LIFE IN AFRICA HAS MADE A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE FOR THE LEGGY EX-CHILDREN'S TV GIRL: I'LL NEVER FORGET MY ELEPHANT ORPHANS; Michaela Strachan Made Her Name as a Mini-Skirted Siren on the Hitman and Her, but Now She's a Natural History TV Presenter, Living in Cape Town with Her Partner and New Baby. It's All a Long Way from Her Scottish Family Roots. GRAHAM KEAL Met Her during a Brief Return to Britain
Byline: GRAHAM KEAL
THEY say pregnancy is infectious and that you catch the urge from cooing over other people's babies. But for new mum Michaela Strachan it seems it was orphaned baby elephants that did the trick. When she was pregnant, natural history TV presenter Michaela even wanted to name her imminent arrival after one of the elephants she got to know during the filming of BBC1's heart-tugging Elephant Diaries.
The programme, which is on every night next week, follows the work at the David Sheldrick Trust orphanage in Nairobi, where staff have been saving the lives of abandoned baby elephants for more than 50 years.
For one-time children's TV presenter Michaela, filming at the orphanage and in Kenya's vast Tsavo National Park was close to home in more ways than one.
Not only did it foster her maternal instincts, but filming meant she was not too far away from South Africa, where she has been living for the last 18 months.
The series moved Michaela, 39, so much that she seriously considered naming her baby after one of her young charges.
She said: 'One of my particular favourites was called Lualeni, which is also a place in Kenya.There was another one called Nalitu, which is a flower in the desert which blooms after rains, and again I thought 'What a beautiful name - it's like a miracle'.'
But Malawian partner Nick Chevalier, 45, must have prevailed because the couple's son, who arrived a couple of weeks ago, has been named Oliver Felix.
Widower Nick, aTV producer and director, is already dad to three teenage children.
Michaela was seven months pregnant as we chatted over a cappuccino in a modest cafe close to the Bristol headquarters of the BBC's Natural History Unit.
Nowadays her career and her life is far removed from her days as the snake-hipped dancing queen of Nineties clubbing show The Hitman and Her, which she co-presented with Pete Waterman.
After the break-up of Michaela's marriage to wildlife producer and ecologist Duncan Chard three years ago, she bought a holiday home in Cape Town,where she met Nick.
Eventually she moved her base from Bristol to Cape Town, after it was suggested to her.
Michaela said: 'It seemed an absolutely mad idea at first. I said 'Don't be ridiculous! I can't do that. My work means I have to go all over the world.' And they said 'Well why not do it from Cape Town?' And it was amazing how simple it was.'
It's a long way from her family's Scottish roots. Her father Ian, who sadly died during the making of Elephant Diaries, grew up in England but both his parents were Scottish. For Michaela, though, nationality is not important.
She said: 'We have a family tartan which we apparently used to share with the Stewarts and I've got a kilt, but I don't think of myself as Scottish or English or British even. I see myself as a citizen of the world. …