Dave Salmoni

Animal Planet expanded its focus a few years ago, adopting the "Surprisingly Human" tagline and adding shows about people with unique animal stories (think Mike Tyson raising pigeons). But the channel never turned its back on wildlife programming, and as Animal Planet unveils its new programming lineup this week, there's a renewed emphasis on natural history.

Leading Animal Planet's slate is Frontier Earth With Dave Salmoni, which follows famed natural history host Salmoni as he showcases rare animals and meets with scientists who are experts in their various animal fields. "Dave is a universally recognized ambassador to the wildlife world," says Animal Planet programming head Rick Holzman. "He's a great gatekeeper for us, and has a mass following. People love him, and he's a genuine character... This is a great chance to take a look at very intimate stories over a wide range of locales and animals."

Animal Planet will announce six episodes of Frontier Earth today, featuring episodes such as "The Woman Who Swims with Killer Whales," featuring Dr. Ingrid Visser, a scientist who's one of the few in the world to dive with killer whales. Another episode, "Anna and the Gremlins," centers on primatologist Anna Nekaris, who studies the cuddly-yet-poisonous slow loris.

Other natural history events coming to Animal Planet include Wild Arabia, from the filmmakers behind sister network Discovery's Planet Earth and Frozen Planet. Filmmaker Gordon Buchanan worked on Polar Bear Family and Me, Wild Hawaii and Swamplands. The network will also announce The Afterlife: Hippo and The Afterlife: Elephant.

Holzman says the new crop of natural history programming looks different: For one thing, there are no "guys in khakis with funny accents talking to us about what we're seeing in the background." He credits Planet Earth and Frozen Planet for changing the way people look at natural history on TV.

Instead, as Animal Planet has grown its programming to be more mainstream and adult-focused, "the natural history stuff has taken on a reinvigorated life," he says. That includes working closer with programming partners such as the BBC. Says Holzman: "We're doubling down."

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