'Spy in the Wild', a New BBC Series uses Animatronic Animals Rigged with Cameras to Film Wildlife

A new upcoming BBC four-part series titled "Spy in the Wild" uses 34 realistic animatronic creatures, equipped with UHD cameras to observe wildlife activity from closer than ever before. The myriad of undercover animals were placed all over our planet, from deserts, to rainforests, as well as the polar regions. With the intention to record real animal emotions, display their similarities with humans, and acknowledge the links between all living things on earth. The topics discussed for each of the four episodes include love, friendships, mischief, and intelligence.

However, it seems that the robotic animals themselves will be stealing the show, at least for me. I love animal documentaries as much as the next person, but forgoing conventional long-lens wildlife video for robot animal look-a likes is really interesting. The amount of work and time that went into this project is quite remarkable. The cameras were built specifically for this project by film maker John Downer and his team at John Downer Productions. Some of the imposter animals they created include a sea otter, penguin, rattlesnake, sloth, and a hippopotamus. And with most of the 34 spy creatures having back ups built too, this was a very big production; over 60 robots were built in total. With the eyes of the robot animals being used as the cameras, the series was shot in 4K, and the team filmed over 8,000 hours of footage, which is what made it possible to capture so many never-before-seen moments. They shot in 21 different countries, and spent close to 800 days filming over the last 3 years.

Quite a few of the spy cameras will make you do a double-take, as the robotic look-a-likes are accepted by the animals and interact with them in some cases. Just a few of the expected highlights of the series includes a group of langur monkeys trying to revive one of the animatronics after picking it up, dropping it, and than believing they killed it by mistake. A chimpanzee treating and caring for a camera like it is a pet, just as humans do. Even taking it to bed with him. And one example that obviously shows just how realistic these spy cameras were, is when a male tortoise was caught trying to mate with one.

"Spy in the Wild" the four-part series debuts on Thursday January 12 in the UK on BBC One, and is narrated by Scottish actor David Tennant. Hopefully it will be broadcast online soon, so the rest of the world can enjoy it too.

All images used with the permission of John Downer Producions

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2 Comments

Jessica Jones's picture

Well that is pretty incredible!

Roberto Sali's picture

hahaha Amazing