Monday, August 6, 2012

The Making of Planet Earth: The Snow Leopard

It was obviously not an easy feat for BBC to get all of the footage that they needed for their fantastic television series "Planet Earth," narrated by the equally fantastic David Attenborough.  Clearly, some segments would be easier to film than others.  One of the goals of "Planet Earth" was to get as much unique, never-before-filmed events and creatures, which would clearly make things a bit more difficult.  Below are listed some of the scenes that had apparently never been seen before on television.

  1. The oceanic whitetip shark.
  2. A piranha feeding frenzy, being filmed while the cameraman was actually in the water.
  3. Arctic wolf hunt filmed from a helicopter.
  4. Starving lions attacking and killing an elephant in the dead of night.
  5.  Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico, U.S.
  6. Amur leopard mother and cub in the Primorye region of Russia.
  7. Bactrian camels in the Gobi desert in Mongolia eating snow to keep from getting dehydrated.
  8. "The highest-ever aerial footage of Mount Everest and the Karakoram."
  9. African wild dog hunt filmed from a helicopter.
And, finally, the subject of today's post:

    10. A snow leopard hunting a markhor in Pakistan.

The snow leopards are another one of my favorite animals, but due to their elusive nature, they are very difficult to capture on film.  Much more difficult than they are for poachers to capture them, anyhow.  Hunting in large part for their fur has greatly reduced the wild population, forcing the IUCN to list them as "Endangered."

Due to their elusive nature, and their difficulty to film, the "Story of the Snow Leopard," if you will, proved to be a most excellent candidate for the "Planet Earth Diaries" (which I generally refer to on this blog as "The Making of Planet Earth."  For the DVD release, a ten minute or so long "making of" feature was included, highlighting the difficulties of each shoot.  Below is the list of the episodes of Planet Earth, and what their respective "Making Of" featurettes talk about.
The chart.  The Shallow Seas episode, with the
Planet Earth Diaries about the great white shark hunts, is filmed by Big Car Diary co-host Simon King.
When it came to filming the snow leopard, the makers of "Planet Earth" first turned to veteran cameraman Doug Allan, the same man who filmed the polar bears.  But after a few months of fruitless searching (in Nepal, I believe), all he had to show for his work were a few long distance shots, too far away to be of much use.  There were plenty of signs of the snow leopard being around, however.  One of my favorite things to hear from the entire "Planet Earth" series came from this predicament.  The film crew would track the snow leopard by following its footprints in the snow, in the hopes of getting close enough to learn more, or to even film it.  However, they would follow the tracks in a large circle, until they were seeing signs of human footprints too: their own.  The snow leopards were following them!

"Planet Earth" then decided to film along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, but were not allowed to, as the search for Al-Qaeda was taking place there, and only news crews were allowed in.  One year later, however, the "Planet Earth" crew were granted access, in December of 2004.  Below is a link to part two of the "Planet Earth Diaries" about the snow leopard.  The first part was unfortunately taken off of youtube, but anyways, here is the second part.

Planet Earth Diaries: Snow Leopard Quest Part 2

Below is another fascinating video of the snow leopard: the first ever snow leopard/markhor hunt recorded on film.  SPOILER ALERT: and don't you worry you animal lovers out there; the video has a happy ending for the markhor, but not so for the snow leopard.

First Ever Snow Leopard/Markhor Hunt

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