We get the inside story on the making of Planet Earth II

2017-02-02 05:01

Cape Town – A male macaque readies himself for a turf fight. It's an age old battle between the males of the species but there's one big difference, this fight will happen on the rooftops of Jaipur, India. 

In a first of its kind Planet Earth II takes us into a new habitat of wild animals – the city. 

The Cities episode explores how wildlife is thriving in the urban jungle. 

In Mumbai there are over 35 leopards in the area making it the highest concentration and in Harar, Ethiopia spotted hyenas have been living alongside their human counterparts for almost 400 years. 

And how do the humans feel about them?

"In India there have been 200 leopard attacks in the last couple of years. Anywhere else in the world they would have darted those leopards – but there's something unique about the Indian people they accept the wildlife within their lives and are learning to cohabit with these dangerous animals," said producer Dr Fredi Devas at a special screening of the episode. 

And in the case of Ethiopia there's an understanding of the rules of engagement between the species. 

"They don’t attack livestock or humans within the city limits but outside about 10km away it might be the same hyenas but livestock and people could be fair game," said Devas.

New season, new stories

For season 2 the contributors strived to tell new stories but this proved to be very challenging. 

"Ten years ago there was a lot more wilderness – now there are smaller patches to work with. And that is why this series is so important it's  celebratory but also raises awareness that it's disappearing and we have to take care of it," said Devas. 

He continues, "There have been a lot of wildlife films since Planet Earth I and it has become harder to find fresh stories – our research effort has become more intensive."

For the Cities episode the team gathered most of their content from talks with experts, trolling through social media and even a call for action to the public. 

"Not many studies have been done on animal behaviour in the city and its quite new to think of it as a habitat for wildlife. In Toronto our researcher actually called a radio station to ask listeners for a tip off about raccoons. And a day before that particular shoot a man called us and we were able to film that scene. We had to be far more reactive than in some of the other environments that we filmed," said Devas. 

Amazing new filming technology

The incredible shots featured in the series are largely due to the advances in filming technology.

"We have moved away from the stabilised camera and can now film with handheld ones. It got us right into the heart of the action enabling viewers to get a close up organic feel of the animals," explains Devas. 

"We also used drones, low-light cameras, a thermal camera to film the leopards in India and a hyperlapse technique in the Cities episode."

Planet Earth II premieres on BBC Earth (DStv 184) on Sunday, 5 February at 16:00. 

Watch the trailer here:

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