Tag Archives: BBC Africa

BBC..Africa. The Sahara where survival trumps the love of dung.

30 Jan

Over the last few weeks I have probably used all the superlatives at my disposal in describing just how good BBC’s Africa documentary is. Well this week I had to dig into my superlative reserve, because it tonight’s episode was positively biblical.

The opening scenes with massive sandstorms rolling across the Sahara were like some biblical plague come to life, I almost expected Charlton Heston to step up in his robe and staff crying out to “let my people go”.

This week we moved away from the large herds and prides of eastern and southern Africa to a more delicate and precarious battle between life and the environment, but no less intriguing.

The lonely Grevy Zebra roaming the fringes of the Sahara  living a lonely existence for months at a time, and then literally out of the blue along come a herd of female Zebras and an opportunity for our lonely lad to end his dry spell so to speak. It turns out there are were another bunch of male Zebras in the vicinity with similar ideas.

Cue a bit of handbags between the male Zebras which saw our lonely lad come up tops giving him just enough time for a quick bit of ‘how’s your father’ with a lady Zebra before once more returning to his solitary existence.

There were the  two million Barn Swallows of southern Nigeria who undertake an epic journey from the wet grasslands across the vast Sahara to Europe an epic journey  that given the biblical theme can best be described as an exodus.

Like any decent exodus they need to refuel on their journey and the Sahara offers some surprising options, like the ‘oasis’ in the Ubari Sand Sea – Umm El Mar.

On the surface it looks like a miraculous refuge for any weary thirsty traveller  the cool waters shimmer in the sunshine. This is however deceptive, a cruel trick player by nature.  Years of evaporation have left the water so concentrated with salt that it would drinking from it would be fatal.

Swarms of desert flies also inhabit the lake but here nature plays another card, the flies are able to drink the water and filter out the salt, so they are effectively plump little sachets of water just the refreshment the swallows need.

Sometime though the ferocity of the Sahara makes survival trickier. The Dung Beetle survives on collecting camel dung and in one trip can collect enough to last a life time. The problem though is getting it to storage,  in their trademark approach the dung beetle use their hind legs to roll it along. The problem with this approach is you can’t see where you are going, and can end up down side of a sand dune.

Try as you may rolling up  a ball of dung up a sand hill is a Sisyphean task and in temperatures of 50C, the love of dung wanes quickly.

Probably better suited for the searing temperatures of the Sahara are the amazing silver ants whose reflective body coating allows them to endure the hottest temperatures of the desert for brief burst of time. We see an amazing segment where the ants go a “mission impossible” to hunt a stricken fly and get it back to the den.  Amazing footage.



BBC…Africa. The Greatest Giraffe Fight You’d Ever Have Seen…

2 Jan

There is one universal truth that everyone should acknowledge. The day Sir David Attenborough leaves the BBC there will be a huge void in nature and wildlife programming. His smooth slightly melodic voice is so synonymous with high quality wildlife programming, it is almost unthinkable to have one with out him.

Tonight he brought us the first programme in the new series ‘Africa‘ and it was stupendously good. Words can not do it justice. If you missed it hop onto BBC IPlayer and catch up.

The film sequences were sumptuous  Some of the scenes were BAFTA winning.

The fight between the two giraffes for instance, an old male bull and a young upstart. Furious, startling and beautifully filmed it will live in my memory for a long time and I am not sure I will look at giraffes in the same light again.

Then there was the palpable tension as a young leopard stalked a stemboch .  The leopard learning to fend for itself for the first time and the stemboch, twitchy and nervous.  This time around the Leopard’s naivety got the better of him, but it was close

We saw cuddly baby ostriches cutely waddling their way to a watering hole, a watering hole that appeared almost biblical as all of Africa’s wildlife seemed to have descended for a drink at the same time. A multicultural gathering only interrupted by a pride of brawling lions more intent on fighting amongst themselves than anything else.

The programme also reaffirmed as if we needed reminding how cruelly Machiavellian nature can be. We saw a wasp  stranded in the desert looking for any place with moisture to lay her eggs, where better than in the moist body of a living spider. Her evil plans however were thwarted as it turns out this particular spider has super-human (if that’s the right phrase) cartwheeling abilities and was not ready to become a living incubator for anyone as it cartwheeled to safety down the dunes of the mighty Kalahari.

A great programme, but with David Attenborough nothing less is expected.