Spy in the Wild BBC1

Tuesday night  


He sat among the leaves, cool and cute as you like. A baby gorilla, eyes as big as his tiny fists, just looking around.

Suddenly there was a rustle in the greenery and an adult ape appeared.

She approached the little one cautiously, the look on her face a mix of “Hello!” and “What the flip?” Smile, dear, you’re on animal spy camera.

In the second series, which began last night, the fake creatures were better than ever.

It has been four years since programme makers first put animatronic animals in with real ones to get closer-than-ever footage of wildlife in its natural state. The robots then look primitive compared to those of today.

As narrator David Tennant informed us excitedly – does he have any other mode in documentaries? – the new models not only looked like the animals they film, they behaved like them too.

On closer inspection, there was one sure-fire way to tell the real and fake apart. The latter, with one eye a camera, had a kind of David Bowie, mismatched peepers look going on.

The series, which has taken three years to put together, will zip around the globe taking in everything from Japanese macaques to pygmy elephants. In Brazil there was a spy jaguar cub.

It looked a bit glaikit and walked jerkily, as if the ground were red-hot. As sophisticated as they are, some of the models remain more convincing than others.

Two jaguars approached, gave him a sniff, and got on with their day. We later saw them enjoying a tender moment in the long grass, watched only by creepy spy cub and millions of viewers.

In Costa Rica, spy vultures tried to eat the eggs of turtles as they were being laid. Mothers frantically dug holes and tried to bury their young.

There was a spy turtle too, who laid spy eggs, much to the vultures’ confusion. Spy hippo managed to get itself in the middle of two bulls fighting. “It doesn’t get riskier than this,” said a breathless Tennant sounding like the speccy bloke off Masterchef.

The commentary was occasionally cliched - there was always trouble ahead for something - but he seasoned it with fun facts.

Did you know that hippos are the teenagers of the wild, sleeping 16 hours a day? By far the most memorable sequences were the elephants swimming and the gorillas “singing” from sheer pleasure as they ate their own body weight in yummy soft fruits.

After the crooning came the trumping, with each gorilla, save the spy one, farting up a storm.

The entire soundscape of the film was amazing, with every snort and snuffle audible.

Spy capuchin, spy macaw, spy sloth, spy Amazon river dolphin, spy flying foxes, spy crocodiles … on and on it went for an hour (half that time would have been better).

There were so many spy creatures I half expected spy David Tennant to pop up, one eye whirring.

The remarkable thing was that in the footage shown not one of the creatures attacked the interlopers.

They gave them old fashioned glances, they touched tentatively, they sniffed, and in the case of a monkey and an orangutan, licked.

Would humans, do humans, behave as well with strangers?

Lots of moments of peril, including sea lions versus penguins, baby turtles being dive bombed by birds while racing for the safety of the sea, made for a heart in the mouth hour, but there was not too much to upset smaller viewers, or bigger ones of a nervous disposition.

Between the oohing and aahing and the gasping it was an exhausting 60 minutes. Back in the jungle, the silverback gorilla, who had earlier checked spy baby out and pronounced him safe, was making a bed for himself.

Spy gorilla, still ridiculously cute despite the prodding, closed his eyes too. I wonder if they will miss him when he is gone.