Human Planet: BBC admits tribe treehouse building scene was faked

Scenes of tribal people constructing high treehouses as homes were staged for documentary filmmakers

Human Planet treehouse scene screenshot (BBC, EH)

The BBC has admitted that a scene from the documentary Human Planet featuring tribal people building treehouses was faked.

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In one episode of the series, which aired in 2011, the Korowai people of Papua New Guinea are seen constructing treehouses high in the jungle canopy.

However, during the making of a new BBC2 documentary, My Year with the Tribe, it emerged that the scene had been staged by tribal people “for the benefit of overseas programme makers”.

A statement made by the BBC says that since the documentary was broadcast, the broadcaster has strengthened its “editorial guidelines, standards and values” for factual filmmakers.

“The BBC has been alerted to a breach of editorial standards in an episode of Human Planet from 2011 which concerns the Korowai people of West Papua,” the statement read.

“During the making of BBC2’s upcoming documentary series, My Year With The Tribe, a member of the tribe discusses how they have built very high tree houses for the benefit of overseas programme makers.

“The BBC has reviewed a sequence in Human Planet depicting this and found that the portrayal of the tribe moving into the treehouse as a real home is not accurate.

“Since this programme was broadcast in 2011, we have strengthened our mandatory training for all staff in editorial guidelines, standards and values.”

Watch the scene from 2011 below.

This is the second time that the John Hurt-narrated series has been criticised. In 2015, it was revealed that a semi-domesticated wolf was used after producers failed to find any wild wolves on location for the episode Deserts: Life in the Furnace.

In the footage, two Mongolian camel herders fire shots in the direction of the “wild” animal as it runs across the Gobi desert, before expressing their frustration at failing to kill it.

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The BBC later admitted that the semi-domesticated wolf had been let off a lead just off camera and was actually running to its handler, who was standing out of shot.