Mind the baby! A must-watch family show on animal offspring faced by global climate change 

The lives of animal babies are no doubt cute and adorable, but in the era of global climate change, they face challenges like never before — here’s a must-watch show for the entire family.

Jaideep Sen Published :  28th February 2020 02:10 PM   |   Published :   |  28th February 2020 02:10 PM
An elephant cub with its mother in the wild

An elephant cub with its mother in the wild

Here's a show on babies that’s likely to make you cry as much as it will leave the kids squealing in delight.

The sight of a baby animal is always a pleasure, but when you come upon a sea otter pup unable to distinguish waste plastic from shellfish while foraging for food, you're sure to take a step back and give this a good, hard thought.

The series, Animal Babies: First Year on Earth, follows the dramatic lives of six baby animals as they grow up and experience their first year in the wild. 

The show follows the challenges that the babies face to survive, as they overcome threats and challenges — from rivals, the natural elements, and predators.

To tell the stories of these magical months, renowned wildlife cinematographers travelled across the globe to follow the lives of six baby animals as they grow and develop. 

As the hosts put it, ‘This is the story of what it takes to survive in the wild.’ Ultimately, like all babies, even young animals can have a first year filled with joy, love and play.

To learn more about the show, we got to chat with Executive Producer Jo Shinner, who’s known for shows like BBC Animals Behaving Badly, Andy’s Baby Animals, Earth from Space and Nature’s Greatest Dancers.

As with her previous shows, here too, we not only get a closer look at the wilderness and discover lesser-known secrets about unique species and their oddities, but we also get a great deal to think about, even as the show leaves us a fair bit amused at the playful antics of the animal babies.

How different and more difficult are the circumstances faced by new-born animals today than say, 50 years ago?
Animals all around the world are increasingly facing challenging issues such as climate change, 
habitat loss, pollution and the illegal wildlife trade. And the younger you are, the more vulnerable you are!


Sea otter pups


How did you get so close to these babies and gain the assurance of their parents?
We worked very closely with the most amazing scientists on location who have been studying these animals for many years in incredible detail.

How did you track and await the birth of some of these babies? What was the plan as soon as they were born?
We wanted a good range of animals from a varied selection of locations, to show a breadth of challenges faced by different species in different landscapes. And then, we worked closely with the scientists on the ground. It is a risky business.

Animal baby mortality rate is high. We were astonishingly lucky — we didn’t lose any of our babies!


Nyakabara, an eight-month-old mountain gorilla baby


You travel from Kenya to Iceland and Sri Lanka. How different are the natural complexities in these parts of the globe?
Well, they were all very different. For example, the sea otters in California had to cope with all the dangers from a man-made marina and learn how to distinguish a clam from a golf ball, and the hyenas had to learn the complexities of living within a strict hierarchy.


A baby hyena


At what point of their early childhood are some of the animal babies forced to fend for themselves, and find their own food?
All our babies are mammals and so start off with breast milk. Then it depends — the Arctic foxes must grow up incredibly fast as they need to be independent before the onset of winter. 

The gorillas remain dependent on their mother for up to eight years, although they can feed on leaves and fruit by the end of their first year. 


Fela, a white Arctic fox cub


How do you think this show will endear to viewers, among youngsters, young parents and families? How educational is it, just as it promises to be entertaining?
I think this show is perfect family viewing as there are oodles of cute — nothing is as adorable as a 
baby animal! But also, it is packed with scientific revelation and specialist factual insight — a 
winning combination!

How personally involved with the animals did you get, over the course of the show? Do you keep track of their lives?
We all fell in love with all them! Some of them are easy to track — for example, the elephants, gorillas and hyenas — as they remain in their family groups and are followed by scientists.

Others — otters and Arctic foxes for example — strike out on their own, and we can only cross our fingers that they live good lives!  


Toque macaques


Give us a word on the work of Sue Gibson, Vianet Djenguet, Colin Stafford-Johnson and Bob Poole, who come together as the wildlife cinematographers on the show. How closely involved did they get?
This wonderful cast of on-screen wildlife cinematographers really added some special magic in my view. Being able to get to know the animal characters through their eyes made the show more immediate and more personal. 

I think the viewer really felt that they were there with them on the ground.  


Hyenas in the Mara Conservancy, Kenya


• Limpet, a Southern sea otter pup, in the Pacific Ocean.
• Nyakabara, an eight-month-old mountain gorilla baby, in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda.
• Bisque and Chowder, six-month-old twin spotted hyena sisters, in the Mara Conservancy, Kenya.
• Fela, a 11-week-old white Arctic fox cub in the Hornstrandir peninsula, Iceland.
• Jazir, a five-month-old toque macaque in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.
• Safina, a week-old-baby Africa elephant, in Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Kenya.


Baby Africa elephant, Safina 


Animal Babies: First Year on Earth premieres on March 9, 9 pm as a part of the Naughty Little Brats anthology on Sony BBC Earth.

— Jaideep Sen