Posted: 04/03/2005

 

PBS Nature: Deep Jungle

(2005)

by Dianne Lawrence




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On April 17 cancel the babysitter, tell the teens they can’t go to the mall, get the wife off the phone, tell your hubby to shut down the computer, gather everyone in the living room and get ready for one amazing mind blowing family experience. PBS is airing the first of three one hour episodes of Deep Jungle an utterly astonishing jaw dropping exploration of the world’s vast and mysterious rainforests, We witness first time discoveries as the most hard core researchers use cutting edge technology to pull us into the stunning landscapes and animal habitats of rainforests in fourteen countries around the world.

The basic information alone is mind-boggling. Did you know that 1/2 of all the earth’s creatures live in the rainforests and 85% of it hasn’t been explored? There may be tribes living in there who are completely unaware of anything outside of it. A hundred thousand elephants live in Central Africa and nobody knows where they go when they disappear into it. Infrared light captures millions of bats flowing out of the Congo to feed for a two-week spell in the north. Martin Nicholas, who has a regular day job, is also a world-class arachnologist in his off time. When he hears about a foot-long spider that can grab a chicken out of the yard and haul it off, he grabs his gear and heads into the forest to track it down. We are there at the amazing moment of discovery for many of these researchers and get caught up in their excitement as they catch rare footage of a Sumatran Tiger or a moth that Darwin had suspected might exist. One of the most compelling stories centers on the 500 year old Brazil nut trees. The Brazil nut is a fifty million dollar industry yet the tree shuts down if any of the virgin forest around it is harmed. It also drops a pod that kills anything it lands on and is so hard, it’s impossible to open. But nature provides a simple and humorous solution to liberating the seeds. There is also a dark secret that assured the beginning of the tree’s life and a horror movie creature that spells its end. The idea of the interconnectedness of life has unfortunately become a dismissive cliché but the magical story of this tree and its relationship to the life around it brings that concept back to vivid life.

Some of the most compelling information came out of the research with primates. They not only use tools in imaginative ways but the primitive stirrings of a “cultural” experience are witnessed when they use them in ways unique to their group, A gang of chimps viciously attack another chimp who makes the unfortunate mistake of wandering into their territory. The point is made that most of what we have deemed “human” behavior is really simply…primate behavior and although we share most of our instincts with our primate cousins the researchers do bring one thought provoking difference to our attention.

Like the rainforests, this series presents one amazing life form after another. Using state of the art photography, compelling guides, astonishing and revelatory information, Deep Jungle will leave your family humbled, wowed and thoughtful at the end of each episode. It’s no secret that we are engaged in a war with our environment and some say it may be too late to make peace. This series promotes a much needed and deeply observed exploration of the explosive creativity, imagination and intelligence of Nature. It leaves the observer with the kind of respect that is needed if we are to end the misguided conflict. For those who believe it is a never-ending battle, before you place bets on who will win, I draw your attention to the series… exploration of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It was the largest pre-industrial urban center the world has ever known and covered an area larger than New York City. It was eventually abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle. The reason for it is a cold, hard lesson humanity seems doomed to learn over and over and over again. Nature is pretty brilliant…so is this series.

Deep Jungle was co-produced by Thirteen/WNET New York and Granada Wild, with Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE, and Granada Wild’s Brian Leith as co-executive producers. David Allen is series producer. The three-hour miniseries, airs Sundays, April 17 and 24 and May 1 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).

Dianne Lawrence is a writer and painter in the Los Angeles area. Check out her site here.



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