Gordon Buchanan: Wildlife presenter and filmmaker reflects on 30 year career in new tour

There’s been some major changes in the three decades that Gordon Buchanan has been a wildlife presenter and filmmaker, not least with advancements in technology which have brought viewers closer than ever with the natural world and its wildlife.

One of the biggest, he reflects, is an increased realisation about just how vulnerable and fragile the areas of the world where he films actually are. “Thirty years ago we didn’t know - the world was a lot bigger then, and we simply didn’t realise the impact human beings were having on wildlife,” he says.

“Now we understand that so much better, and I’m acutely aware of it in every way, from my own carbon footprint to questions around changes that need to be made by governments across the globe, if we’re going to stop the damage. Right now we’re losing animals before we even knew their species existed - and that’s a tragedy.”

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Buchanan will be reflecting on his time working both behind and in front of the camera when he embarks on a tour of the country next month. 30 Years In The Wild: The Anniversary Tour 2023 will be a rare opportunity to discover what has driven his career and hear about some of his most memorable experiences – and there are a lot of contenders.

Gordon Buchanan is reflecting on his 30-year career in his new tour. Photo: Freddie ClaireGordon Buchanan is reflecting on his 30-year career in his new tour. Photo: Freddie Claire
Gordon Buchanan is reflecting on his 30-year career in his new tour. Photo: Freddie Claire

“One incredible moment for me was seeing polar bear cubs emerge into the world for the first time,” he reflects. “They’d been in their winter den, under the snow, for the first four months of their lives, and I was there to see them coming out into the daylight, seeing what was outside, exploring it with a sense of wonder. I remember thinking about the lives they had ahead: it’s incredibly tough to find food, to live the way they do. And yet it’s the life they’re equipped to live.

"Another amazing time was the two years I spent living in Brazil, travelling up the Amazon by boat. I remember the incredible sense of awe at being in the last great wilderness on the planet - that memory has stayed with me, and it always will.

Buchanan’s fascination with nature was fuelled as a child. He was raised on the Isle of Mull, a wild part of western Scotland, and grew up devouring the many wildlife documentaries of Sir David Attenborough. At the age of 17, he was invited along to Sierra Leone to work as an assistant on a film about animals in the Gola rainforest.

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“I knew nothing about what it involved, and I had no idea really what I was getting into - but I knew it was the sort of life I wanted, and I never wavered from that belief. "o having never been abroad - never even been on a plane - there I was a month after leaving school, setting off for a year and a half on the other side of the world.

“Those 18 months were tough going. I was so young, and being so far from home was hard. But I knew it was the way forward, I knew it was an incredible opportunity - and I knew I’d be able to build on it and move into the life I’d love.”

Gordon Buchanan is at City Varieties in Leeds on March 22, Harrogate Royal Hall on April 6 and King’s Hall Ilkley on April 15.