Spy in the Wild

In one of the most innovative natural history series ever presented, Spy in the Wild deploys over 30 ultra-realistic animatronic Spy Creatures to go undercover in the animal world. This 5 x 60’ BBC One series captures unique animal behaviour closer than ever before.

Using special “spy cameras” invented by film maker John Downer’s team at John Downer Productions, the viewer is plunged into the very heart of the extraordinary lives of over thirty fascinating animals across the world, including langurs, orang-utans, meerkats and crocodiles, revealing behaviour that is remarkably like our own. To expose some of the most astonishing animal behaviour ever seen, the team of Spy Creatures go undercover.

These robotic look-alikes make all the right moves to not only be accepted by animals but also interact with them, providing revelatory insights into their world.

In this four part series, each episode is packed with a menagerie of animatronic Spy Creatures exploring the different aspects of animal behaviour: Love, Intelligence, Friendships and Mischief.

The innovative techniques and ambition of the BBC One series are documented in the fifth “Making Of” episode, where we see the creation of the Spy Creatures and witness their first magical moves before being deployed around the world; from deserts and rainforests to the Polar Regions.

Spy in the Wild

Starting Thursday 12th January 2017, 8pm on BBC1

Programme 1


To discover just how like us animals really are, animatronic Spy Creatures infiltrate the animal world to explore their complex emotions. Spy Pup makes friends with a wild dog pack to investigate their maternal love and has a dangerous encounter with lions and elephants. Baby Spy Crocs discover the extraordinary devotion of a mother crocodile and take a rollercoaster ride inside her mouth as she carries her babies to water. Spy Egret and Spy Tortoise are nearly trampled by elephants as they film a newborn baby sharing the love of his caring family. Spy Monkey meets a troop of over 120 unruly langurs and finds out how teenage monkeys comically practice babysitting skills. Spy Prairie Dog witnesses the most enthusiastic kissers in the animal world. Spy Chick discovers the extraordinary devotion of hornbills as a mother is imprisoned for the sake of her brood. In Antarctica, Spy Adélie Penguin becomes entangled in the Adélies’ turbulent love life as they fight to steal pebbles to impress a fussy female. In moving scenes langurs believe Spy Monkey has died and she becomes the focus of their heart-felt concern. On the savannah, giraffes are filmed for the first time paying homage to an old giraffe that recently passed away. Spy Bush Baby meets some curious chimpanzees and Spy Tortoise is adopted by a 5-year old and is taken on a wild ride through the jungle canopy before coming down to earth with a bump. In a thought-provoking scene a chimpanzee shows empathy as he finds an abandoned wildcat kitten and adopts it as his pet! Love and emotion in the animal world may provide insights into our own complex lives.

Programme 2


The Spy Creatures go undercover to explore the world of animal intelligence and reveal their use of tools, self-medication, culture and subterfuge. In Borneo, the most life-like Spy Creature yet meets real orangutans and discovers how they use human tools. Spy Orang films how they wash with soap and how this behaviour is now part of their wild culture. In one of the most extraordinary scenes ever filmed, a wild orang uses a saw and competes with Spy Orang!

Spy Otter takes us to the heart of the sea otter colony to reveal their ingenious methods of finding and cracking open a meal. Spy Bushbaby infiltrates the world of chimpanzees to witness their problem solving and tool making, and is even hunted by a curious chimp. Spy Squirrel discovers how real squirrels use intellect and subterfuge to outwit other thieving squirrels.

Spy Ostrich Chick joins hatchlings in a nest and witnesses the daring trickery of the mother as she cleverly lures a leopard away from her vulnerable brood.

Spy Termite Mound explores how drongo birds mislead meerkats in order to steal their food. Spy Crow films the world’s most intelligent crow as he fashions tools from sticks to extract grubs and uses stones to crack nuts. Capuchins discover that Spy Rock offers a convenient way to smash open their favourite food.  Spy Sloth meets a real sloth and reveals the incredible jungle pharmacy that exists amongst its fur. In a magical scene, Spy Macaw, Spy Peccary and Spy Spider Monkey are our guides to a secret glade where jungle medicine abounds. This revelatory program reveals that animals are far cleverer than we ever realised.

Programme 3


The Spy Creatures are on another extraordinary mission as they discover how friendships are a vital part of animal societies. Spy Wolf Cub joins a pack of arctic wolves where a real cub’s survival depends on friendships in one of the harshest environments in the world. Spy Cub is anointed into the pack by a she-wolf that marks him with her own scent. Spy Warthog meets some real warthogs and discovers the extraordinary relationship they have with mongoose. He even experiences the mongoose’s personal grooming service as they explore every nook and cranny. Spy Hippo comes face to face with an angry hippo before discovering their relationship below the surface with some very fishy skin clinicians. Spy Cobra meets the real meerkat mob and is quickly dispatched with a show of unified force. A walking and swimming Spy Crocodile finds the nest site of a real crocodile and reveals the extraordinary relationship they have with the tiny dikkop bird who will not only stand up to the crocodile but joins them in a neighbourhood watch scheme against marauding monitor lizards. Spy Rattlesnake helps uncover the mysteries of prairie dogs – who have the most extraordinary and complex language in the animal world. In the colony, Spy Prairie Dog finds the cutest owls on earth and we learn how they rely upon each other for protection against coyotes. Chimpanzees take a bath in a jungle pool and show us that their social life is as sophisticated as our own. In the extraordinary climax the chimps show how human organisation may have begun as they spectacularly unite to hunt baboons

Programme 4


The Spy Creatures discover that mischief is rife in nature but perhaps there are still rules that govern their lives? Spy Macaque visits a monkey swimming pool where teenage tearaways attempt the high dive causing chaos for parents teaching babies to swim. Spy Tropicbird reveals how frigate birds ruthlessly steal fish from real tropicbirds.  In Australia, a bowerbird decorates his courtship bower with blue treasures and a smart imposter attempts a daylight robbery on his precious horde. Spy Bowerbird investigates the shenanigans complete with his own nest rigged with irresistible Jewelcams. In Antarctica, Spy Penguin keeps a beady eye on a crafty Adelie penguin as he uses a storm as cover to steal stones from other penguin nests. As the storm clears, skua birds arrive and steal the penguins’ eggs, and Eggcam that captures the most astonishing aerial view of a penguin colony ever seen. Among chimpanzees, an illicit affair creates outrage among the dominant males and a similar misdemeanour in a meerkat colony results in some very rough justice. A spectacular war dance follows as neighbouring meerkat groups battle over territory. A gang of surf-loving dolphins get their teenage kicks from a poisonous but intoxicating pufferfish and lemurs try out natural highs when they use millipedes as insecticides with some very dreamy side-effects. Spy Wolf Cub watches as naughty wolf cubs are taught the hard rules of pack life and Spy Egret joins forces with a state-of-the art Dungcam to see how elephants discipline their misbehaving youngsters. In a spectacular finale an impudent chimpanzee stages a challenge to the troop leader, resulting in a fight with weapons that hints at how human warfare may have begun.