Life

TV review: Chris Packham searches for innocence lost

Standing behind large, blown up photo of The Girl are Charlotte Corney, Chris Packham, Megan McCubbin - (C) Tigress Productions - Photographer: Dominick French
Billy Foley

In Search of the Lost Girl, BBC 2, Sunday at 9pm

Do you remember the National Geographic picture of the ‘girl with the green eyes'?

It was an iconic image which appeared on the front cover of the magazine in 1985 and was seen to represent the sorrow of war and the pain of displaced children.

The picture was taken in a refugee camp in northern Pakistan during the Russian invasion of her home country, Afghanistan.

In 2002, National Geographic found the now grown woman living in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan and the story made international headlines.

Well, In Search of the Lost Girl was a BBC version of that.

Rather than a National Geographic front cover we had a BBC presenter's personal photograph and instead of symbolising how innocence is damaged by war, the little girl in this instance represents environmental destruction.

Chris Packham (Springwatch) visited the Indonesian island of Sumatra in 1998, met a hunter-gatherer tribe in the rainforest and took their pictures.

One striking image was of a beautiful seven or eight year old girl and is on display in his house. Now Packham returns to try and find the grown woman

In the intervening years she has come to symbolise to him the destruction caused to the natural world by the west and its excessive consumption.

He describes meeting the Orang Rimba tribe in 1998 as “one of the greatest moments of my life” and reflects on what he may find when he returns.

“If we've robbed her of her habitat then we (humanity) really have a problem.”

When he finds the remote spot where he met the tribe it looks fairly similar to his last visit, but nearby there are changes. The population of the island has increased, forest has been cleared and the government has encouraged people to grow palm oil for export.

However, the other problems to have befallen the Orang Rimba seem only remotely connected to environmental damage.

A couple of years after Packham took the photograph of the girl, her family group was attacked and robbed by villagers, with four of their number killed.

And many of the young tribal members are deciding to forgo the forest life and try to make a living in the city.

“Who is to blame? Is it us?” he asks a tribal leader, ready to accept the blame on behalf of the damage caused to the planet since the industrial revolution,

The tribal leader looks a bit puzzled at the question, and replies: “It's the fault of the government.”

An answer worthy of a citizen in any modern democracy.

And the girl? She's married with two children, is still living in the forest and seems a little perplexed at the arrival of a BBC film crew.

***

Trophy - The Big Game Hunting Controversy, BBC 4, Monday at 9pm

This was another programme with the environment as its subject, but Trophy was entirely more satisfactory.

It comes in the wake of the outcry about big game hunting in Africa after a US dentist killed ‘Cecil The Lion.'

As we are all aware, it is infinitely more serious when an animal with a name dies.

Trophy was a 90-minute exploration of the arguments for and against organised game hunting.

It was distressing watching a an American on holiday shooting dead an elephant for sport, but also thought provoking as others explained how the breeding of once wild animals for hunting has increased populations to numbers not seen in a century.

There are no easy solutions here, but crying for Cecil while ignoring local people's needs is not the answer.

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