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New look at Africa’s wildlife
11 Feb 2013
Estelle Sinkins

NO other continent grips the imagination quite like Africa. Nowhere is more savage, more dangerous, yet more beautiful and alive. And in the BBC’s critically acclaimed new documentary Africa, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, viewers will be able to watch never-before-seen behaviour of even the most familiar wildlife.

In the series, which airs on BBC Knowledge (DStv channel 184) at 6 pm on Sunday, February 17, members of the Natural History Unit have travelled from the soaring Atlas Mountains to the Cape of Good Hope, and from the brooding jungles of the Congo, to the raging Atlantic Ocean, to reveal intimate encounters with the creatures that live in Africa.

Series producer James Honeyborne says: “Our experienced team from the BBC’s Natural History Unit thought we’d seen it all before. We were wrong. Filming wildlife across the whole of Africa has become our toughest and most surprising assignment yet.”

In this weekend’s first episode — Kalahari — the series celebrates nature’s ingenuity, no matter how tough it gets. Clever meerkats are outsmarted by a wily bird’s use of mimicry, while remote infra red cameras catch the solitary rhino exhibiting previously unseen sociable behaviour. Terrifying giant insects prey on baby birds, and in a previously unexplored cave the rarest fish in the world is filmed for the first time. The crew also goes behind the scenes at a secret location to witness probably the last great rhino gathering on Earth.

In episode two — Savannah — the team looks at an area which is a haven for wildlife from large mammals to lizards that steal flies from the faces of lions and vast dinosaur-like birds that stalk catfish through huge wetlands.

The Congo rainforest is the focus of episode three. Among the animals caught on camera is the elusive Picathartes, which symbolises everything that is secret and ancient about the rainforest.

In episode four of Africa, the team covers the southernmost tip of the continent, the Cape, where two great ocean currents meet. The clash of warm and cold water creates one of the world’s most fabulous natural spectacles, South Africa’s sardine run. This is the greatest gathering of predators on the planet, including Africa’s largest, the Brydes Whale.

Last but not least is Sahara, which takes a closer look at this vast wilderness, the size of the U.S. On the fringes of the Great Desert, Grevy’s zebras battle over dwindling rivers, and naked mole rats avoid the heat by living a bizarre underground existence.

Among the many firsts which the crew achieved during filming was a fight between two male giraffes at the Hoanib River in Namibia. They also followed a honey hunting chimp which used four different tools in the Congo and showcased the nesting behaviour of shoebills — a bizarre- looking giant bird in the Bangweulu swamp, Zambia.

The five-part series took four years to make and during that time the crew consumed 6 526 anti-malarial tablets, spent 1 840 hours in hides and 1 598 days on location.

Don’t miss this amazing new series on BBC Knowledge.

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