Life

TV Quickfire: Wildlife film-maker Gordon Buchanan on Equator From The Air

Equator From The Air documents Gordon Buchanan's epic 25,000-mile trip around the centre of the world while conducting a 'planetary health-check'. We found out more about the Scottish wildlife filmmaker's journey

Gordon Buchanan in Rondonia, Brazil, while filming Equator From The Air
Gemma Dunn

TELL US MORE ABOUT EQUATOR FROM THE AIR.

The series is looking at the problems that face species, habitats and people around the Equator and the equatorial region. The Equator affects the rest of the planet so things like deforestation, whether that's deforestation for timber, international export or soya plantation, all of these are global commodities. And with changing climates and ocean temperatures rising, the series is bringing attention to pressing issues, but also showing what's being done to help.

THE FOUR-PART SERIES SEEMS HIGHLY TOPICAL.

With everything that's going on in the world today, it's all very timely. These issues are coming to a head and it's much more in peoples' consciousness that we are living on a very vulnerable planet – and things need to be done. I'd always wanted to do more programmes with a hard-hitting conservation message and so it was a natural thing to do. I have the luxury of travelling all around the world and seeing wild places, but I also see what's happening to them.

WHAT SURPRISED YOU DURING FILMING?

The biggest thing – maybe not surprise, but what gave me the most amount of hope – is how important technology is going to be in the future when it comes to protecting the planet. We featured a lot of individuals and organisations using drones in innovative ways, like trying to accurately count animal populations. One project is using drones with a very sophisticated software algorithm built into it that can automatically count individual orangutans in the trees in dense forest. That was really exciting because not only can you do it with orangutans, you can do it with every species.

Ideally, you'll be able to count every animal that's living in a particular area and not only see where the key habitat is, but where the loss of habitat is, where there's real-time concerns and where there's logging or agriculture or poaching. So we will live in a future where drones are patrolling the skies protecting animals and protecting wild places.

It's easy to throw your hands up in the air and think, 'These problems are too big; what can be done?' But if you do give into defeat, nothing will be done, and nothing will improve.

DID YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE?

There were so many; I've never in one year travelled to so many different locations. I'd never been to the Galapagos, and if you're interested in wildlife, the Galapagos is one of those places you have to get to at one point in your life. So, it was really wonderful after 30 years of making wildlife documentaries that I finally got a chance to go. It really exceeded my expectations; it just shows a version of the world before people had an impact. Not to say there's not massive concerns and issues in that area, but it was an example of what can be done if enough people agree that these places should be protected.

WHAT'S LEFT ON THE BUCKET LIST?

I really want to work on projects that have a bigger impact, that make people think more. I don't have a bucket list but there are certain places that I'd love to visit because I've not been there. I think, now, I've been to every continent in the world, but I haven't been to Antarctica. So if I could choose to go somewhere, it would be there. I love the Arctic, so I would like to see what life is like at the end of the planet.

:: Equator From The Air, Saturdays, BBC Two.

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