It is a staple scene of wildlife documentaries: a baby animal in peril after becoming separated from its mother.
But Hamza Yassin, the wildlife cameraman and Strictly Come Dancing winner, has claimed that viewers are not always being told the truth.
Scenes are manipulated and dramatic moments are concocted, claimed Yassin, who said he wanted to come clean to audiences.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Yassin said: “Now, spoiler: I’m sorry to say this to you, guys, but we’re trying to make a film that tugs on your heartstrings so that you guys get emotional about it and then you hopefully do something about it.
“The amount of times that we’ll film a cheetah family, and she’s got three babies, and then we just zoom in slightly and crop out the last baby. And the story goes, ‘The cheetah mother has lost her baby…’
‘Missng’ baby cheetah
“Then you [cut to] a baby and everyone goes, ‘Oh no, the baby’s missing.’ And then you bring in a lion from somewhere else, something else, and the lion goes, ‘Grrr’, and you think, ‘Oh, the lion’s killed the baby!’
“And then five minutes of drama, then we just zoom back out again and then you say, ‘Ah, it’s all a happy story.’ No. That didn’t happen.
“Sorry to ruin it for you guys but we are dramatising what we’re seeing,” said Yassin, who has been touted as the heir to Sir David Attenborough and has worked for various broadcasters during his career.
Other wildlife shows allegedly fool audiences by lying about the landscape, pretending that parts of the world remain pristine.
Talking about the trend, pioneered by Attenborough documentaries, to have a ‘making of…’ segment at the end of episodes, Yassin said: “A lot of people love the 10 minutes at the end, of ‘how we made it’, because it gives you the real picture of how we did it.
“It’s truthful to some degree. But one way I wish my industry would change is not to paint everything so beautiful.
“We turned up to beaches in Antarctica to film and the producers told us we needed to get rid of the floating rubbish. And we were like, ‘No, hang on, why don’t we film the rubbish and then show people what’s really happening in Antarctica?
“And they said, ‘No, the producers, the big guys, are not going to like it. So just clean up the rubbish, make it look like it’s pristine land.’ And that’s the bit that I wish we kept in.
“A lot of wildlife cameramen and -women are fighting the cause, to try and make it a fair and accurate representation of what we’re filming.
“This is what I want: I want to tell the truth. I want to say what’s happening in our world, to put it into people’s living rooms and for them to make the judgment.”
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