BBC Head of Natural History Sreya Biswas, has announced two new commissions at Wildscreen Nairobi featuring African talent in front of, and behind, the camera.
The new show for BBC Two and iPlayer are Big Cats 24/7 from BBC Studios Natural History Unit and Orphan, from Hello Halo.
Sreya Biswas, BBC Head of Natural History, said: “We are incredibly proud to be announcing these two fantastic projects at Wildscreen Nairobi. Both are ambitious attempts to document African wildlife and landscapes, involving amazing African talent both on and offscreen. Working with some of the continent’s most trusted experts and accomplished cinematographers, we hope to create programmes about African animals that reach a new level of authenticity and diversity.
“Big Cats 24/7 will transport our audience to a wild arena in the Okavango Delta, Botswana: a land where you can witness big cat behaviour that is almost entirely free from human influence. And with extraordinary access to the Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust’s neo-natal orphanage in Kenya, Orphan is an ambitious three-year project looking at the intimate relationship between a young elephant and its keeper.”
Big Cats 24/7
In this 6×60’ series, an elite camera team follow a group of African big cats, day and night, for six months. Filmed using the very latest technology, Big Cats 24/7 will give viewers an unprecedented insight into the lives of the lions, leopards and cheetahs of Botswana’s awe-inspiring Okavango Delta – a place described as one of Africa’s last great natural sanctuaries.
The team of camera experts, which includes wildlife cinematographers Gordon Buchanan, Vianet Djenguet and Anna Dimitriadis, and an award-winning local Botswanan camera crew lead by Brad Bestelink, must track the cats across unforgiving terrain, keeping their cameras rolling 24/7. It’s a mission that will push them to their limit, as they deal with wildfire and extreme weather in one of the wildest places on the planet.
Cutting-edge tracking technology means the team can follow the cats’ movements more closely than ever before, and state-of-the-art low-light cameras allow them to capture previously unseen nocturnal behaviour for the very first time.
Charting all the action in the Okavango over six months, over two extreme seasons of flood and drought, this six-part series aims to show you big cats as you’ve never seen them before.
Roger Webb, Executive Producer, said: “Being able to go deeper into the lives of Africa’s big cats than ever before is a mouth-watering prospect. Expect the unexpected and to witness things you’ve never seen before in an African wilderness that’s almost as dynamic as the cats. It’s sure to be a rollercoaster of drama and emotion and it’s why we’re so excited to be making Big Cats 24/7.”
Big Cats 24/7, a 6×60’ for BBC Two, iPlayer and PBS is made by BBC Studios Natural History Unit and co-produced by PBS. It was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual. The Executive Producers are Roger Webb and Tom Jarvis, the Series Producer is Rowan Crawford and the Production Manager is Gillian Goodlet. The Commissioning Editor is Sreya Biswas. The Executive in Charge for PBS is Bill Gardner.
The bond between a baby elephant and its mother is a fierce, loving and protective one.
So, what happens when a baby loses its mother and has to be raised by a man instead?
Filmed over three years, Orphan tells the extraordinary story of Toto, a baby Kenyan elephant whose life is irreversibly changed when his mother is killed. Just a few days old, he is brought to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s neo-natal unit by other elephants who, incredibly, know that the orphanage is a safe place for him to be raised.
It’s also the story of Joseph, the man dedicated to saving him. An orphan himself, Joseph must become Toto’s surrogate mother. For the next three precarious, uncertain and drama-filled years, Joseph will be there 24 hours a day, to comfort, nurture and feed Toto. He must teach him everything he needs to know about being an elephant, until he’s old enough to join others in the wild.
As we witness Toto taking his first tentative steps back to the wilderness he came from, we’ll be introduced to an extraordinary world filled with elephants that have been raised by keepers like Joseph but now live completely independent lives alongside truly wild herds. Through them we’ll witness jaw-dropping never-before-seen elephant behaviour that will challenge everything we thought we knew about these majestic, vulnerable creatures… and ourselves.
Executive Producer Wendy Rattray said: “Toto is a delightful little elephant who will melt even the hardest of hearts as he fights for his survival against the odds, makes new elephant friends that will eventually become his family, and navigates the complexities of elephant behaviours. Through him we’ll see the most astonishing events unfold that will make look at elephants in a whole new light.”
The project is supported by Screen Scotland and The Chantecaille Conservation Foundation.
Orphan, a single film for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by Hello Halo. It was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual. The Executive Producer is Wendy Rattray and it is directed by Daniel Bogado who recently won an Emmy for 9/11: One Day in America. The Commissioning Editor is Sreya Biswas.
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