Dynasties: Sir David Attenborough's new BBC series explores the plight of families in the animal kingdom

Sir David Attenborough is returning to our screens this weekend for a major new natural history series, Dynasties.

Airing on BBC1 on Sunday nights at 8.30pm, this five-part programme follows on from the hugely popular Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II to explore the lives of different tribes from the animal kingdom.

Each episode will take a different species in a different part of the world for its subject.

The first follows a troop of chimpanzees in the jungles of Senegal and Guinea, West Africa, and the plight of its alpha male, also named David.

The primate faces challenges to his leadership after three years at the helm and will have to fight to retain control. The power struggle he finds himself in is further complicated by the coming dry season, which poses new threats from forest fires and dwindling resources.

Subsequent instalments follow Emperor penguins in Atka Bay in Antarctica, lions on the plains of the Masa Mara reserve in Kenya, painted wolves in the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe and tigers in India’s Bandhavgarh National Park.

The 309-day jungle shoot involved the film crew following the chimps on foot, often as far as 15 miles in 40C heat, while an 11-month stay on the ice shelf of the world’s southernmost continent brought temperatures of -30 and required regular breaks to scrape ice from goggles and camera lenses. 

“The physical demands were huge, but the rewards immense,” producer Rosie Thomas told The Radio Times.

The team managed to capture rare footage of penguins huddling over their eggs and tiger cubs at play and hope their work will highlight underappreciated aspects of their subjects’s behaviour: from the vital role lionesses play within their pride to the resilience of Africa’s wild dogs.

Sir David himself has said of the project: “I don’t think anyone has dared to do this before. When Mike [Gunton, executive producer] first told me, I thought he was barmy – to devote two years to filming one group within one species and say ‘we will show you exactly what happens’  is either very brave or very foolish, because supposing nothing happens? And in lots of instances in the natural world, nothing does happen.”

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Combining the exquisite HD photography of its predecessors with political intrigue to rival Game of Thrones and a timely examination of the impact of climate change on some of our planet’s most beautiful animals, Dynasties promises to provide gripping television.

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