TRIBUTE
by Andrew Buchanan

I first worked with Adrian at the BBC Natural History Unit, then at IMAX, and finally at Partridge Films, so he was my colleague and friend for 30 years. It was a privilege to take part in his memorial service today by speaking about his life and career.

"Among wildlife filmmakers, Adrian was a true silverback – I was proud to be his colleague and honoured to be his friend.

50 or so films, thousands of beautiful photographs, articles, scripts, books, lectures - Adrian leaves a wonderful legacy.

Add two pilot’s licences, 2,000 parachute jumps, high-tech wing mounts, paragliding, scuba diving, expeditions – how did he ever find time to do all this?

Those of us who are lucky enough to have worked with Adrian know how, and why. He was driven by a deep desire to do the very best, and his determination pulled those of us around him along, even when he was pushing the limits. And he always led from the front.

Who could persuade an entire crew to be strapped to parachutists, and dropped onto the top of a Venezuelan table-mountain. Adrian!

Who, with little more than a climbing rope and harness, got those amazing tracking shots through the rainforest canopy? Adrian!

Who on earth would set out to prove it was possible to freefall from 14,000 ft – with an IMAX camera? Adrian!

And who got me to make a speech, in correct diplomatic French, in the Rwandan parliament? Yes, it was Adrian!

I was fortunate to work with Adrian, and I was also fortunate NOT to be on some of his jungle filming trips. He coped, no he thrived, when the going was tough. Stifling heat, high humidity and huge leeches didn’t deter him – though his crews sometimes longed for a more comfortable life. I’m also very happy that I wasn’t with him when he and the cameraman had to drink a traditional tribal brew. The recipe is simple - crush palm nuts, add water and put in a big pot; get tribe’s oldest woman to chew more nuts and spit them into the pot. Leave to ferment, then share with friends. A week later, Bristol Royal Infirmary’s Pathology lab was looking at some very unusual specimens.

So why did we allow ourselves to be pulled along by him? Because we knew that whatever he wanted us to do was going to be worthwhile. And the tributes from around the world that have been flooding in since his death show how many people enjoyed following Adrian on his exciting ride.

He believed in using television and film to tell people about the beauty of the natural world – and about its fragility in an age dominated by humans. He showed us rare birds and dancing sifakas; he took us on journeys with elephants and wildebeest; he told us stories about vampires, wild pandas and mountain gorillas.

Adrian cared about people too – his long association with and concern for the Waorani tribe is just one example. I remember discussing with him the problems that arise when mountain gorillas and humans have to share the same land. On balance, he’d side with the gorillas, but he had deep sympathy and understanding for the farmers who needed to feed their families.

When preparing this address, I looked at the companies Adrian had worked with:

ABC, BBC, Devillier Donegan, Discovery, IMAX, National Geographic, ORF, Partridge, WGBH, WNET, ZDF - a roll call of the best in natural history programmes. And the awards and praise Adrian received for his films tell us he was among the best of the best.

As television, and the wildlife programmes on it, began to change, Adrian embarked on a new adventure, publishing. This combined his love of flying and photography, and allowed him to build a business that fitted with his family life. We’ve all seen those wonderful books and photos – their beauty and quality a testament to Adrian and Dae’s commitment to excellence.

He was however modest about his achievements – I bet few of us knew he discovered a new species of tree frog, Hyla warreni, that he’d won a Primetime Emmy, or that there’s a character based on him in a play about the famous explorer Colonel Fawcett. He also had the gift of listening – of giving his attention to you. So he inspired close friendships, many of which have lasted for decades.

Adrian was truly multi-talented - his films and his photography are a constant reminder of this. He used his skills as producer, writer, cameraman, photographer and publisher so well, telling us about the planet we share, showing us amazing creatures and places. And his passion for wildlife and conservation always shone through.

He was bursting with life and full of energy. He was brave and tough, and he showed these qualities right to the very end.

Adrian was determined to give his best, and to get us to do the same. And that’s the Adrian we will always remember – a good friend and great colleague who achieved wonderful things."