Best of Natural History Radioactive
Publisher |
BBC
The BBC Natural History Unit produces a wide range of programmes that aim to immerse a listener in the wonder, surprise and importance that nature has to offer.
Country Of Origin |
United Kingdom
Produced In |
United Kingdom
Finale date |
2016-01-05
Frequency |
Biweekly

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318 Episodes Available

Average duration:00:24:23

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High in the hills of the Snowdonia National Park in Wales, can be found a rare and fascinating habitat. We all know of the importance of the Tropical Rainforests, however these Celtic Rainforests are in a way even rarer, with Britain being home to most of the best preserved examples in the World. The Valley is changing and time could possibly be running out for these remarkable and sensitive habitats, which have been suffering from pollution and climate change since the dawn of the Industrial Age. Brett Westwood relives programmes from The Living World archives, this episode from 2011. Wales is home to a remarkable and rare forest. Paul Evans joins Ray Woods from Plantlife Cymru in Snowdonia. In an area where 200 days of rain each year is normal, Paul and Ray don their waterproofs and venture up the valley of the Rhaeadr Ddu, the Black Waterfall. The landscape in this valley is dominated by water, not only from the exceptional rainfall this area is known for, but from the river thundering along many rapids and waterfalls providing a constant mist of high humidity within the Atlantic wood enveloping the valley. Linked to a mild climate in this part of Wales, everything in the woodland is a carpeted in a magical sea of emerald green moss, fungi and lichen. This valley is home to some rare and exotic plants, the filmy ferns are however special in this landscape. Ray and Paul eventually make it to the side of the huge Rhaeadr Ddu waterfall itself, where, as the roar of the water almost drowns their voices, there on a single rocky outcrop, bathed in constant spray they discover the rare, minute and exotically beautiful Tunbridge Filmy-fern. Nearby a Wilson's Filmy-fern is found on a single boulder of an ancient moss encrusted dry stone wall. How did this Filmy-fern get here is a point of discussion.
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High in the hills of the Snowdonia National Park in Wales, can be found a rare and fascinating habitat. We all know of the importance of the Tropical Rainforests, however these Celtic Rainforests are in a way even rarer, with Britain being home to most of the best preserved examples in the World. The Valley is changing and time could possibly be running out for these remarkable and sensitive habitats, which have been suffering from pollution and climate change since the dawn of the Industrial Age. Brett Westwood relives programmes from The Living World archives, this episode from 2011. Wales is home to a remarkable and rare forest. Paul Evans joins Ray Woods from Plantlife Cymru in Snowdonia. In an area where 200 days of rain each year is normal, Paul and Ray don their waterproofs and venture up the valley of the Rhaeadr Ddu, the Black Waterfall. The landscape in this valley is dominated by water, not only from the exceptional rainfall this area is known for, but from the river thundering along many rapids and waterfalls providing a constant mist of high humidity within the Atlantic wood enveloping the valley. Linked to a mild climate in this part of Wales, everything in the woodland is a carpeted in a magical sea of emerald green moss, fungi and lichen. This valley is home to some rare and exotic plants, the filmy ferns are however special in this landscape. Ray and Paul eventually make it to the side of the huge Rhaeadr Ddu waterfall itself, where, as the roar of the water almost drowns their voices, there on a single rocky outcrop, bathed in constant spray they discover the rare, minute and exotically beautiful Tunbridge Filmy-fern. Nearby a Wilson's Filmy-fern is found on a single boulder of an ancient moss encrusted dry stone wall. How did this Filmy-fern get here is a point of discussion.
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Around 100,000 dark bellied brent geese head to Britain every winter to escape the extreme cold weather of their arctic breeding grounds in Russia. Britain is therefore an important wintering ground for these geese with many thousands heading to the Essex Marshes. But what brings them here and what are the management needs of this populated area of the South East coastal? To find out for himself, as Brett Westwood introduces in this Living World episode first broadcast in 2005, Peter France heads over to the Essex coastline in the company of ecologist Graeme Underwood from Essex University and Chris Tyas from the RSPB. Overlooking the wide marginal landscape wedged between the sea and the land they discuss mudflats and difference between marine and freshwater marshes. An ever changing landscape that requires specific management with all the challenges of creating the best habitat for all plants and animals here, including the thousands of dark bellied brent geese, in front of them.
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The famous evening murmuration, fantastic formations of huge flocks of starlings coming in to roost, brings hundreds of visitors to the levels each winter. But far fewer people see the spectacle of the dawn eruption when the starlings take off en masse to start their day foraging in the surrounding fields. Brett Westwood relives programmes from The Living World archives. This episode from 2014 sees Trai Anfield immerses herself in a starling spectacle many people have never seen. Each year the reedbeds of the Somerset Levels become the winter home for hundreds of thousands of starlings. Making their way from across the UK and Europe these birds have found a safe haven to roost with plenty of food nearby. Simon Clarke of Natural England talks Trai Anfield through the spectacle on Shapwick Heath. When it is all over and three quarters of a million starlings have departed for the day, thoughts turn to the reedbed and the effect the presence of so many birds has on their winter roost site and the animals they share it with.
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There are 19 species of the wild snowdrop in the world, all in the genus Galanthus. Wild snowdrops are found across much of Europe from Spain to the Caucasus , with Turkey being a hot spot for these 'milk flowers', but they are not found in Britain. What we think of as British wild snowdrops which herald the beginning of spring, are an introduced species or escapees from garden collections. Over the centuries gardeners have selected over 1000 distinct cultivars and that number is increasing every year. And so it takes a certain special kind of person to become a galanthophile, or a lover of snowdrops. Brett Westwood relives programmes from the Living World archives and in this episode from 2004 Brett himself travels to Somerset to explore the fascinating world of snowdrops with one such galanthophile Christine Skelmesdale. They start by discussing the snowdrop cultivars in Christine's garden before moving on to 'Snowdrop Valley' (or the more correctly called Avill Valley) on Exmoor. Christine explains the origins of UK snowdrops as imports from abroad, and that far from being native, snowdrops are a naturalised alien, though wonderful, plant.
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The Mountain Hare, sometimes called the Arctic or Blue Hare, is a native of Scotland but to most people's surprise a colony also live in England. Brett Westwood relives programmes from The Living World archives. This episode from 2005 Sarah Pitt heads into a wintry Peak District with the late Derek Yaldon in search of mountain hares, one of the great relics of the ice age. Nestled into the hills and as white as white during the winter these animals are very at home straddling the Pennine Way. But how did they get here? To discover this Sarah Pitt is led by zoologist Derek Yalden deep into wintry moors to find these animals, and much to his surprise is given a special device by Sarah to enable him to see the hares at night, something he's never done before. So a double surprise. Hares by day and hares by night. It certainly seems from Sarah and Derek's encounter that the night time is the right time for Mountain Hares.
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Alison Steadman presents a personal selection of birds in the Twelve Tweets of Christmas
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from the Living World archives. This episode from 2012 sees Miranda Krestovnikoff with Jeremy Biggs then from Pond Conservation (now known as Freshwater Habitats Trust) for a special Living world devoted to the ponds of the New Forest. Jeremy has chosen these as some of the finest of their type because they are keep open by grazing ponies and deer, don't suffer from pollution from roads or agricultural run-off , and are some of the cleanest ponds in the United Kingdom. When they go pond-dipping , kneeling in muddy water in chest-waders, he proves it by finding some of our rarest plants and animals including the mud snail which thrives in shallow pools whose margins dry out in summer . Damselfly larvae prowl among the plants and there are even newts active in January , animals which have grown too slowly in the previous summer and are spending the winter as youngsters. Best of all, in the shallows of the pond are clumps of the year's first frogspawn, in mid -January. This pond contains water all year round, but temporary ponds are a speciality of the New Forest. At Burley, Jeremy shows Miranda a roadside pool which fills with water in winter but is a grassy hollow in summer. Here they dip for one of Britain's rarest animals , the delicate fairy shrimp which can only survive in pools which dry out. These beautiful creatures are some of the oldest living animals on the planet, virtually unchanged in appearance from their ancestors 400 million years ago. Their eggs can survive in soil until the rains fill their ponds again in autumn and a new generation hatches to swim safe from fishes in the New Forest's temporary ponds.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from the Living World archives. In this episode from 2011 Joanna Pinnock travels up to the Stiperstone Hills of Shropshire where she meets up with Sara Bellis and Carl Pickup from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust at a remarkable site, The Hollies. Here high up on the windswept hills, Joanna encounters ancient holly trees, which could be as old as 400 years. Holly, naturally an understory tree of more developed woodland, is not suited to grow up here in the cold windy conditions. But how and why these trees came to be here is something of a mystery. It is thought these holly trees are a living link to a past age in this landscape, where lead mining was once common and over 2 centuries ago there were thousands of people eking a subsistence living up here. Possibly the hollies we seen now, gnarled and twisted though they are, are all that remains of a woodland which at one time covered all the hills around here. That woodland was subsequently cleared for whatever reason, leaving the holly trees as a valuable source of winter fodder. With the altitude and animal grazing on the hills these days, young holly cannot regenerate, so this landscape is one of preservation not conservation. But the story ends with a surprise, the cuckoo trees up here. Sometimes known as bonded trees, here Joanna witnesses the growing of full height rowan trees, inside the trunks of older holly trees. How did the rowan trees get there, well, it all has something to do with winter thrushes, as is revealed in the programme.
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Black-tailed godwits are an elegant long legged bird about the size of a pigeon. In the summer they are found in the arctic where the Icelandic race of this species then migrates to Britain to spend the winter in relatively warmer weather. For this week's Living World Brett Westwood relives programmes from the Living World archives with an episode from 2013 which sees Chris Sperring visit a private estate in Hampshire where 2000 black tailed godwit visit their flooded water meadows along the River Avon in winter. Here Chris is guided by Pete Potts from Operation Godwit.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from 50 years of the Living World archives. In this episode from 2009, Lionel Kelleway is in Dorset with Dr Anita Diaz from Bournemouth University, for the sika deer rut. Lionel heads to Purbeck in Dorset with Dr Anita Diaz to experience the sights and unusual sounds of sika at the start of the rutting season. Sika Deer are aliens to the UK but now are well established as part of the British landscape, though Purbeck has one of the larger concentrations. As the night draws in, the sika come off the salt marsh around Poole Harbour to graze the grasslands of Purbeck. This being the rutting season, the sika are noisily proclaiming their status, with a call once described as a mournful whale song across the English countryside.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from 50 years of the Living World archives. In this episode from 1988 Peter France is on the South Downs with ecologist David Streeter. Hips haws and honeysuckle berries enliven the hedgerows. On the ground toadstools appear as if by magic and acorns rain from above - all to ensure future generations of their kind. David Streeter and Peter France sample the fruits of autumn while delving into the many evolutionary mechanisms plants employ to move the next generation across the landscape, with a little help of course.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from the Living World archives, this week an episode from 2008. More familiar in our gardens and parks, the red admiral butterfly is found throughout the British Isles and is one of the highlights of the butterfly season. It is an unmistakable butterfly with its black wings, and striking red bands. But how do they get here? Well for this Living World, Lionel Kelleway travels to Lulworth Cove in Dorset where, standing on the cliffs and fully expecting to be looking out for autumnal bird migration, instead he witnesses the small bands of Red Admiral butterflies flying in from the sea as they migrate from mainland Europe. With Lionel is Richard Fox from Butterfly Conservation, who explains what's happening.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from The Living World archives. In this episode from 1991 Michael Scott travels to Country Durham where in Hamsterley Forest he meets botanist David Bellamy and Ranger Brian Walker on a tour of the area. A combination of careful management and a degree of good luck have turned Hamsterley Forest, Co Durham, into a haven for wildlife. Along with almost 100 different varieties of tree, ferns, and other fascinating plants, the wood pasture and meadows provide ideal habitats for birds like the crossbill, siskin, curlew and nightjar.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from the Living World archives. In this 2011 episode Paul Evans joins Bruce Langridge from the National Botanic Garden of Wales and Dr Gareth Griffiths, a mycologist from Aberystwyth University on a fungal foray with a difference, as they look for jewel like waxcap fungi hidden amongst grass.
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First broadcast on Radio 4 as a five part series, evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod follows a trail of five clues, beginning with a bone or skeleton and leading to a series of fascinating revelations. Brought together into one single episode, Ben first explores the link between an 18th century skeleton in the Hunterian Museum and Brendan Holland from County Tyrone, before turning his attention to a storm, a Norfolk beach and the unearthed bones of the oldest mammoth found in the UK. Next Ben reveals how studies of the skeletons of the Long Bow Archers who sank with the Mary Rose in 1545 could help medical science, before heading through time to reveal how the skeletal remains of the Dodo may hold the key to life beyond the grave. Finally Ben discovers how the jaws of a man-eating tiger are vital evidence in understanding the role of predation on human evolutionary behaviour.
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Evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod stares into the jaws of a man-eating tiger and learns how samples from the bones are providing vital evidence in understanding the role of predation on our evolutionary behaviour. Were our early ancestors primarily hunters or hunted?
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The Dodo is byword for extinction, or at least it has been. Evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod discovers how the skeletal remains of this extinct bird may hold the key to life beyond the grave and that extinction could be a thing of the past.
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Evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod tries his hand at pulling a medieval long bow and discovers how studies of the skeletons of the archers who sank with the Mary Rose could help patients with dyspraxia.
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Evolutionary biologist Ben Garrod heads to a Norfolk beach to hear how a raging storm led to the discovery of one of the oldest mammoth skeletons ever to have been found in the UK and the best preserved skeleton of this species in the world. The skeleton revealed a treasure trove of information about life some 600,000 to 700,000 years ago.
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Evolutionary Biologist Ben Garrod follows a trail of clues beginning with a bone or skeleton and leading to a fascinating revelation. In this programme, Ben explores the link between an 18th century skeleton in the Hunterian Museum and Brendan Holland from County Tyrone who reached a height of 6’10” and has been diagnosed with gigantism. Ben follows a trail of clues and discovers how recent findings could mean that in the future there are no more Irish giants.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from The Living World archives. In this episode from 2013, Chris Sperring is in Buckinghamshire with Robin Scagell on a glow worm safari.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from The Living World archives. In this episode from 2014, Trai Anfield is in Dorset with naturalist John Walters.
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Brett Westwood relives programmes from The Living World archives. In this episode from 2012, Chris Sperring heads to Skomer Island with ecologist David Boyle
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In this programme from 2014, Trai Anfield joins Chris McInerny adder spotting on the eastern edges of Loch Lomond.
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Brett Westwood introduce Living World from the Archives - The Nest Finder of Dartmoor
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A Musician, a Poet and a Quaker share their listening experiences; discuss the difference between hearing and listening and reveal how listening is more than just an aural experience; it’s something much deeper motivating their work and their lives. The musician is Dame Evelyn Glennie, whose vision is to teach the world to listen by encouraging everyone to discover new ways of listening. As a result of hearing problems when she was a child, Evelyn learned to ‘feel ‘ sounds, not just hear them. Using different instruments she demonstrates how sounds and reverberations can affect us; emotionally and physically. Katrina Porteus’s earliest memory is the sound of a blackbird singing whilst she was in her pram. Since then listening has had a huge influence on her work as a poet; much of her work is about the fishing communities and landscape of County Durham and Northumberland. Like Evelyn, Katrina feels sounds; they are “the heartbeat of a place”. On the written page, there is silence between the words of a poem. “If we get it right we can find silence where we can really listen” says Hermione Legg, who has been a Quaker since she was child and regularly attends meetings which are opportunities for a community to come together in worship. There is no creed and much of the meeting is silent. The silence offers an opportunity to listen. Listening is also about communication. “If I’m listened to, I feel I have worth” says Hermione “Why speak if no one’s going to listen … Life would have no meaning without us listening.” Producer Sarah Blunt.
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In this four part series Christine Nicol, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, explores the fascinating and challenging subject of animal sentience and welfare. To help delve into the nuances we set up an intriguing scenario: Jake the Spacemen (aka comedian Jake Yapp) has crash-landed on a remote planet and doesn't have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with alien life forms that are edible, but which ones should he eat? He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so what does he need to know about the nature of the beings on the planet? Can they feel pain? If so, how can he minimise suffering? Will eating an alien cause distress to others? Is the alien so aware and sensitive to its environment that Jake needs to consider whether it is a non-human person? Christine will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to get under the skin of animal sentience and the potential consequences of accepting that animals are conscious, aware creatures. These big questions generate surprising and challenging insights into our attitudes to other life. When you know absolutely nothing about the alien in front of you, what do you need to know before eating it?
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Fiona Gameson has been blind since she was about 3 and half years old, and since childhood has used echolocation to help navigate her surroundings. Echolocation is used by bats and dolphins and some other marine mammals to navigate and hunt their prey. It involves producing a sonar emission (mouth clicks in Fiona’s case) and listening to the echoes to hear and “see” their surroundings. Lore Thaler a lecturer at Durham University has been studying human echolocation and we hear about her work with individuals like Fiona. We also hear from Christopher Willis Clark, a senior scientist and Professor at Cornell University and in the Bioacoustics Research Programme at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology where he studies the acoustic behaviour of birds, fish, elephants and whales. He too is familiar with the notion of ‘seeing with sound’, of creating ‘maps’ from sounds and using these to navigate underwater. Above the waves, poet Katrina Porteus discusses how listening to the soundscape of places has influenced her work and Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford University recalls some of his favourite listening experiences in reverberant spaces and explains how the acoustics in a badly designed lecture hall in the late 1800's was the starting point for the study of architectural acoustics along with some hand claps and a saxophone in Trevor’s case! Producer Sarah Blunt.
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In this four part series Christine Nicol, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, explores the fascinating and challenging subject of animal sentience and welfare. To help delve into the nuances we set up an intriguing scenario: Jake the Spacemen (aka comedian Jake Yapp) has crash-landed on a remote planet and doesn't have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with alien life forms that are edible, but which ones should he eat? He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so what does he need to know about the nature of the beings on the planet? Can they feel pain? If so, how can he minimise suffering? Will eating an alien cause distress to others? Is the alien so aware and sensitive to its environment that Jake needs to consider whether it is a non-human person? Christine will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to get under the skin of animal sentience and the potential consequences of accepting that animals are conscious, aware creatures. These big questions generate surprising and challenging insights into our attitudes to other life. When you know absolutely nothing about the alien in front of you, what do you need to know before eating it?
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Listening is about more than hearing as we discover in this new series of 3 programmes. The first programme explores three very different experiences of listening to speech with a poet, a speech dialect coach and Chair of Samaritans. Jan Haydn Rowles is an accent and dialect coach whose interest in dialect began when she noticed how her parents who were born in different counties spoke with different accents; and that the same was true of her and her siblings. Jan not only hears sounds she sees them; “When I listen to a person’s voice I don’t see it, I hear it” and she offers a fascinating insight into her visual experiences of sound. Katrina Porteus has spent much of her life in County Durham and Northumberland writing about the fishing communities and coastal landscape where she lives. ‘A poem begins and ends in listening’ she says. For Katrina, listening extends to the sounds of the words; whether they be soft sounds or hard sounds, and beyond the meaning of the words to the rhythm of language and the music of the dialect as we discover. Jenni McCartney is our third listener. She has been working with Samaritans for over 30 years, first as a volunteer and now as Chair. “Listening is absolutely crucial to what we do” she says, Started by Chad Varra in 1953, Samaritans is a charity which provides confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts, and is available 24 hours a day, every day. At its simplest, Samaritans is about listening. “Every 6 seconds somebody contacts Samaritans”. Listening perhaps has never been more important. Producer Sarah Blunt
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In this four part series Christine Nicol, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, explores the fascinating and challenging subject of animal sentience and welfare. To help delve into the nuances we set up an intriguing scenario: Jake the Spacemen (aka comedian Jake Yapp) has crash-landed on a remote planet and doesn't have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with alien life forms that are edible, but which ones should he eat? He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so what does he need to know about the nature of the beings on the planet? Can they feel pain? If so, how can he minimise suffering? Will eating an alien cause distress to others? Is the alien so aware and sensitive to its environment that Jake needs to consider whether it is a non-human person? Christine will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to get under the skin of animal sentience and the potential consequences of accepting that animals are conscious, aware creatures. These big questions generate surprising and challenging insights into our attitudes to other life. When you know absolutely nothing about the alien in front of you, what do you need to know before eating it?
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In this four part series Christine Nicol, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, explores the fascinating and challenging subject of animal sentience and welfare. To help delve into the nuances we set up an intriguing scenario: Jake the Spacemen (aka comedian Jake Yapp) has crash-landed on a remote planet and doesn't have much food to keep him going until he is rescued. Fortunately, the planet is teeming with alien life forms that are edible, but which ones should he eat? He wants to cause the minimum amount of pain and distress to the creatures, so what does he need to know about the nature of the beings on the planet? Can they feel pain? If so, how can he minimise suffering? Will eating an alien cause distress to others? Is the alien so aware and sensitive to its environment that Jake needs to consider whether it is a non-human person? Christine will interview animal welfare scientists, philosophers and wildlife biologists to get under the skin of animal sentience and the potential consequences of accepting that animals are conscious, aware creatures. These big questions generate surprising and challenging insights into our attitudes to other life. When you know absolutely nothing about the alien in front of you, what do you need to know before eating it?
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Presenter Howard Stableford investigates whether 3D printing can bring real benefit to the natural world. Along the way he discovers a 3D printed reef structure and scientific applications. With species extinction in the natural world a reality, Howard then asks the bigger question: are we near the point when we could reproduce a living species? Producer: Andrew Dawes
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Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson introduces the sounds of a dawn chorus recorded near Aldeburgh in Suffolk in the last in this series of immersive soundscapes. Produced by Sarah Blunt
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The extraordinary and powerful sounds of a glacier calving are captured by wildlife sound recordist, Chris Watson in this immersive soundscape. Produced by Sarah Blunt
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Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson introduces the extraordinary sounds which accompany the movement of the tides on the Wash, in this series of immersive soundscapes. Produced by Sarah Blunt
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Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson introduces the sounds of the city on Match Day in Newcastle upon Tyne in the second in a series of immersive soundscapes. Produced by Sarah Blunt
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Wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson narrates the first in a series of audio postcards capturing spectacular wild sound events, beginning in the Kalahari desert. Produced by Sarah Blunt
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In winter, the UK's estuaries and wetlands play host to many species of 'dabbling,' or surface feeding, ducks. Chris Sperring visits the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire to find out more about them.
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Chris Sperring and Michael Jordan of the Association of British Fungus Groups go in search of giant bracket fungus in Dommett Wood in Somerset. Bracket fungus grow on a variety of native trees. The vegetative part of the fungus, known as mycelium, grows under the bark of fallen wood or living trees, and will eventually break down and rot the host tree. However, the part that can most easily be seen is the fruiting body of bracket fungus. These fruiting bodies, growing on tree trunks and fallen logs, allow the fungus to reproduce and exist to produce and liberate millions of microscopic spores.
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In the company of Marc Brouard and Nigel Fisher, Conservator of Wytham Woods, Trai Anfield hears how these small mammals have a vital role to play in the ecology of the woodland. Wytham Woods, is reputedly, the most studied woodland in World. Marc Brouard is the latest in a long line of scientific researchers to undertake field studies on small mammals. In 1943 Charles Elton, known as 'the father of modern ecology', studied wood mice and bank voles and his work was followed up by H.N. Southern who examined the impact of predation by tawny owls on populations of small mammals. Marc aims to understand how the characteristics of individual wood mice and bank voles can affect the survival of each species.
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Martin Palmer, Secretary General of The Alliance of Religions and Conservation reflects on the spiritual responses evoked by cliffs in religious stories and traditions.
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Geologist Zoe Shipton explains how cliffs can be read like books to reveal the geological history of the earth.
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Skellig Michael or Great Skellig is the larger of the two Skellig islands situated some 12km off the coast of Portmagee in south west Ireland. It’s a spectacular rocky pinnacle towering over 200 metres above sea level. Illustrated with recordings he made on location, wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson recalls his ascent of Skellig Michael.
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Alan Read, Professor of Theatre at Kings College London explores the Dreadful Trade on Shakespeare’s Cliff in the first of a new series about our relationship with Cliffs.
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Trai Anfield visits a wintry Bovisand Bay in South Devon in the company of Keith Hiscock, Associate Fellow of the Marine Biological Association. They rummage amongst the storm strewn seaweed making up the strand line at the top of the beach. It is here that insects and crustaceans flourish in the food rich and clement micro world, in turn drawing in birds like wagtails and turn stones. Down in the inter-tidal zone, along with finding a host of marine molluscs are the excitingly named volcano barnacles and beautifully coloured beadlet anenomies.
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Photographer Andrew Heptinstall goes on a quest to represent sound within a photographic image, which takes him from the camera, into the mind and back again.
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The spined loach is a small freshwater fish that spends most of the time buried in the silt of riverbeds. It is believed be in the UK as a result of the melting from the last Ice Age when the UK was connect to Europe. After the Ice Age rescinded, the ocean water levels increased for a time before decreasing enough to essentially separating some of the species from the rest that live in Europe. Brett Westwood joins Environment Agency Fisheries Officer Andy Beal and his team conducting a survey of this secretive and rare animal at Morton's Leam; a 15th Century river artificial course of the River Nene in Cambridgeshire. Produced by Jamie Merritt
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The final programme in the series recorded in the Natural History Museum in London. Four experts from different fields chose an object that symbolises our relationship with nature.
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When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire. The River Stour has its source in the industrial Black Country and flows through Brett's local patch on its way to the Severn, about 9 miles away. Today, although it is polluted, the river is far clearer than in years gone by, thanks to rigorous controls on pollutants. With their absence, fish have returned and damselflies such as the white-legged damsel which is sensitive to pollution, skim across the surface.
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When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire. Fairy Glen is a small natural woodland in Brett's patch carpeted with bluebells in spring. This was once oak has become a sycamore wood. However it's now a great place to spot warblers; chaffinches and bramblings feeding on aphids in spring, and during his visit Brett watches a pair of Nuthatches bringing back food for their young to their nest hole in the trunk of a tree.
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When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire. n this programme, Brett visits a farm at Whittington. When he was a teenager, sewage was pumped out onto an area of about a square mile where cattle were grazed. In icy winters the fields did not freeze owing to the warmth provided by the sewage and the life breeding in it! Unusual for the West Midlands in winter, a regular flock of up to 200 curlews were joined by a pink-footed goose, pintails, wigeon, and in winter 1976 two spotted redshanks.
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When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire. In this programme, Brett visits the valley. Since Brett started visiting his local patch, the landscape here has been changed more radically than any other area in the patch, not as a result of management, but of nature taking its course. The valley is a sandstone dip between two horse pastures and its steep sides have deterred any cropping or grazing.
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The world has lost so much wildlife some conservationists think half the earth should be set aside for nature to ensure the world can continue to provide all the services we need such as clean water, unpolluted air and soils, healthy food and so on. But one recent study shows that 50% of wildlife has disappeared in the last 40 years. As human population grows and pressure on resources increases many feel there needs to be a bold plan to ensure we can share the planet with other forms of life so that they and us can continue. One proposition is called Half Earth - make half of the earth just for nature. The vision is for a meandering network of nature corridors that open out into huge parks set aside for wildlife. In a special programme from the Natural History Museum in London Monty Don and a panel of experts in subjects ranging from conservation science to urban planning and economics discuss whether this could work?
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When Brett Westwood began a wildlife diary at the age of 15, little did he think that he'd still be writing notes, nearly 40 years later about the same local patch in North Worcestershire. In the first programme Brett visits an area of arable and pasture land where corn buntings sang their crackly songs, grey partridges creaked in spring dusks and the pee-wit cries of lapwing were regular sounds.
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Coral reefs are renowned for their beauty and diversity, and they provide us with a wondrous spectacle, but as the seas warm and become more acidic will they survive?
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The lemurs of Madagascar are the most endangered mammals on earth - driven to the edge of survival by habitat loss and hunting. How can we save them from extinction?
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Migrating birds exemplify our problem to share the planet with wildlife. These birds fly thousands of kilometers with many species needing protected stop over places to feed.
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Few creatures have infiltrated our psyche as much as wolves. They haunt our imagination and appear in our stories, myths and legends. They are at once the embodiment of the devil and of the wild, enough dog that we relate to them, but also rugged, unpredictable and wild. They roam vast, untamed landscapes and then appear in our midst, hunting sheep and spreading fear. Our relationship has been so conflicting that they were almost eradicated from the earth by the end of the 19th Century. But since being protected they are slowly coming back in both Europe and America. Are we now able to live with them? Do we want to? Monty Don explores the enigma that is the wolf and looks at how our attitudes have shaped their destiny.
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Orang-utans live in the peat rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia. It can be tough terrain to travel through on foot so studying and surveying wild orang-utans is difficult and dangerous. Can drones help to answer questions about the number and distribution of the 'people of the forest' and monitor illegal logging of this endangered ape's habitat? This week Shared Planet explores the potential of drones to help us share the planet with orang-utans - but also explores the possible pitfalls of using this controversial technology.
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As East Africa gets hotter and drier livestock are increasingly being grazed inside wildlife reserves. Inevitably this leads to predation by big cats. What does the future hold for the pastoralists, wildlife and the say of life of the Samburu? Monty Don explores this increasingly difficult issue with a field report from Samburu where a severe drought is taking its toll. Climate change predictions show that conditions will get worse and wildlife experts discuss the challenges ahead for nature and people.
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What do elephants, snapping turtles and guillemots have in common? They are all examples of 'long-lived' animals with some species living longer than the careers of the scientists who study them. In this episode of Shared Planet Monty Don talks to Tim Birkhead and Phyllis Lee, both scientists who have studied the behaviour of long-lived species and both argue that you discover insights into long-lived animals can will help their conservation and our ability to share the planet with them. Presented by Monty Don. Produced by Mary Colwell.
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When freezing temperatures descend on Iceland, majestic whooper swans migrate south to the Highlands of Scotland where they flock together on wet land, whooping musically to one another in high and low tones. The beauty of the whooper swan has long been revered and over the winter months the Insh Marshes Nature Reserve plays host to this spectacular gathering. Living World presenter Trai Anfield and the RSPB's Catherine Vis-Christie take to the marshes to see how these elegant birds are faring after their long journey to Scottish shores. Produced by Tom Bonnett
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Mangroves have been destroyed worldwide, we are trying to restore them. Is that possible? Can we really restore nature back to what it once was?
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Mary Colwell travels to White Peak to meet Sarah Henshall, lead ecologist with Buglife and Simon Nicholas, the local Ranger for the National Trust, to discover the 350 million year old limestone that forms the walls and search for the mini beasts that live in their depths.
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Blue whales are increasingly being hit by ships, especially off the coast of California. As whale numbers recover from hunting and the number of ships that ply the oceans increases this is a growing problem. What can be done? Monty Don explores this little known threat to whales, a threat that is found in all oceans all over the world and effects most species of whale. It seems that the welcome news that whale numbers are slowly rising is being countered by concern over ship strikes, most of which are fatal. A simple solution is to slow the speed of ships down to around 10 knots, but this has financial implications for the shipping industry, so a balance has to be struck. Technology could help, but it is expensive, not reliable in choppy seas and in the case of sonar could fill the ocean with more noise. How can we share the oceans with giants and still move 90% of traded goods by boat?
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As the weather starts to chill, Chris Sperring travels to the Somerset Levels to seek out a last glimpse of the great crested newt as it prepares for hibernation. It's at this time of year we discover why ponds that dry up are important for their breeding and how far they are prepared to travel to find a good place to haul up for winter.
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The European beaver was hunted to extinction for its fur, meat and the aromatic secretions from sacs near its anal glands. Now it is coming back throughout Europe , either naturally or by being introduced, as here in the UK. Wherever they settle they transform the landscape by building dams and channels and create a landscape of pools and watercourses that hold back flood water, pollution and silt from entering the main rivers. In these times of severe weather events and flooding beavers are doing for free what landscape engineers would do at great cost. Viewing nature in terms of the services it provides, or evaluating nature in financial terms, is a growing movement in conservation. Nature can be seen on balance sheets and hopefully respected for all that it gives us for free. But there is concern that monetising nature leaves it open to the ruthless world of finance and trading and diverts attention away from the real aims of conservation.
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Algonquin National Park in Ontario is home to the Eastern Wolf and a magnet for visitors to this wilderness national park. Canadian reporter Sian Griffiths meets David Legros in the park and is taken on a wolf howl expedition too look for this shy and retreating animals. The park organises public wolf-howls to bring members of the public closer to and give richer encounters with this wonderful creature. The Living World has special access to the park and the rangers for this exclusive nature walk with a difference. Produced by Jamie Merritt
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Albatrosses are giant flying seabirds that inhabit the southern oceans. Many species have been studied intensively over decades on their breeding grounds in the sub-Antarctic and the Pacific. Clever studies involving satellite tracking and simple observations from ships have shown they can disperse and forage across the whole of the southern ocean. Monitoring of their populations has shown a marked decline in their numbers since the 1980's so much so all albatross species are now threatened. A key cause of albatross decline was found quickly after the decline in populations was noticed; long-line fishing hooks baited with squid and floating on the surface after being deployed was an easy meal for an ocean scavenger and often their last. Shared Planet visits this story many years after it broke to report a cautious success on the high level conservation measures that were put in place involving biologists and the fishing industry.
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Paul Evans narrates a ghostly tale inspired by the true story of Alice Glaston who was the youngest person to be hung in Tudor England. Starring Bettrys Jones. Produced by Sarah Blunt
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Chris Sperring is in Somerset during the last days of summer to find a bird that is one of the first to leave before the autumn. As the light fades a strange whirring sound fills the air and silent masters of flight hawk for moths and other airborne insects. Produced by Ellie Sans
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Hen harriers are persecuted in the British Isles because they eat grouse. Seals cause problems for salmon fishermen; lions eat the livestock of pastoralists in Africa and so on. All over the world there are conflicts between people and wildlife, often with devastating consequences. In Shared Planet this week Monty Don looks at how we are approaching solving these issues, who is taking the bull by the horns and getting people around a table to come up with a shared solution? Conflict resolution is growing area that brings together scientists, local people, businesses, NGOs and many others who are affected by wildlife conflict. It is a demanding task finding a solution that all parties feel they can accept, on a par with the negotiations undertaken with trade unions by ACAS. This new area for conservation brings political and social science to sit alongside traditional conservation ideas. Monty Don investigates.
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Artificial lighting is ubiquitous in the developed world - but the effects of night time illumination on wildlife are not yet fully understood. While we know that artificial light changes the behaviour of some animals we're still a long way from knowing whether those changes can damage wildlife populations. Monty Don finds out what we do know with particular regard to an important but often overlooked group of animals - insects.
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Beautiful and durable, mahogany has been highly prized and traded internationally for centuries. Reaching the impressive height of 60 metres or more they are true giants of the forest. Selective logging of mahogany was unchecked across much of its range until international agreements restricted its trade. But has this been enough? Monty Don finds out more about the big-leaf mahogany and whether we can continue to use its beautiful wood without forfeiting its future.
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Plastic litter has the knack of finding its way into the ocean. Unfortunately this means that seabirds that have, until relatively recently, been safe to assume that the objects floating on the surface are food are getting a stomach full of trash. Shared Planet finds out how bad the situation is for seabirds like the fulmar and the simple things we can do to reduce the problem.
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The diversity and abundance of wildlife is declining across the world. As people grow older they notice the changes but for each new generation the baseline is reset. Is each generation getting used to living with less and less wildlife?
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Ep: 3 of 3 In the last of three tales written by Lynne Truss, the Garden Spider (Amanda Root) and the Great Pond Snail (James Fleet) reveal the funny side of life in a garden pond. Producer: Sarah Blunt
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Shared Planet - Ground Nesting Birds Ground nesting birds such as terns are particularly vulnerable to being disturbed. People are increasingly accessing the countryside for all sorts of recreation from walking and mountain biking to bird watching and photography. Is disturbance really a problem for wildlife? And how can we limit the effect while still encouraging fun and healthy ways to spend our time. Monty Don asks whether dog walkers and ground nesting seabirds can share the same space and it seems yes, if the birds can make a choice.
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Ep 2 of 3: In the second of three tales written by Lynne Truss, the Water Boatman (Sandi Toksvig) and the Great Diving Beetle (David Ryall) reveal the funny side of life in a garden pond. Producer: Sarah Blunt
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The fate of the Pantanal rests largely in the hands of Brazil's emerging economy. Monty Don explores the future of the Pantanal and its resident the giant otter. Producer: Mary Colwell
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Ep: 1 of 3 In the first of three tales written by Lynne Truss, the Tadpole (Julian Rhind-Tutt) and the Dragonfly (Alison Steadman) reveal the funny side of life in a garden pond. Producer: Sarah Blunt
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In the final programme in the series, wildlife cameraman and narrator Doug Allan joins a film crew on Goudier island to film leopard seals hunting Gentoo penguins, but in Antarctica nothing is ever guaranteed! Producer: Sarah Blunt
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Life is tough not only for a colony of Gentoo penguins on a tiny island in Antarctica, but also for the team who are filming their lives. Narrator Doug Allan. Producer: Sarah Blunt
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With their ship locked in ice a film crew attempt to walk across the frozen Antarctic waters to film a colony of Gentoo penguins on a tiny island. Narrator cameraman Doug Allan. Producer: Sarah Blunt
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Fierce storms and dense sea ice provide more challenges to a film crew trying to reach a tiny Antarctic island to film a colony of Gentoo penguins. Narrator cameraman Doug Allan. Producer: Sarah Blunt
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As demand for oil continues to increase conflict with wildlife is inevitable. Monty Don explores this in the context of a population of beluga whales in Canada's St Lawrence River. Producer: Mary Colwell
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Wildlife cameraman Doug Allan narrates the first of five programmes following the adventures of a film crew who travel to Antarctica to film a colony of Gentoo penguins. Producer: Sarah Blunt
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Ep 3 of 3: Listening is about more than hearing as we discover with four individuals for whom listening is very much the focus of their lives. Presented by Matthew Watson. Produced by Sarah Blunt.
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Skomer Island lies off the south east coast of Wales and is home to thousands of seabird. In the early decades of the 20th Century there were 100,000 guillemots on Skomer, but numbers plummeted to just 2000 after the second world war, probably due to oil pollution in the sea. Now numbers are slowly recovering with the current estimated to be around 25,000; but the increase in storms may be a problem for them in the future. Professor Tim Birkhead from Sheffield University has led a 42 year study of the birds and reveals some of their secrets. Produced and presented by Mary Colwell.
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Ep 2 of 3: Listening is about more than hearing as we discover with people who listen to sounds. Presented by Matthew Watson. Produced by Sarah Blunt.
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The Green Hairstreak butterfly is small, bright green and feisty. The males fight for females, spiralling in the air at break neck speed. This lovely butterfly was not recorded in the Pentland Hills, south of Edinburgh, until 20 years ago but now populations are being discovered in more and more places. Sensitive management is helping bring back this bright jewel to the bilberry and heather clad hills. By excluding sheep and letting gorse and bilberry grow together the right conditions now exist. Green Hairstreak only appear on the wing in May and Victor Partirdge takes Mary Colwell to see where he first spotted them in the Pentland Hills. Produced and Presented by Mary Colwell
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Ep 1 of 3: Professional listeners reveal how there's far more to listening than hearing. Presented by Matthew Watson Produced by Sarah Blunt
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In the second programme from the Turks and Caicos islands, Tom Heap meets up with marine biologist Mark Parrish to look at the problems facing the critically endangered Rock Iguana. Mark Parrish is a marine biologist who runs a local eco-tourism business. He tells Tom Heap about the problems facing this critically endangered species, particularly the tendency of feral cats to predate on the young lizards. Cats have been spotted crossing onto the island but the warden Alex Williams is determined to keep the local population safe. He takes Tom to see Rocky, the dominant male, his harem of mates and the young challenger to his crown. Presented by Tom Heap Produced by Alasdair Cross
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The term National Park can be applied to different types of areas depending on where they are situated, some have more protection for wildlife than others. In the United States the traditional National Parks such as Yellowstone or Yosemite enjoy a high level of protection with many restrictions on what people can do. Contrast that with British National Parks which are working landscapes with villages, farms and even industry. In this week's Shared Planet Monty Don looks at where wildlife fits into this complex mix of wilderness and human activity. In reality how do these much-loved protected areas work for wildlife? Beautiful scenery does not necessarily equal abundant wildlife. And in more human centred National parks, do our needs override those of animals and plants. In the Cairngorms National park plans are underway to build 15000 houses and Loch Lomond has given the go ahead for a gold mine. Produced by Mary Colwell
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In the first of two programmes from the Turks and Caicos Islands, Tom Heap joins local naturalist Bryan Naqqi Manco for a night safari in search of the Caicos pygmy boa constrictor. Presented by Tom Heap. Produced by Alasdair Cross.
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Ep 8 of 30: As more land is developed for industry and housing or converted to produce food the areas we have fenced off for nature are increasingly important. But are the worlds nature reserves essentially made into a fortress to protect the area from development able to function on their own, or do they need constant management. Are they "zoos in the wild". Monty Don hears from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa, the reserve that helped replenish Southern Africa's white rhinoceros population and finds out whether size really does matter for our protected areas. Producer: Brett Westwood
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Ep 7 of 30: Wildlife in urban areas can be surprisingly diverse – particularly when neighbouring more natural areas. Can the urban jungle actually be better than some rural areas for bees and birds? In this episode Monty Don hears from scientists working to find out just how important our urban areas are for wildlife. Presented by Monty Don and produced by Brett Westwood.
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Ep 6 of 30: Overland migrations of terrestrial mammals form some of the most impressive natural spectacles in the world. But humans have been making it more and more difficult for animals to move long distances overland. Roads and railways cause mortalities, fences block the way, growing towns and cities disrupt routes. Monty Don hears from projects in the USA designed to help the pronghorn antelope continue on its lengthy migration and how a road planned for the Serengeti might affect the wildebeest migration. Presented by Monty Don. Produced by Brett Westwood.
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Ep 5 of 30: Hector's dolphin is the world smallest marine cetacean and one of the most endangered. It's a shallow water specialist endemic to New Zealand that shares its space with commercial and recreational fishing. In this episode of Shared Planet Monty Don finds out why Hector's dolphin is so vulnerable and what's being done to protect it. Produced by Mary Colwell
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How does the world of conservation set its priorities? Shared Planet reports from Qatar and the effort being spent to save the Spix Macaw from extinction in captivity. Occasionally, when the battle to save a species from extinction has almost been lost, the only alternative is to catch the remaining individuals to be kept safe and bred in captivity with no certainly of ever being returned to the wild. In this episode of Shared Planet Monty Don asks whether last hope fights to prevent single extinctions are viable or do we need to start prioritising conservation funding to secure the future or greater numbers of species?
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Ep 3 of 30 / Monty Don presents a special Shared Planet in front of an audience from the Hay Festival. Naturalists have always relied on and contributed to the illustrated guide book to observe and record wildlife, but is this so today? The modern naturalist has more than just books at their disposal, with field guides on mobile phones and tablet computers giving more than just words; sounds and moving pictures too. Monty Don asks whether the traditional naturalist skills are disappearing and with them the naturalist, or whether technology in an increasingly crowded world are liberating naturalists to observe and record wildlife in a different way generating a new generation of naturalists fit for the planet they share with nature. Presented by Monty Don. Producer by Mary Colwell.
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Ep 2 of 30 / Monty Don presents a special Shared Planet in front of an audience from the Hay Festival. Nature has always inspired writers across the generations and cultures. The natural world has been the subject, generated the characters and been there as the canvas on which the rest of the story is written. In this special edition of Shared Planet Monty Don explores the presence of the natural world in fiction and factual writing, past and present and whether any landmarks in human history change the way in which we write about the natural world around us. Presented by Monty Don. Produced by Mary Colwell
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Monty Don explores the difficulties in keeping secrets and the effects of secrecy on rare orchids and rhinos. For the lady's slipper orchid in England, reduced to a single plant, secrecy was considered the only solution for many years, but when collectors discovered its site, conservation strategy changed. Rhinos, like other creatures with a price on their heads are very vulnerable and even in the 21st century; secrecy still plays a part in their conservation.
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Solitary bees build their nests in some interesting places, but none more so than Osmia bicolor, a mason bee that's preferred real estate is the empty shells of snails. Emerging in spring a few weeks after the males, the mated female spends two days lining and provisioning the shell before laying her eggs and sealing the shell. But she's not finished yet. Perhaps to prevent hungry predators in search of its original slimy occupant from destroying her nest, the snail bee hides the shell under a wigwam of twigs and sticks. Join presenter Trai Anfield and naturalist John Walters as they look for this pioneering little bee on the chalk hillsides above Cerne Abbas.
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The ancient tradition of coppicing, the periodic cutting of trees and allowing the stumps to regrow, was once common throughout lowland Britain but has been on the wane since the late 1800's. The mosaic habitat of coppiced woodland provides opportunities for a wide variety of wildlife to thrive. With more light reaching the forest floor, recently cut areas are awash with springtime flowers. As the trees regrow they provide habitat for the sleepy and secretive dormouse and many woodland butterflies. Presenter Chris Sperring visits a traditionally managed hazel coppice in Dorset and is joined by coppicer David Partridge and botanist Andy Byfield.
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On the eastern edge of Loch Lomond adders are preparing for another summer. Spring-time sun has coaxed them from their winter hibernacula and as the weather warms males have begun to look for potential mates. The adder is one of the most studied and yet misunderstood British animals. With distinct markings and predictable habits individual adders can be tracked for years by the people who know how, exposing their mysterious behaviours. Yet adders are still despised by some, unaware that their docile and cautious nature makes the risk of their painful, but very rarely dangerous, bite very small. Trai Anfield joins Chris McInerny on a showery, but warm early April morning to seek out these beautiful and captivating reptiles. Produced by Ellie Sans
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Chris Sperring this week joins Dr Fiona Mathews, Senior Lecturer in Mammalian Biology at Exeter University on a quest to unravel the secrets behind one of the most abundant if secretive mammals in the UK – the vole. At nearly 1000 feet above sea level, the Mendip Hills is a hotspot for both field and bank voles and as Chris and Fiona set out to see a vole for themselves it proves much harder than they think. Despite an estimated population of 75 million field voles in the UK these animals lead a precarious and all too brief life. Living for just a few months voles are prolific breeders and populations can fluctuate up to tenfold on a three to four year cycle which can have drastic effects on the species which prey on them including arguably Britain's most loved bird, the barn owl.
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A "Nature" with a bit of a difference. Instead of looking at rare species and conservation measures, this week's programme focuses on perhaps the most elusive (if not non-existent) creature of all – Bigfoot, the supposed ape like or hominid creature that people believe lives in the North West of the United States. With reports of sightings of strange man-like beasts that go back as far as 1920 if not stretching back into the 18th century, and the 1967 film shot at Bluff Creek in California, there's as much interest in finding evidence of Bigfoot today as there's ever been amongst those convinced of its existence. But rebuffs of misidentification, assumption and hoaxes abound. Invited to the annual Beachfoot Camp 2013, BBC journalist Matthew Hill hears of Bigfoot encounters from people who've had experiences across decades and heads out with Bigfoot researchers with the latest technology in their quest to be the ones to capture that one piece of vital indisputable evidence.
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The Midland Brown Snake found in the eastern United States, like many snake species migrates between winter hibernation areas and summer habitat in the Spring and Autumn. In many areas, even including the more rural areas, this means having to cross roads. To this small harmless snake the length of a pencil, a tarmacadamed road surface which holds the heat seems the ideal spot to pause to raise the body temperature on that journey but is also the cause of its demise. Its size and colouration means it is effectively invisible to passing traffic. While the Midland Brown Snake is not under conservation concern, the number of snakes being killed each year is high and some populations are endemic to specific areas. Howard Stableford joins a research team in an Eastern Illinois state park to find out how they are monitoring this beautiful snake, whether dead or alive, and how their information may help other populations of this snake or other reptiles at threat from roads.
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In August 2013, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reclassified the Atlas Cedar from 'least concern' to 'endangered species'. Drought as well as local pressures from grazing, logging and pests are threatening the survival of Morocco's endemic forests of Atlas Cedars. Professional tree climber James Aldred is passionate about trees and tree climbing. It's not so much the technical challenges of climbing that James enjoys but the opportunity to explore the character, structure and ecology of the tree. James travels to Morocco to explore these ancient forests and reflect on the challenges facing them. He also finds a suitable tree to climb and sleep in overnight. From his tree top hammock, he watches a spider abseiling on its silken thread and hears owls calling through the darkness. He wakes before sunrise and climbs to the top of the tree to look out across this vast ancient forest in the early morning light. It’s an unforgettable experience.
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Crossbills are finches with large heads and bright colours: the males are red and the females are olive green. What makes them so unusual is that the tips of their beaks are crossed over; allowing them to rip into pine cones and extract the seeds. Different species of crossbills have different sized bills, which have evolved in association with the species of cones they eat. The Common Crossbill is found across the UK all year round and its numbers have been boosted by the planting of commercial conifers such as pine and larch. A real prize for birdwatchers is the larger and much rarer Parrot Crossbill, which has a very deep bill and can tackle the biggest and thickest cones. Presenter Trai Anfield and ornithologist Ian Newton, who has studied the movements of crossbills, take the rare opportunity to track down this flock, which probably irrupted from the breeding forests in Scandinavia.
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In 1985, a dragonfly landed on Ruary Mackenzie Dodds. Up until this time, he had never had much interest in insects, but so astonished and bewitched was he by "this beautiful" insect which had landed on his shirt, that he decided to find out more about dragonflies and in time that led to the founding of The Dragonfly Project to enthuse and educate people about dragonflies. In August 2013, Ruary 'handed over the baton' of the Dragonfly Project to The British Dragonfly Society who will continue this work alongside their own work to conserve dragonflies and their wetland habitats, but Ruary's eagerness to share his enthusiasm for these insects continues "I don't know what it is about dragonflies ... they absolutely electrify me ... I get so excited when I see them in the air". In this programme, Ruary searches for dragonflies and their larvae amongst the reeds and watery places of Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire and offers a fascinating insight into their lives. Producer Sarah Blunt
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Each year the reedbeds of the Somerset Levels become the winter home for hundreds of thousands of starlings. Making their way from across the UK and Europe these birds have found a safe haven to roost with plenty of food nearby. The famous evening murmuration, fantastic formations of huge flocks of starlings coming in to roost, brings hundreds of visitors to the levels each winter. But far fewer people see the spectacle of the dawn eruption when the starlings take off en masse to start their day foraging in the surrounding fields. Simon Clarke of Natural England talks Trai Anfield through the spectacle on Shapwick Heath. When it is all over and three quarters of a million starlings have departed for the day, thoughts turn to the reedbed and the effect the presence of so many birds has on their winter roost site and the animals they share it with.
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Every year between January and April, Humpback whales from all around the North Atlantic Ocean gather in an area called Silver Bank 100km north of the Dominican Republic to breed. After calving, the whales migrate north from these lower latitudes to their high latitude, summer feeding grounds. In June, wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson travelled to Husavik on the north coast of Iceland where he joined a whale watching trip to look for Humpback whales on their feeding grounds – and perhaps even see some of the same animals which he had recorded on their breeding grounds earlier in the year. Producer Sarah Blunt
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Seeing a flock of black and white striped, powder puff pink flanked long-tailed tits bouncing through the grey and brown winter landscape is a cheering sight. Scruffy and bandit faced they are often heard before they are seen with piping calls to keep the flock together. Charging around in family groups these diminutive birds will spend the coldest winter nights roosting together, lined up along a branch jostling for the best position. Naturalist John Walters takes Chris Sperring to the southern fringes of Dartmoor to introduce him to one particular family group.
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In the second of three programmes recorded in Iceland, wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson goes in search of Arctic Terns, which travel here from Antarctica to breed; the longest regular migration of any animal. Chris takes a 3 hour ferry journey from the mainland to the island of Grimsey which lies on the Arctic Circle to record some of these remarkable migrants. Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of breeding colonies which have failed in Iceland in the past decade and Chris hears about the reasons why and what steps need to be taken to help the situation. Producer Sarah Blunt
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Each year Britain's butterflies and moths attempt to make it through the cold, dark and often wet winter months. Some species will spend the winter as eggs, others as caterpillars or pupae but some get a head start on the spring flowers by spending the winter as adults. Being at their largest and most conspicuous in a time of hunger for many insectivorous predators, is a risky strategy for butterflies. Richard Fox of butterfly conservation explains how Lepidoptera pass the winter months and takes presenter Chris Sperring to a winter hideaway for a group of adult peacock butterflies, which have some surprising strategies to keep predators at bay.
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In the first of new series of NATURE, we join wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson in Iceland. When it comes to dynamic landscapes, there's perhaps nowhere in the world more exciting than Iceland; with its vast groaning glaciers, spouting geysers, thundering glacial waterfalls, hissing thermal vents and erupting volcanoes – and it's the sounds of this landscape which Chris is keen to capture. Produced by Sarah Blunt
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A small group of female grey seals first chose the naturally managed sand spit Blakeney Point, on the North Norfolk coast as spot to haul out and give birth to their pups back in 2001. That year twenty-five pups were born and since then the new colony has grown year on year. Twelve years after the first pups were born at Blakeney the colony is thriving. By the end of December 2013, over fourteen hundred pups had been born with more on the way. Although delighted with the success of the new residents this burgeoning population has led to major challenges for the landowner, the National Trust to keep both the grey seals and the curious public safe from one another. To add to the challenge early December saw the biggest tidal surge in 60 years hit the north Norfolk, inundating many of the nature reserves along the coastline, including Blakeney. Presenter, Trai Anfield goes to Norfolk to see how well the Blakeney grey seals weathered the surge and to witness the drama.
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In today's Shared Planet we ask who is responsible for the life in the ocean? Featuring a field report from Scotland, Monty Don explores the problems faced by life trying to compete with us for resources in an area with little or no regulation. The Isle of May is home to a quarter of a million seabirds in the breeding season, yet come the winter months most disperse out to the open sea to spend weeks at the mercy of storms and cold weather. The birds need a rich food supply to survive, yet the fish stocks and all other life in the sea is at the mercy of humanity. Suffering from what is known as "The Tragedy of the Commons", no one owns the oceans and therefore no one has responsibility for them, they are open to exploitation from many nations. Can the seabirds, whales, dolphins, turtles and all the other life that lives in the open ocean be protected? And if so by whom?
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Many commercially available medicines today can trace their origins to compounds found in the natural world, yet many of those natural compounds are found in rare species, often in natural environments that are now vulnerable due to human activity. Are we in danger of losing these potentially valuable resources before they are even discovered? Monty Don explores this question through a field report from the Elan Valley in mid Wales where a tree lungwort, ravished by pollution and climate change, could provide a potential cure for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. With increased pressure from human activities in natural areas, what can be done now to ensure the survival of the unknown for future generations?
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Worldwide, with an increasing human population using more and more natural resources, it is often local people and local communities who are the first to notice when something is out of balance in the natural world. In Britain it was otter hunt records that first led to the realisation that otter numbers were in steep decline in the late 1950's. So how much influence can a local community have in protecting a species for the benefit of the wider community? In this programme Monty Don explores this question through a field report looking at the decline in Napoleon wrasse around the coral reefs of Palau after commercial fishing arrived from other parts of Micronesia in the 1980's. Local fishermen noticed the wrasse were disappearing and brought about their own initiatives to protect the species.
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It is estimated that in the United Kingdom, numbers of certain deer species in our countryside has almost tripled in the last 20 years. Deer are possibly the most likely mammal we are ever likely to see in the wider countryside. However in many areas deer are blamed for destroying crops and woodland, and the booming populations will fuel concerns they are having a harmful impact on other wildlife. Add to this an increasing human population pushing ever deeper into deer habitat, are we at a point whereby the management of deer in Western Europe has become a critical issue? Monty Don explores this question a field report looking at the damage deer can do in our increasingly urbanised landscape.
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"Do we care too much about nature?" This is the question we will be asking in a special edition of Shared Planet recorded with a live audience in the Great Hall at the University of Bristol. Together with questions asked by Shared Planet listeners and members of the public in the audience Monty Don hosts two guests John Burton, Chief Executive Officer of The World Land Trust and Hannah Stoddart, Head of the Economic Justice and Policy team at Oxfam GB. And of course Shared Planet correspondent Kelvin Boot will make an appearance.
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"Are there too many people on earth for wildlife to thrive?" This is the question we will be asking in a special edition of Shared Planet recorded with a live audience in the Great Hall of the University of Bristol. Together with questions asked by Shared Planet listeners and members of the public in the Great Hall, Monty hosts guests Fred Pearce, an environment writer and author of The Last Generation: How nature will take her revenge for climate change and Kieran Suckling, Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity. And of course Shared Planet correspondent Kelvin Boot will make an appearance.
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Does human produced noise remove us from the natural world? Monty Don explores this question through the difficulty of hearing natural sounds in the countryside.
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Humans in the form of scientific research or for artistic endeavour have for centuries travelled the world in search of new landscapes and places. It was not until the arrival of cheap air travel in the 1970's that far flung remote areas became accessible to anyone. Seeing and engaging with a wild landscape or animal has been shown to improve our desire to protect nature. But as the sheer numbers of people travelling to see wildlife spectacles increases, is it possible that the wildlife they have come to see may be changing their behaviour in response to this pressure. This week's field report comes from a whale and dolphin watching trip in the Azores where tourist boats head off in search of a once in a lifetime wildlife spectacle.
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Sea lions in California are developing cancer and the most likely cause is pollution in the ocean. As world population grows and demands on agriculture increase, can we control the amount of damaging chemicals entering rivers and then being taken into the sea? Monty Don explores the problems of keeping our coastal waters free of toxins with. Can we grow food and control disease while still protecting wildlife?
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As human population grows there is increasing conflict between people and nature. Competition for space and resources is intense in many areas and increasingly some species are regarded as pests when they raid crops, damage forestry or compete with us for game. Identified as one of the greatest challenges for conservation in the 21st Century, solutions are actively being sought. Whether it is living with big cats, birds of prey or reptiles, solutions will require conservationists to sit down with those who want to eradicate unwanted wildlife and be willing to accept compromise. Monty Don explores where the hotspots are, what is happening to broker solutions and what the future looks like in an increasingly crowded world.
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After a long summer spent raising their young in the Arctic, barnacle geese need a safe place in warmer climes to fatten up before the breeding season begins again. Every winter the whole population of Svalbard barnacle geese make their way to one place in the UK; the Solway Firth on the west coast of Scotland. One of the best places to see them is the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust centre at Caerlaverock. Each day the barnacle geese gorge themselves in the fields around the centre. Just before dusk, quiet falls over the feeding birds, signalling it is time to return en masse to roost in the salt flats out of the way of opportunistic predators. Presenter Trai Anfield joins Brian Morrell to find out how their long journey has affected them and witness this incredible spectacle.
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Traditional societies and the wildlife that depends on them are disappearing. Can we preserve these fragile species? Or is the pressure to develop too great in our world? This week's field report comes from Ethiopia where one of the most endangered birds in the world, the Ethiopian Bush Crow, teeters on the verge of extinction as the traditional societies they rely upon disappear. This beautiful bird needs a particular regime of grazing and scrub to survive, but the societies that provide the right habitat are fast disappearing as development and modernisation takes over. Monty Don explores, with renowned writer Jared Diamond, the value of traditional societies and what we lose when they finally vanish.
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Every autumn Spurn Point National Nature Reserve is inundated with small migrating birds from continental Europe. Exhausted from their journey across the North Sea blackbirds, redwings, stonechats and other small birds make easy picking for one of the UK's most charismatic birds of prey. Also the smallest falcon in the UK, merlin are dynamic and quick - blink and you'll miss them as they dash past on the hunt. Chris Sperring meets Peter Wright, former head ranger of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and an expert in merlin having studied them in their upland breeding habitat for many years. Chris and Peter join Andy Gibson, the Outer Humber officer for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust who shows them what attracts merlin - and other birds of prey to Spurn Point National Nature Reserve.
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Climate change is causing some National parks in America to re-think their boundaries. As the earth warms many species try to move to cooler climates but national parks are rooted in one place. The Sequoia National Park in California runs mainly east-west but now plans are being formed to shift it to run north-south, allowing species that need cooler temperatures to thrive. But in an increasingly crowded world, and with climate change continuing to change the earth, can we protect our treasured areas? Monty Don explores how climate change, national parks, wildlife and people are sharing the earth.
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Both mysterious and fascinating fairy rings are steeped in mythology. In this episode of the Living World Chris Sperring accompanies fungi expert Lynne Boddy from Cardiff University to the National Botanical Garden of Wales to bust the myths and explore the little known subterranean world of fairy rings. Each ring is formed of a single individual fungus and are at their most obvious when their mushrooms appear above ground on pasture and in woodland.
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More and more rubbish is put in landfill every year. Can rubbish tips and industrial sites be modified to help wildlife thrive in an increasingly crowded and consumerist world? The UK produces more than 100 million tonnes of rubbish annually, including 15 million tonnes of food. Much of this ends up in landfill; how can these sites be used to help wildlife? This week's field report comes from Essex, from a reclaimed landfill site which is now a wildlife haven. But is this a one-off or can it be replicated around the world? Monty Don explores the world of waste and wildlife in a world where human population is growing and consumerism increasing.
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This week on the Living World Chris Sperring accompanies entomologist Richard Comont to Dry Sandford Pitts in Oxfordshire in search of a relative newcomer to the UK. Only named as a new species in 1993 and first recorded on British shores in 2001 the ivy bee (Colletes hederae) has been working its way north ever since. A real autumnal species the ivy bee is only active between September and November so its short year begins and ends within the space of a few weeks. As the name suggests its primary food source is the pollen from ivy blossom - the last of the year's flowers. Unlike honeybees or bumble bees the ivy bee is solitary - the female prepares a nest-hole on her own in which to lay her eggs which she will provision with ivy pollen. The ivy bee seems to be bucking the trend of general decline in bee populations and spreading northwards as its range expands. Dry Sandford Pits is one of the most northerly of its known locations. Where will it be spotted next?
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In Australia some housing estates put restrictions on what people can do to protect koalas. They can't own dogs or cats for example and the Koala's needs are paramount. But how many people are prepared to give up lifestyle choices so that wildlife can thrive? Or are the needs and rights of people greater than those of species under threat? Monty Don explores whether people are prepared to forgo personal choice for wildlife in a world where human population is increasingly putting pressure on many species.
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In the first Living World of the autumn run, Chris Sperring travels to Exeter to find a species hidden within the walls of Exeter Cathedral. First found at the Cathedral as far back as 1890, the large tube-web spider or Segestria florentina, is the largest European spider from the Segestriidae family and one of the largest spiders found in the UK. Chris Sperring and Peter Smithers, Professor at the School of Biological Sciences at Plymouth University, go on a quest (with a surprising array of props) to find the species concealed amongst the Cathedral's gothic architecture.
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Some wildlife is fragile and will die out if it loses particular conditions. Some butterflies need a particular rare plant, or some birds certain trees for example. This week's field report comes from the heart of England where the needs of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly are revealed, our most endangered butterfly. In an increasingly crowded world is it possible to preserve fragile wildlife with so much demand on space. Monty Don explores whether it is possible for fragile wildlife to thrive in a world where the use of land changes from one generation to another, often linked to demand from an increasing global population.
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Shared Planet explores the link between a growing human population and wildlife and there is no other part of the natural world that is under as much pressure as the earth's soils. We rely on them to grow healthy crops, which they can only do if they support an appropriate community of bacterial, fungal and invertebrate life. Wildlife too depends on this diverse life that thrives in the soil, everything from birds to plants to insects. The earth worm is the surprising champion of soils and an animal that looks vulnerable in the face of human population pressure. Monty Don will be in the studio speaking with soil scientist Dr Helaina Black and soil biophysisist Professor Wilfred Otten.
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From a dawn solo to the thunderous roar of a midnight train, this vibrant sound portrait follows 24 hours in the life of Newcastle Central Station with recordings by Chris Watson. Produced by Sarah Blunt
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Sharks are in decline across the world's oceans. It can be argued sharks have an image problem with reports of attacks on swimmers and surfers. Persecution and deliberate killing to clear areas near swimming beaches are only a contributor to shark decline. Legal fishing, by-catch and catching sharks for their fins are large contributors to shark decline. In this programme Monty Don talks to a wildlife cameraman who has filmed sharks for 20 years and recorded his observations of shark decline in his dive logs. Dr Shelley Clarke and Professor Colin Simpfendorfer talk about the ways in which experts believe we can share the oceans with the large diverse group of fish. Plus a report from Fiji where a single living shark is allegedly worth $50,000 a year in dive tourist revenue.
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This week Monty Don explores how religious teachings might help people get more involved in conservation. In southern India, the city of Bangalore is the third most populous city in India and one of the fastest growing. As the city expands, the nearby national park - Bannerghatta - is under pressure. People now live in the buffer zone that was designed to separate people and wildlife. Elephants now regularly damage crops and farmland as their traditional sites are settled by people. Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker, Fazlun Khalid and Bishop James Jones join Monty to explore how religion and conservation fit together.
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In this programme a field report from Saba Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants from the Samburu National Park in Kenya. Saba sees first-hand the sight of an elephant shot for its ivory. Monty Don explores some of the wider issues in Africa with David Western, Chairman of the Africa Conservation Centre in Kenya, and speaks with Dr Peter Li, associate professor of East Asian Politics at University of Houston-Downtown. With many commentators and scientists saying the end markets for ivory are too large to supply from legally traded ivory, what argument will save elephants from the huge market incentive to kill elephants for their ivory?
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As trade between different countries and continents increases we move more animals and plants around the world. With them go diseases that can be devastating for local wildlife.
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In this week's programme we have a field report from South Georgia where Tony Martin, Professor in Zoology at Dundee University and working with the South Georgia Heritage Trust, has embarked on a programme to remove 100% of rats on South Georgia. Human activity over the decades and centuries have inadvertently introduced Brown Rats to islands and mainlands and the rats have driven local extinctions of birds and caused havoc on many seabird populations, eating the chicks in the nest. Is the wildlife benefit worth the effort it takes to return such areas to a situation before Brown Rats were introduced? Monty Don also speaks with environmental author Emma Marris.
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In this week's programme we have a field report from England with Simon Potts, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Reading University. Simon Potts's research looks specifically at how effective bees and other pollinators are and their abundance in agricultural landscapes - a crucial link in food security. Monty Don explores some of the issues with Vandana Shiva in Delhi, a board member of the International Forum on Globalisation and an author of over 20 books about biodiversity, food and economies.
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This week's Living World sees presenter Chris Sperring heading to Hampshire where with native lime tree specialist Hugh Milner they embark on a journey into the remarkable life of the UK's native lime trees. Most people's association with lime is a sticky mess on car windscreens from street planted non-native common lime. This is a hybrid of the 2 native species of lime tree in Britain, the small leaved lime and the large leaved lime. The bark, or more importantly the sap from the bark is also a great delicacy for great spotted woodpeckers, who it is now believed, after drilling their holes, wait until insects become trapped in the sap to take back to their young in the nest. More surprisingly lime trees can walk across a landscape, as they have the ability to regenerate from fallen timber or if branches make contact with the ground. Producer: Andrew Dawes
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This week on Living World, presenter Trai Anfield travels to mid Scotland for an encounter with one of Britain's rarest mammals, the pine marten. Here in a remote landscape she meets up with Martyn Jamieson from the Field Studies Council for a safari with a difference, can they find a female with young, high in the tree tops? Producer: Andrew Dawes
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This week on Living World, presenter Chris Sperring is in Buckinghamshire on the lookout for glow worms. Literature is full of references to these enigmatic little beetles who glow when its dark enough not to be able to differentiate colours. With Chris is Robin Scagell who has been studying glow worms for over 40 years and still gets a sense of excitement seeing one in some long grass by a lake near Little Marlow. While recording the programme, Chris witnessed a male come to a female and mate with her; something that is very rare to see in the wild. Producer Andrew Dawes.
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In this week's programme we have a report from Gloucestershire on the waxing and waning of Eel populations. Jonathan Porritt, one of the founders of the sustainability charity Forum for the Future will be in the Shared Planet studio to explore the issues and the wider implication of sustainability and Monty also speaks with Pavan Sukhdev, founder of the GIST Advisory - a specialist consulting firm which helps governments and corporations manage their impacts on natural and human capital.
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Presenter Trai Anfield travels to Coquet Island off the Northumberland coast for this week's Living World for an encounter with the rare roseate tern in its last UK breeding colony. Produced by Andrew Dawes
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In this week's programme we have a report from the Arabian Gulf off the coast of Qatar where we witness oil rig legs encrusted with life, pods of dolphins and work monitoring the arrival of migrant whale sharks to the area. David Paterson, Executive Director of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland is in the Shared Planet studio to explore the issues, and macro-economist and professor of Economics, Alejandro Nadal also speaks with Monty.
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In this week's programme we report from India where John Aitchison revels in the sight of two tigers, who magnificent though they are, are now in effect in an island population, separated from the farmland that surrounds the Bandhavgarh National Park by an electric fence. Lion biologist Craig Packer from the University of Minnesota will be speaking to Monty about his observations in Tanzania where upward of 100 people a year are being killed by lions raiding villages. And David Macdonald, Professor of Wildlife Conservation at Oxford University, will be exploring this area of conflict with Monty in the Shared Planet studio.
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The focus is towns and cities in this week's programme, with a report from North America about their largest Swallow, the Purple Martin. Purple Martins are totally dependent on human habitation east of the Rockies for nest sites. West of the mountain range they largely nest in their ancestral way using abandoned woodpecker cavities. As we clear land to build the world's towns and cities what is the impact on the natural world and are there ideas to embrace wildlife in built environment planning? Monty speaks with leading environmentalist Chris Baines and Kate Henderson, the Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).
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How much is a honey bee worth? Can you put a price tag on a mountain? Monty Don explores the value of nature. Some believe the only way to preserve nature is to show that it can pay its way in a world driven by money, others disagree saying nature is too precious to be left to the whim of markets. This week there is a report from St. Andrews in Scotland where Trai Anfield discusses the value of estuaries to both nature conversation and human activity, plus there is discussion in the studio with author Tony Juniper and Dr Bill Adams from the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge.
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In this week’s programme we have a report from Northern Kenya about the Grevy's Zebra, the world’s most stripy Zebra and a species in decline for many different reasons, all of which appear to be attributed with human activity. Monty interviews one of the authors of a recent paper “Can a Collapse of Civilisation be Avoided?”, Professor Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University. Also Dr Joe Smith from The Open University, an expert in environment and the media, explores how the media should keep up with such apocalyptic headlines.
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A giant hamster in Alsace provides Monty with a puzzling dilemma, how do we decide what to conserve? With so many pressures on so many creatures and habitats how to decide where to put our energy and money is difficult. Monty Don expores the issues, do we save the creatures that appeal to us or those that are most useful? Is a beetle better to save than a hamster?
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Monty Don presents Shared Planet, the series that looks at the crunch point between human population and the natural world. In this programme Howard Stableford reports from Conneticut on the complex decline of the once very ubiquitous Chimney Swift, a story Monty Don believes is the paradigm for the series. The wider issues of human population and nature are explored in the studio with Lord May, past president of The Royal Society and from Vienna, Professor Wolfgang Lutz, a specialist in human population dynamics. Produced by Mary Colwell
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In traditional Chinese culture the mandarin duck is believed to bring lifelong fidelity to couples and frequently used as symbols for wedding presents or in Chinese art. Formerly abundant in their native Far East, numbers of mandarin ducks have declined due to habitat destruction (mainly logging) and over-hunting. For this Living World, presenter Chris Sperring travels to the river Dart in Devon where starting underneath the busy A38 trunk road he meets up with naturalist John Walters who has been studying a winter roost of mandarin ducks here. In mid-winter up to 100 birds can roost here but in early spring they are beginning to pair up and disperse along the river Dart. Leaving this noisy suburban area, Chris and John then head off up the river to search for pairs of these wonderful tree ducks in the Devonian landscape.
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For many the emergence of the daffodil is the real, true harbinger of spring. That flash of yellow across the countryside breathes vitality into a previously grey and dormant winter landscape. There are around 26,000 species of daffodil in the World, however Britain is home to a special collection of true wild daffodils; smaller and less showy than the more usual cultivated stock, but superbly adapted to survive in our cold wet climate. For Living World, presenter Chris Sperring joins botanist Ray Woods in search of one such daffodil, the Tenby daffodil, the National emblem of Wales. This daffodil is unique in that it is found nowhere else on the Planet except around Tenby and southwest Wales. Most often associated with places of habitation, its origins and history are now lost in history, but by the 1800's this species was abundant in hedgerow and field.
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May 5th is International Dawn Chorus day and to celebrate this worldwide event presenter Trai Anfield heads to the Coombes Valley near Leek in Staffordshire to experience the emulsion of sound of a dawn chorus there. Well before dawn, for this special Living World, Trai Anfield meets up with Jarrod Sneyd from the RSPB. Here standing in oak woodland their sense of anticipation rises as with the first shimmers of light breaking the eastern horizon, the first pipings of the thrush family begin to break the silence. Slowly and imperceptibly more birds and different species join the awakening woods, the warblers, flycatchers and redstarts are then followed by the seed eaters until, soon after sunrise, the wood is alive with nature's choral sound. Can there be any better way to celebrate the arrival of spring.
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One of Britain's scarcest birds is also one of its most beautiful. The flame-coloured golden pheasant is a riot of red, orange and bronze and is native to Chinese forests. The birds are popular around the world as ornamental species and over the years have been introduced on country estates. Brett Westwood joins Paul Stancliffe of the British Trust for Ornithology in search of wild golden pheasants in the conifer woods of Norfolk. Here, in spite of their bright colours, they are very elusive and behave much as they do in their native China, skulking in dense undergrowth and glimpsed only as they dash across rides. As numbers in China are in decline, do our UK pheasants have an international importance? They prefer to run rather than fly and call loudly at dusk in spring, so this visit is the best chance that Paul and Brett have to see one - a bird that's one of the toughest challenges that the countryside can offer.
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Paul Evans explores the human self after discovering that only one in ten cells in our bodies is human; the rest are microbial cells. So, if we're not all human, what are we? Produced by Sarah Blunt
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Ep 3 of 3. In the third and last programme in the series, ecologist Matthew Oates, like Thomas, ends his journey in Somerset.
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Ep 2 of 3. In the second programme in the series, ecologist Matthew Oates celebrates the centenary of naturalist and poet Edward Thomas’s iconic cycle ride from South London to Somerset over Easter 1913.
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Ep 1 of 3. Edward Thomas (1878-1917) was arguably the most accomplished and profound writer of English rural prose, with a unique poetic-prose style. Over Easter 1913, Thomas set off on a cycle ride of personal self-discovery across Southern England. This journey was published in 1914 in his book "In Pursuit of Spring" and it remains a poignant reminder of one of our greatest countryside writers, who just a few years later would die on the battlefields of World War One. Throughout the series of three programmes, naturalist Matthew Oates pursues his own personal homage to Thomas by following in the literacy cycle tracks of the Edwardian writer one hundred years before. Academic and travel writer Robert MacFarlane, an admirer of Thomas himself, will read passages from Thomas's work which illustrate the man within. Presented by Matthew Oates. Produced by Andrew Dawes.
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Ep 3 of 3. In Episode Three, Erica explores how insect technology can solve human design problems.
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Ep 2 of 3. In Episode Two, Erica asks whether we should be eating more insects.
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Ep 1 of 3. They make up 80% of the species on earth, and at any time there are ten QUINTILLION of them living. Meet the six-legged rulers of the world: INSECTS. Entomologist Erica McAlister is known as Fly Girl to her friends. As Curator of Flies at the Natural History Museum, she knows what remarkable, strange, and diverse animals insects are. The insect world is populated by beings with superpowers - an amazing sense of smell, lightning reflexes, the ability to fly at dizzying speed or walk on the ceiling. And these superpowers have implications for us humans - in medicine, defence, food, art and architecture. They can help us to live more healthily, more safely, more sustainably. In Episode One, Erica discovers that bees' sense of smell can be used to detect explosives and disease.
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For this week's Living World, presenter Chris Sperring goes in search of a large carnivore he's never seen before in the wild, the grey wolf. To do this he travels to Sweden where he meets up with Pierre Ahlgren a wildlife ranger in the Vastmanland area of Mid Sweden, where they are also joined by Tom Arnbom from WWF Sweden.
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In January Sweden can be a cold and inhospitable place. Despite winter temperatures dropping to -15, southern Sweden is alive with birdlife. For this week's Living World, Chris Sperring travels to the Vastmanlan area of Sweden where the huge taiga forests begin, forests that stretch east all the way to Alaska. Travelling 40 km north of the town Vasteras he meets up with Torbjorn Hegedus a local ornithologist and Tom Arnbom from WWF Sweden to head out for the day and see what birds they come across in this snowy wooded landscape.
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Living World: Tree Sparrows. Trai Anfield heads to RSPB Old Moor reserve to seek out the Tree Sparrow; a bird which only a few generations ago was a common sight in the British countryside.
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Ep 24 of 24. In the final episode of the current series, Saving Species looks at the Slender-billed curlew; no official confirmed records of its existence have occurred since 2001 although there have been sightings of it in 2010 but photographic evidence was not taken. Horatio Clare follows the route of the bird's migration route from its Siberian breeding grounds to the area around the Mediterranean Basin. Kelvin Boot finds out about the threat facing many species of moths in the southern part of the UK and Kelvin Jones of the BTO gives the latest movement of the cuckoos sending signals back from Central Africa as they gear up to begin their migration back to the UK. Producer: Sheena Duncan. Presenter: Brett Westwood.
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Ep. 23 of 24: This week's edition of Saving Species looks at the introduction of quota-regulated cull of Grey Wolves in Sweden as part of plan to to genetically invigorate the currently inbred Swedish wolf population. Michael Scott reports on conservation efforts of the Arctic Fox in Iceland. Plus, the programme looks at a major project by The Mammal Society which aims to map population levels of various mammals that reside across the British Isles.
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Living World: Godwits. Black-tailed godwits are an elegant long legged bird about the size of a pigeon. In the summer they are found in the arctic where the Icelandic race of this species then migrates to Britain to spend the winter in relatively warmer weather. Chris Sperring travels to the a flooded meadow near the New Forest to join Pete Potts from Operation Godwit.
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Living World: Urban Kites Living World presented by Trai Anfield is on the outskirts of the Tyneside conurbation following red kites with Harold Dobson from Friends of Red Kites in the north east of England.
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Ep22of24. Freshwater eels are explored this week, as Sian Griffiths reports from the Ottawa River Valley in Canada where hydropower dams are disrupting the American eel's migration paths, and Brett Westwood speaks with David Bunt from the Sustainable Eel Group to discuss similar issues with European eels. Joanna Pinnock looks the furry clawed invasive species; the Chinese mitten crab and the problems they cause for British habitats. Also in the programme - news from around the world with our regular news reporter, Kelvin Boot. Presenter: Brett Westwood. Producer: Sheena Duncan. Editor: Julian Hector.
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Ep21 of 24: This week Saving Species looks at Bonobos - a great ape, related to chimpanzees, and found in the forest of the Congo Basin of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Theo Webb reports from the Salonga National Park investigating the threat from an increase in hunting for the bushmeat trade. Also Michael Scott reports on the Dragon Tree, a native species of Madeira, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde. There are only one or two native wild dragon trees left on Madeira and Saving Species finds out from local conservationists what is being done to increase the number of trees in the wild from original seed. Presenter: Brett Westwood. Producer: Sheena Duncan. Editor: Julian Hector.
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Recorded high up in the Shropshire hills of the Welsh Marches and inspired by a living landscape, the Chapel of Skins is a fictional story about a ghostly meeting of ways. CAST: Phone Box: Paul Evans Trebrodier: Liza Sadovy Anchor: Ben Crowe Quabbs: Alex Tregear Wildlife sound recordist: Chris Watson Directed and Produced by Sarah Blunt for BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol.
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Ep20 of 24: Marine Conservation Zones are in the spotlight this week, as Saving Species looks at the importance of protecting our marine life. In December it was revealed that only 31 of the 127 proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) have the chance of being implemented for the first tranche. Kelvin Boot is live in the studio with Brett Westwood, plus Trai Anfield is in Filey Brigg in North Yorkshire to visit a zone that didn't make the cut. There are also interviews with Matt Frost, the deputy director of the Marine Biological Association and the Environment Minister Richard Benyon. Presenter: Brett Westwood. Producer: Mary Colwell. Editor: Julian Hector
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Ep 19 of 24: Saving Species investigates the relationship between polar bears and the year on year reduction in sea ice in the Arctic collaborating with BBC2’s series "The Polar Bear Family and Me", a trio of films following a polar bear family in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic. Ellie Williams looks at the National Elephant Corridor Project in India which is redeveloping historical paths used by Asian elephants to travel between habitats. Plus a report from Dorset where the Game and Wildlife Trust’s Salmon and Trout Research Centre on the river Frome is located. The centre is carrying out important research through the tagging and monitoring of salmon. Also in the programme - news from around the world with our regular news reporter, Kelvin Boot. Presenter: Brett Westwood. Producer: Mary Colwell. Editor: Julian Hector.
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Ep 18 of 24: Saving Species kick's off the new year with a look at the role of wetland habitats in providing a wintering refuge for wildfowl. Joanna Pinnock makes a dawn visit to Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve at Welney in Cambridgeshire to witness the very noisy but magical spectacle of thousands of Whooper and Bewick's swans flighting off from the pools by the reserve centre to head out to feed on the fields for the day. Chris Sperring is on the Hampshire coast at the Lymington-Keyhaven nature reserve. It's home to important numbers of Dark-bellied Brent Geese amongst many other species of smaller ducks. The geese come to the reserve for the winter from Siberia. Plus, news from around the world with our regular news reporter Kelvin Boot. Presenter: Joanna Pinnock Producer: Sheena Duncan Editor: Julian Hector
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Ep 17 of 24: Howard Stableford is in the chair for this Christmas Day Saving Species with a programme on conservation in some of the British Overseas Territories. A report from Ed Drewitt with Dr Ian Stephen about the last chance conservation effort to save the Mountain chicken frog threatened with the Chytrid fungus. A report about "Team Rat" who are planning in January 2013 to save the albatrosses and petrels that nest on South Georgia from being eaten by rodents. Howard looks at the establishment of marine conservation areas around the British oveseas teritories through interviews with Alistair Gammell of the PEW Fondation about and DEFRA Minister for Biodiversity, Richard Benyon. Presenter Howard Stableford Producer Mary Colwell Editor Julian Hector
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Ep 16 of 24: This week Brett Westwood looks at the increasing alliance between the arts and conservation. We hear from two artists, one a painter and one a photographer who are using their talents to help raise awareness about highly endangered species. Professor Tim Birkhead tells Brett about a growing movement - New Networks for Nature - which brings many different artists and scientists together to inspire each other. Sarah Pitt brings a report on wildlife gardening, with suggestions for wildlife friendly Christmas presents. Also in the programme - News from around the world with our regular news reporter, Kelvin Boot. And we'll update you on the activities of the Open University's iSpot. Presenter: Brett Westwood Producer: Mary Colwell Editor: Julian Hector
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Ep 15 of 24: Saving Species takes a look at what could happen if parts of the British countryside were returned to their natural state through a process known as rewilding. Presenter: Brett Westwood Producer: Sheena Duncan Editor: Julian Hector
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Ep: 14 of 24 Scotland's five year Species Action Framework programme ended in March 2012. This unique programme has advanced conservation and management action for 32 of Scotland's select species - including beaver, red squirrel, sea eagle, capercaillie, freshwater pearl mussel, great yellow bumblebee and woolly willow and invasive non-native species such as North American signal crayfish. For Saving Species Brett Westwood travels up to the Scottish Natural Heritage conference in Edinburgh to discuss the results of this 5 year programme with the movers and shakers in Scotlands wildlife conservation. Presented by Brett Westwood. Produced by Mary Colwell.
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The Living Deadwood. Trai Anfield is in ancient woodland in North Yorkshire known for its deadwood bugs led by passionate invertebrate expert Roger Key. Produced by Andrew Dawes
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Brett Westwood travels to the Brecon Beacons to see the a very unusual lichen. Sausages lichen hang from tree branches as long thin strands like uncombed and sparse straggly hair. This lichen is now being spotted locations in south Wales and there are hopes its fortunes are improving as it spreads east. Mark Day has been to The Koytendag Nature Reserve (formerly known as the Kugitang Nature Reserve, established in 1986) located in the Lebap province of Turkmenistan. The reserve is home to the globally endangered markhor, a large wild mountain goat. The hope is to bring worldwide recognition and protection for its unique landscapes, and the wealth of rare plants and animals found in Koytendag as well as bringing benefits to local communities through tourism. Plus wildlife news round up from Kelvin Boot. Presenter: Brett Westwood Producer: Sheena Duncan
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Brambles. James Brickell is in mid Wales with botanist Ray Woods looking at the fascinating ecology surrounding the humble blackberry. Produced by Andrew Dawes
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Ep 12 of 24: Plant a tree in 73" became a national slogan and very large numbers of trees have been planted over the decades since. Ash die back has been widely reported in many programmes, especially news, in recent weeks and in this programme we ask whether the call to plant trees and desire to create new woodlands has in any way contributed to this fungal attack on Ash trees. We also ask how serious a threat diseases are to our trees. Also in the programme - News from around the world with our regular news reporter, Kelvin Boot. And we'll update you on the activities of the Open University's iSpot. Presenter: Brett Westwood Producer: Mary Colwell
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Alongside Myriapod expert Steve Gregory, Living World is in Oxfordshire on the search for for centipedes and millipedes. Presented by Chris Sperring/Produced by Andrew Dawes.