Tigers are the focus of the final Dynasties
Dynasties director Theo Webb on filming a tigress protecting her family…
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?