Stephen James "Steve" Backshall (born 21 April 1973) is a BAFTA-winning British naturalist, writer and television presenter, best known for BBC TV's Deadly 60. He has presented over 1000 television programmes, travelled to over 100 countries, is president of several wildlife charities, a Gold Blue Peter badge holder and holds an honorary PhD. On camera he has been seen making first ascents of mountains, exploring unknown cave systems, being bitten by snakes, a crocodile and shark, attacked by hippos, walrus and elephants, yet insists the most frightening and dangerous animal is man.
Born Stephen James Backshall on April 21, 1973 in Bagshot, Surrey, Backshall was brought up on a smallholding, surrounded by rescue animals. His parents both worked for British Airways, and the family travelled to exotic places from when Backshall was an infant. He backpacked solo around Asia, India and Africa at a young age and studied English and Theatre Studies at the University of Exeter, then went on to study biology at the Open University.
After university, Backshall lived in Japan for a year, studying martial arts; he gained a black belt in judo and brown belt in karate. His first job on returning to the UK was as author on the Rough Guides to Indonesia and South East Asia. In 1997 he attempted to walk solo across the western half of New Guinea, then known as Irian Jaya; he was in the rainforest for three months, but was ultimately unsuccessful. He then had an idea for a series, bought a video camera, and went to the jungles of Colombia, where he made a pilot which he sold to National Geographic's television channel, who employed him in 1998 as their 'Adventurer in Residence'.
Backshall spent five years as a presenter and producer with National Geographic, before moving to the BBC's Really Wild Show in 2003. After four years the show was cut, and he began on the BBC Natural History Unit’s expedition team, making series such as Lost Land of the Jaguar. In 2008 Deadly 60 was commissioned, followed by the Live n Deadly offshoot, the aim of which was to inspire children to get outside and interested in wildlife and adventure. In 2010 and 2011 Backshall took the show on the road, travelling to 20 destinations around the UK; as many as 35,000 people applied for tickets for each day to see Backshall answer questions on wildlife, and the biggest single crowd was 14,000 people.
In July 2008, while attempting to climb a cliff face which was wet from an earlier rainfall, Backshall fell 10 metres (33 ft) onto rocks in the Wye Valley in the Forest of Dean. The impact sent his heel bone through the bottom of his foot, dislocated his ankle, and fractured two vertebrae in his back. In 2012, Backshall was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Exeter.
The "Deadly" programmes see Backshall travelling the world in search of predators that are, "Not just deadly to me, but deadly in their own world". He has dived outside of the cage with great white, bull, great hammerhead, mako and tiger sharks, caught king cobras, black mambas and lanceheads, had a redback spider crawl across his hand and was bitten on screen by a caiman whilst searching for anaconda in an Argentinian swamp. The programmes are transmitted on Nat Geo Wild, Animal Planet and BBC worldwide. They are currently filming the fourth season of the series, Deadly Pole to Pole 2013-2014, Steve and the team travel from the Arctic circle to Antarctica, journeying south through the Americas in search of Deadly animals. Highlights included being hunted by a Polar bear whilst in his kayak in Svalbard, filming feeding sharks and eagles using timeslice technology, exploring flooded caves and the insides of a glacier, and catching dozens of species of snake and crocodile. He was bitten by a shark live on camera, but saved by a chainmail shark suit.
"Supergiants" BBC. I Steve seeks to explain why certain species get to be so big. The highlights were diving with enormous Nile crocodiles in the Okavango Delta, and performing an underwater ballet with a female sperm whale.
"Swimming with Monsters" for Discovery TV. These four programmes achieved real firsts: diving alongside a five-metre anaconda on the bottom of a Brazilian swamp, with Humboldt Squid, and most memorably alongside great white sharks without the safety of a cage. Perhaps most dangerous was the moment he swam into a hippo on the bottom of a murky pool in Botswana.
"Lost Land of the Tiger" for BBC One saw the expedition team travel to Bhutan, and discover a new population of Bengal tigers, living higher in the Himalayas than had ever been recorded before. They also made the first ever descent of the grade V whitewater river the Drangme Chu. In "Lost Land of the Volcano", Backshall led the first expedition ever to enter extinct Mount Bosavi in Papua New Guinea, where they discovered new species of cuscus, frogs and giant rat, the biggest on earth. They also uncovered miles of passage in Mageni cave system in New Britain. In 2007, the BBC expedition team headed to Guyana for "Lost Land of the Jaguar", during which Backshall took part in the first expedition ever to successfully climb Mount Upuigma. On the summit they discovered an endemic species of frog and mouse, and also footprints of an unidentified mammal. In Venom Hunter for Discovery TV, he travelled South America aiming to find out as much as possible about venom, including taking part in the bullet ant ritual, where he was stung hundreds of times by the world’s most painful stinging insect. He also filmed Extreme Caving for BBC One with Kate Humble and Secret Wilderness Japan for BBC Two. During this time he also presented Nature Reports for the BBC's The One Show. On-air adventures in 2006 included Sky One’s Inside the King Cobra and the BBC's Expedition Borneo, where the team went in search of new species. Steve was the first person ever to explore the caves below a mighty sinkhole in the Mulu mountains of Borneo, and also to make the first ascent of the North Face of Mount Kuli.
Between 28 May and 15 June 2007, Backshall co-presented Springwatch Trackers alongside Kirsten O'Brien. Transmitted live on BBC Two from the Springwatch farm in Devon, teams of boys and girls were set a series of Tracker challenges. In 2013, Backshall voiced a series on BBC Four called "Nature's Microworlds".
For National Geographic International, Backshall presented the expedition series Game For It and the environmental series EarthPulse. For Bootcamp, he completed the Israeli special forces selection course, running 60 miles overnight to gain their red beret. UK television viewers saw him travelling up Australia’s east coast from Tasmania to Cape Tribulation for his first series of The Really Wild Show. In the next series he then went on to travel around Central America, the Galapagos, and then Southern Africa for the last ever series in 2006. He competed with fellow naturalist Nick Baker in a series of wildlife challenges, with long-standing host Michaela Strachan.
In May 2012 the first of a series of a series of fiction novels entitled "The Falcon Chronicles" was published. The first novel is called "Tiger Wars". It is about the adventures of a young boy and girl on the run, against the background of the war on tiger poaching; 'in the spirit of Willard Price for today's youngsters'. Tiger Wars has been nominated for the Branford Boase award. The second in the series is called "Ghosts of the Forest, and was released in 2013, the third is called "The Wilds of the Wolf", and is released in spring of 2014.
"Looking for Adventure" is somewhere between an autobiography and an extended story of his expeditions in New Guinea. This is aimed at an adult reader, and tells much about his childhood in ‘the heart of normal’ in rural Surrey. Backshall began working as a writer for publisher Rough Guides, and is an author on their Indonesia guide. He continues to contribute to British newspapers. His book Venom: Poisonous Creatures in the Natural World was published in 2007, and is a scientific analysis of venoms and poisons, with an in-depth look at animals that use natural toxins. Deadly 60 is the book of series one, and is a diary style breakdown of each animal and how they were found and filmed. Wildlife Adventurer's Guide was published in 2009. It is aimed at young naturalists, and provides a guide to having adventures in the UK. In 2011 he released "Looking for Adventure", which was the story of his many expeditions in New Guinea, including much about his childhood and how he got into television. "Predators", also in Orion Publishing breaks down predatory animals into their main features, and is highly illustrated. In 2012 he also released "Deadly Diaries" with Orion publishers. It is a diary style book of series III Deadly 60. His "Deadly Detectives" is a 'how to' book, teaching the skills of tracking animals by their signs, scat and prints.
Rock climbing and other sports
Backshall is a rock climber and mountaineer, does adventure races, fell runs and endurance sports. He has climbed such peaks as Cho Oyu 8201m, Cholatse and is an advanced Himalayan Expedition leader from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. He ran the Marathon des Sables 243 km across the Sahara desert in 2005 to raise money for the Wolftrust Backshall has a black belt in judo, attained after a year living in Japan studying the martial art. kayaked the Devizes to Westminster canoe race which involves kayaking 125 miles down the river Thames in 24 hours, Steve has competed in numerous triathlons, adventure races and fell running events. Best finishes include winning the ‘Extreme’ and ‘Last Man Standing’ events at UK Tough Guy, and finishing 9th overall. He also has a best place of 4th in the Welsh 1000m peak marathon.
In 2011, Backshall won two BAFTAs; best Children's Television Presenter, and Best Factual series. In 2009 and 2013, Backshall was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Children's Television Presenter, and his series Deadly 60 was nominated for Best Children's series. Additionally he was nominated for Best Factual series for Lost Land of the Jaguar, as well as being nominated for an Emmy in the US for Expedition Borneo. Lost Land of the Volcano won the 2012 Wildscreen award for best popular broadcast.
- The Guardian Steve Backshall Interview. Retrieved 10 March 2013
- The Complete University Guide, Exeter. Retrieved 10 March 2013
- Looking for Adventure, Orion Publishers, 2009
- "CBBC - Live 'n' Deadly". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- Daily Mail Backshall Breaks 25ft Fall
- Davies, Ella (2010-11-11). "BBC - Earth News - Caiman attacks wildlife presenter filming in Argentina". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- Walker, Matt (2010-09-20). "BBC - Earth News - Lost tiger population discovered in Bhutan mountains". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- BBC Earth News
- "Conquering a virgin", The Times, November 11, 2007
- Jo Sarsby Management: Steve Backshall
- BBC expedition stories
- Tiger Wars (Hardback). "Tiger Wars - 9781444004380". Orion Books. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- Rough-Guide Indonesia
- New Holland Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84537-734-2
- Backshall's Deadly 60
- New Holland Publishers Wildlife Adventure's Guide
- "Orion Children's Books to publish action-packed Steve Backshall books". Orion Books. 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- "Marathon des Sables Introduction". Saharamarathon.co.uk. 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- MySpace.com: Backshall
- Electricwebsites - Essex, UK - 0203 0159099. "Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon". Dwrace.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- [dead link]
- "2011 British Academy Children's Awards Winners - Children's - Awards - The BAFTA site". Bafta.org. 2011-11-24. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- BAFTA Nominations
- The Really Wild Show
- Steve Backshall on IMDb
- Steve's wildlife stories on location with the BBC
- Steve Backshall on BBC's Live'n'Deadly show