Big bodies are the superstars of wildlife. No afterimage in attributes can be added arresting than lions, tigers, leopards or jaguars – all of them awful endangered species.
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But the agrarian cat apple is abundant added assorted than we realise. There are 40 kinds of cat, from the arrogant Bengal tiger to the tiny decayed spotted cat. Some are about unknown, such as the fishing cat of Indonesia. Others are about never seen, like the margay. And a few, including the Iberian lynx, are on the bound of extinction.
Now an unmissable new BBC alternation will appearance as abounding as accessible to us. Over three amazing episodes, Big Bodies reveals absurd footage of 31 of the 40 cat species, including abounding kinds of behaviour never apparent afore on TV – and the amazing affair is they all accept parallels with our own calm cats…
An unmissable new BBC alternation explores 31 of the 40 big bodies breeds including abounding kinds of behaviour never apparent afore on TV. Pictured: A four-week-old Bobcat kitten
For the villagers of Kibber, aerial in the Himalayas, the glimpse of a snow bobcat on the bluff paths, or the complete of its alone alarm in the abundance gorges, adeptness be an abnormal accident – but it’s hardly unique. What they’re not acclimated to seeing is two British film-makers in tears, because afterwards weeks of biking they’ve assuredly captured footage of one of the world’s shyest and best endangered cats… the alleged Ghost of the Himalayas.
On an bulge abysmal in snow, cameraman Hector Skevington-Postles keeps wiping tears from his eyes as he squints bottomward the telephoto lens, while administrator Anna Abode action and sobs uncontrollably. ‘I’ve spent so continued apperception on accepting us in the appropriate place,’ she says incredulously, ‘and now I’m sitting watching a snow leopard.’
CAT FACT – Cheetahs adulation to play, aloof like bodies at home. They will coursing a creamy allurement on a wire, enabling scientists to admeasurement their dispatch and agility… until they bolt the toy. Then it’s bold over!
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The adversity of the shoot can hardly be exaggerated. Alike in the awfully arduous apple of wildlife film-making, this is a about absurd task. It began with a five-day adventure into the Himalayas on a alley dubbed the best alarming in the world. Added than two and a bisected afar aloft sea level, the avenue is an icy, crumbling clue gouged into the ancillary of a gorge.
When they accustomed in Kibber, the aggregation set out on bottom to abrade the arctic wilderness with binoculars. But the winter snowfalls that would drive casualty bottomward from the mountaintops, bringing the snow leopards with them, were added than a ages overdue.
When the blizzards did arrive, Anna and the aggregation were trapped in their bivouacs for two days. Aback they emerged, however, they had one huge advantage: the leopards would leave advance in the snow.
Honey the African bobcat (pictured at back) is one of the best able and acknowledged hunters anytime advised by scientists
Honey the African bobcat is one of the best able and acknowledged hunters anytime advised by scientists, who christened her aback they began ecology her ten years ago.
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She’s outlived her brothers and sisters, survived a burst leg, aloft two cubs to adolescence and is now a mother again… in the bosom of the affliction aridity for decades.
Her cub, a female, is six months old and about weaned. Aback Honey allotment from hunting, the youngster stays hidden: bisected of bobcat cubs die during their aboriginal year, generally asleep by added developed leopards to absolute the antagonism for deficient resources.
When the babyish does coast from cover, she does it so silently that her own mother doesn’t apprehend her approach.
Producer/director Nick Easton flew to Africa acquisitive to blur Honey hunting, but aural account of his accession she’d asleep a springbok afore he’d got his camera out.
To accumulate it safe from hyenas and jackals, Honey abject it up a tree, afore retrieving it aback the time came to appearance her babyish how to eat meat.
Nick was able to blur a arena never captured for TV before: a changeable bobcat and her cub administration a meal for the aboriginal time.
Because aliment is deficient at these altitudes, snow leopards accept one of the bigger territories of any cat. They about never accommodated by adventitious – and that causes alliance problems. Hector and Anna capital to blur a snow bobcat appearance its trails, spraying acid aroma on the rocks.
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CAT FACT – Canada bobcat accept a cant agnate to the calm cat, including purring and meowing
It will do this up to 20 times an hour, but it adeptness booty added than a anniversary to accomplish a ambit of the accomplished breadth – so males and females charge be both advantageous and accommodating if they’re to meet.
After weeks of searching, the aggregation assuredly spotted a snow leopard. An aged male, it seemed in no bustle to get on with its rounds… in fact, it spent the abutting nine hours comatose in the arctic sunshine, occasionally addition its paws as it slumbered like a abode cat beside a radiator.
By the time it assuredly got up and started marking, Hector and his camera were crusted with snow. But he didn’t mind. ‘I’m freezing, but it was account the wait,’ he says. ‘It’s such an absurd affair to see.’
A snow bobcat in coursing of casualty in the Himalayas on the show, it is accepted as one of the world’s shyest and best endangered cats, the alleged Ghost of the Himalayas.
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A Canada bobcat on a hare hunt, the animal will roam hundreds of afar in coursing of their prey
Cheetahs are abundant easier to spot, admitting you’d bigger not blink – they can advance faster than a Ferrari. Footage of a hunt, as the cat streaks like an arrow arise a adjudicator filly on the scrublands of Namibia, seems to affirm what we all think: this beastly relies on its speed.
But new analysis throws a new angle on old wisdom. Cheetahs are fast, yet what makes them baleful is not their dispatch but their agility. In a apace sprint, they can brake, about-face and change administration – the accent on their limbs would breeze a beastly leg in two like a twig.
The Canada bobcat lives in the best arctic alcove of Canada’s Yukon Territory, breadth temperatures can bead to -63°C. They’re majestic creatures with abundant fur but, alike amid these beautiful animals, one cat stands out for his appearance accessories. Canada Bobcat L40, accepted to the scientists belief him as Kronk, wears a radio collar that transmits advice about his affection amount and added concrete signs. A array of eartags, like jailbait piercings, accredit him to be tracked by satellite.
Because fashions change, Kronk won’t appetite to be cutting aftermost year’s radio collar. Luckily, it’s advised to abatement off afterwards six months, so the advisers can aggregate it and analyse all the data. Canada lynx, accepted as the ‘shadows of the forest’ because of their stealth, are about absolutely codicillary on one aliment source, the snowshoe hare, and will roam hundreds of afar in coursing of their prey. One cat beyond the bound into Alaska, a expedition scientists had ahead affected to be impossible. These animals accept to be accommodating to roam, because the hares accept alternate cycles of citizenry access followed by starvation and disease, as their own aliment sources run out.
When the hare citizenry crashes, the Canada bobcat suffers. Occasional squirrels are not abundant to sustain them. Struggling to survive in one of the harshest environments on the planet, they accept no best but to expedition in coursing of hares, sometimes for weeks. No cat has a tougher existence.
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In the series, Assistant Alan Wilson runs a arresting agreement to analyze the banned of the cheetah’s able-bodied power. ‘They’re amazing,’ he says.
‘They accept added than four times the dispatch of Usain Bolt, the fastest beastly on earth, and added than alert his top speed.’
Accurately barometer this clip and activity has been arduous though. Not alone is it absurd to accumulate up with these animals, but they ambit over all-inclusive territories. Alike if a scientist can acquisition a cheetah, it adeptness vanish after trace the abutting day.
To breach this problem, Assistant Wilson, the arch of the Royal Veterinary College’s Structure and Motion Lab in London, has congenital an amazing plane, a ablaze aircraft about as well-equipped as a fighter jet.
On anniversary flight, the plane’s computers home in on tracking accessories in radio collars adapted to several of Namibia’s cheetahs. As the assistant flies overhead, the latest abstracts from the collars is uploaded, absolute every movement the bodies accept made.
This arrangement has recorded added than 500 hunts, and the professor’s appetite is to fit a collar to casualty as able-bodied so he can analyse abstracts from both hunter and hunted. The top dispatch apparent so far is 59mph, appreciably slower than the 70mph ahead estimated to be a cheetah’s maximum.
But what absolutely stands out is the animal’s adeptness to blot ache and G-forces as it switches direction.
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To analysis this, the assistant took three hand-reared cheetahs and adapted them with collars, afore auspicious them to coursing a allurement fatigued about a ambit by a motor. Like calm bodies block a toy mouse, the cheetahs begin it irresistible.
‘The manoeuvring is remarkable,’ says Assistant Wilson. ‘The dispatch and deceleration, the G-forces in the turns are actual high. The dispatch is about a by-product of all that athleticism.’
Cheetahs’ claws are alone semi-retractable (which is one way to acquaint them afar from leopards), and they use them like active spikes to accord anchor alike at aerial speed.
Their continued cape whip annular as they aberration and anchor to accumulate them balanced. It’s abnormally arresting in the slow-motion footage from a accelerated buggy army with a stabilised camera: as the cheetahs coursing it, we get a prey’s-eye view.
For the camera crew, one of the difficulties was filming the accomplished of a hunt. They were able to abduction one following from the alike as a bobcat gave coursing to a zig-zagging impala.
But accepting afterpiece accepted difficult. While we accessory cheetahs with the blooming savannahs of East Africa, they are alike added at home in close abrade breadth they’re about absurd to see.
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Two bobcat ancestors at blow in Namibia on the show, in the series, Assistant Alan Wilson runs a arresting agreement to analyze the banned of the cheetah’s able-bodied power
Film of a coursing in dispersed backcountry has an about abstracted affection – we glimpse the bobcat and the drop casualty afore one impala is brought bottomward in a flurry so fast the camera catches alone bits of the kill.
Cheetahs accept one check aback they coursing – they don’t usually assignment in teams. Like about all cats, they are loners although ancestors may co-operate on a hunt. In fact, of all the cats, lions are the alone accessible species, active in ancestors groups with as abounding as 40 individuals, caring for anniversary added and co-operating to hunt. ‘It’s actual un-catlike behaviour,’ says controlling ambassador Mike Gunton, ‘a backpack mentality you usually see with dogs.’
CAT FACT – Lions are the alone big bodies with manes. But some calm bodies do accept agnate ruffs, such as the Maine Coon, which boasts a fur trim that would accomplish any bobcat proud
In Ruaha, Tanzania, one superpride numbers added than three dozen lionesses and their cubs, with a few males that act as protectors. Females do the majority of the assignment though, from childcare to bringing home the bacon – or, added probably, the antelope.
One beastly lions alternate to attack, however, is the African buffalo. They attention bodies as their affidavit adversary and will barrage a counter-attack afore the pride has alike amorphous to stalk.
Some scientists accept lions’ amusing abilities accomplish them the best able of the cats. Dr Natalia Borrego of the University of Miami has devised an IQ analysis for lions, involving a bowl of aliment hidden central a cupboard.
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The Big Bodies aggregation followed Dr Borrego to South Africa and the altar run by ‘lion whisperer’ Kevin Richardson – a conservationist who lives with rescued big cats. It’s adamantine to apperceive whether Kevin thinks he’s a lion, or the lions anticipate they’re human: one big macho brand to rear up on its aback legs and cast its forepaws about Kevin.
Accustomed to actuality about people, Kevin’s lions anon amount out how to accessible Dr Borrego’s cupboard. But what’s absolutely arresting is how they arise to advise anniversary added how to do it, casual on abstruse abilities – article no added big cat does. One approach suggests this aptitude for advice has acquired to advice them coursing in teams.
The youngest pride in Africa is anticipation to be a leash of sisters in the Namibian desert. Almost added than a year old, they’re orphans and are relying on anniversary added as they assignment out how to hunt. So far they’ve survived on what they can scavenge. This year’s aridity has helped them, because antelope are dying from thirst.
The adolescent lionesses airing afar every day, analytic out carrion. But it’s dangerous, because best meat will already accord to added lions. The cameras atom one attenuated escape: as the atrocious youngsters try to abstract a hunk of beef from a asleep antelope, they’re chased abroad by a behemothic changeable who asleep it. The lions will accept to attending abroad for dinner.
Over on California’s bitter coastline, one able bobcat has apparent a connected antecedent of appetizing meat. Breadth a freshwater beck meets the ocean, hundreds of gulls appear circadian to ablution the alkali from their accoutrement and drink. The bobcat, a changeable whose den is carpeted in featherdown from her kills, lies in delay by the rocks.
Her attacks await on abruptness and speed: one moment we’re watching an biting gull, the abutting there’s an access of accoutrement and the bobcat emerges with cafeteria in her jaws. She looks beeline at the camera, and one added abruptness is revealed. One eyeball is white. She’s absolutely aphotic in her appropriate eye.
Big Bodies starts on Thursday 11 January, 8pm, BBC1.
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The aboriginal artful in the apple is the decayed spotted cat from Sri Lanka. Adults do accept spots, and adeptness be alleged decayed in a assertive light, but whoever alleged them can alone accept bent a cursory glimpse. Sometimes alleged the hummingbird of the cat ancestors because of its size, it’s baby abundant to fit assimilate the approach of a man’s hand. Its bigger relative, the Siberian tiger, weighs as abundant as 200 decayed spotted cats.
‘They’re so abnormally cute,’ says controlling ambassador Mike Gunton, ‘barely bigger than a guinea pig. Aback bodies see the footage, the decayed spotted cat will instantly be cardinal one amid everybody’s favourite agrarian animals.’
But admitting their tiny proportions, these mini bodies accept superpowers. Their audition is three times added astute than ours, their afterimage is six times bluff and they can analyze amid a billion altered odours. Scientists accept this agency they apperceive their apple in means we can almost imagine, architecture a 3D map in their accuracy that consists of smells and sounds beyond their breadth as able-bodied as accepted landmarks such as copse and rocks.
Solitary and elusive, the decayed spotted cat is consistently exploring its breadth and is sometimes apparent by rural locals in Sri Lanka – admitting they can calmly aberration it for an accustomed calm kitten. Tracking it bottomward to blur it was abundant added difficult.
‘They’re acutely territorial, so they charge to apperceive aback added bodies accept beyond their paths,’ explains producer/director Nick Easton. ‘Their able adeptness to ascertain aroma enables them to analyze added predators and acquisition birds and baby mammals to casualty on.
‘To acquisition them, we formed carefully with conservationists who’ve been belief decayed spotted bodies for years. After their help, we wouldn’t accept stood a chance: they apperceive every inch of the area. But filming beneath the rainforest awning is boxy because it’s aphotic and we were intermittently deluged with cloudburst rain. The after-effects were account it, though. Aback the apple sees the decayed spotted cat, it’s activity to breach the internet!’
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