Cats on the prowl

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Nature - ERIN McWHIRTER

Big Cat Diary, PG ABC1, Tues­day, 8pm Wildlife doc­u­men­tary Du­ra­tion: 1 hour ZO­OL­O­GIST Jonathon Scott has never ex­pe­ri­enced such an adrenalin rush.

As he runs, he doesn’t dare look be­hind for fear he’ll trip and the charg­ing hip­popota­mus will tram­ple him.

A wild an­i­mal rush­ing at you seems down­right scary, but it can be a way of life for Scott and fel­low pre­sen­ters Si­mon King and Saba Douglas-Hamil­ton on Big Cat Diary, pro­duced by the BBC.

‘‘You couldn’t live in Africa for 30 years and do what I do and not have a time when a hippo is chas­ing you and chomp­ing its teeth,’’ Scott says from Kenya.

‘‘The trou­ble is all th­ese crea­tures move faster than you think they can. You get lulled into a false sense of se­cu­rity that can prove fa­tal.’’

It was 1974 when Scott packed his bags in Lon­don to do some­thing that truly ex­cited him— track­ing and pho­tograph­ing wild an­i­mals.

As he re­counts his decades of ex­pe­ri­ence get­ting up close to some of the wild’s most dan­ger­ous crea­tures, he refers to Big Cat Diary as a ‘‘wildlife soap opera’’.

The se­ries fol­lows the three pre­sen­ters as they re­veal the day-to-day lives of cheetahs, leop­ards and li­ons.

‘‘I was al­ways in­ter­ested in big cats. Most peo­ple are. That’s why the se­ries has been so suc­cess­ful,’’ he says of the show that started in 1996.

‘‘They have a beauty but a real sense of power. It’s like beauty and the beast. Th­ese ex­tra­or­di­nary crea­tures are amaz­ingly beau­ti­ful in the care they lav­ish on their cubs, but the next minute they will be bat­tling to pull down a buf­falo. The con­trast be­tween mother love and the preda­tor is al­ways in­trigu­ing.

‘‘But I never think of them as any­thing other than wild crea­tures. I re­spect them for what they are. They aren’t pets.’’

Though Scott has been to Aus­tralia to film salt­wa­ter croc­o­diles, the wildlife ex­pert says he never met the Croc­o­dile Hunter, Steve Ir­win.

Scott be­lieves the wildlife war­rior, who died af­ter a stingray barb pierced his chest in 2006, was of­ten mis­un­der­stood.

‘‘There was a lot of crit­i­cism of Steve, but I sym­pa­thise with him, be­cause though this is an in­ter­est­ing area to cover, you are un­der a lot of pres­sure.

‘‘He was be­com­ing the vic­tim of his own suc­cess and was con­stantly un­der pres­sure to de­liver some­thing big­ger and bet­ter.’’

The latest in the BBC wildlife se­ries cost more than $410,000 an episode to pro­duce.

Story lion: a scene from the new wildlife se­ries Big Cat Diary.

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