âHeâd just flown for five hours after injuring himself in a motorbike accident in the forest in Zaire,â the filmmaker Mark Deeble, a friend for whom Mr. Root was a mentor, said of one such reunion, âand his lip was in tatters after a âtameâ marsh mongoose had fastened on and decided it was edible.â
Mr. Root was born on May 12, 1937, in London, where his father managed a fish-paste factory until after World War II, when a new job took him and the family to Kenya. While still a boy, Mr. Root started filming animals, mostly snakes, using an eight-millimeter camera.
His earliest professional jobs included working on the 1959 documentary âSerengeti Shall Not Die,â which was being made by the father-son team of Bernhard and Michael Grzimek. When Michael Grzimek was killed in a plane crash before the film was finished, Mr. Root took it upon himself to complete the movie, which went on to win an Oscar.
In 1961 he married Joan Thorpe, the daughter of a British coffee farmer in Nairobi, and the two collaborated on documentaries that helped bring the natural world to television viewers in England and the United States in vivid fashion.
âBaobab: Portrait of a Treeâ (1973) examined the birds, insects and other animals that live in a particular type of tree found in Africa. âThe Year of the Wildebeestâ (1975) tracked the migration of the great herds in the central African plains. âMysterious Castles of Clayâ (1978) was about giant termite mounds.
The Roots are said to have shown the American zoologist Dian Fossey, of âGorillas in the Mistâ fame, her first mountain gorillas. Years later Mr. Root filmed a sequence for that 1988 movie, in which Sigourney Weaver played…