Natural World

Natural World

Infobox nature documentary
bgcolour =
show_name = Natural World

caption = 2007 series title card
picture_format = 4:3, 16:9
audio_format = Stereo
runtime = 50 minutes
creator = BBC Natural History Unit
developer =
producer =
executive_producer =
presented =
narrated =
music =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
network =
first_run = BBC Two
first_aired = 10 December 1967
last_aired =
num_episodes =
website =
imdb_id =
tv_com_id =

"Natural World" (formerly "The World About Us") is the longest-running nature documentary strand on British television. [cite news|url=,3604,813190,00.html |title=Last of the big cats |date=October 17, 2002|publisher=The Guardian] . Each year, between 10 and 20 individual natural history films are commissioned by the BBC from leading independent wildlife filmmakers, or produced in-house by the BBC Natural History Unit, and are usually broadcast in the spring and autumn seasons. There is often an eclectic mix of subjects, but all are characterised by high production values.


In 1967, colour television was gradually being introduced to British audiences. The then Controller of BBC Two, David Attenborough, was seeking new opportunities for expanding the range of colour programmes on the fledging channel, and as many of the films by the BBC's Travel and Exploration Unit had been shot in colour, they provided ideal material. He commissioned "The World About Us", a strand of high-quality, 50 minute documentary films to fill a regular slot in the Sunday evening schedule (a format which has been retained to the present day). The first episode went out on Sunday, 10 December 1967. [cite web | title= BBC Programme Catalogue | work = The World About Us| url =| accessdate=2007-07-01] Originally, production duties were shared between the Travel and Exploration Unit in London and the Natural History Unit in Bristol, but over time the London contribution dried up and the focus became exclusively on natural history. [D. Attenborough, "Life on Air: Memoirs of a Broadcaster", BBC Books, 2002, ISBN 0-56348780-1 (p/b), p212] To reflect this, the series title was altered to "The Natural World" in 1983 and then shortened to its current form in 2003.

Notable Episodes

Within the "Natural World" strand there have been occasional miniseries on particular themes. Notable examples include the three-part series "The Flight of the Condor" (1982), "Kingdom of the Ice Bear" (1985) (both released on VHS), and "Wild Indonesia" (1999).

David Attenborough has contributed narration to around 45 episodes of "Natural World" and "The World About Us" between 1969 and 2008, the most recent being "Superfish" (2008-05-14). He also narrated the "Echo of the Elephants" trilogy (1993, 1996 and 2005) [cite news|url=|title=BBC Programme Catalogue|publisher= BBC/Open University] in which Cynthia Moss and cameraman Martyn Colbeck charted the life of an African elephant herd in Kenya's Amboseli National Park over the course of fifteen years.


"Natural World" filmmakers are regularly recognised by the television industry for the quality of their work. In 1998, the Royal Television Society (RTS) awarded the series its 'Best Documentary Strand' award.

In addition, the following individual films have recently won awards at the Missoula International Wildlife Film Festival, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, Wildscreen Festival, Grierson British Documentary Awards and RTS Awards:
* "Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth" (2008)
* "Reindeer Girls" (2008)
* "White Falcon, White Wolf" (2008)
* "Battle to Save the Tiger" (2007)
* "Buddha, Bees and the Giant Hornet Queen" (2007)
* "Bonobo: Missing in Action" (2006)
* "The Orang-Utan King" (2005)
* "The Queen of Trees" (2005) [cite news|url= |title=Treat for wildlife enthusiasts|publisher= The Hindu |date=September 8, 2006] [cite journal|quote=Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble have received the top prize for the best documentary on science or the natural world for their film, the Queen of Trees.|url= |title=Major prize for film-makers|journal= The Cornishman |date=November 30, 2006]
* "Mississippi: Tales of the Last River Rat" (2004)
* "The Elephant, the Emperor and the Butterfly Tree" (2003)
* "Missing - Presumed Eaten" (2003)
* "Cats under Serengeti Stars" (2003)
* "My Halcyon River" (2002)
* "Danger in Tiger Paradise" (2002)
* "Warriors of the Monkey God" (2000)
* "Elephants of the Sand River" (1999)
* "Dolphins - The Wild Side" (1999)
* "The Dragons of Galapagos" (1998)
* "People of the Sea" (1997)
* "Lions - Pride in Peril" (1996)
* "The Call of Kakadu" (1995)

DVD and Video

Some episodes of "Natural World" were released on VHS (see Notable Episodes section for examples) but all are now out of print.

A Region 2 DVD, "The BBC Natural World Collection", was released in 2007 and contains the following six episodes from the 2006 and 2007 seasons) [cite news|url=,3,,281| - "The BBC Natural World Collection"] :

* "On the Trail of Tarka" 2006-10-25
* "The Bear Man of Kamchatka" 2006-11-08
* "Invasion of the Crocodiles" 2007-05-09
* "Eye for an Elephant" 2006-11-01
* "Buddha, Bees and the Giant Hornet Queen" 2007-04-25
* "Wye - Voices from the Valley" 2007-06-13

The following episodes were released on individual Region 2 DVDs in 2008:

* "Badgers - Secrets of the Sett" (BBCDVD2776)
* "Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth" (BBCDVD2779)
* "Lobo - The Wolf That Changed America" (BBCDVD2780)
* "On The Trail Of Tarka" (BBCDVD2781)
* "The Bear Man of Kamchatka" (BBCDVD2782)
* "Earth Pilgrim: A Year on Dartmoor" (BBCDVD2790)

The UK releases of " Planet Earth" on HD DVD and Blu-ray includes the following 2 episodes of "Natural World", both narrated by David Attenborough, in 1080i on a bonus disc: [cite web|url=| Planet Earth : Complete BBC Series HD DVD]

* "Desert Lions" 2007-05-30
* "Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth" 2008-01-04


External links

* [ BBC "Natural World" website]
* [ PBS website about "The Queen of Trees" episode]

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