Nature’s Miracle Babies

6:30pm Sunday 4 September on BBC ONE

Martin Hughes-Games discovers the techniques behind the creation of nature’s miracle babies

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson has announced the commissioning of Nature’s Miracle Babies, a new natural history series for BBC One about the emotionally charged attempts to save some of the rarest animals on earth. He made the announcement while visiting Bristol.

Presented by Autumnwatch’s Martin Hughes-Games, the series explores the ground-breaking work of pioneering programmes to protect some of the world’s most threatened animals.

Over five one-hour episodes Martin travels the globe to follow the moving stories of some very precious babies.

Through hands-on experience Martin investigates the cutting-edge science, dedication and perseverance of some inspirational individuals as they endeavour to make a difference to the survival of these species.

Martin says: “This will be a highly charged personal journey for me. Many of the animals are just a hair’s breadth from extinction and sometimes the hopes of an entire species is concentrated in a few tiny, vulnerable babies.”

Using techniques learned from human fertility treatment, the Chinese breeding programme of the notoriously fickle giant panda is making some progress. With artificial insemination, more miracle babies are being born and the team nurture the new borns in rows of incubators, with round-the-clock assistance.

Closer to home, Nature’s Miracle Babies hopes to film the birth of the pied tamarin at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust by placing miniature cameras in the tiny birthing box of this highly strung and endangered monkey.

And there is now some hope for the Yangtse soft-shelled turtle, which was thought to be doomed to extinction, as the series follows the exploits of a geriatric couple. Remarkably, an 80-year-old female has been discovered to mate with a male thought to be over 100 years old.

Although they are happily mating, so far the eggs have either been infertile or the shells too soft for burying. Nature’s Miracle Babies will capture the latest developments.

Other animals featuring in the series include the Amur leopard, Tasmanian Devil, Bonobo chimpanzee, cheetah and the koala.

Mark Thompson was in the South West of England to announce the Anchor partnership, the first city partnership between the BBC and local creative agencies. The partnership is part of a drive by the BBC to work with local agencies to boost regional creative economies.

During his visit Mark Thompson pledged that the South West will continue to be a world leader in natural history programming for years to come and Nature’s Miracle Babies is one of many innovative ideas that are part of that ongoing commitment.

Kim Shillinglaw, Commissioning Editor for Science and Natural History, who will oversee the series, says: “This series promises to be a fascinating look at the struggle to save some of the world’s most vulnerable creatures, and demonstrates our commitment to the Natural History Unit and its ability to make distinctive and original programmes.

“Stable investment through the licence fee gives us the ability to take risks, innovate and take years if needed to deliver programmes viewers will love and remember.

“Now more than ever the BBC wants to strengthen its focus on distinctive content and genres that could be endangered in a tougher financial world.”

Nature’s Miracle Babies was commissioned by Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC One. The executive producer is Sara Ford, series producer is Annie Heather and the programme is due for broadcast in 2011.

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