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Life Story

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With Life Story, David Attenborough takes us on the greatest of all adventures – the journey through life. Find out more, and watch clips from the series.

By: The OpenLearn team (The Open University,)

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An elephant family surrounds a youngster at a ‘salt lick’ in Kenya. The youngster has the best start in life, growing up with the protection of its family and learning from decades of acquired knowledge passed down through generations. Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC/Anup Shah An elephant family surrounds a youngster at a salt lick in Kenya

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Sir David Attenborough takes us on the journey through life, a story that unites each of us with every animal on the planet, because we all set out on this journey from the moment we are born.

For animals there is just one goal in life – to continue their bloodline in the form of offspring. They are an animal’s legacy for the future. The story of their journey is about hope, facing danger, actions of breath-taking boldness, extraordinary behaviours and, ultimately, success against the odds.

This series follows that journey through its six crucial stages:

Life Story brings a new level of story-telling to the landmark genre, creating an experience 
that is both intimate and intense. We follow the struggles and triumphs of individual animals, drawing the viewer into their worlds to sense the danger, the challenges and the decisions they must face.

Episode guide - complete with clips to watch now




In the final episode of Life Story, animals attempt to rear their offspring. This takes extraordinary commitment, and a parent may even need to risk its own life for its offspring. A female turtle, returning to the island where she was born 30 years ago, hauls herself up the beach to lay her eggs in a safe place above the tide line. But her commitment may prove her undoing. The low tide traps her on the island behind a wall of coral. If she cannot climb over it the heat of the sun will kill her.

A mother bonobo chimpanzee lavishes care on her son for five years, deep in the Congo forest. Their bond will endure for the rest of her life. She will teach him how to survive in the jungle. One of her most important lessons is showing him a hidden forest pool where they harvest lilies rich in minerals essential for their good health.

A mother zebra must decide where to lead her young foal across the Mara river so that they can reach new grazing grounds. Should she cross where they will face predators such as crocodiles? Or should she lead her foal through treacherous rapids? Her foal's life may rest on the decision she makes.

In a touching scene elephants delicately stroke the bones of an ancestor. We cannot know what they are thinking, but perhaps like humans they have a sense of a shared history? It is a communal experience that appears to draw the family members closer together.

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
First steps Each generation's greatest challenge - to ensure the next generation thrives. Read more
Growing up From the cradle to the grave can be a short journey - it's a challenge out there. Read more
Home A shelter and a refuge. But even some of the creatures of the wild can face a housing crisis. Read more
Power Strength can take many forms - but without it, you're sunk Read more
Courtship Without Tinder to rely on, how do animals find the right mate? Read more
Parenthood Some parents are more closely involved than others. Read more
The full circle So it's come to this: A Life Story clips show. Read more



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