Rating : 8/10
This is my review of the first part of a two-part documentary made on the different varieties on Big Cats. Come to think of it, its perhaps less of a review and more of a declaration of adoration for BBC, SKY and the glorious creatures examined in this series. Also a bit of a “What I Learned” from the episode aswell. The happi hippi has a serious soft spot for Wild Cats, Savannah Cats (Servals) in particular which happen to feature in this. All GIFs are made by little ol me.
Our narrator : the eloquent and engaging Patrick Aryee who starts us off with the perfect introduction to the episode. “In this series we’re on a journey through the cats family tree. It’s a journey through time from 11 million years ago to the present day we retraced their dramatic rise to power. We meet the most curious and rarely seen cats on earth and show how different felines evolved superpowers to thrive in each of the planets wildest landscapes. (they appropriately play the song “I Put A Spell On You” for the intro which i have to admit is the perfect choice. They are by far the most enchanting species.
We learn that cats exist in a dazzling array of shapes, colours and sizes. A family of relatives and rivals that over the generations have ventured across the globe and have conquered every landscape on our planet. There are 37 different species of them on earth. They roam the frozen planes, the dense jungles, the sweltering deserts and the wide open savannahs. They can unequivocally be given the title of the most successful predator on earth as no other animal has even come close to conquering as many different habitats and ecosystems as the cat. This show really examines the reasons why the cat family has been so successful, quite intriguing.
The first of the many big cats explored in this episode that stood out to me was the incredibly rare “Clouded Leopard” which originated in the rain-forests of South East Asia, it evolved in the jungles through which our narrator wanders. Due to generations and generations of clouded leopards living, hunting and thriving in the rainforest, they have some monkey-like features. They’re climbing abilities are far superior to the rest of their relatives. These were ones i was really curious about since they’re quite rare it was really interesting to see a few young ones in the sanctuary.
Even more incredible they are able to climb down trees at their own pace, no matter the size and width of the tree in question. This is due to rotating wrists that can give them a far better grip. I quite adore finding out the different enhanced abilities big cats have adapted over the years, fascinating little things.
Furthermore, due to flexible joints in their ankles they can get to parts of the canopy that almost no other cat can reach. They’re able to hang upside down and claw their way back upright. To meet some of these intriguing little ones, Patrick goes to a conservation in Thailand which is home to some incredibly inquisitive kittens. Anytime he turns his back to them they literally leap onto him, their claws providing some entertainment for the viewers.
Look at that little grin, i think i’d be smiling like a Cheshire cat if i got to meet these creatures in person! These little guys hunt monkeys and birds high up in the trees and canopy. The one year olds that Patrick met will hopefully be released back into the wild having learnt all the necessary skills to survive out there in the sanctuary.
Seriously how cute can these things be?
We learn that although a lot of different carts have developed different ‘abilities’ that come with evolution in different habitats.
The first lesson we get is that Cats have sensory superpowers, they have excellent vision + highly sensitive whiskers that detect tiny movements in the air alerting them to the exact position of their prey. Cats have no need to bling their eyes at regular intervals to keep their eyes lubricated. Their sense of smell is incredibly superior and can catch scents up to 6 days after they’ve been left.
Their highly and uniquely nimble; their flexible spines can twist 180 degrees. They can also leap their body length several times over.
Next, their weapons. Where dogs claws can become blunt quite quickly, cats are razor sharp. This is because they keep them sheathed (like a sword in a sheath) they retract them between their paws, only unleashing them for that killer swipe. + Of all the families of predators, cats have the cleanest most precise method of killing, a single deadly bite to the back of the neck. The positioning of their teeth was perfectly created for maximum damage.
These are the basic building blocks, Patrick discusses. The winning feline blueprint. “As cats spread across the world, they continued to build on that blueprint changing their bodies to suit each landscape they encountered.”
We learn about the largest wild cat in existence, The Siberian Tiger. Tigers are on the most ancient branch of the ‘Cat Family Tree’ originally stemming from the ‘Panthera Tigris’. To Conquer one of the harshest landscapes of all, one pioneer would become the biggest cat on earth. The colder the temperature, the bigger the body needed to easily retain heat. They can survive temperatures of minus 40 degrees. Lets just let that sink in….
I think the Disney character i envied the most was definitely Jasmine from “Alladin”. One, she was a princess and god damn stunning. Two? Her best friend was a gorgeous tiger named “Raja”, well hot Damn.
Back on to the topics, don’t mind the tangent, back to the documentary! How they adapted to conquer this frozen world is largely down to size. “Males can weigh more than 50 stone, that’s twice as heavy as tigers in the tropics.” Siberian tigers are also well insulated with thick winter coats and a layer of fat on their belly. This guy is perfectly equipped for life in the deep snow.
Asia was where cats originated from, and then years ago when a land-bridge arrived between Asia and Africa, a few pioneers sauntered across and gained a foothold in the new land. The cats that first stepped foot in Africa, were the Caracal’s.
Their bodies are not that much bigger than that of the average house cat, and generally weigh less than 10 kilograms. Despite their slight frames, they’re perfectly built for life on the desolate plains of Africa. Dark lines around their eyes help absorb the suns glare and the strange tufts of hair on their ears are thought to work as visual signals, to help communicate with other caracals. Stunning things.
You might notice that their hind-legs are noticeably longer than their front ones, this is not by accident. These powerful legs allow them to jump up to three metres in the air, seriously. Also want to point out that for those of you who end up watching this, the ‘score’ of the episode at this point is the soundtrack from another of BBC’s wondrous creations “Sherlock” when he’s calculating up little signifiers and doing miraculous detecting this little melody is played, and this avid TV watcher noticed they put it in several parts of this two part series too, cheeky.
We meet the ‘king’ of cats, the Lion, the first of the big cats to begin to group together and form packs. Who perfectly embody how the happi hippi feels on monday mornings.
We meet Kevin Richardson, a Big Cat Conservationalist who’s relationship with the lions of the savannah is pretty damn adorable.
So. Many. Feels.
And now … for my all time favourite – the Piece de Resistance : The shy and secretive Savannah Cat ( Servals ). Their frontier? Africas Wetlands.
Unlike his cousins who are primarily visual hunters, Servals don’t need to see their prey, they can pinpoint them with deadly accuracy using only their oversized ears.
Ridiculously Regal Creatures.
Long had an obsession with these cuties so excuse the amount of GIFs mia made..
We learn that the Servals long legs and stretched neck raise his ears high above the grass so they can scan for sounds below. Their ears can be moved independently and can swivel round 180 degrees. Along with having 21 different muscles in their ears, human beings only have four… think on that. Ever since their ancestors stepped foot on these lands these cats have pushed their anatomy further and further resulting in the modern day Serval. The “bat-eared predator of these plains.”
We’ve come to the end of the highlights from this episode. The second and final installment in the two part series, see’s Cats conquer America’s landscapes + shows us how and why the domestic cat is the most successful of all its cousins.
My only critique of the series is that it could have been longer. A two part documentary always holds some gripping content but with so many different branches on the “cat family tree” to explore, i thought they could have gone further with this and done examinations of more of the larger wildcats that are less known. For example… Jaguars, Snow Leopards, Puma’s and possibly even some of the mixed breeds that have come into existence like the “Liger” ; a legitimate mixed breed of a Lion and Tiger, i just felt there were a lot of avenues that could have been explored in further depth. But all in all highly enjoyable show. Patrick Aryee is quite a likeable narrator and his examination of some of the lesser known cats was well crafted and eloquent.