One of Tom Hugh Jones earliest memories is running around a Jungle, naked with his pet marmoset. The producer and director of BBC’s hit series Human Planet explains, “My Mother and Father were anthropologists and when I was about 4 years old they took me and my sister to the Columbian Amazon to live with an indigenous tribe that my Father was studying. We were there for about 18 months and I have vivid memories of running around naked with the local kids, swimming in the river and playing with blow pipes.
I remember we were horrified watching the locals catch and eat wild animals at first but as we got more and more hungry it all changed. I have eaten all sorts,” he admits, “monkey, parrot, caterpillars and grubs. In fact on the Jungle episode of Human Planet I’m the one who is retching as I try to eat sago grubs, they just reminded me of eating them as a kid. I hated them then and I hate then now,” he laughs.
Other than his girlfriend and young children, Tom admits that the thing he misses most whilst working in the most remote locations is fresh vegetables and salads. “I’m a really keen gardener and love growing my own veggies,” he explains, “or I did until the kids came along, then it all went to seed a bit. We have just moved house and finished working on the interior so I’m thinking about the garden again. I think I’ll get an allotment this time as it’s all quite time consuming. I used to put in a ridiculous amount of effort in our old garden I think each carrot probably cost me a tenner to grow. This time, I want to get the most rewards and biggest harvests that I can and am looking forward to teaching the kids about growing their own food.”
“Both my parents are obsessive about gardening. My dad does all the digging and Mum tells him where to do it.” Despite his name and the fact that his parents live in Wales, Tom admits he is only a little bit Welsh, though he does love our countryside. “My parents live in a wild place up on a mountain in mid Wales, it’s beautiful. I love walking and camping and just being outdoors; I think my passion for the natural World came from those early days in the Jungle.
And it was the Jungle episode of Human Planet that had added pressures for Tom, “I had all the usual pressures of entertaining the viewers but obviously I wanted my Dad to be proud of that particular episode. I felt I was under severe anthropological scrutiny,” he laughs.
Tom is also a bit bemused by all the attention he had received from this series ; he is keen to credit his whole team and refers specifically to both Rachel and Willow’s contribution. “We all work really hard at making the tribes comfortable and at ease with us but the girls are particularly good at it.
“People tend to think of the indigenous people as ‘poor tribal people’ but they are the real stars of the Show. We live in such an age of celebrity, where people follow people just because they’re famous but these humble people we have worked with are now becoming true stars in their own right. They are not influenced by the outside World at all and are just natural and not at all self conscious. I have always felt that TV programmes like ours have a great responsibility and it’s rewarding for us to see the Governments have realised that uncontacted tribes do exist and are now protecting them.”
Find out more at www.bbc.co.uk/nature/humanplanetexplorer