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LONDON, Sept 12 — Renowned TV naturalist David Attenborough, in a new documentary, gives his starkest warning yet for humanity to safeguard species from mass extinction for the sake of our own survival.
His one-hour film Extinction: The Facts, airing tomorrow on the BBC in Britain, does not hold back in portraying the devastating consequences of mankind’s encroachment on natural habitats — and draws a clear link to pandemics such as the coronavirus crisis.
It comes after international experts warned in a report this week that global animal, bird and fish populations have plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to humanity’s rampant over-consumption.
“We are facing a crisis,” Attenborough warns at the start of the documentary, according to the BBC, “and one that has consequences for us all”.
The broadcaster said the programme contained “horrific scenes of destruction”, such as monkeys leaping from trees into a river to escape a huge fire. In another, a koala limps across a road in a doomed search for shelter from a forest blaze.
The new film from the maker of Blue Planet and Planet Earth also tracks the suspected origins of Covid-19 to populations of bats living in caves in the Chinese province of Yunnan.
It shows the Chinese “wet market” in the city of Wuhan, specialising in the sale of wild animals for human consumption, which scientists believe was at the root of this year’s deadly pandemic.
The film gives dramatic visual reinforcement to this week’s Living Planet Index report, which warned that continued loss of natural habitats increases the risk of future pandemics as humans come into ever closer contact with wild animals.
Attenborough also portrays the world’s last two northern white rhinos, a mother and daughter in Central Africa.
“Over the course of my life I’ve encountered some of the world’s most remarkable species of animals,” the 94-year-old said. “Only now do I realise just how lucky I’ve been — many of these wonders seem set to disappear forever.”
There is hope, however, as Attenborough retraces an iconic film he made in the 1970s showing a fast-dwindling band of mountain gorillas on the border between Rwanda and the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.
Their population has recovered from just 250 then to more than 1,000, thanks to a determined conservation campaign in Rwanda, and Attenborough meets the offspring of a playful young female he met four decades ago.
“I may not be here to see it, but if we make the right decisions at this critical moment, we can safeguard our planet’s ecosystems, its extraordinary biodiversity and all its inhabitants,” he concludes in the documentary.
“What happens next is up to every one of us.” — AFP