Giles Clark, conservationist and host of Big Cats About the House and Tigers About the House, travels to Southeast Asia for the newest addition to the BBC Studios franchise, Bears About the House, from executive producer Jo Shinner.
The 2 x 60-minute docuseries, headed to the BBC Studios Showcase in Liverpool, England this week, sees Clark (pictured) help set up a bear rescue in Laos, where sun and moon bears — also known as “forgotten” bears — are under threat due to illegal bear bile farming and the wildlife pet trade.
Working with local conservationists Free the Bears Asia, Clark helps prepare the rescue center for its opening as the local government cracks down on illegal animal trafficking.
“Free the Bears are building a fantastic sanctuary from scratch. And the hope is that the released bears will go there,” Shinner tells Realscreen. “It’s a good news story, actually, in terms of what’s happening both from the NGOs and governments in the region.”
For Shinner, whose credits include Earth from Space (BBC1) and Baby Chimp Rescue (BBC2), pulling off the series required a commitment from the wildlife conservation and animal welfare organization.
“Giles is absolutely, passionately driven, and we as a team are all passionately driven by the motivation to help the bears. Yes, it was hard, and Free the Bears did have to put up with us for a very long time, but we were all friends in the end. They’re lovely people. When you have a shared commitment and a shared passion, you get over the odds fairly easily,” she adds.
In the series, Clark and his family move in next door to the wildlife conservation center to rear a sun bear called Mary and two motherless baby moon bears, David and Jane. As well as caring for the cubs as home, Clark builds climbing frames, paddling pools and hammocks for the incoming animals.
Shinner says the host helps to set Bears About the House apart from other natural history programming.
“Giles is a great contributor. He’s really sort of made his own mark,” she adds. “He’s a very empathetic, but very knowledgeable, capable and passionate person. When you have someone like that at the heart of it, you can learn and appreciate the issues. You can live the life with him, you can go through the highs and lows with someone who is immensely likable.”
Series like this, which shine a light on environmental issues while remaining “heartwarming” at the core are “vital,” Shinner explains.
“We’re always looking for new and interesting ways to tell stories about the natural world here at the Natural History Unit,” she says. “There are extraordinary animal heroes all over the world that are battling to save animals and doing an amazing job, and their lives deserves to be celebrated.”
The series is expected to air on BBC2 this spring, taking viewers to a location rarely seen on television, Shinner says, adding she hopes to draw in a family audience.
“What we’re certainly finding here in the UK as well is that younger people are so involved now in environmental issues, they talk about them in school, they all want to help,” she says. “I’m hoping to get that audience that really will go across the ages.”
Tom Jarvis (Super Squirrels, Tigers About the House) serves as series producer.
An array of international talent is on hand to attend the 2020 BBC Studios Showcase, which runs Feb. 9 to 12 in Liverpool. The four-day content market spans content financing, development, production and sales for the Studios’ own productions, and programs and formats from UK indies.