After watching the Hippo episode earlier in the week on Channel 4 I decided to give the previously shown episode a go.

The premise is that an elephant is allowed to rot in the African bush, with the plethora of creatures showing up to feed on its festering body being filmed for our pleasure. And pleasurable it is. Within the first 10 minutes of the show a hyena is thrusting it’s head into the anus of the deceased elephant. A punctured bowel wall the forces gas out, creating a propelled post-mortem haemorrhoid to explode out. It’s the single best bit of tele I’ve seen all week.

The greatest thing about it is there’s nothing special about this. Anyone who spends enough time wandering the countryside will find all manner of creatures in various stages of decomposition. Sadly most natural history documentaries prefer to wash over this side of nature to help sponsor the romanticised view of wildlife that makes for ‘popular’ viewing. When documentary isn’t willing to show this side of nature it’s failing as a documentary. The fact this is happening to an elephant, one of the most culturally revered  animals, makes it a fair more interesting watch.

The repertoire of animals shown moves away from the usual stars of these programs. While lions, (living) elephants and leopards all make regular appearances, more obscure animals are given a fair amount of screen time. Notable is the inclusion of African Civet, Palm Nut Vulture and Silver-Backed Jackal, along with flies, beetles and interesting birds.

The only major let down was the choice of soundtrack. The emerging hyenas from the darkness was sinister enough without the need for rammstein-esque pseudo-metal to create a false drama where it wasn’t needed.

The cheap version of Cillian Murphy does a fine job presenting, with just enough presence as to be informative without distracting from the glorious amount of natural gore on offer. I could have done with a few more of the obscure species being name-checked but you can’t have everything.

Conclusion

When combined with Inside Nature’s Giants, Channel 4 is making a good push into the world of wildlife documentaries, although they still have a huge way to go before being comparable to the BBC. The joy of channel 4’s effort is in how they are slanted towards a more science-aware watcher, making for a lot more nourishing viewing then the usual slew of tiger and polar bear documentaries.

Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbVBl9zWt54