Commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as one of its Centenary Commissions.

Related works: Camille Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals

Programme Note

Composed in 2020 for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's centenary celebrations, Carnival of the Endangered Animals is a 21st century accompaniment to Camille Saint-Saëns’ classic work. Debbie Wiseman chose six currently endangered species, capturing their characters in music whilst also drawing attention to their plight, which includes threats from hunting, pollution, habitat loss and climate change.

I. Red Panda
Living predominantly in the Eastern Himalayas and threatened due to deforestation and hunting, the red panda population is currently less than 10,000.
Fun fact: In order that they can run down trees headfirst, red pandas rotate their ankles 180 degrees so that their feet face backwards, giving their claws better grip on the tree trunk…

II. Galapagos Penguin
The only penguin species found north of the equator and in the Galápagos is threatened by pollution and climate change and has a population of less than 2,000.
Fun fact: These penguins swim like torpedoes, accelerating to nearly 22 miles per hour. Compare that with Team GB’s Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Adam Peaty, who at full tilt clocks just under 5mph, so if they ever have a race, get your money on the penguin!

III. Blue Whale
The largest and loudest animal on the planet with a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and a call louder than a jet engine. With a population of between 10,000 and 25,000 the blue whale is threatened by habitat loss and pollution.
Fun facts: Blue whales aren’t really blue! They’re grey – it’s the combination of the colour of the sea water and the light from the sun that make them look blue underwater.

IV. Black Rhino
Although the population has increased in the past 20 years the black rhino remains critically endangered with around 5,500 living in Africa and threatened by illegal hunting and the trade in rhino horn.
Fun fact: Rhinos are short-sighted – if you stood still 30 metres away from a rhino he wouldn’t be able to see you.

V. Polar Bear
The change in habitat due to the melting of the ice cap is the greatest threat to the polar bear, the largest bear in the world and the Arctic's top hunter, whose population numbers between 22,000 and 31,000.
Fun fact: Polar bears can smell food from over half a mile away, even if it is buried under three feet of snow!

VI. Orangutan
The largest of the tree-dwelling apes, the orangutan is critically endangered due to hunting and the illegal wildlife trade. The population of Bornean and Sumatran Orangutans is currently less than 120,000.
Fun fact: An orangutan’s arm span can reach up to 8 feet; so with a bit of training, they’d make brilliant goalkeepers!

Programme note © 2021 Debbie Wiseman/Chester Music Ltd.

[SOURCE: World Wildlife Fund]