They are the kings and queens of the jungle, iconic animals of incredible strength, speed, agility and beauty that have intrigued us for generations. They are lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars and more, all members of the world’s big cat species.
Last night kicked off the third annual Big Cat Week with Snow Leopard of Afghanistan, which takes viewers behind the groundbreaking tracking, capture and release of a rare snow leopard by expert big cat wrangler Boone Smith, who achieved what many thought was impossible. Mounting a wildlife conservation expedition in a war zone, Smith and a team from the Wildlife Conservation Society must overcome faulty and missing equipment, sudden weather changes and the threat of Taliban attacks in their quest to find this intelligent, wary and well-camouflaged creature.
Big Cat Week will explore the ferocious anatomy of the “big four” cats; share a coming-of-age tale of a cheetah caring for and training her first litter of cubs; and look back at the reign of one of India’s most-beloved tigers in a show 15 years in the making.
Yet even as these animals remain revered the world over, they are battling an unforeseen enemy: their own decline. Did you know that Africa’s lion population has declined by more than 90 percent in the last 50 years? There are now more tigers living in captivity than in the wild, and cheetahs have disappeared from more than 75 percent of their range. Big Cat Week is an extension of the Big Cats Initiative, a long-term commitment by the National Geographic Society and Nat Geo WILD to stop poaching, save habitats and sound the call that big steps are needed to save big cats around the world.
To address this critical situation, Nat Geo WILD is asking people to “Cause an Uproar” and support the Big Cat Initiative. This year’s Big Cat Week will follow a series of fall activities, including the creation of the National Geographic Big Cats Sister School Program, which pairs U.S. schools with schools in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana under the shared theme of big cat conservation.
BIG CAT WEEK PREMIERES INCLUDE:
Snow Leopard of Afghanistan — Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous places on earth, is also home to a population of endangered and elusive snow leopards. These big cats are a species under constant threat from poachers and farmers who fear that the leopards are attacking their livestock. But experts can’t protect them without knowing more about them. Now, Nat Geo WILD joins the WCS and an international team of experts, including big cat tracker Boone Smith, as they set out on a mission in the middle of a war zone: to find, capture and collar a snow leopard, and release it back into the wild. With GPS to track the big cats’ location and WCS camera traps already in place, if successful, the expedition will offer a deeper understanding of the rare and beautiful species.
Attack of Big Cats — Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
There may be nearly 40 different species of wild cat running around out there, but only four make it into the big cat club: the lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar. And they’re armed with an arsenal of weapons and bulk to back up one hell of an attitude. In their world, nothing is small and many things are surprising. So get ready for a vicious lesson on what makes a big cat a big cat. Is it the roar? The teeth? Maybe it’s their diet, because they’re certainly not living on Fancy Feast® and loading up litter boxes. We’ll take a look at their size, speed, claws and hunting capabilities, among so much more.
Tiger Dynasty — Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
A legendary Tiger Dynasty has ruled India’s Ranthambhore National Park for decades. Led by a fierce queen, a tigress named Machli, the family has beaten the odds and continues to thrive despite the constant threat of poachers. Now, as Machli nears the end of her life, Nat Geo WILD takes a closer look at the reign of one of India’s most beloved tigers through the lens of wildlife filmmaker Colin Johnson, who began filming her in 1998 when she was just 1 year old. In a film nearly 15 years in the making, witness important milestones in her life — including her first encounters with prey, battles with dangerous crocodiles and sloth bears that share the park, and life-threatening fights with male tigers. And see how she managed to live side by side with humans, even those out to kill her. Finally, join Johnson as he attempts to capture her on camera one last time — that is, if she survived the last monsoon.
Born Predator — Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Meet Moja, a 5-month-old lion cub, and his single lioness mother Nyota. Outcasts from a pride, they live a fragile existence in the Masai Mara national reserve in Kenya. Living between neighboring pride territories, life is hard at the best of times. But now it’s even tougher. Food is fast running out and the wildebeest migration is still hundreds of miles away. Nyota must provide everything for her son, but she is low on energy. Hyenas are threatening to steal a kill — Moja’s first meal in a week. And because she and her cub are constantly trespassing into other prides’ territories, they face dangers in every direction.
Cheetah: Fatal Instinct — Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
The cheetah: the fastest land animal on earth and a feared predator. But before her cubs can dominate the African savannah, a mother cheetah must transform her offspring from adorable kittens into bold, powerful hunters. Nat Geo WILD follows one mother as she struggles to teach her offspring how to survive in one of the most cutthroat environments on the planet. High-speed cameras reveal every stunning detail of one of the most important lessons: how to hunt for prey. And although they will one day be feared, the cubs are under constant threat from surrounding lions, leopards and hyenas.