Martin Clunes's Wild Life contains five episodes: In Episode 1, "A Man and His Dogs," you will visit Clunes at his Dorset farm and meet his beloved dogs: Mary, Arthur and Tina, as he explores the evolution of the untamed wolf with the domesticated pet and work dog.
In this episode, directed by Martin's wife, Philippa, you'll watch the skills of the herding sheep dogs, and the efficiency of the rat terrier in eradicating farm pests. Then it's off to Australia to behold the sacred and beloved dingo of the Outback Aborigines. Also, you will travel to Africa to discover a strange and unusual dog that avoids people; and then to America's Rocky Mountains to search out the heritage of the dog, and to understand the benefit that dogs have in man's lives, such as the rescuing St. Bernard who uncovers a cold and frosty Martin Clunes who has secretly hidden beneath the snow.
In Episode 2, "Heavy Horsepower," Farmer Clunes introduces his powerful workhorse Clydesdales, Ronnie and Bruce, as they take a pioneering journey on the farm. The horses are a little skittish, but Clunes, in his exclusive soothing manner, brings the horses back to a calm state. Martin, with his wife and 13-year-old daughter Emily, live on the 135-acre farm with their three dogs (Mary, Arthur, and Tina, as previously mentioned) and two other dogs, two cats, 13 other horses, 10 chickens, seven cows, and 90-plus sheep.
These mighty and massive horses exhibit the powerful strength and fortitude that has been used throughout history to harness the burden of man's work. You'll visit these magnificent creatures in their daily environments in Italy, Belgium, on an American Amish farm, and even in a Southern parade in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In Episode 3: "Man to Manta," Clunes faces one of his greatest fears -- the fear of scuba diving. He travels to the Cayman Islands to swim with these benevolent manta rays (or as the Islanders call them, "sea devils") to allay his anxiety of swimming beneath the water. After becoming comfortable with his task, it's off to the world's largest aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, to visit with the gentle manta ray, Nandi, who hypnotizes Martin with her graceful water ballet.
In Equador, marine biologists inform an inquiring Clunes about the technology and tracking of mantas, and also the studies of their mating habits and gestation periods. As if finding an unusually large black manta was not exciting enough, a humpback whale unexpectedly entertains a surprised shipboard audience with breaching and lunging in the coastal waters. An encounter with endangered baby green turtles being released into the ocean by a coastal turtle hatchery gives a great thrill, and finally, a return trip to the Maldives where mantas swim safe and free in the wild. Up to 250 mantas can be seen feeding offshore on plankton in the channel. Clunes wraps up this episode with a playful swim among 40 lighthearted, magical, and elusive friends of man -- the manta rays.
In Episode 4, "The Lemurs of Madagascar," our host is privy to a secret inside look at the Madagascar rain forest where the iconic island pin-up is the wide-eyed lemur who has retreated to the edge of the forest for survival. All the plants and animals are unique to this beautiful island and our host has always been fascinated by Madagascar. To his delight, here's an opportunity to search for a solution to the endangered lemurs of this paradise island. This Edenic garden is the only habitat in the world for these wide-eyed, docile lemurs in the wild; but, unfortunately, their habitat is diminishing from land deforestation used for rice farming to feed the impoverished populace.
17 species of lemurs have already become extinct, and biologists, conservationists, and communities are pulling together to restore the beauty and grandeur to Madagascar. In this green, lush land, the burning of marshes has made it difficult for the various lemur species to survive in a safe connective habitat. As a solution, in 1997, five black and white ruffed lemurs were flown to Madagascar from the United States to be released into the wild for tracking and to strengthen the gene pool. After escaping from foreigners panning for gold and poachers hunting bush meat, the lemurs were pushed to the edge of survival into the outer edges of marshes to be burned in the rain forest.
Cooperation between communities, authorities and experts are intent on saving these precious animals by rebuilding the ravaged lands with re-plantings and protecting these retreating endangered animals. Out of the various species of lemurs, the team has searched for the indri, the greater bamboo lemur, the black and white ruffed lemurs, and the gentle reed lemurs. The question the team is left with is: What is right? Feeding the people or saving endangered species? Madagascar is working toward saving both by community planting of new trees and vegetation, and enforcing laws to nurture the survival of both people and wildlife.
The final chapter of Martin Clunes's Wild Life, Episode 5, "A Lion Called Mugie," reminds us of the movie that warmed our souls, "Born Free," with naturalists George and Joy Adamson relating stories of their lives in the bush with their beloved lions. Martin travels with conservationist Tony Fitzjohn, who 15 years earlier, had released an elephant in Mkomazi into the wild from a remote sanctuary he maintained in North Tanzania. Now, Clunes's mission is to make history by returning endangered lions to a remote part of Kenya where nature is unbalanced with a diminishing number of endangered lions in their natural habitat.
Martin Clunes's Wild Life documentary is beautifully photographed with enlightening and educational commentary that presents a fascinating and compelling problem for humanity. Bonus features include a 12-page viewer's guide with articles of famous people and their pets, horses, dogs, and Madagascar's biodiversity. There is also a brief photo gallery of Clunes and his team taken throughout the filming. The documentary is not rated, and parents should view content before presenting to children.
The haunting reality of Martin Clunes's Wild Life is the horrifying poaching and slaughtering of the endangered species emphasized in this documentary. The manta rays throughout the world, although protected by laws, are still sought after and killed to produce Chinese medications thought to purify the blood. And then there's the controversy: After the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, should we judge the fishermen that provide food for a population where flooding destroyed 30,000 lives?
If the vanishing lemur can't be saved -- what is the hope for Madagascar? Will the rush of rich land owners overshadow the efforts of the conservationists, and continue to diminish what's left of the rain forest and the endangered wildlife? Will the efforts of marine biologists and experts to rehabilitate trapped and injured animals and sea life be in vain? What about the coral reefs that protect the marine life, will they continue to dwindle into oblivion? And can our human nature understand and accept the cold harshness of nature's balance?
Martin Clunes shares and embraces the gifts that God has provided, such as cuddling with manta rays, learning the heart of the wolf, loving the devotion of his dogs and horses and all the other animals in his care, sympathizing with lemurs that have been pushed beyond land's limit, and understanding the give-and-take of nature that chills our soul. But all of this has been presented in this important video by this genuine and tender host.
The sadness that invades this documentary is the horrendous but realistic fact of the questionable future of these endangered species and land. But through the nature and commentary of this documentary, Martin Clunes's Wild Life, public awareness will be raised and hopefully bring the needed help to these important world issues and save a planet for the generations to inherit.