Written by Toby Strong, Witness Cameraman.
A week into our shoot and already there is a lot to tell.
Myself (cameraman), Stuart (producer), Gianni (Edit Assistant) and Tracy (Editor) are based on the Southern fringes of the Kalahari Desert. We are filming a group of twenty-five meerkats, called “Whiskers”, led by Thundercat and Enili; the dominant male and female. There are four pups, which are about a month old. Swift, a pretty wee thing, is the size of an economy sausage roll, who flits about like a puff of thistle down. Whilst here we are the guests of the Kalahari Project, with Joff being our guide and mentor. Due to their research spanning more than two decades, the meerkats are completely habituated allowing us a unique opportunity to follow their lives from the middle of an amazing animal family.
Whiskers inhabit a beautiful broad valley, shouldered by dunes and dotted with gnarled trees and thorn bushes. Temperatures fluctuate massively, calling for Harris Tweed first thing and a cooling glass of fresh lemonade at lunch.
Our day starts at about five with tea and toast before Stuart, Joff and I head into the field to the burrow where the meerkats have overnighted. This is my favorite time of day, as the soft, fat Kalahari sun rises skyward, setting light to the long grass and back-lighting the meerkats’ fur as they all stand like a furry fence warming their bellies.
Back at base Tracy and Gianni are editing and battling with all the technology necessary to transmit from this remote desert. Their companions are a resident cape cobra, thousands of scorpions and a black widow in the loo. We have had close calls, forays into enemy territory, run-in’s with other groups and cuteness enough to take your breath away and make you go ‘ohhhhhhhhhh’.
With more than 150 wildlife experts and filmmakers strategically positioned around the globe, 24/7 Wild will showcase real animals and their everyday fight for survival — as it happens, in real time. Each episode will focus on the babies of the animal world during the tumultuous spring month of May, when births are more common. Tune in to 24/7 Wild: Giant Leaps: Monday, May 14th, at 9 p.m. et/pt.