Tim Dams, Television Business International | February 26, 2020
The BBC has greenlit The Last Unicorn, a one hour documentary special following the search to discover a previously unknown population of northern white rhinos, a species officially declared extinct in 2018.
The Last Unicorn, part of the BBC’s Natural World strand, will see BBC Studios Natural History Unit follow charity Saving the Survivors as they travel to South Sudan in the hope of discovering the rhinos. The species was officially declared extinct in 2018 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Doug Hope, executive producer for BBC Studios Natural History Unit, said: “It is a long shot, there is no denying that, but there are rumours of them out there, and in a place that is so remote, so unexplored. Yet, from what our sources are telling us, it remains prime rhino habitat, so surely there is still a chance? And until this search is carried out we can’t close the book on the northern white rhino.”
South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. Declared independent in 2013, it has seen conflict and civil war for the past 20 years. No film crew has been allowed access for nearly ten years.
Larger in area than France, it has a population of no more than seven million. No access to wildlife NGOs means no survey or comprehensive search of any of South Sudan’s wildlife has been undertaken in over a decade.
Recently, reports surfaced indicating that local people are seeing the animal, once the species’ stronghold.
A team of experts led by Paul Naden (expedition leader of Saving the Survivors), accompanied by wildlife cameraman Vianet Djenguet, vet Johan Marais and high security expert Aldo Kane are heading the search for the northern white rhino.
The team from BBC Studios Natural History Unit will use camera traps and new drone technology which has never been used in the field before, which uses software to recognise different animals, to also film elephants, giraffe, leopards, honey badgers, antelope, warthogs and baboons.
The Last Unicorn, a 1×60-minute documentary for BBC Two, is made by BBC Studios Natural History Unit. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two and Jack Bootle, head of commissioning, natural history and science. The executive producer is Doug Hope.