Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Operation Wild Series - BBC One

In this three-part documentary series, Clare Balding and Steve Leonard explore the globe in search of injured animals who are being saved by pioneering veterinarians whom are adapting human medical care to effectively enable better care for animals. 

These life-saving procedures are undertaken with massive difficulties to overcome, often regarding the size of the animal in regard to the equipment, or the methods of sedation, or fundamentally discerning whether an animal is in pain or unwell in the first place.

Operation Wild (BBC One) was an interesting twist on the customary animal documentary as it reconfigured the general conception of the vet role to wild animals in their natural habitats or in sanctuaries made to protect them from poachers and extinction.

The Wolong giant panda base in China, for example, is implementing important neonatal techniques in order to save more of the endangered species. It is the custom of pandas who birth twins to disown the "weaker" twin in order to put all their energy into saving one. However, at the Wolong institute, a giant panda mother, Xi Xi, is carefully manipulated into providing vital care for both her chosen and rejected twins. Panda cubs require crucial antibodies only found within their mothers milk, and so Xi Xi's rejected twin is fundamentally handicapped through his inability to consume these antibodies. The Wolong team stage a switch between the twins in order to provide an opportunity for the rejected twin to reap the love and attention its mother that he desperately needs. Luckily, this Freaky Friday experiment works perfectly, and the Wolong team decide that they will continue to switch out the twins every week until they are six months old. 

However, there are also some sad stories where the animals cannot be saved. For example, the alligator, Martha, who was saved, but seemed to be suffering from a chronic blockage
in her stomach. Unable to submerge herself in water, which is customary for her species, she is very clearly unwell. After being taken to a reptile specialist, she undergoes surgery. However, throughout the course of the operation, it is revealed that she has suffered too much damage and her organs have become fused together making it impossible for the vet to do anything to help. 
Overall, there is a bittersweet taste to a number of the operations. Many of these injuries have been caused by poachers or as an impact of deforestation. Such as with a rhino who has had his horn taken by poachers, or a gorilla whom was shot when he was a baby as a result of poachers killing his mother for bush meat. Although these animals are saved, or at least put out of their intense pain and suffering, knowing that these injuries were all caused by human intervention and abuse is a chilling and devastating fact, which has a greater resonance than other animal documentaries as it pictures these inhuman acts against the extraordinary measures others are taking to help save animal species.