Tiger – Spy in the Jungle
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.
Tigers may be the A-list celebrities, but there’s a cast of rising B-list stars too. Cheeky langur monkeys are transfixed by their reflections in log-cam, and rare sloth bears, red dogs and a leopard with her cubs all make cameo appearances.
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.
For the first time, Tiger – Spy in the Jungle comes upon four 10-day-old tiger cubs in the Indian jungle – two females and two males. This is their mother’s first litter and she has her paws full. They insist on tumbling out of the den, only to be carried delicately back to safety in her massive jaws.
As they grow they move from her milk onto meat. At 14 weeks old they can eat over a kilo of meat a day – the equivalent of 20 large steaks between them. It’s a good job that this tigress is such a skilled hunter and that spotted and sambar deer are so plentiful. Charger, their imposing father, keeps his distance but helps to protect his vulnerable offspring from rogue male tigers and leopards. Life seems sweet, until one day the cubs are left home alone and their arch rival, an Indian leopard, is about.
The cubs are half grown and still pretty playful. Now it’s time to learn the hunting and fighting skills they’ll need as adults. Play fighting erupts between them – it looks nasty, but their claws are never drawn.
Some of the other jungle characters are also back on the scene. Leopards far outnumber tigers here, and are a still a real threat to the growing cubs. The young tigers have huge appetites and their mother must now hunt successfully most days. When they’re not eating, playing or fighting, the cubs sleep – and tigers love water, so a cooling water hole is perfect on a steaming day. The spy cameras show that this wallow is a magnet for a whole array of forest animals, including wild boars and sloth bears.
The cubs are starting to behave as individuals and take personal hunting tuition from their mother. Then disaster strikes when both their parents are injured, and a rogue male tiger puts in an appearance. They still have a lot to learn.
The cubs are beginning to gain their independence, and learning how to be kings and queens of the jungle. They must hone their hunting skills, and the two males must prepare to leave their mother and sisters and face the world on their own.