|2008 UK Tiger: Spy in the Jungle|
Summary: To enter the world of this tiger family, John Downer and his wizard team, cameraman Michael Richards and techno-boffin Geoff Bell, deploy the ultimate all-terrain camera vehicles – elephants – kitted out with the latest high-definition ‘secret weapons’ of wildlife filmmaking – trunk-cam, tusk-cam and log-cams. The four elephants here in India’s Pench national park have also been taught new filming skills by their mahouts – how to keep a steady trunk and a delicate touch. As eco-friendly 4X4s, the elephants carry the hefty trunk-cam and smaller tusk-cam wherever the tiger family goes across its 10-square mile territory. The tigers seem oblivious to the elephants and allow them to place trunk-cam right under their whiskers to film. The elephants also use the devices to film the tigers on the move. The human film crew film from another elephant and control the ele-cams remotely.
It’s almost unheard of for four cubs to survive through to adulthood, and these four face many dangers along the way – from rogue male tigers and leopards in their territory to being left home alone. Tiger – Spy in the Jungle is there every step of the way.
This three-part BBC series was filmed over a period of two years, in the tiger reserve of Pench national park in central India. And you know what the clever thing was? The filmmakers used elephants — or, as narrator David Attenborough calls them, the ultimate all-terrain camera vehicle — to get the cameras near the tigers. And the high-definition cameras were hidden inside fake tree trunks, or logs. So because tigers are used to seeing elephants in their territory, they didn't bat an eyelid or raise a claw. Which means that here we have, as Attenborough points out, probably the most intimate portrait ever of tigers in the wild.
The main focus of the series is a female tiger and her four cubs (two boys and two girls, if you must know). We meet the cubs a few days after they are born, and follow them to adulthood. We watch these beautiful animals as they first learn to walk, and later learn to play and then to hunt. We watch as their mother hunts for their food (these tigers having a pretty good diet, mainly living on venison) and teaches them about the dangers they will face. And as with all BBC nature series — especially any that involve Attenborough — this is brilliant and fascinating stuff.