I am not normally lost for words – but this time I thought Born Free’s Founder and Trustee, Virginia McKenna, said it best..
Nature’s Miracle Babies – BBC1, Pick of the Day, September 4th
“I do not doubt, for a moment, the keepers’ affection for and dedication to the animals in their care. But Miracle Babies – I think not. The babies we saw were the result of extensive involvement, supervision and interference by humans, both before and after birth and the show seemed (in the words of the Guardian review) to be little more than ‘an excuse to show lots of cute little young animals’. It never really asked the challenging question that a subject like this should explore – now that would have been a miracle!
This is breeding wildlife in captivity for captivity. Saving species in zoos. For what? To go where? A couple of comments at the end of the programme suggested that a wild future for these animals, or their offspring, might be a problem. So we are talking about what philosopher Mary Midgley dismissed as ‘The Frozen Ark’ – a conservation concept that has, simply, run out of credibility.
Described in the promotional ‘blurb’ as an ‘emotional and personal journey through the world of captive breeding – working with animals on the brink of extinction’, Miracle Babies barely touched on the purpose behind all this expensive and invasive work or challenged its likelihood of success. If this is what the future holds for wild animals it is infinitely depressing. Consider the vast sums being spent on such ‘miracles’. What could that achieve if put towards conserving endangered species and their habitats in the wild, where they belong? Just a few weeks after the BBC announced the death of the BBC Wildlife Fund – a short-lived project that did put some money where its mouth was – Miracle Babies seems a backward step in terms of the BBC’s commitment to innovative and distinctive programming (as this series was characterised by the BBC’s Commissioning Editor for Science and Natural History, Kim Shillinglaw).
Although the presenter, Martin Hughes-Games, seemed to be in a permanent state of euphoria, perhaps he is not bothered by concrete and bars and tubes and tests, and all the rest. He told us he has made many wildlife films. That doesn’t reassure me and makes me fear what is to come in the next programmes in this series. Although the blurb promoting ‘Miracle Babies’ said it ‘balanced earnestness and fun’, I can assure you that watching wild animals being born in zoos, and anticipating that it is there they will end their days, is not fun at all.
Born Free Foundation”