From Executive Producer Mike Gunton (Life
) comes a fascinating exploration of one of the most unique habitats in the world, Madagascar! For 65 million years, Madagascar was lost to the world, isolated, undiscovered and untouched by humans. Left to its own devices it became a hotbed of evolution, resulting in the greatest concentration of unique creatures anywhere on the planet. More than 80% of Madagascar's animals and plants are found nowhere else on Earth. Recognized as one of the world's most important biodiversity hotspots, this is an Alice-in-Wonderland island of eccentric animals, outlandish plants and extraordinary landscapes. It is a truly remarkable island. In this three-part landmark series from the BBC
and Animal Planet
, viewers will discover what makes Madagascar different from the rest of the world, and how evolution created an island rivaling the Galapagos for mystique, beauty and scientific wonder.
The BBC may not be able to top Planet Earth
, the landmark 2006 production that is arguably the finest nature documentary ever made, but they have once again come close with Madagascar
. This spectacular three-part series, coproduced with Animal Planet and featuring the familiar voice-over of David Attenborough, reveals the many wonders of the world's biggest island, a place of startling variety in terms of both geography and wildlife. That's due to an event that occurred 60 million years ago, when Africa and India separated, creating the thousand-mile-long island a few hundred miles off the African coast, a place so isolated that more than 80 percent of its animal species can be found there and nowhere else. Left to their own devices, these creatures evolved and diversified to an extraordinary degree, each adapting to its own environment, whether it be the barren mountains that divide Madagascar in half, the hot, arid western side, or the lush rain forest on the eastern side. There are, for instance, some 80 different types of lemur, the dog-faced primate that is the island's most recognizable inhabitant. These include the tiny mouse lemur (weighing in at about two ounces); the child-sized indri; a lemur whose diet consists of bamboo loaded with lethal doses of cyanide; the ghostly white silky sifaka, of which only about 200 remain; and many more. But that's not all. We also see a chameleon about the size of an ant; tenrecs, small, hedgehog-like creatures capable of giving birth to 32 babies in one litter; white, eyeless, cave-dwelling fish that swim upside down; the fossa, a giant mongoose that's the island's biggest predator; and a plethora of other insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, and flora. As usual, all of this is breathtakingly photographed, with a clarity and vividness that are only enhanced in the Blu-ray version (each chapter includes about 10 minutes detailing the lengths the filmmakers went to in order to capture their footage, much of it depicting animals and behaviors never photographed before). Of course, as human civilization encroaches inexorably, many of these animals face extinction--all the more reason that this superb documentary belongs in any serious nature lover's collection. --Sam Graham