TV star Gordon Buchanan talks animals and almost being stranded in Morecambe

Gordon Buchanan. Picture by Graham MacFarlane.
Gordon Buchanan. Picture by Graham MacFarlane.
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Wildlife TV star Gordon Buchanan has been face to face with some of the world’s most dangerous animals but one challenge he wasn’t prepared for was getting stuck in Morecambe.

Scottish filmmaker Gordon, who is known for his award-winning BBC nature documentaries, has talked about memorable moments ahead of his return show to the town.

Gordon Buchanan.

Gordon Buchanan.

From picking up an anaconda with a Waorani tribe in the Amazon to being chased by elephants in Africa, Gordon has dared it all to tell a story.

But when the dad-of-two is back on UK soil mistakes can be more easily made.

“I have done a talk in Morecambe before about three years ago and I almost got marooned there,” he said.

“The next morning I got up to leave and I couldn’t find the car keys, I went around every room, going through everything, I was outside looking in gutters.

Gordon Buchanan. Picture by the BBC.

Gordon Buchanan. Picture by the BBC.

“I put my hand in my pocket and felt a tiny hole in there and retraced my steps and thought they must have come out of the hole. I went back to the Chinese takeaway where I went the night before and low and behold there they were down the back of the sofa.

“The venue was really great, the Platform, really good crowd, it is nice to see different parts of the world as well places right on your doorstep.”

Growing up Gordon was inspired by other nature filmmakers like David Attenborough and the late Alan Root who worked on nature documentary series Survival.

“Alan was a real pioneer, he paved the way for filmmakers by telling stories over the intimacy of the animals,” said Gordon.

Gordon’s big break came whilst he was working in a restaurant in his hometown of the Isle of Mull, Scotland.

Restaurant owner Nick Gordon offered him to go travelling to Sierra Lone to do filming which he seized with both hands – and the rest is history.

From there on Gordon has visited some of the most beautiful parts of the world, getting close to animals one would only dream of.

His biggest challenge was early on his career during his travelling with Nick.

“We were trying to film chimps, that was really tough, they move around the forest so fast the chance of seeing them was very slim,” said Gordon.

“We found a site and stuck it out for a month and had some phenomenal encounters but it was a huge investment of time.”

Filming animals like the Arctic wolf was a moment that has stuck in Gordon’s mind.

“How they are able to survive in somewhere that is so tough is amazing,” said Gordon. 
They are so magical to watch, especially in packs when they have pups it is like a real family, they are all working together to make sure these pups survive.

“There is a real level of trust built up between us.”

As a filmmaker Gordon says you have to be gentle, patient and cautious to deal with the animal’s suspicions.

Building up trust is a process that should be taken slowly, explains Gordon.

“The wolves knew we where there, we kept moving our tent a bit further forward over a few days and before you know it you are in den area,” he said. 
“We watched the wolves come and go and they were happy to leave me with the cubs and go off hunting, which is a real sign of trust, it felt like I was the wolf that was to look after the cubs.

“Wolves have always been scared of people and that goes across history, we have always had this turbulent relationship.

“So it is quite incredible being up in the Arctic, there are no people and there natural instinct is not to be fearful of us but curious.”

Over the years Gordon has found a balance between travelling for work and being at home with wife, Wendy and their two children.

“If you think of home all the time when you are away you can make things really difficult for yourself,” he said.

“It is always best to focus on what is in front of you, and obviously you think about home all the time but you can’t let it engulf you.

“I am very lucky, I get to see beautiful parts of the world and also get to spend time with my family.”

Programme ‘Elephants Family and Me’ allowed Gordon to become part of the herd, giving the cameraman incredible scenes to film, including baby elephants enjoying a mud bath.

“If you don’t feel warm and fuzzy when you watch a baby elephant then you must be dead inside,” jokes Gordon.

“Elephants do make me feel quite nervous though, they are one of the animals that are potentially the most dangerous.

“I did find them pretty hard to read but the more you spend time with them the more they open up to you.”

During filming Gordon is often on his own holding a camera but can be with a crew depending on the location and animal.

Aspiring filmmakers have got to be happy in their own company, resourceful and have a good sense of humour says Gordon, and above all “you have to be completely committed to telling the animal’s story.”

“You have to keep your eye on the ball, be persistent with time, always think about where you are, you may not have an opportunity to go back so make the most of it,” said Gordon.

You can find out more about Gordon’s adventures when he appears at The Platform in Morecambe on Tuesday September 26 at 7.30pm.

Tickets priced from £17.50 on 01524 582803.

“I am very excited to come back, I’ll make sure I sew a hole in my pocket this time and it would be good to look around too,” added Gordon.