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					SURVIVAL WITH RAY MEARS




     PAGE        CONTENT
       2     Programme Information
      3-4        Synopsis – Ep 1
      5-6   Interview with Ray Mears
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                    SURVIVAL WITH RAY MEARS
“For over 20 years I’ve been exploring the wild outdoors and what fascinates me more than
anything, are the secret lives of wild animals. When I learned how to follow the clues that
animals leave behind, it opened up a whole new world of understanding. And in this series I’m
putting my skills to the test by tracking the world’s top predators.”
Ray Mears

The iconic 'Survival' series returns to ITV1‟s peak time schedule this April, with three
programmes featuring the animal tracking and wilderness expert Ray Mears.

Ray uses his unique skills and extensive wildlife knowledge to follow the leopard in Namibia,
the bear in British Columbia and the wolf in Central Idaho.

By reading the clues animals leave behind, he offers viewers the opportunity to gain a rich
insight into their habits and lifestyles as he follows them at remarkably close quarters in their
natural habitats.

At key moments throughout filming, Ray‟s ability to spot exactly which animal has recently
passed through the area because of an indistinct paw print on the ground allows him to stay
on the trail of the most elusive of creatures.

„Survival‟ in 2010 brings to life the skills Ray has in a truly exciting and compelling way: there
are tears after a wolf he has been tracking for several days dies; moments of genuine danger
as a bear appears at just 20 feet away; and a lifetime highlight watching leopards at night.

Underpinning each film as Ray tracks the animals is a sub-plot focusing on the current state
of each species and the threats they face: in Idaho the crew arrives with only days to
countdown before the wolf‟s status as a protected species will be lifted and local farmers
indicate their intention to begin hunting them; in British Columbia the impact of global warming
on the salmon population is felt by the bear, which relies on the fish as its main food source;
and in Namibia, the uneasy co-existence between leopards and local farmers keen to protect
their livestock, is highlighted.

And each film stunningly showcases some of nature‟s richest playgrounds, set amid breath-
taking scenery, which are home to an array of wildlife beyond the species being tracked.

Survival brings one of the network‟s most prestigious and popular brands back to ITV,
building on the classical animal storytelling of a series that broke new ground in wildlife
documentary-making from its first transmission in 1960.

This time round the series clearly illustrates the all consuming passion one man has for the
world‟s wildlife and his commitment to helping us understand more about them.

 ‘Survival with Ray Mears’ is brand new & exclusive to
             ITV1. Sundays from 18th April.
For further information/images please contact:
Fiona Galliver                                      Peter Gray
Publicity Manager Factual & Daytime                 Picture Publicity Manager Factual & Daytime
Tel: 020 7157 3025                                  Tel: 0207 157 3046
Email: Fiona.Galliver@itv.com                       Email: Peter.Gray@itv.com

*An ITV Studios production for ITV1

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       SURVIVAL WITH RAY MEARS – EPISODE SYNOPSIS
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Programme One: Leopards – TX Sunday 18 April

“They‟re loners that roam huge territories. They‟re perfectly camouflaged for disappearing into
the thorny scrub. And as if that didn‟t make them hard enough to follow, they‟re most active
under the cover of darkness. For a tracker they are quite simply the ultimate challenge.”

In the first episode of Survival, Ray Mears arrives in Namibia‟s vast central highland plain, a
territory he describes as „one of nature‟s richest environments‟, to track his favourite predator:
the leopard.

The leopard is renowned for its strength, cunning and, above all else, its stealth, but because
it is the most elusive big cat Ray believes it is also „hardly understood.‟ So will his tracking
skills help him find leopards and give us a better understanding of their habits?

Ray joins a pioneering leopard research project. Based at the Erindi Game Reserve, the
project aims to monitor leopard populations and help save their lives. The reserve is
surrounded by farmland and leopards that stray onto them risk being shot, by farmers anxious
to protect their livestock.

Natasha De Woronin, who runs the Global Leopard Project, has managed to fit radio collars
to female leopards to help her build a map of their movements across the reserve‟s 270
square miles. But she needs Ray‟s expert tracking skills to help find male leopards, which
have so far completely eluded her, and remain a mystery she is desperate to solve.

Natasha says: “There are a lot of dangers out there. Definitely we have conflict between
leopard and farmers, because they will take livestock as part of their natural prey. It‟s just
another food source to them; they don‟t know it belongs to somebody.”

Ray is joined by his duo of experienced wildlife camera men - Isaac Babcock and Shane
Moore.

Their first step is to find a young female called Honey. Natasha has studied her since birth,
has a close relationship with her, and suspects that she starting to establish her
independence, which can be a very dangerous time.

As they sit no more than 15 metres from the wild leopard, Natasha says: “I think you become
even more emotionally attached to these cats when you realise how fragile everything really
is. And for her, she‟s just now growing up. I don‟t know where we go from here. What when
she meets her first male? Will she know what to do? You don‟t know.”

Ray replies: “You sound like her mum!”

Honey now roams a patch of land that used to belong to her mother, who Natasha calls
Phantom.

Natasha explains: “When a daughter becomes independent, what appears to happen is that
the mother gives the daughter a piece of territory. But to allow that, Phantom‟s now had to
move out of the reserve.”

Phantom‟s new territory now overlaps farmland, raising concerns because she has not been
sighted for weeks.

Natasha and Ray arrive at a farm, separated from the game reserve by an electrified fence
with 9,000 volts running through it, to try to establish whether or not one of her study leopards
is responsible for an attack on livestock.

Ray quickly identifies the tracks in the dirt around the carcasses as hyena and cheetah.


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He says: “It looks to me as though the leopard gets the blame all the time and maybe he‟s not
always the culprit.”

The film crew also follow another known female called Yana in the hope that her efforts to
attract a mate will lead them to a male.

They leave their vehicles behind and track on foot, through dried up riverbeds, known as
drainage lines, which leopards and other animals use like highways.

Ray says: “This is the best newspaper in the world. You don‟t buy it in the street corner; you
can‟t get it on the internet. It‟s something you have to come out and feel and experience.”

Ray finds both female and male tracks. He thinks the male could be a particularly large
specimen and they dub him „Houdini‟ after Natasha speculates he could be the same male
who has previously twice evaded capture.

They set out on his trail in the hope of fitting him with a radio collar, which could prove pivotal
in the project‟s efforts to monitor and safeguard the reserve‟s leopard population.

After a failed attempt at luring him into a trap they head north and film at a watering hole
where the night vision cameras capture the wealth of wildlife present.

Ray says: “To the human eye the African bush in darkness is just pitch black. You‟ve no idea
what‟s out there. You feel threatened and intimidated. It‟s a dangerous place. With our special
night camera we get a view of the wilderness as the nocturnal animals see it. It‟s really
spooky hearing that sound. It goes right through you; touches some primal nerve deep inside
our souls.”

By trailing Honey, who is now on heat, they come closer to another male leopard. Seeing and
filming Honey and her mate provides a real highpoint for Ray.

He says: “The leopard is the super stealth predator and to be able to see it moving around, at
night. So, so, incredible.”

He adds: “I can‟t tell you. That is one of the highlights of my life. You know, tracking can tell
you some things, but you can‟t fill in all the pieces. For that you have to come out and
observe the animals.”

But as they approach their final night of filming, they have yet to capture, either on camera, or
in a trap, Houdini, the area‟s dominant male leopard. The crew take their positions at the
waterhole for a final vigil in the hope of a sighting of the elusive creature. Will they finally be
rewarded?

Ray says: “Ever since I started tracking foxes as a boy, I don‟t think I‟ve been so excited
about tracking anything as I have tracking leopards here. I‟ve gained a unique insight into the
personalities of the things I follow. So I haven‟t just been following animals moving. In this
case I‟ve been able to follow individuals and that has been truly remarkable.”




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                       Interview with Ray Mears
How did you feel about taking on the Survival brand?

“It was a real privilege because I grew with the Survival brand as a boy. There were some
incredible documentaries and remarkable programming. It was a real privilege but also a bit
daunting because you‟re following in the wake of such incredible programming of the past.

“But we needed to find a new way of doing it as well and I like that sort of challenge. To have
the opportunity to talk about natural history was fantastic because that‟s what took me
outdoors in the first instance.

“Tracking is my passion and to be asked to track leopards, bears and wolves - who wouldn‟t
jump at the chance?”

Before you began your three journeys what were you hoping for?

“I wanted to find the animals but I also wanted the opportunity to show the skill of tracking as
an art. There are a lot of people who talk it but very few who can do it and that was a concern.

“Filming the process of tracking is very difficult and was a learning curve for all of us. I‟m not
just looking at foot prints, I‟m also looking at tiny little marks on the ground that the camera
often finds difficult to pick up. So learning how to bring that to the screen has been a really
interesting learning curve and a wonderful opportunity.

The locations we went to all presented their own challenges for tracking. When we were in
Idaho for Wolves it was for the change of seasons from winter to summer. The snows were
melting and the tracking conditions were literally changing throughout the day, so that was
particularly difficult. I was looking at tiny grains of mud transferred into the snow by a wolf.
The snow was melting and all you had was a very faint blush of dirt.

“In British Columbia for the bears it was tidal. As soon as the tracks were made the tide came
in and washed them away.

“In Namibia for the leopards, I was confident we were going to get clear tracks because I‟ve
trekked leopards in another area a little further east. However, where we filmed, the grains of
sand were incredibly coarse like broken sea shells, so they didn‟t hold much definition.”

Which was your favourite animal to track?

“That‟s really difficult as each of the animals is special in its own regard. However, I have a
very strong liking for wolves, I think that the wolf is a remarkable animal. The sad thing is,
human beings fear and loathe them with an irrational zeal and I find that very upsetting.

“The wolf is a social animal, its very similar to us in that regard. It‟s a wonderful hunter, it‟s
very clever and it has a lot to teach us. So I really like wolves for all of those qualities.

“Having said that, the leopard is stealthy, fast, powerful and it isn‟t afraid. It‟s not the most
powerful cat in the African bush, that‟s the lion without a doubt. But sometimes you can scare
a lion away and you can‟t scare a leopard. If you have a problem with a leopard then you‟ve
really got a problem. That‟s what I like about the leopard.”

Can you tell us about the moment when the bear suddenly appeared 20 feet away from
you and the crew?

“Well if you stand still there‟s no problem. I was looking at the bear and he seemed fine. He
could see we were there and he wasn‟t bothered. Then all of a sudden I noticed he wasn‟t so
comfortable. I turned round and someone behind me was moving. I had to say to the crew “If
you‟re standing behind me, stand absolutely still. Things change and an animal can change
its mood very quickly.”
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It was amazing to see the emotional reaction you had when a wolf died who you were
tracking.

“Well, yes I think the wolf is a really noble animal and it was an emotional experience. I don‟t
particularly have any issues with the State of Idaho wanting to control the numbers and I think
that‟s necessary. But I do think that if you are going to control the numbers of an apex
predator like the wolf, there should be much tighter control and management of that situation.
To let people go and hunt them without guidance is just very disrespectful.”

What’s the most surprising thing you found out whilst making the programme?

“I was surprised at the speed at which the wolves have re-established themselves in the wild.
In 1995 there were 35 wolves released and now there are over 800. That‟s really magnificent
and I didn‟t think it would be possible.

“It just shows you what hope there is for the future and how we may be able to improve
things. We live in a time when more creatures are becoming extinct at a faster rate than since
the dinosaurs disappeared. We must look to see how we can put things right.”

When did your interest in wildlife and animal tracking first began?

“At a very young age. I would have been six, maybe younger. My real interest began when I
was given a guide to animal tracks and signs for Christmas. That winter we had snow, much
like this year. So I started following tracks in the snow. The great thing when you first start
out is that everything you find is a treasure. I‟ve never stopped since.”

Your skills are quite rare, how have you got them to such a high level?

“Through perseverance mostly. But also I‟ve had the amazing opportunities of tracking with
Aborigines, Kalahari bush men and people in the rain forests. I‟ve worked with last elders of
the indigenous groups around the planet who use these skills on a daily basis.

“When you work with them you see what‟s possible. So when you come back home you start
doing things you didn‟t think were possible before.”

What is your top tip for tracking wildlife in this country?

“Go and watch it as often as possible. You can‟t follow an animal if you haven‟t watched it.
You need to watch them as much as you can. If you just look at tracks all you will see are the
tracks and not the animal who made them. The more you watch the animal, the more you
understand about it. And the better your tracking skills will be.”

Why should people watch the programme, what will they get if they tune in?

“We got incredibly close to the animals, the bears in particular. We were so close to them as
they were feeding. So you get this up close and personal view of nature, which you don‟t get
when everything is shot on a long lens.

“We relied on a high degree of field craft to film these things and I think it shows. Of course I
was supported by two fantastic wildlife cameramen, they were amazing, I not sure they truly
believed in the tracking to start out but they do now.

“Each episode was shot in around 10 days, so it shows you what‟s possible. If we can find
what we shot in such a short space of time then maybe we can give the viewer some
inspiration to go out and make discoveries locally.”




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