BBC Earth presents Planet Earth II, it’s ground breaking nature series that is back after a decade. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, it brings us a viewing experience like no other through the evolution of film-making technology allowing you to get up close and personal with nature like never before.
Wildlife film making veteran Fredi Devas helmed the finale episode of the series focusing on cities and how the natural world interacts with urban environments with our little red dot getting screen time as an example of how cities can work to be conducive to nature.
Devas who has a burning passion for understanding and documenting animal behaviour has been to the wild plains of Africa and the frosty Antarctic where he got real cosy with wildlife (a little too close for comfort at times) but it’s all part of the job for him. Speaking to us about his work and the unique episode he filmed that features our very own Gardens By The Bay, you can see just how passionate he is about nature and making a difference.
What do you hope to accomplish through your film making? What are your motivations for doing what you do?
I have two main motivations for making wildlife films. Firstly, I am fascinated by the natural world. I love finding out about the extraordinary and diverse ways that wildlife survives on our planet. It’s such a creative and fun job to learn about new animal behaviours and then think about how best to capture them on film to tell an elegant and coherent story. Secondly, I care deeply about the natural world and the issues it faces. I believe that our connection to nature is fundamental in our well-being and I hope that these wildlife films remind people just how special, beautiful and awe inspiring the natural world is…. and how important it is that we preserve it!
What is the most exhilarating encounter you’ve had in the wild?
I had heard about spotted hyenas roaming the streets at night in Harar, Ethiopia, but it was not until a group of eight hyenas brushed passed my leg, as they walked down a narrow cobbled street at 1am, that I realised exactly how being here might feel. They are the second largest land predator in Africa, they’ve been known to kill people. It was at first frightening to be encountering them on small dark streets in the middle of the night, but after seeing how comfortable the locals are with their company I soon became accustomed to them. A few nights later I was surrounded by over 100 fighting hyenas as two clans battled for access to the city. My lack of fear in this scenario is testament to the extraordinary peaceful pact that exists between man and beast in this city. The locals welcome them into their city, and have done for centuries. It’s an astonishing coexistence between people and perhaps the most vilified animal in our planet… and it shows us just how possible it is for us to share our streets with wild animals.
Why did you decide to leave the wilderness behind and do an episode on Cities instead for Planet Earth II?
I really wanted to make this film on Cities because understanding how wildlife is surviving in the newest habitat on our planet – the urban environment – is a fascinating, new area of research. I also feel that the question of how we share our cities with nature is an important one. More than half of us now live in the urban environment. Cities can be stressful places to live, it has been shown that views of greenery often have a calming effect on us, and watching animal dramas unfold in our streets can be very special. By showing the extraordinary wildlife that manages to thrive in some cities on our planet might inspire others to welcome in more wildlife and really embrace it in their cities.
How was your experience filming in Singapore?
It was my first time in Singapore and I really enjoyed it! It was refreshing to be in a city where real-estate is in huge demand and yet keeping land set aside for green space in the city is really valued. I love the ethos of building a city within a garden, and I was really impressed by the innovative ways in which green architecture has been adopted across the city.
So which do you prefer, concrete jungles or the wild? How different is the filming experience between the two?
It is very different filming in the wilderness to filming in cities! I love being in the wilderness, the film I am now working on is about the wildlife of Antarctica. It’s an incredible feeling to be far from the influence of mankind and surrounded by nature. It’s humbling. The rewards from filming in cities are totally different. I met a lot of remarkable people whilst working on Planet Earth II. People who were managing to maintain such a strong connection to the natural world while living in the concrete jungle. That was inspiring.
Planet Earth II airs exclusively in Asia on Mondays, 8pm, on BBC Earth (StarHub Channel 407) and available for catch-up on BBC Player