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Probing the world of species in danger. Quarterly special conveys vivid sense of wonder

Man's intimate relationship with nature is the continuing topic of one of television's most vital new series. It takes seriously Thoreau's words: ``In wilderness is the preservation of the world.'' World of Audubon III (cable superStation WTBS, Monday, June 24, 8:05-9:05; Sunday June 30, 3-4 p.m.; Sunday, July 7, 1:05-2:05 p.m.; Tuesday, July 9, 12:05-1:05 a.m.) probes the universe of endangered species. According to host Cliff Robertson, ``Audubon'' treats each species ``like a spoke in a magic wheel; to lose one is to diminish the whole.''

This third in a series of quarterly specials co-produced by the National Audubon Society and the Turner Broadcasting System delves into the rapidly disappearing world of the California condor, the peregrine falcon, the Florida everglades ecosystem, the Idaho wilderness.

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Singer-songwriter Carole King, secure in her developed Idaho acreage, puts in a word against the land developers who would encroach upon the one-fourth of all Idaho land that remains wild.

And this special visits the Texas ranches that take part in the Species Survival Program, an alliance of ranchers and zoos that raise African and Asian animals to replenish diminished herds of antelopes, zebras, and other endangered species.

Perhaps the most fascinating segments are saved for the end. First there are conversations with astronauts Sally Ride and Bruce McCandless about the environmental discoveries they made during their spectacular rides in space. Says Ms. Ride: ``The overview of planet Earth revealed the extent of interdependence of each country.''

Says Mr. McCandless of his new perspective: ``You can see landmasses but not political borders.''

The final segment is a tribute to John James Audubon, who brought a sense of life to studies of birds. Audubon, a bit ironically for such a conservationist, posed recently killed birds in artificially contrived armatures in order to paint portraits of them looking alive in nature.

Under the aegis of executive producer Christopher N. Palmer, ``World of Audubon III'' was written, directed, and produced by Michael A. Simpson and William VanDerKloot. It is a living, breathing electronic wildlife magazine that seems to revel in sharing with viewers its discovery that the varieties of nature can be depicted on the home screen with a vivid sense of wonder.

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