FOR the roots of Steve Backshall’s intrepid nature look no further than his upbringing in the English countryside.
“Both my parents are very outdoors orientated people and pretty much insisted my sister and I spend our young lives outside,” recalls the adventurer who has just had his début novel Tiger Wars published.
“They bought a small farmhouse so we were surrounded by rescue animals and woodland full of wild ones.
“Both of us luckily really embraced it. Everything you do outdoors should be done with wildlife in mind; the second you start keying into the wildlife around you it adds a little extra element to everything you do, whether it’s walking the dog, wandering to the shops, going for a mountain bike ride or surfing.”
So it is easy to see why this quietly-spoken gent suddenly becomes like a kid on Christmas morning when he chances upon a creature on the telly, usually with more teeth than sense, having trekked for days.
“I am not necessarily after just the dangerous stuff. Probably my highlight of the whole last series was diving with blue whales in Sri Lanka. There’s no way that could do any damage, but that was overwhelming. As a naturalist I love seeing things that are new...insects, behaviours, the grand and unexpected.
“And the trick is finding that thing people are going to find fascinating about an animal - that’s quite difficult because I find every animal fascinating. Once you’ve got that hook they can sense my genuine enthusiasm and hopefully go along with it.”
One thing Steve will never describe himself as is fearless, however, whether he is mixing it with wildlife or the “glitterati of Sheffield climbing at Stanage, a mecca for UK climbers”.
“Anyone who is truly fearless wouldn’t last very long in my profession. I just don’t have irrational fears. I don’t jump onto a chair when I see a spider – quite the opposite.
“There’s been a lot of wildlife programming over the last 10/15 years more about the presenter doing something daring and macho and much less about the animal.
“That’s the wrong way round. Once you’re there you have to read their body language. If they’re telling you to go away you should. Nothing’s worth stressing animals out for.”
Although some animals have stressed Steve and his crew before now. Not least in Madagascar.
“We had a bunch of brown limas come into our huts. They went through our filming equipment and stole everything near the food. The sight of the whole camera crew running off into the forest chasing after these limas...”