Miracle Babies?

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.

Virginia McKenna
Founder Trustee
Born Free Foundation”

19 Responses to “Miracle Babies?”

  1. Mike Dooley Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The programme is ill-conceived and poorly executed, not at all what we have come to expect from the BBC. I switched channels.

  2. Kim Davis Says:

    If you noticed, they are if fact trying to re-introduce the animals to the wild in some cases. Surely its better that they are alive and safe than released to the wild for 5 minutes and then killed by poachers and hunters. It’s not ideal but until the countries involved stop ruining the natural habitat for these animals at least they are keeping the species alive for a possible future in the wild. I agree that zoo’s generally are terrible places for wild animals to be but when the animal is on the brink of extinction, I think this could be a possible exception to the rule. The presenter stated his general dislike for zoo’s in episode 2.

  3. Sharon johnstone Says:

    I completely agree and for that reason I boycotted this programme. I would rather see species become extinct than to have them kep only in zoos. We rely on documentaries to educate our young about wild animals. What education are they getting if they are led believe this is how animals thrive and survive? Very disappointed in the BBC.

  4. Margrit Coates Says:

    To watch these animals being born into a life of imprisonment is distressing. No concept of animal sentience by the BBC.

  5. Barbara Brook Says:

    I totally agree. I do not agree with breeding animals in captivity and think BBC are wrong to be showing this. It was just like a circus, making bears perform to see if she was fertile. I hope they abandon this project.
    Barbara Brook

  6. Mathilde Grand Says:

    I’m so disappointed of BBC. To advertise and promote such an sick behavior!

  7. Howard Kennedy Says:

    The marketing hype of zoos that they are “saving wildlife from extinction” needs to be challenged at every opportunity. Sadly even the BBC appears to have swallowed the line now. Let’s see the BBC balance this out now with an in-depth investigation of the international zoo stud-books and the negotiations and money-changing involved therein. These are nothing more than sales catalogues. Animals are bred in zoos, not for reintroduction to the wild, or to bolster the gene pool of endangered species; they are bred solely for profitable sale to other zoos, where they can be exhibited to paying punters for more profit.

  8. Elke Winkler Says:

    It is sad that this is considered necessary to breed wild animals in zoos, it should not be like that. People should be alerted that they destroy some wild species and take action against that to protect them. To breed them in zoos only means that they should be preserved so people know what they destroyed?

  9. Valerie Stevens Says:

    I absolutely agree.

  10. Dalila Ouai Says:

    Animals are not entertainments, you should be sure that these beautiful angels of our planet will be let in peace soonly and for ever. They deserve it

  11. Tracey Thornycroft Says:

    It is very distressing to see the BBC show such an awful programme – while some may argue that without zoos many people will never get to see wild animals and therefore they play an important role in educting people. The fact is that none of us will ever see everything in this world and if the likes of the BBC rather spent their money on promoting proper and good wild life films of animals in their natural habitat behaving naturally people would benefit far more from watching those programmes than from any visit to a zoo where the animals do not behave naturally and are doomed to life imprisonment. Seeing a beautiful caged animal does nothing but make people go “ooh aah how beautiful”. It does not teach us anything about that animal, it is purely for your entertainment at the expense of the animals – you could look at any decent photograph of the same animal in the wild and learn just as much. Come on the BBC act more responsibly and ethically!!!! And come on public DO NOT SUPPORT ZOOS!!!!!

  12. Amanda Says:

    I have been watching it and am pulled both ways – I don’t want to see any animal go extince because of humans and think it can only be a step in the right direction to try and ensure the future of these animals by breeding in captivity however on the other side I hate seeing animals in cages ie zoos and know that the animals we see on the programme will never be free and we may never be ablew to save them until we tackle the underlying issues ie demand for fur, etc

  13. Rosario Rodríguez León Says:

    IT’S DISGUSTING how this world uses and abuses indefense creatures. It is specially disturbing when it comes to children, ederly, sick and animals. But violence’s violence at the end for everybody. I DEEPLY HATE ANY DEGREE OF VIOLENCE. And this ATTEMPT to tv-show IS one.
    I’m not going to watch it NEVER. Those poor animals you will see on ARE REAL, AND ARE INDIVIDUALS. Animal individuals WHO are being inflicted irreparable injury. NOW I’M GOING TO WRITE INMEDIATELY A LETTER/E-MAIL TO THE BBC TO EXPRESS MY ABSOLUTE OUTRAGE.
    The worst thing (apart from the abuse these poor animals are enduring day by day ’til the day they die) is the NASTY AND DECEPTIVE message that a channel such as the BBC’s spreading to the audience (specially to those who are unaware of Animal Rights and their true idiosyncracy). Things like this helps nothing but society perpetuate animals’ suffering. So I won’t leave it like that!!! The BBC has to learn the unfortunate extent of promoting zoos and their programs!!!

    By the way, friendly speaking: I disagree with Kim Davis user. Abuse of some to save others WILL NEVER BE ETHICAL OR FAIR. THERE’S ALWAYS A FAIR SOLUTION FOR EVERYONE.
    Sadly, I sincerely believe that many people won’t think like that if those imprisoned in zoos where HUMAN BEINGS, on the brink of extinction or not.

  14. Kate Cleland Says:

    I started watching this programme half way through and was wondering whether the animals were being bred for captivity or to be released into the wild. The presenter answered that question towards the end of the show and I wondered what the point of breeding all these animals was – and I agree with Virginia, it’ll keep zoos going! Having been to see animals in the wild in Africa I became a supporter of Born Free and am very much against the existence of zoos. Yes, some people might never see certain animals without zoos but why does that matter. With the internet now it’s easy enough to learn about wild animals instead of seeing them in a fake zoo environment. Keep up the good work Born Free.

  15. LC Says:

    I couldnt agree more! BBC have taken a step backwards and are “advertising” cpative animals and zoo’s. Its ridiculous. Whilst I appreciate that some captive breeding is now essential for species to survive then this certainly isnt the way to enagage with people on TV. Displaying cute young cubs, and young animals just to generate viewing audiences isnt something I would see the BBC do, yet thats whats happening. Its awful. I notice Sir David Attenborough, Mark Carwardine or any other naturalist or zoologist worth his merit involved with this. Bring back the educational, awesome programmes that we expect BBC. And get this series scrapped! More ethical, social responsibilty is expected from the Beeb!!!

  16. Mary Brace Says:

    Using animals for entertainment is not new. The Great British Circus still has wild animals in it but of course I got no reply to my email to them about it. Trying to educate people to respect animals and the environment is a constant challenge. The earth is a fragile eco-system and we all play a part in that. Humans are endemic and that is the problem. We would not allow any other species to populate the world so prolifically. Breeding animals in zoos is appalling and selfish. Zoos know cute animals means money. Look at the money generated by that poor polar bear in Germany. Virginia McKenna is quite right as she always is.

  17. Sue Norris Says:

    Whilst I do not agree with animals being kept in zoos, we have to acknowledge there is a real problem with trying to keep endangered animals from becoming extinct. If the ultimate aim in captive breeding programmes is to be able to release future generations of these animals back into a natural protected environment then surely there is a case to be made for doing so. I do not want to witness Amur Leopards for example disappearing off the face of the earth FOREVER simply because the only way to save them is captive breeding programmes.How can we save these animals when the countries they live in are destroying their habitat and NOT protecting them from poachers etc? It is a real dilemma, but they must be preserved and eventually used to repopulate declining numbers in their natural environments worldwide.

  18. Tyrone Graham Says:

    Grandiose plans to reintroduce animals bred in captivity into the wild are a pipe-dream, and a nightmare for the creatures involved. The best that can be hoped for is a way to preserve their genetic material, to possibly supplement declining wild populations through artificial insemination – though human intervention in these matters is not renowned for success. The humane solution would be to neuter these unfortunates and let them live out the rest of their unnatural lives in relative peace; and to eventually shut down all zoos (besides outlawing circus acts that feature ‘performing’ animals). We have ample stories, pictures, video footage, stuffed specimens, etc. – besides the results of countless experiments – to feed our curiosity and need for knowledge (or entertainment) … and to stand as monuments to our folly …

  19. Ina Reece Says:

    If the BBC cared about the wishes of the public that fund them, they would not have presented a programme on invasive breeding of animals behind bars who have no choice in the matter. We have all heard about the terribly fate that happens to some of the surplus Zoo animals. It is of course also much cheaper to do this, than to actually go into the wild and find interesting, stimulating material among the wild animals. After all,animals behind bars cannot give us a realistic picture of the natural behaviour of these animals in the wild, so it is hardly educational. I think we should all write to them to express our views on this programme.