Animal Reunions

About

What happens when people are reunited with the wild animals with which they forged a deep bond years ago? Will these gorillas, elephants, cheetahs and chimpanzees still recognize their human caregivers and how will they react? That is the premise of this program which also raises the question whether wild creatures can really experience emotions like joy, devotion, and love. It’s a debate that many animal lovers are convinced is true and the scientific community is beginning to accept. Animal Reunions — narrated by actor Richard Thomas — contains interviews with scientists, authors, and caregivers including scenes of their journeys to reconnect with their former wild charges.

The filmmakers introduce Damian Aspinall, a millionaire entrepreneur and conservationist, who now runs the family animal sanctuary in England called Howletts Wildlife Park. Aspinall views the animals in his care as friends and believes he gains a gorilla’s trust in the same way he would a human’s, by treating it with kindness and as an equal. Despite his attachment, Aspinall believes animals have a right to live in the wild if protected, so the program follows the journey of seven captive-born gorillas to a West African national park. The story is revisited five years later when Aspinall arrives to try and find Kwibi, one of the male gorillas.

Likewise, wildlife cameraman Kim Wolhuter says he had to establish trust with a cheetah to develop a bond with the fastest mammal on earth. It took 18 months, but his persistence paid off until she disappeared one day prompting Wolhuter to set out to find her. Another segment profiles Dr. Rebeca Atencia, a vet who cares for sick and orphaned chimpanzees with the aim of returning them to the wild. She attempts to reunite with a female chimp named Kudia, with whom she formed a maternal bond, two years after the latter’s release in Congo’s wild forests. The film also covers the reunion of former head keeper Edwin Lusichi, who spent 16 years rehabilitating orphaned elephants, with two of his favorites now in the process of beginning their reintroduction into the wild.

Animal Reunions includes the insights of several experts such as noted ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall who maintains it was crucial for her to establish a trusting relationship with wild chimpanzees or she wouldn’t have been able to observe them. Her long-term studies led to a new way of thinking about the emotional capacities of animals. In a touching sequence, a chimp initiates a long hug with her when being released into the wild, but Goodall admits she still doesn’t know what motivated the primate. Marc Bekoff PhD (My Bionic Pet, Animal Odd Couples), Professor Emeritus, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, agrees with Goodall, but believes the chimp’s gesture is clearly “an indication of an incredible bond.” Science writer and author Virginia Morell comments that we humans “want to know what animals think and feel” and the information gleaned from these animal reunions is a step towards trying to answer these questions.

Production Credits Print

ANIMAL REUNIONS

NARRATED BY
RICHARD THOMAS

PRODUCER
SARAH PEAT

PRODUCED & DIRECTED BY
PETER LOWN

TRANSLATOR
JAMES MANDE

EDITORS
CHRIS HALL
MIKE CRAWFORD

ADDITIONAL CAMERA
MIKE CAINE
SIMON MURIEL
FERNANDO TURMO

SOUND RECORDIST
RICHARD NGUGI

ONLINE EDITOR
DAN THOMAS

DUBBING EDITOR
GEORGE FRY

DUBBING MIXER
BRIAN MOSELEY

ARCHIVE
THE DAVID SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST
DISCOVERY ACCESS
KIM WOLHUTER
THE JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
THE ASPINALL FOUNDATION
SHUTTERSTOCK
GETTY IMAGES
AMBOSELI WILDLIFE TRUST

POST PRODUCTION MANAGER
PATSY HAYDEN

PRODUCTION ACCOUNTS
LINDA RICHARDS
KAREN KEAST

LEGAL AND BUSINESS AFFAIRS
KATHARINE LEWIS

PRODUCTION COORDINATOR
STACEY HILL

PRODUCTION MANAGER
JO LETHBRIDGE

HEAD OF PRODUCTION
FIONA MARSH

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
DICK COLTHURST

© TIGRESS PRODUCTIONS LIMITED 2015

FOR NATURE

SERIES EDITOR
JANET HESS

SUPERVISING PRODUCER
JANICE YOUNG

SENIOR PRODUCER
LAURA METZGER LYNCH

COORDINATING PRODUCER
JAYNE JUN

LEGAL COUNSEL
BLANCHE ROBERTSON

WEB PRODUCER
ERIC R. OLSON

SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR
ARIANA SVERDLIK

SENIOR PUBLICIST
JOHANNA BAKER

BUDGET CONTROLLER
KAREN FEIGENBAUM

ONLINE EDITOR
STACEY DOUGLASS MOVERLEY

RE-RECORDING MIXER
ED CAMPBELL

ORIGINAL NATURE THEME
ALEX LASARENKO

SERIES PRODUCER
BILL MURPHY

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
FRED KAUFMAN

A TIGRESS PRODUCTION FOR ITV IN CO-PRODUCTION WITH
THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC FOR WNET

THIS PROGRAM WAS PRODUCED BY THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC, WHICH IS SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS CONTENT

© 2016 THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED