Last Chance to See (TV series)

Last Chance to See is a wildlife documentary first broadcast on BBC Two in the United Kingdom during September and October 2009. The series is a follow-up of the 1989 radio series, also called Last Chance to See, in which Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine set out to find endangered animals. In this updated television version, produced for the BBC, Stephen Fry and Carwardine revisit the animals originally featured to see how they’re getting on almost 20 years later.[1][2]

Last Chance to See

Title card from the “Kakapo” episode
Genre Nature documentary
Presented by Stephen Fry
Mark Carwardine
Composers David Ayers, Felix Tod
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 6
Executive producers Sam Organ, André Singer
Producer Tim Green
Production locations New Zealand
Running time 60 minutes
Production companies BBC Wales, West Park Pictures
Original network BBC Two
Picture format 16:9 (HDTV)
Original release 6 September (2009-09-06) 
18 October 2009 (2009-10-18)
External links

In one episode, a male kakapo, called Sirocco, mounts and attempts to mate with Carwardine’s head. Sirocco found fame after the video of his antics became an internet hit,[3] and was later anointed as New Zealand’s “spokesbird for conservation”.[4]

A Last Chance to See special called “Return of the Rhino” was broadcast on BBC Two on 31 October 2010. The programme followed four of the last remaining northern white rhinos as they were transferred from Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a protected reserve in Kenya, in a last-ditch attempt to save the subspecies from extinction.[5]

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The main aim of each episode was to seek out an endangered species and to investigate its plight. In addition, a variety of other animals are filmed on location all over the world.

An Amazonian manatee calf at a rehabilitation centre in Brazil
UK broadcast 6 September 2009, 3.31 million viewers (13.2% audience share)[6]

In the opening programme, Fry and Carwardine travel to Manaus in Brazil in search of the Amazonian manatee. Hunting has reduced wild manatee numbers to a few thousand individuals. On the Rio Negro, they have an encounter with a group of endangered botos, which take food from their hands. The two fly deeper into the forest to rendezvous with a boat, the Cassiquiari, on the Rio Aripuanã. Further upriver, they meet scientist Marc van Roosmalen and his team. Manatees are known to live in the vicinity, but despite searching the river and surrounding lakes, they fail to encounter the species in the wild. Carwardine takes Fry to INPA in Manaus, where captive manatees are kept for research. At Tefé, west of Manaus, they plan to join Miriam Rosenthal and her Mamirauá team on a trip to release an injured one-year-old manatee back into the wild. However, on the morning of their departure, Fry trips and breaks his arm in three places. After Fry is evacuated for medical attention, Carwardine reunites with the Mamirauá project. The manatee is transferred to a purpose-built enclosure in a remote river community before full release. By engaging local people, the team hope to foster an enthusiasm for conserving the species.[7]

A southern white rhino at Lake Nakuru, Kenya
Broadcast 13 September 2009, 3.28 million viewers (13.2% audience share)[6]

The critically endangered northern subspecies of the white rhinoceros is the focus of the second episode. The only surviving wild population is found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo‘s Garamba National Park. Carwardine hopes to return to the park where he and Adams managed to find and photograph the animals 20 years ago. The episode opens with an encounter with a wild southern white rhino, which turns out to be a prank by the rangers as the rhino in question is tame, having been hand-reared. In northern Kenya, Fry and Carwardine have a less welcome surprise when they arrive as a conservation project to relocate the northern whites to a protected area is being abandoned. The pair then turn their attention to primates, visiting a chimpanzee rehabilitation centre and tracking mountain gorillas in Uganda‘s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. At Queen Elizabeth National Park, close to the border with the DRC, Carwardine is pleased to find that elephant numbers have increased from a handful of animals to over one thousand, showing that anti-poaching patrols are working. At this point, Carwardine, who has been receiving news from contacts though the trip, decides that it is too risky to cross the border, as the eastern DRC is gripped by the Kivu conflict, and the journey to Garamba National Park, where the rhinos were last sighted in 2006 would involve travelling through the fighting. Returning to Kenya, the presenters join a team from the Kenya Wildlife Service on a black rhino relocation project. After a fast and bumpy ride, they find and dart three rhinos, and transport them 100 miles to begin a new population in a fenced conservancy.[8]

This episode was dedicated to sound recordist Jake Drake-Brockman, who was killed in a motorcycle accident on 1 September 2009.[9][10][11]

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