at what is actually means, it’s attributing human characteristics to animals.

“Well animals do have a lot of human characteristics, particularly primates, particularly chimps.

A baby chimp termite fishing in Senegal
A baby chimp termite fishing in Senegal (Mark MacEwen/BBC/PA)

“It’s anthropomorphic to say that ‘animal is angry’ to a degree, because that is what we know and what we call it.

“It’s unjustified anthropomorphism that is the danger and so you have to be very careful when you are writing it (the scripts).

“Every time you say ‘he was jealous’, was he jealous? Are you sure? You have to be sure that what you said was evidenced and what you are saying is correct and I hope we did that.”

Sir David said the scientists the programme-makers work with are always the authority on interpreting the actions of the animals.

He added: “It is very rare we don’t have a scientist at our elbow who is helping us with what we are seeing. I cant’think of an instance when I’ve been concerned about how the script is being written or when any scientist has disagreed.”

Gunton said he knew making a show that followed specific animals for long periods of time would be risky but added: “Many of us have worked on sequence-led shows and the frustration is you spend a month with a creature and you see an amazing insight into a short window in their lives and the frustration is you then have to leave them and you know there is so much more to their story that is begging to be told.

“The power of family is something we never really had a chance to describe because its quite complicated and long.

Dynasties will begin on November 11 at 8.30pm on BBC One.

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