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Animals with Cameras

Animals with Cameras

  • Premiered: 
    January 31, 2018
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: PBS
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    A miniseries from Nature 
  • Subject Matter: Animal
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  • Complete Series
    • Amazon
Legal Full Episodes
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(That We Know Of)

Plot Synopsis

ANIMALS WITH CAMERAS is a three-part documentary series that chronicles the secret lives of animals by revealing a side of the animal kingdom where human cameramen can't go when animals become the cinematographers. Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan and a team of pioneering animal behaviorists join forces to explore stories of animal lives "told" by the animals themselves. The cameras are custom-built by camera design expert Chris Watts to fit on the animals unobtrusively and to be easily removed at a later point. From this unique vantage point, viewers can experience the secret lives of nine different animal species. The one-of-a-kind sequences captured by the animals include several on-camera firsts. The cameras allowed for newborn meerkats to be shown in their burrow for the first time ever, as meerkat pups don't emerge from the burrow until they reach three weeks of age. In the Atlantic Ocean, an unborn devil ray is shown kicking inside its mother's stomach -- a phenomenon never before captured on film.

Episode 1 (January 31): In the Kalahari Desert the team put cameras on wild meerkats for the first time, allowing scientists to finally understand what these miniature mammals get up to underground. The cameras reveal that meerkat families all sleep together in their burrow, and in a world-first film wild meerkat newborns, revealing how mobile and vocal they are at just a day old. In Cameroon Gordon works with scientist Mimi Swift, who is desperate to understand whether four year-old orphan chimp Kimbang has the skills she needs to be able to join a chimp family living wild in the forest. The on-board camera reveals that Kimbang is a skilful climber, able to find food at dizzying heights. We also see the first ever shots of a chimp washing its hands, and see these super-intelligent primates cleaning their teeth with twigs and weaving treetop nests. In Argentina, penguins carry tiny cameras far out to sea on an epic journey of up to 300 kilometres. For the first-time ever scientists are able to see the tactics these charismatic characters use to catch their prey, including dropping beneath their prey and using their natural buoyancy to jet-propel themselves through a shoal of fish.

Episode 2 (February 7): In Namibia Gordon meets cheetah conservationist Marlice van Vuuren, who wants to know whether the three orphaned cheetahs she has raised have developed the skills needed to hunt for themselves in the wild. On-board cameras are worn by cheetahs hunting in Africa for the first time, allowing us to see how the cheetahs choose their prey. The footage shows a close call for the trio and reveals whether their hunting has actually progressed. Gordon travels to the south coast of Australia where thousands of fur seals inhabit the harsh conditions of Kanowna island. The team put cameras on fur seals to find out how they thrive and hunt in the surrounding shark-infested waters. The footage reveals the techniques the seals use to avoid detection. We also see the first-ever images of the seals eating cuttlefish and following dolphins to take advantage of their fish-herding behaviour to get an easy meal. In South Africa cameras are put onto wild baboons for the first time to help find out why these clever monkeys sometimes raid farmers' crops. The cameras give a remarkable insight into the shy baboons' lives, showing intimate scenes of sunbathing and grooming. Crucially, the cameras also show that the baboons choose wild fruits over crops if they're available, suggesting that the planting of wild fruit trees near farms could help solve this tricky conflict.

Episode 3 (February 14): In the heart of the Atlantic Gordon joins a team of scientists who are keen to learn why a large number of devil rays, or 'fish with wings', gather near the Azores archipelago every summer. The team deploys specially designed cameras which are towed behind the rays and can survive the crushing ocean depths. The cameras film breath-taking scenes of unborn ray pups kicking inside their mothers -- a sign that this gathering might be a breeding ground for these mysterious ocean giants. In North East Turkey the on-board cameras are carried by brown bears, part of a study trying to understand why so many bears survive in a small patch of forest. The cameras capture some gripping footage, including a dramatic fight between two males and a touching courtship scene. The footage helps the scientists' conservation plans by revealing that, although the forest is an excellent habitat for the bears, it probably can't support many more of these endangered predators. In southern France Gordon meets a team of scientists who are keen to prove that guardian dogs are an effective way to protect sheep flocks from wolf attacks. The night-vision cameras show how the dogs work together as a team to fend off the wolves. Keeping the wolves at bay will stop farmers taking matters into their own hands, which could be great news for people who want to see wolf numbers increase in the French countryside.

Production & Distribution

  • Produced by BBC Natural History Unit
  • Produced by PBS