National Geographic offers Great Migrations

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An epic documentary series captures never-seen footage of some of the planet's most remarkable species.

A great white shark devouring an elephant seal, Mali elephants paying tribute to a calf that died in the scorching sun, massive numbers of white-eared kob of the Sudan thought to have been wiped out during 20 years of violent unrest -- these are just some of the breathtaking images captured in National Geographic's epic new series, Great Migrations.

The staggering series, filmed over a two-year period, captures wildlife in vast numbers as animals migrate from location to location. It is the most ambitious project ever undertaken in National Geographic's 122-year history.

Producer David Hamlin says advancements in science and technology have helped create a lavish document of the world's species, with images in extraordinary detail including some captured via the first radio transmitter attached to a butterfly.

"It was a tiny little radio transmitter. The world of miniaturisation has not gone unnoticed in the scientific community: the people who study migrations, the people that study insects. It was the first radio tag on a monarch," he says.

"It's incredibly tiny, it's got this little antenna on the back and it's absolutely remarkable, and it's a really great scene. The scientist who did it his name is Martin Wikelski from Princeton University.

"He's like this giddy child when he releases that monarch and it flies away you can tell it was the greatest moment in his career. It's going to reveal incredible data for us about not just where these animals move but how they move."

Narrated by Alec Baldwin in Australia and the US, and Stephen Fry in the UK, the series examines not simply where the planet's species move, but how.

"How many calories the animals burn to get up and go and do what they do? How many wing beats does it take for a monarch, how many hoof beats if you're a wildebeest?" asks Hamlin.

"That whole (scientific) universe is revealing a lot of information and it's playing heavily into what I hope is one of the big things we do in the series, which is rewrite the term 'migration' for people. It requires a real rethink, me included."


The series also features two Australian migrations, flying foxes in Queensland and Christmas Island's dinner plate-sized red crabs that travel en masse from interior forests to mate on the beaches, braving intense battles with ferocious yellow ants.

"I thought everybody knew about the crabs and I've learned that here not everybody knows about this magnificent tale in their backyard. I guess Christmas Island is known for some modern political realities," Hamlin admits.

"But if I can, any role I play in having people recognise this as a magnificent wonder and the incredible dramas being played out on the forest floor of that island, I'd be very proud."

Great Migrations will premiere globally, airing in Australia at 7:30pm and in the UK at 9pm on Sunday, November 7 on National Geographic.

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