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Seven Worlds, One Planet: Episode 2 (Asia) - Review

Seven Worlds, One Planet

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

THE plight of walruses, orangutans and Sumatran rhinos came under the spotlight in the second episode of David Attenborough’s Seven Worlds, One Planet, as the show visited the vast continent of Asia.

Whether faced with the continued threat of melting polar ice caps or deforestation, nature’s fragile place in these environments was laid bare for all to see – often wince-inducingly so.

For starters, there was the sight of tens of thousands of walruses hauling themselves on to a beach in one of the largest gatherings of mammals seen anywhere in the world on the Siberian coast. It was a spectacle, for sure, but one frought with peril.

Mindful of the sheer volume of beasts, some walrus took the decision to climb the cliffs and seek more space. But the arrival of hungry polar bears, forced to swim vast distances in search of food because of the melting ice sheets, created a panic… before long, walruses were throwing themselves back off the cliff and battering themselves to death on the rocks below.

Some survived, miraculously. But the sight of cascading walruses was disturbing and painful to see… as was the awareness that the ensuing stampede below also led to unnecessary death.

For the walrus, the death toll was around 200… the only ‘good’ thing being that the lifeless bodies provided a veritable feast for the bears, who no longer had to risk being gouged by a tusk. Yet while Attenborough did point out that such events remain rare, they are still becoming increasingly common – an all too painful reminder of the sustained threat posed by climate change and global warming.

If those scenes at the top of the programme weren’t heart-breaking enough, then the scenes that brought the show to its close were just as sobering. Deforestation in key forest errors has, literally, decimated vast swathes of greenery, rendering orangutan families homeless and bringing the Sumatran rhino to the point of extinction.

Here, there was beauty mixed with an underlying tragedy, never more exemplified than in the mournful, haunting song that the rhino delivered in its fruitless search for a mating partner.

Early footage of a young David Attenborough was just as striking for the way in which it exposed just how much the forests have changed in the presenter’s own lifetime – a fact he, himself, struggled to comprehend.

But there is a solution, something we can all do. Where the root cause of the deforestation has been largely attributed to the need for palm oil and alternative forests to sustain this consumer-led demand, we can – as a collective global society – choose to only shop for palm oil products that have been responsibly sourced. The fate of the orang-utans and, to a lesser extent, the rhinos (given the time sensitive nature of their plight), remains in our hands.

Once again, Attenborough and the BBC remain at the foreground of the fight to change minds and attitudes. As with Blue Planet and its rallying call for an end to plastic pollution of oceans, so Seven Worlds, One Planet looks to shine a light on another global predicament.

Not that Asia was all about the tragedy and the preaching. Far from it. There was also a wealth of spectacle to savour.

These included the sight of blue-faced monkeys walking upright through some of the least-explored forests on Earth in China, often huddling together to provide warmth against the freezing conditions; as well as brown bears in the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia seeking out active [steaming hot] volcanoes for nourishing vegetation.

In the baking deserts of Iran, meanwhile, was a genuine leap out of your seat moment… as migrating birds came into contact with one of the world’s most bizarre snakes – a heavily camouflaged viper whose tail has somehow morphed into what looks like a spider, complete with exposed belly. Placing said tail right in front of its mouth, the snake remains an invisible stalker as birds swoop to collect a presumed spider’s meal, only to find themselves in the grip of the reptile’s venom. It was a striking, jaw-dropping moment to savour.

And then there was the sight of garishly coloured lizards fighting kung-fu style to try and find a mate before they die and the heart-warming footage of fishermen feeding giant whale sharks… mindful that their own fishing practices had brought these majestic creatures to the point of extinction.

Thanks to a change in attitude, there was a renewed hope that whale shark populations may now rally, if not flourish… another moment of hope.

Two weeks in and Seven Worlds, One Planet continues to create scenes of awe and wonder, while providing pause for thought that we can no longer take such spectacle for granted. Rather, we now need to take important action to protect it.

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