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Published: 21 May 2016

By Andy Ross

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Zoo Quest in colour

If you love natural history in all its shapes and forms then David Attenborough will surely be familiar to you. In this, his 90th year, a very special film has just been shown on telly in the UK and it is absolutely brilliant. 

One of the first series that Sir David made was Zoo Quest in which an intrepid pair of young men set out to look for exotic creatures in far-flung places with just their wits and some camera equipment to accompany them. We have been able to relive their adventures through the black and white films which have been periodically shown on the television and which are available in the UK on iPlayer. A little while back an extraordinary discovery was made in the vaults of the BBC; the original cans of film with the negatives untouched and undamaged inside and, best of all, these films were shot in full colour! Ten years before colour television was available in Britain, much of Zoo Quest was filmed in glorious colour and then forgotten about. 

If you live in the UK you can see the documentary, which shows a lot of the original footage, on iPlayer. As the programme was not only about hunting for animals and birds but also looked at the people who lived in the regions the duo visited; West Africa, Guiana and Borneo and Komodo among them, they are very interesting because of the clothes people wore and the activities such as weaving or playing gamelan that were filmed. The difference it makes to see people in colour is amazing. Suddenly those far off days in the 1950's aren't so far away...