Tigers are the fo­cus of the fi­nal Dy­nas­ties

Dy­nas­ties direc­tor Theo Webb on film­ing a ti­gress pro­tect­ing her fam­ily…

TV Times - - My Tv Times Week - Caren Clark

Sadly, only 50 per cent of tiger cubs make it to adult­hood and in the heart of the Band­hav­garh Tiger Re­serve in In­dia, ti­gress Raj Bhera has been bat­tling against the odds to try to raise her four young cubs.

For this week’s fi­nal episode of BBC1’S na­ture se­ries Dy­nas­ties, the crew spent over two years film­ing the fam­ily’s fight for sur­vival. Here, in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with TV Times, direc­tor Theo Webb shares the highs and lows of fol­low­ing

Raj Bhera and her cubs from when they were two weeks old…

Why did you fo­cus on Raj Bhera?

I’ve loved tigers since I was a kid and it’s a dream to film them. We wanted to show a mother rais­ing cubs, but Raj Bhera also has to adapt to a chang­ing world and she does that re­ally well; she’s amaz­ing. She’s spe­cial be­cause she ig­nored us, so it was easy to film her.

Why are the cubs so vul­ner­a­ble?

When they’re lit­tle, they face threats from other mam­mals in the park, such as bears, jack­als and leop­ards, and other male tigers. As they grow older, it’s about keep­ing them fed and they rely on Raj Bhera. The only fe­male cub, Biba, was smaller and her brothers would eat first and she’d be left be­hind but that led to her hunt­ing for her­self and learn­ing those skills quicker.

Raj Bhera leaves the park and goes in search of food near a vil­lage. Was that shock­ing to wit­ness?

Yes. Mod­ern tigers face habi­tat en­croach­ment and when they run into con­flict with hu­mans, that’s not good. It’s wor­ry­ing be­cause you don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen and you don’t want any peo­ple, or her, to get hurt and there is a twist…

What was the big­gest ob­sta­cle you faced dur­ing film­ing?

It was phys­i­cally and men­tally ex­haust­ing. The tem­per­a­ture was more than 40C in the Sum­mer, but tigers act im­pul­sively so you have to be ready for ac­tion. They’re also hard to find be­cause they blend in with their sur­round­ings so we had to look at dust tracks. It was like read­ing a news­pa­per each morn­ing, see­ing where they’d gone in the night and hon­ing down their lo­ca­tion.

You cap­tured some in­cred­i­ble shots of the cubs when they were very young. Was that spe­cial?

It was ex­tra­or­di­nary. Us­ing a re­mote-con­trol cam­era was the only way to covertly film them in the den so that we didn’t dis­turb them and we let them be­have nat­u­rally. See­ing a tiger fam­ily dy­namic in such de­tail is an evo­lu­tion. The world’s tiger pop­u­la­tion has de­creased by 95 per cent in the last cen­tury. Will this episode make view­ers think about the fu­ture of big cats? It’s a fright­en­ing statis­tic and what I’d like peo­ple to take away from the show is that it’s pos­si­ble for tigers to co­ex­ist with hu­mans, but if things carry on, it’s go­ing to be harder for tigers to sur­vive. Tigers are one of the most recog­nis­able an­i­mals on Earth and for them to be­come ex­tinct would be a huge shock to mankind.

with only 50 per cent of tiger cubs sur­viv­ing to adult­hood, ti­gress Raj Bhera faces a daily strug­gle to keep her four cubs alive. Al­though they live in Band­hav­garh Na­tional Park Tiger Re­serve in In­dia, a rel­a­tive safe haven, the tigers still have to con­tend with the worst drought in a decade, a scarcity of prey and the chance of at­tacks by other tigers. Then, when a des­per­ate Raj Bhera strays into a vil­lage look­ing for food, she comes face to face with her most lethal en­emy yet – hu­mans. Can she sur­vive this en­counter and ensure her dy­nasty lives on? Stay tuned for the ‘mak­ing of ’ to learn more about how this amaz­ing se­ries came to be.

Tiger time: Raj Bhera with one of her cubs

Pro­tec­tor: Raj Bhera

What dan­gers are in store for this ma­jes­tic big cat?

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