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Won't you come home Bill Bailey? The comedian and his team of experts arrive in Scotland to help puffins in the Firth of Forth WILD THING: I LOVE YOU SUNDAY, CHANNEL 4,4.50pm.


When Bill Bailey brings his untamed hair to Scotland the wildest thing he usually meets is a boozy audience on the Edinburgh Fringe.

But the comedian's new telly series, Wild Thing - I Love You, has changed all that.

The firstwildlife showto feature the Never Mind the Buzzcocks star does not concentrate on his wild eyes or mad hair.

Instead it seeks out threatened colonies of deer, badgers, adders, water voles and others, then Bill and his experts find a solution to their local difficulties or re-locate the critters to a new home.

Deer in episode one are being mown down while crossing a road through the New Forest. In week two, badgers are displaced by a housing development, and in week three, adders are being shunted out by a road-widening scheme near Carlisle.

But later in the 10-part series Bill and Co head for Craigleith Island in the Firth of Forth, off North Berwick, where puffin numbers mysteriously collapsed while colonies on neighbouring islands multiplied. Bill says: "There was a huge population crash and the reason turned out to be an infestation of tree mallow. The plant was introduced centuries ago because the leaves are soft - they used it as toilet paper. Normally it dies off in a sharp frost but climate change has made the temperature just high enough for it to hang on, and it's blocking the entrances of the puffins' burrows.

"That means they're easily picked off by gulls.

"And tree mallow is so invasive, it could travel up and down the Firth of Forth and do exactly the same on all the other islands."

Bill, 41, reckons his role is to be 'eye candy' for the series but, despite the gags, it's serious for the animals. And instead of alerting viewers to the dangers and helplessly wringing their hands, Bill and friends do something about it. We got a big bunch of volunteers to Craigleith, trimmed all the tree mallow back with loppers and Hoovered up all the seedlings. We cleared a huge area for the puffins and we hope that any seedlings coming up later will be too tender to survive winter.

"It should solve the problem for three or four years."

Bill, who made his comedy breakthrough on the Edinburgh Fringe in the 90s, was back there last year, starring in The Odd Couple with Alan Davies, when Wild Thing producers RDF (who also make Wife Swap) approached him. He said: "They had this idea for a wildlife series with a practical, engineering element.

"You still get to find out all about the animal and get to see it and hear from the experts, but there's also a 'let's get the builders and the diggers in' element. I like the fact that it's hands-on and we actually, physically do something to help. A lot of the solutions are simple and straightforward."

Engineer Jem Stansfield dreams up everything from variable sonic warnings to prevent deer getting run over to building ahibernation hole for re-located adders, Britain's only venomous snake. Ecologist Dusty Gedge and zoologist Dr Sasha Norris are also on hand to make sure endangered critters get the living conditions they need to survive.

Back home in West London, Bill and wife Kris, 43, have a menagerie of their own to maintain, along with son Dax, who's three in December. They have cockatoos, cats, a rabbit, a guinea pig - and chameleons called Posh and Becks!
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 14, 2006
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