These days many actors most associated with comic work are doing more and more travel documentaries for the television whether it be Joanna Lumley, Griff Rhys Jones or Ade Edmondson, it seems that any one of them will jet off round the globe if it means a free holiday and I’m assuming plenty of cash. The latest name to add to this bunch is Martin Clunes who has already travelled the UK for ITV1 and now travels to Madagascar to examine the plight of the lemurs who live there and what is being done to preserve their legacy.
Right from the start of this programme we are told that Madagascar is home to plenty of unique flora and fauna with the lemurs being the most surprising animal species on the island, mainly because it didn’t seem likely they would survive with the rest of Madagascar when it broke from mainland Africa however it was later discovered that they had clung onto rafts of vegetation. Initially there were over 100 species of lemur but now it is thought that at least seventeen of these are extinct and as we are told throughout the documentary this is due to a number of issues most notably when human settlers started to arrive on the island. As there was very little to eat in Madagascar the lemurs, which were at the time the largest animal species available, were skinned and used as meat. Clunes is taken to a part of the rainforest where he sees first hand a trap that has been set up to ensnare and eventually hang the animal but thankfully today there are laws against this with recent lemur killers being sentenced to up to five years in prison. Man is also responsible in another way as a lot of the rainforests, which the lemurs use for habitat, are being burnt by humans to use as farm land as the growing population needs something to eat while in addition the wood in the rainforests is being cut down illegally to make guitars and furniture to send to western countries.
Thankfully Clunes meets people who are trying to preserve the lemurs in different ways including Tony King a zoologist who has tried to find different types of species of the animal to make sure they don’t become extinct. This mainly includes the bamboo lemur a species that has almost become completely extinct however Tony doesn’t think this is the case and wants to find more of them. There is also the Durrell Group whose aim is to save the marshes and protect the lemurs’ natural habitat as much as they can in order for more species to thrive. Another problem is making sure the species continues by having the lemurs mate however this is harder and harder as species start to dwindle. One way in which the mating has continued has been through the introduction of the black and white lemur, a species that is native to North Carolina in America, which have now been successfully integrated into the natural habitat of the Madagascan lemurs. Other people are trying to interlink various species by setting up bridges between parts of the rainforest where the lemurs are so they can successfully breed with their own kind. In fact the only danger that can’t been prevented by these various groups is that of the lemurs’ natural predator the cat-like carnivore the fusa which can jump up as high as its prey and can easily kill off many of the animals at a time.
Of course this being a wildlife programme the highlights is obviously seeing the lemurs in their natural habitats and Clunes’ reactions to seeing them for the first time. He is really excited to see the common brown lemur for the first time and especially when it swipes some fruit from the tree so we can witness its eating habits. Later on Clunes is in awe of the bamboo lemur as they graze on the root which to us would be poisonous due to it containing a high amount of cyanide. What I was surprised about was the lack of footage of the animal as the programmes main concern seemed to be showing us the ways in which various individuals have tried to combat the extinction of certain lemur species. Sure it was nice to see some of the African backdrops, including a rather nice shot of a Madagascan sunset, but overall I would’ve preferred to view more of the animal that the programme was about.
As for Clunes he was an amiable presenter and as a keen animal lover his delight in seeing the lemurs for the first time were some of the highlights of the programme. It seemed that ITV wanted to use the sitcom star for his humour as well however there were only a few jokes such as when he saw a chicken and commented to the man next to him that he had a nice cock. I feel though that if Clunes had included more humour it would’ve detracted from the serious message of this programme namely that these graceful and indigenous animals are being killed off thanks to the greed of some of the island community. Overall I thought the programme’s message was an important one, if not one we’ve seen in countless other wildlife programmes, however for me I would like to see Clunes in more drama and comedy roles rather than being just another actor who pays the bills hosting wildlife shows.
What did you think of Martin Clunes’ hosting style? Did you enjoy this programme? Leave your comments Below.