Sir David Attenborough on TV crew's 'agonising' duty to let wounded animals die

Sir David Attenborough (Credit: BBC)
Sir David Attenborough (Credit: BBC)

Sir David Attenborough has spoken about the ‘agonising’ decision to let wounded animals that they are filming in the wild die.

It comes after news that the crew of his new BBC show Dynasties stepped in to save a family of Emperor Penguins while making the series.

The team, who were filming in the Antarctic, cut steps into a shelf of ice after penguin chicks became stuck in a gully, allowing the mother penguin to climb and pull her offspring to safety.

However, the team said they agreed to do so because it was a ‘freak act of nature’, and that helping the penguins would not interfere with other animals.

(Credit: BBC)
(Credit: BBC)

Speaking to i News, Attenborough used the example of saving a wildebeest calf being chased by a leopard.

“What do you do? Suppose you did something that frightened the leopard off, the fawn would be disorientated and would probably not even be able to find its way home, so it is likely to die,” he said.

“The leopard would go off and have to find another fawn and it is likely to have problems with its cubs.

“So you make things infinitely worse. Sometimes a problem is more complicated than it seems. I watched something which was absolutely agonising – a small baby elephant that was dying of thirst and the whole family was several days from water.

(Credit: BBC)
(Credit: BBC)

“This poor little thing was dying and you think, why didn’t you give it a bucket of water? But you’re in the desert and you don’t have a bucket of water and the thing is very close to death and has to walk for another three days if it was going to get to water, so all you’re doing is prolonging the death.

“All you can do there is watch tragedy. But tragedy is part of life and you have to show it. You can’t have sunshine throughout your life.

“To have done anything else would only have made matters worse and distort the truth.”

The opening episode of Dynasties shows such ‘agonising’ decisions in action, as producers had to look on as a chimpanzee is fatally wounded after an attack from other rival chimps.

The series begins on November 11 on BBC One at 8.30pm.

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