A little more than 20 years ago, sci-fi/comedy writer Douglas Adams (The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, etc.) joined forces with zoologist Mark Carwardine and traveled the world looking for the "last chance to see" animals at the ragged cusp of extinction. The result was Last Chance to See, one of the finest books I've ever read, and easily the best work of nature/travel/conservation writing.
This BBC series of 6 shows, presented by actor and polymath Stephen Fry and the same zoologist who accompanied Adams, Carwardine, retraces the steps of the earlier expedition in an effort to see how the animals are now faring. I can think of no greater compliment to pay this effort than to proclaim that Adams, who died in May of 2001, would have been "over the moon" to see this movie--although he would undoubtedly be horrified to discover the state of some of the animals he came to cherish, not least the Yangtze river dolphin, which has since been declared officially extinct.
Fry, who was very good friends with Adams is a natural stand-in for the role of wry, wise, innocent, awe-struck and witty commentator that Adams formerly played. It is Fry's child-like enthusiasm, his touching vulnerability (wed to a remarkable gameness in the face of genuine dangers and discomforts), and his brilliant comments (could really have come up with "kiwi-pedia" on the spot when referring to a source of information about the flightless bird?) that make the series especially compelling. Ordinarily there is nothing I hate more that movies about nature that instead focus on people (where Steve Irwin really fell down, I think, is that his enthusiasm became his shtick and the chances he took belied a LACK of proper respect for nature, and he simply became more important through such excesses than the animals for whom he was presumably meant to be carnival barker). The Life (narrated by David Attenborough) [Blu-ray] BBC series gets things exactly right in this regard, I think, and allows the animals, plants, and natural settings and features stand largely on their own without a lot of human intervention to keep the story flowing.
But in this case one man's journey--Fry's that is--is as much the point as the animals themselves are. Because Fry is a perfect everyman. A bit clumsy (he trips on a boat on their first adventure, into the Amazon, breaking his arm badly and having to fly to Miami for extensive reconstructive surgery), not terribly knowledgeable, reluctant to give up the trappings of civilization, cautiously hopeful but poignantly realistic about wildlife's chances--he stands perfectly for an audience of people like most of us. He is Watson to Carwardine's Sherlock Holmes. It is a strikingly effective and entertaining human-centered view of conservation.
Besides Carwardine and Fry, the stars of this wonderful series include manatees, rhinos, Komodo dragons, whales, sea horses, kakapos (strange, plump flightless parrots), lemurs, and a cast of fascinating extras, with terrific cameos (like the one by a pygmy chameleon--an unbelievably tiny adult lizard).
I cannot recommend this series more highly, but I would add a strong suggestion: If you have not read Adams's book yet, read that first. It's far from necessary, but will add an extra layer of enjoyment to your viewing experience (and is well-worth the effort in any case). If you're not much of a reader, visit the BBC's Last Chance to See website for links to radio shows and other media presentations of Adams's original work related to the book. Understanding the context for this new series helps enrich your sense of tragedy and accomplishment as various conservation successes (Komodo dragon) and failures (northern white rhino) unfold.