Do Wildlife Documentaries Add Value to Conservation Efforts?

Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II came to a close on December 11, 2016, after 6 breath-taking episodes that covered the majesty and beauty the world has to offer. While the show lived up to the expectations its iconic predecessor had set, some experts believe it failed to add any practical value to conservation efforts.

But, is this true?

All nature documentaries, irrespective of whether they are made by the National Geographic Society or the BBC have focused on both the trials and the triumphs of the species that call this planet home. It’s true that it’s absolutely exhilarating to get a glimpse into the lives of these creatures. But, we must ask ourselves whether these shows are encouraging us to actively work towards saving species from extinction or not.


Recent research by the Centre for Biological Diversity has revealed that we are currently in the midst of the sixth wave of extinction; meaning, this is the sixth time we are in the grips of a potential mass extinction, in the last half-a-billion years. Habitat loss, the introduction of new species and global warming form the three primary causes for this plight.

Wildlife documentaries seldom show us this side of the picture. We are shown glorious sunrises and romantic sunsets, exciting chase sequences and heart-warming birth scenes – all without depicting the imminent danger of extinction.

It seems as though these shows are designed to capture only utopian moments, sequences that add beauty and which create unspoiled visions of a world that is not in the grips of extinction.

Considering all this, it seems as though these shows are only meant for visual pleasure and not for practical use. But, is that true? Have BBC and NGC stopped being relevant? Do they add any value to conservation efforts?

The complicated truth

The reality is, wildlife documentaries are involved in a precarious balancing act of sorts – juggling between entertainment and education on one hand and mute monitoring and vocal activity on the other. The truth is, without these shows being aired, we will for the large part remain unaware of the plight of threatened and endangered species. Many of the world’s preeminent researchers and conservationists were once children who were inspired to make a living out of conservation, because of these very shows.

The BBC, the National Geographic Society and every other science-based organization are creating avenues for us to better understand the flora and fauna that inhabit our world. While some hosts may openly voice their concerns about habitat loss and others may not, they certainly inspire us to stand in arms with those who are fighting the battle for conservation. At the end of the day, these documentaries provide us with the knowledge, the arsenal for the battle. What we choose to do with this ammunition is ultimately up to us.


-Nisha Prakash

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