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‘Serengeti 2’ returns with new storylines and some endearing new animal characters

Kali and her cubs   | Photo Credit: Mat Goodman

Real-life animal drama unfolds in Sony BBC Earth’s Serengeti 2 as the series returns to capture stories of iconic African savannah animals.

Bakari, the baboon struggles with family life. Kali the lioness makes a difficult decision. A family of leopards arrive — and the cubs test their mother’s patience as they get used to their new home.

The series is produced and directed by John Downer, a passionate zoologist who has been making groundbreaking Nature documentaries for the BBC for over 30 years. He is known for shows like Serengeti (2019), Polar Bears: Spy on the Ice (2011), Spy in the Snow (2020).

In an interview over Zoom, the Emmy winner talks about lessons learned from his interactions with animals.

In Serengeti 1, we meet a lonely lioness, a passionate baboon and many other animals. What happens in Serengeti 2?

Serengeti 2 continues where series 1 left off with a host of new storylines and a cast of old favourites as well as some endearing new animal characters. The wonderful thing about Serengeti is that it keeps delivering new stories. All the animals continually surprise us. There are disasters, triumphs and other things that make drama. There are baby animals that have to learn to live in this very tricky world...

Like humans, animals have different personalities and make different decisions. When there are so many different species crammed together and having to interact with each other, you get all the drama. Nothing is predictable and that’s why it’s so refreshing, and keeps those stories coming, evolving, and changing.

Can you share a story that surprised you?

Bakari, the baboon and his troupe were trapped up a roosting tree surrounded by water. I had expected him to climb down the tree or try swimming in the water, but he decided go up the very top and leap to get somewhere near the land. A whole lot just followed.

That was something you couldn’t write, expect or anticipate. That’s what I love about Serengeti, to show those animals thinking for themselves and making decisions. I am sure another baboon would have made a different decision. There is surprise after surprise.

How dramatised is the story-telling?

We shot it over two years. The stories are based on their real behaviour but the dramatised bit is how we mix the stories together and fill in the narrative. In normal natural history, you miss so much. But in a drama, you have to fill in those gaps.

We follow the story of the cheetah and cubs from beginning to end. We got some adorable little leopard cubs, the hardest animals to film because they are so secretive. They let us into their lives and we used all techniques to get closer to them. Stories developed from those encounters. Though dramatisation gives license to change or shift time, the heart of it lies in real behaviour.

What are the challenges you faced while filming Serengeti 2?

Flooding is one. I remember going across a little stream and an hour later filmed some great sequences with a new zebra foal (which features in the first programme). Then, the rain started and the stream became a river and un-crossable. We had to travel four hours to find a place that we could cross. Since we filmed during COVID-19, getting the teams out there was a real problem. One of our team members, stayed there for an entire year knowing that if he left, he’s never going to get back.

What is the biggest takeaway for audiences?

Our films tell the stories of many animals. You can never expect where the stories would twist and turn. The important incident that happened is the biggest floods I have ever seen in Africa. This is the result of climate change. We started to see the impact on this ecosystem where it continuously rained.

How do the animals cope with the land becoming a lake?

I am hoping that people understand how interconnected our lives are. The whole point is to empathise, love those animals, and try and understand their problems.

Serengeti 2 premieres on October 18 at 9 pm on Sony BBC Earth

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 5:21:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/serengeti-2returns-with-new-storylines-and-some-endearing-new-animal-characters/article37044629.ece

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