Author Archives: Laura Hedrick

Laura Hedrick
Senior Digital Marketing Specialist at CuriosityStream

The Making of “Age of Big Cats”

Martin Dohrn, Writer & Series Producer

Twenty years ago, a project like Age of Big cats would have been impossible to make. Much of the technology that has made this series achievable today, had yet to be invented. But more importantly, our knowledge of big cats was relatively limited, and some species were still so elusive and shy that sightings were extremely rare. Filming them in the wild was for the most part unachievable without years in the field and extreme luck.

But things are very different now. New ultra sensitive color and infra-red cameras have given us a clearer view of the nocturnal habits of some more familiar cats than ever before. High resolution 4K (8 mega-pixel) and 8K (32 megapixel) movie cameras allow us to film behavioral sequences in unprecedented detail. High resolution camera traps provide us with intimate images of their secretive lives from just metres away.

But the cats themselves have become more amenable to human observation. Filming cats that would rather not be seen at all is difficult and rarely delivers natural behavior. Some cats like the jaguar, snow leopard and puma have now become easy to see in a few places, when as recently as a decade ago, they were still on the “almost impossible to film” list. In fact, for the making of this series, we were able to film pumas, jaguars and leopards on foot at close range, without the cats showing aggression or fear. They were mostly unfazed by our presence.

However, some individuals did take a curious interest and in Chile this was almost a problem. There was a puma we named Friendly, as she would often approach us and sniff the bags at our feet before moving on. Matthew Kingdon, one of our camera operators, got a real surprise when she wandered up to him, then watched as he slowly walked backwards away from her (the correct response with any big cat). The other pumas were less inquisitive, but equally relaxed to the point that they just carried on with their lives when we were there, treating us more like furniture.

 Filming on foot in the dark brings its own problems. At night in Costa Rica, we watched with the infra red camera as Jack Hynes walked down the path to the beach, towards a jaguar that was on the look out for a turtle. We were able to warn Jack by radio and he waited as she wandered onto the beach. She carried on past our hide and into the forest. Jack never saw her despite the fact she was just metres from him. But later that night Jack did meet her.

We knew there was a dead turtle at the edge of the forest and that the jaguar was further down the beach, so Jack crept closer to the turtle and hid behind a small log. He didn’t know that the jaguar had now made its way back to the turtle. When he turned on the camera, the jaguar was staring at him from just a few metres away.

 


At first, she didn’t know what Jack was, so started creeping towards him – at which point his sudden movement surprised the jaguar who now realized he was a person and moved off.

For leopards, lions and cheetahs, most of the filming was from a vehicle, which most cats regard as something different from a person, so behave naturally. Cars have the advantage of being able to move lots of camera equipment around … day cameras, night cameras, infra red cameras, camera traps and thermal cameras, all at once. They also have the advantage of being able to protect cameras and people from the weather.

 

In the Masai Mara in 2017, the so called ‘short rains’ turned out to be an almost daily deluge, usually just after sunset when the lions were waking up to go hunting.  The rain was so heavy at times that small dry ditches would become rivers 20 metres wide in a matter of minutes. – rivers that no four wheel drive vehicle should attempt to cross. But we did, and on several occasions became stuck in a rising flood.

Despite the weather setbacks, we succeeded in capturing extraordinary natural behavior of cats, and although I have spent my lifetime filming them in the wild, what we were able to film this time, surpassed all my hopes.  Combined with new science on cats and their origins we’ve been able to create a compelling story that shows big cats in a new light.

 

Interested in learning more?
Check out our website and watch Age of Big Cats, now streaming in Ultra HD 4K, only on CuriosityStream.

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Can’t Get Enough Sharks?

You might think you know sharks – but these beautiful, endangered animals are more than meets the eye.

Here are 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Sharks:


10)
Contrary to popular opinion,
sharks cannot smell a drop of blood a mile away. They do, however, possess a pretty impressive sense of smell due to an enlarged olfactory bulb in their brains. A lemon shark is capable of detecting tuna oil at one part per 25 million,  about 10 drops in an average-sized home swimming pool.

9) They also possess electroreception, allowing them to detect weak electric fields in the water. This allows them “see” hiding animals in darkness or obscured by ocean plants.

8) Throughout the Renaissance, sharks had a strange assortment of names: Ziphius, Sea Dog, and De Lamia (named after a child-eating demon in Greek mythology).

7) While other fish use an air-filled swim bladder to stay afloat in water, sharks use their livers. A shark’s liver is filled with oil and can be used to regulate buoyancy!

6) The smallest shark in the world is the Dwarf lanternshark.  These guys reach a maximum length of 8 inches – most can be held comfortably in the human hand. As its name implies, the Lanternshark is capable of producing light from a distinctive array of photophores, meaning its body lights up on its own! This feat is called bioluminescence. (Curious about bioluminescence? Check out Light On Earth on CuriosityStream!)

5) Unlike most sharks, the Caribbean reef shark hunts in packs. For this reason, injured Caribbean reef sharks can continue to thrive because their pack-mates will provide them with leftovers.

4) Sharks can go through 30,000 teeth over the course of their lifetime. Unlike humans, sharks will never stop regrowing lost teeth. They grow from the back and move forward as front teeth are lost while hunting.

3) Great White Sharks have evolved such that they must keep swimming in order to breathe. You know the menacing grin of a Great White? That’s not a threat – they simply must keep their mouths open as they move so they can take in oxygen from the water!

2) The earliest shark fossil record is 420 million years old, this makes sharks one of the oldest species still in existence. Sharks were contemporaries of T-Rex!

1) You might be afraid of sharks, but they have much more reason to be afraid of you. In 2017, there were 5 human fatalities due to shark attacks worldwide. That same year, around 100 million sharks were killed due to finning – the process of cutting off shark fins for commercial use.


Curious where we got these Shark Facts? Check out the Shark Dive Trailer below:

 Want more? Swim with the sharks by watching
SHARK DIVE – streaming now on CuriosityStream.

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