by Dale Templar, Series Producer
Last Thursday saw the final episode of Human Planet transmit in the UK. I had mixed feelings as I watched the end credits roll for the last time. After three intense years, sending teams to over 70 locations including some of the remotest places on earth, this really did mark the end of the formal production process on the series. It is always sad when a production ends. Virtually all of my amazingly talent team have gone – many already on new adventures around the world. There is literally just a handful of us left in the Bristol and Cardiff offices.
But Human Planet has been different from any other programme I have ever worked on. Normally the last UK transmission would be the end of the series. For Human Planet it feels like a new beginning. For a start I am still in slight shock at the amazingly intense and positive reaction we have had to the series from people of all age groups. The series has been praised by members of the Royal Geographical Society, it’s been the focus of talk and gossip around office water coolers and it’s been making news particuarly online. I’m especially pleased that the series has connected with a younger audience – there’s been a buzz on Twitter and Facebook and millions of hits on You Tube. One young mum told me her 3 year old son was a huge fan of Human Planet, watching every episode without fail! No programme maker can ever be sure of a hit. This is a very fickle industry and audiences can never be guaranteed even when you’ve made a landmark series for the BBC. The feeling is that Human Planet is a fresh and different type of landmark. Many people, even those who don’t normally enjoy natural history have become hooked on humans!
Personally I hope this new found passion for humanity will continue. The series is a spectacular snapshot of the diverse human world we live in. But the world is changing fast, very fast. It’s becoming increasingly hermogenised. Even now one City looks much like the next – same Starbucks , same McDonald’s. Human Planet filmed with people who still directly depend on the natural world for their survival but their wisdom and customs may soon be disappear. The human species cannot be set in aspic but I think many of the stories we filmed will be gone within the next 10 years.
So what next? The series is now out on DVD/Blu-Ray and the book is in the shops. Next month it jumps across the Atlantic to be shown on Discovery Channel (a different version from the one showing in the UK) Then the UK version will start being shown on television around the world. So look out for Human Planet in your neck of the woods! Hopefully the BBC will commission a second series, watch this space…
So hopefully the end is truly just the beginning…I can only hope that this series sparks an interest in the challenges facing our human planet and that more is done to protect the incredible diversity, languages and cultures of our magnificent species.
Long live the Human Planet and all that sail on her!
by Jane Atkins, Human Planet Researcher
‘You see, Lions and the Dorobo, we feed each other.’
‘If we hunt a large animal, we take away as much as we can, but leave the rest for the lions to feed on. And sometimes the lions kill a really fat animal and we say, lets take this one. It is not simple, you have to track carefully and quietly. You are scared.. thinking – will I be mauled?’
‘But when you are hungry and know lions have killed first – you take your chance. There are days when we eat only what the lion has killed. We live on those lion kills until we finally make our own kills.
When we filmed 3 Dorobo hunters stride up to 15 lions to steal from their fresh kill our hearts were in our mouths. Courageous? Ingenious? Suicidal? All of these perhaps, but this one act is undeniably impressive. The Dorobo say they are hunters just like lions. They watch lions, and how they hunt. Just as lions do, the Dorobo watch every animal on the great plains – and study each individual. Like lions they observe which ones are wounded, slower, easier to pick off. They wait and wait until the time is right to hunt. And if the lion gets there first, well the Dorobo turn that into another opportunity.
But these opportunities are fading, and fast. These hunting and scavenging practices may be age old, but in 21st Century Kenya, they are banned under the country’s blanket law that no hunting is allowed in Kenya. Although the law was made primarily for big game hunters, it has been enforced at the local level, with traditional tribes, to avoid any ‘grey’ areas.
And so these Dorobo men are living a daily struggle of holding onto a lifestyle passed down through the generations; being free to walk through the great plains, hunt game to feed themselves and their family and sleep under the stars in caves and hidden valleys. Now, they all accept that although they were brought up to be hunters, they will not be bringing up their children to be hunters, to know the wildlife as intimately as they do.
Olkinyei is one of the last pockets in Kenya where the Dorobo still live, but in the last year, the area has been identified as a new conservancy, which means a step up in wildlife conservation in the area. This will ultimately push out of the Dorobo hunters.
And so in our lifetime, we will see an end to this ancient lifestyle of hunting, gathering and scavenging. An accumulative knowledge that has been passed down over 1000s of years.
In a time when stories about endangered wildlife regularly hit the headlines, few people seem to notice that incredible human cultures are being lost; ‘like swatting a mosquito – no-one seems to notice’. The irony here is that wildlife conservation has played a strong part in the Dorobo’s fate.
Whether you think this is right or wrong, it seems the fate for the Dorobo is inevitable. However, it may still be possible to keep their extraordinary tracking skills alive.
Today Jackson Looseyia, who runs a safari lodge in the Masaai Mara, has started employing Dorobo men to be spotters and trackers for his tourists. Jackson says, ‘If the Dorobo way of life disappears, so too does their knowledge. The Dorobo can spot and name any distant bird or animal, identify any nearby track or noise, and tell the story of hunt through reading the tracks in the sand.’
So perhaps this is one way for Rakita and his friends to keep their knowledge alive, even if their traditions die. It may not be as heart racing as hunting a buffalo, listening to the sounds of the night, or stealing food from a lion, but perhaps it’s enough? Rakita told me as we left ‘Of course I am sad to say goodbye to the life of my father, my grandfather… but what can I do? I cannot continue this life much more… I have already been in prison before now! And to bring up my son as a hunter here would be irresponsible. I don’t want him to go to prison. It is a shame, but what can I do?’.
If Human Planet achieves anything, a respectful salute to some of the people we filmed with would be a great thing. For the team back in the UK, finding some of these unique stories was hard, and filming them was challenging. But in a few years to come, these stories may turn out to be the last record of not just the Dorobo but many of the other people and cultures we were so privileged to film.
Watch the Dorobo steal from the lions here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNeNTMmltyc
by Toby Strong, Freelance Cameraman with Deserts/Grasslands Team
Mongolians, Bushmen, Dorobo and Tubu.
Minus fifty degrees to plus fifty degrees.
Hunters, dancers, herders and traders.
Helicopters, hot air balloons, horses and dug outs.
The last couple of years have given me a breadth and depth of experience that as a young boy I couldn’t have dreamed of.
Thanks to the faith of the grasslands and deserts team I have hunted kudu in the Kalahari; soared over camel trains crossing the Sahara; run on foot towards feeding lions; chased wolves on camel back and caught snakes in a canoe. I’ve danced through the night with the Wodaabe, followed a bird to raid a honey comb and rounded up 2,000 cattle by chopper.
To film all this all this I’ve had toys, lots of toys! (of the highly technical variety)…
Macro lenses, long lenses, time lapse, underwater cameras, infra-red cameras, cameras in helicopters, cameras on rafts, cameras on quad bike, horse back and camel back. Cranes, tracks, jibs, steadicams and hot air balloons.
I’ve travelled to some of the most remote corners of the planet and returned with amazing memories and a few exotic diseases. We managed to knock down a teensy weensy part of a sixth century fort, discovered a carpet viper up my shorts, crashed our balloon and got chased out a hide by a leopard.
Compared to some of the Human Planet shoots, a walk in the park.
So what will I take away from filming on this unique series? Apart from the obvious amazing experiences it will be the shared sense of trying to do something very special with the incredible Human Planet team.
While every tribe I’ve worked with has their own unique and special way of life , I have found two common links between everyone - humour and kindness.
I feel humbled and honoured to have worked on this series and with such wonderful people.
Dale Templar, Series Producer
What Toby is talking about here is common humanity. While making this series we have tried to celebrate the similarities and differences in all of us and I really hope this is played out when people watch the series.