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Simon King

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Hodder Press release: "Known to millions the world over as the face of Big Cat Diary and in the UK as the 'man in the field' in Springwatch and Autumn watch, Simon King was born with a passion for the natural world. From his earliest memories as a baby in Africa, to his present day vocation as a wildlife film-maker, his story is one that is coloured by all things wild and free.

His childhood obsession with animals was nurtured by his parents and led to his television debut at the age of ten, when he acted in a film produced by his father, The Fox, about a boy befriending a fox on Dartmoor. This early flirtation with television was the start of an unbroken marriage between a fascination with wildlife and his desire to tell others about it.

Simon's career as a cameraman, producer and presenter of natural history films has taken him around the planet many times and led to the revelation of sights and natural events never recorded before. It has also brought him face to face with mortal dangers and comic encounters, both with animals and people.

Charged by enraged elephants, tossed by mountainous seas in the South Atlantic and attacked by a rabid cheetah, Simon has had many close shaves during the course of his career. But whether confronting lions armed only with a shovel and a dodgy stomach or helping to liberate an angry hyena from a deep pit, humour peppers his often hair-raising experiences.

Emmy and BAFTA Award winning camerawork, covering some of the most dramatic natural events on earth, has been realised through committing thousands of hours to life in the bush. With filming trips away from home, like the months spent in Patagonia filming Killer Whales for Blue Planet and years spent following the big cats of Africa, dedication to his passion for the wild world and balancing his dual loves, for family and wildlife, has proven to be his greatest challenge to date. However, whether working with David Attenborough to film San Bushmen hunting in Botswana, raising orphaned cheetahs in Kenya or sitting on a Scottish hillside watching eagles, Simon's insatiable passion, fascination and amazement with the world about him radiates though his writing.

What started as a boyhood obsession, boiling badger heads to preserve the skulls and pinning dead birds' wings to his bedroom wall, has taken Simon to every continent on earth and made him one of the nation's most beloved presenters of natural history. He writes with humour, candour and sometimes great sadness of his rich and varied life experiences to date".

"His book is packed with wild encounters: he has lived with meerkats in southern Africa; trailed dingoes in the Australian outback; raised orphaned cheetahs; seen off digruntled buffaloes and elephants; and been attacked by all manner of angry insects. He has also followed the lives of a pride of lions in the Masai Mara for, on and off, the best part of 20 years. However, he says, "Because I'm lucky enough to travel a lot, and because I now don't differentiate between East Africa and East Sussex, I'm as thrilled to watch a group of fallow deer rutting as I am to see wildebeest crossing the Mara River. The exotic nature of life on earth is not in itself the allure; the thrill is in the detail of the lives, in understanding the behaviour, in getting inside the world of other creatures and sharing it." REF:

Where did your interest in Wildlife come from? What is your earliest memory of wildlife?

I don't think there is a child born that doesn't have an interest in wildlife and I find it extraordinary that children lose this interest in wildlife as they get older. I am the lucky one that has remained a geek since childhood. I think being born in East Africa and then moving to Bristol near the woodland and also having the freedom as a child to be able to get your knees grazed and to be able to climb trees. Children of my generation were all able to do all that.

My parents never directed me to a particular path but when they saw that I had an interest in that area they certainly didn't stifle it. My father worked in TV and broadcasting and he had a stance in touching on countryside issues which was useful for me to be able to indulge in both passions.

When I was 10 I got a part in my dad's show The Fox. I got the part as other young actor's parents didn't want their child having to work with a fox. I loved the idea of being with a fox and I asked my father to let me do it. It was great to spend my holidays doing that. That was my first professional role. Then I got other bits and bobs and then I did Man and Boy but eventually I grew too big for that role.

When I was 17 and left school I went straight in to being a wildlife cameraman.

Is there any animal that you are scared of?

One or two people. When I was small I didn't like spiders but I overcame that. Nothing really makes me shudder - everything I see I respect.

I was attacked by a cheetah that had rabies. I then had to have loads of injections. In hindsight that wasn't pleasant.

Did you not get attacked by a cheetah and had a stand off with Elephants in Sri Lanka? Tell me about that?

I have had plenty of close encounters - Sri Lankan elephants where we had a stand off for 45 minutes, chased by bulls and charged by black rhino's.

Steve approaches the world in a different way to me. When I have come close to danger it is generally my fault and I don't like to glorify it - I think that is more of a circus. I want to engage people in the beauty of the natural world. If I do move a snake out of my kitchen in Kenya I don't want that filmed. I don't want to be the master of the animal kingdom. I want to be an observer of the natural world.

Are swans really strong enough to break bones?

I have filmed them - I was knocked out by one. It hit my temple very high. They are very strong as they have so much muscle. At the moment I am spending a lot of time in Shetland Isles with otters and killer whales.

If you could be an animal what would you be?

Apart from me - as I can enjoy seeing all these creatures I would like to be a Pergrine Falcon as I would love to plunging around the sky.

What's your opinion on Zoos?

I think zoos play a vital role just as long as they are managed responsibly. When I was a child my local zoo wasn't very appealing but now it is a fantastic one. I know that being able to be up close to a lion and being able to smell it is great and it helps fuel passion for me and hopefully for others. It also helps people realize that they need to be good to the planet.

Do you think children should be taught more about the natural world? Are your kids into nature?

For me the way biology is thought is upside down. I think to engage kids you need to talk about big charismatic mega creatures like Lions and Zebra's and you don't start at the bottom of the chain. People need to get out and get mud under their fingernails.

Any wildlife we should be keeping a watch for at this time of year?

There is very little that is unique. Ireland is great for red squirrels, otters on the west coast and that sense of a place for these things to be. For Ireland to be still living side by side with the natural world rather than trying to subjugate it is brilliant.

What should we be watching out for now?

There is so many migrating birds now that we should watch out for. Also with the leaves off the trees we have a greater visibility of these birds.

Who did you admire as a child?

I have always been a huge admirer of David Attenborough. I met him when I was a kid. He has brought the natural world into the homes of millions of people.