Babes in the Wood…

A new Granada nature series: The Animal Story

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 18 February 1962

IN a clearing in the African jungle a duiker, an antelope-like animal, is cowering. Beside her is her newly-born baby, his legs still wobbly.

In the undergrowth a pack of wild dogs is scavenging. Two lives hang in the balance. If the dogs catch the scent the duikers will be torn to pieces.

A minute-by-minute account of this exciting and terrifying drama of the wilderness is one of the incidents in the first of a new series of Granada nature programmes, The Animal Story.

“Monday’s episode is entitled ’Family Circle’ and the plight of the duikers is an excellent example of the problem we are dealing with — the method of bringing up a family in the wilderness.” explained the man who will be doing the commentaries, Dr. Desmond Morris, Curator of Mammals at the London Zoo.

“If the duiker is to survive in the jungle it has to be able to outpace its natural persecutors almost within hours of being born.”

If you want to know the fate of the duikers in the film watch Monday’s episode.

Dr. Morris went on to talk about the other features of the programme — the big cats, the monkeys and the fishes.

“For the big cats, fear of aggressors isn’t a very acute problem,” he said. “But other dangers await the cubs. Until he is old enough to hunt for himself, the baby is dependent on the parent for food, and a cub that wanders away from home will not survive long.”

To illustrate the point, Dr. Morris uses some fascinating film about a leopard and her cubs in the mountains of Northern Asia.

The babies are adventurous and inquisitive, but the way in which the mother bundles them back into the cave when they wander makes it clear how well aware she is of the danger awaiting them beyond her immediate vicinity. Personal experience of danger has probably taught the snow leopard her mothercraft. But who taught it to Toli, the orang-utan who has been in captivity since she was a baby?

This question arose recently when Toli’s baby was born — the first orang-utan to be born at London Zoo in 130 years.

“Although she had no previous experience of handling young, Toli instinctively knew just what to do,” explained Dr. Morris. “It was fascinating work, watching and filming her as she washed and tended the baby as if she had been doing it for years.”

Survival for the young monkey in the wilderness depends usually on the baby’s ability to cling on to his mother’s fur when danger threatens.

For sheer novelty, so far as protection is concerned, the mouth breeder fish takes some beating.

In the savage underwater jungle of the tropics, the female mouth-breeder takes her eggs into her mouth after they have been laid — and “gargles” with them until they are hatched.

“This not only keeps them safe from aggressors — but keeps them properly oxygenated.” explained Dr. Morris.

Even after the eggs are hatched the mother’s work isn’t done. Her brood follow her through the underwater jungle in a little cloud, and the slightest hint of danger will send them speeding for safety, straight back into her mouth.

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