Animal Kingdom with Steve Leonard launches on ITV1

In this new documentary series, Steve Leonard takes viewers inside one of Africa’s most beautiful and diverse game reserves, the Erindi Game Park, which lies between the Namib and Kalahari deserts, in Namibia.

Steve describes the series as: “A unique opportunity to see at first hand what it takes to restore an African wilderness, and a chance to get close to some of the most amazing animals on earth.“

The park’s 175,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat has been designated as an area for the re-introduction of endangered species as well as maintaining numbers of the 100 or more that share the reserve. In 2007 Erindi’s landowners took a huge gamble, after decades of cattle farming and hunting they decided to return the land to the wild. They brought in wildlife experts to realise their vision of a haven for animals funded by tourism.

Animal Kingdom looks at the work being done to manage the delicate balance of wildlife in the park including the introduction of new groups of animals while providing an intimate focus on the lives of individual creatures. Following their struggles for survival across a changing season, Animal Kingdom provides a compelling insight into the behavioural patterns and secret lives of some of the territory’s most charismatic creatures.

In this week’s episode we see the risks involved in relocating crocodiles, some badly behaved young bull elephants and amazing footage revealing what goes on after dark in the park.

The park is home to a herd of ten female elephants and their calves, and a bachelor group of four young bull elephants. Steve explains that the young bulls are difficult to control, as they don’t have an adult male to guide them. The leader of the group is Stompy, who at twenty year’s old, is a troublesome adolescent.

The young bulls have been known to try and attack tourists’ vehicles, so the park rangers need to keep a close eye on them. Steve joins park ranger Rodney, as he tracks the young bulls, they find Stompy, but as their vehicle is parked near him, another young bull creeps up on them. It’s a tense moment as the two bull elephants close in. Steve says: “When a ten foot high, three ton bull is squaring up to you, it’s no joke.”

There are eight waterholes in the park, of which three are home to several hundred of Africa’s most feared predators, the crocodile. Steve tells the programme that five crocodiles are due to be relocated to one of the largest waterholes, and explains that the operation is not without risk.

He says:” The thing to remember about crocs is that you don’t get tame ones.” There’s no easy way to catch 500 kilos of crocodile and as Steve gets a noose around one of the croc’s jaws he feels the sheer power of these powerful creatures. It takes half a dozen men to hold the croc down as Steve tapes its jaws and ties its feet to make it secure for the journey to the new waterhole.

As night falls many of the park’s inhabitants gather at the waterholes, and the programme uses night vision cameras to show footage of the night’s activities. With many of the park’s game creatures around the waterhole, they are a magnet for predators like the big cats, taking advantage of the dark to stalk their prey. In the pitch dark the night vision cameras catch a remarkable moment when an elephant chases away a couple of lions.

The programme reveals that there’s not much sleep to be had for Steve and the team when they return to camp headquarters. They find a crocodile wandering about in the compound so Steve brings his croc catching skills to use, apprehending the intruder, and returning it to the park.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011, 7:30PM – 8:00PM ITV1

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