Sunday, February 23, 2020
Bob Poole to Showcase Work on PBS’ ‘Animal Babies’
Bob Poole’s day at the office involves shooting these young macaque monkeys in Sri Lanka. Courtesy photo.
Monday, August 26, 2019


Bob Poole had a nagging thought in the back of his mind as he filmed a newborn elephant calf named Sabina for a new PBS series.

Would she make it through her first year?

That was the overriding question about all the infants—whether elephants or hyenas—as Poole and three other wildlife cinematographers shot footage for the new PBS series “Animal Babies: First Year on Earth.”

Bob Poole has shot plenty of elephants in the course of shooting for PBS, National Geographic and others. But he never tires of the thrill of watching the majestic animals in the wild. COURTESY: "Animal Babies"

The show, a co-production between PBS and the BBC, will premiere on Wednesday, Aug. 28, with additional shows on Sept. 4 and 11.

It will follow six baby animals--an infant elephants, hyena, sea otters, mountain gorilla, chimpanzee and Arctic fox.

The show kicks off with an elephant calf named Safina who was born in Kenya. As the show starts, she’s just a few hours old but already three feet tall and 200 pounds.

And don’t lose your lunch, ladies, but she’s been in her mother’s womb for two years.

Poole, who lives in Ketchum when he’s not shooting wildlife around the world, worked with the organization Save The Elephants in northern Kenya at a place called Samburu as he followed a family with the newborn baby for a year.

“It wasn’t hard to find them because one of the adult females was wearing a GPS tracking collar, but they often went into difficult and dangerous territory,” he said. “And our work was compounded by a conflict among tribes that effectively turned the area into a war zone.”

That said, the elephants were not targeted. Poaching, which had been terrible in the area for years, was down. And the elephants felt free to move into areas that might have otherwise been dangerous for them.

“It did however make it hard for us to follow them where ever they went,” Poole said. 

Many baby elephants die in their first year, but Safina’s family nurtured her and kept her safe.

“The baby was super cute, as all baby elephants are,” Poole said. “The family got to know us and that made it easier to get the footage for the show.  It really does take a family to raise a baby elephant and they all chipped in looking after her.” 

The show follows Safina and the other animals as they confront adversities and navigate their habitats in an effort to survive their first year of life. Baby animals in the wild have a 50-50 chance of surviving the first year. And the first three months are critical as they come to grips with the world that surrounds them.

Safina learns to scare birds as she strives to keep up with her fast-moving herd. Jazir, the chimp, has to learn to swing on ropes and make friends to survive. And Fela, the Arctic Fox cub, has to find food for himself—before his siblings beat him to it.

But the greatest threat all these animals will face throughout their lives, the series notes, will be from humans who compete for their land, food and water.

The series is narrated by Wunmi Mosaku, a Nigerian British actor.

“Documenting the animals in their first year was incredibly exciting,” said Poole. “And I think it will be a great TV series.”

Check a preview out at


Even as he finished up shooting Safina, Bob Poole headed to the Mara/Serengeti in northern Tanzania where he just finished a shoot for an NGO called the Mara Elephant Project. The project is trying to secure a future for elephants in the greater Mara/Serengeti ecosystem.

He also just finished leading an expedition for National Geographic in the Serengeti. Now he is headed to a new BBC series in Tanzania where he’ll be one of the hosts.



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