Planet Possible includes the documentary Tiger Queen of Taru, and two episodes On the Brink, focused respectively on the Indian manis and the garial.
With April 22 on World Earth Day, several around the world are focusing this year on the theme ‘Restore Our Earth. With discussions of protecting our existing biodiversity to reforesting barren areas and preventing further destruction, there is another reminder that we are fighting for the most important things in life – fresh air, clean water, healthy food and a flourishing natural world that can regulate and provide these.
In the spirit of passionately believing that this restoration can be a reality, is National Geographic India’s special program “Planet Possible”. On World Earth Day, the channel will broadcast two shows, Tiger Queen of Taru, about the central Indian female tigress Maya, and On the Edge, on the researchers and environmentalists mobilizing to protect two Indian species, manis and garials (crocodiles), from extinction.
Tiger Queen of Taru
Born in 2010 in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maya took over the territory from her mother Leela after she suddenly disappeared, leaving her four cubs alone. As Maya faces the challenges of growing up alone and tackling a vast territory, she realizes that the surest way to cement one’s grip over an area is to have children of one’s own. She first has two offspring with the dominant male Gabbar, who suddenly disappear, just as her mother had; follows three chicks with Namdeo, who also disappear one day; then come three chicks with Matkasur, whom she fights because he is unable to protect the chicks. And until 2020, during the COVID-19 lock – and not included in the film – she delivered five puppies.
Maya is a life of joy, tragedy, hope and constant change. It is also a fairly documented life. As evidenced by the dozens of videos, blogs, and news about her, she is one of the most documented wild cats in the world.
The quality that then separates the documentary from 24-year-old photographer and filmmaker Aishwarya Sridhar is the empathy her narration awakens in the viewer.
Although the camera sometimes loses focus, and one wonders if a different background music would be more appropriate for some clips, the overall effect of watching the film is one of deep satisfaction finding out about this furious tigress.
The film, 10 years ago, shows engaging sequences from every stage of her life. Earlier it shows Mayan protruding between the litter and roar looking straight at the camera. We follow Mayan as she assumes herself after her mother disappears. Another sequence shows her digging food and then, her first live hunt, where she doesn’t know how to go for the throat of the prey. Her personality shines in the clip of her playfully engaging with touring jeeps. And her reason turns out to be determined to mate, followed by her struggles as a first mother.
Another striking case is when Matkasur, with an eye on the kingdom of Maya, enters the scene. “He must defeat or conquer the female ruler of this country. Either way he won’t tolerate chicks that don’t belong to him, ”the narrator informs. Frightening the chicks while Maya is away, he quickly flees them. When Maya returns and finds no chicks in sight, the film shows her confusion and frustration when she looks around for them, and capturing her initial irresponsibility towards Matkasur, until her survival instincts break out and recognize the importance of preserving her family tree, she decides to mate with him.
With emotional sequences like these, every time, the document details the almost humane decision of Maya. And with the help of an animated story as a guide, it shows the emotions that must run through Mayan in key moments.
On the Edge
This hour-long program consists of two episodes, one about Indian manisoles and the other about the population of the Chambal river. While the manisole is endangered, the garrison is highly endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. The episodes focus on the work that researchers and environmentalists are doing to prevent extinction and grow these animal populations.
The episode about the Indian manis follows the work of two researchers, Vikram Aditya of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, and Bhau Katdare of the Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra. Both, owing to the scarcity of the beast, had not yet caught sight of the manis in the wild. The episode later boasts of films of Katdare’s newest and first successful attempt at seeing the animals in Telangana’s Bhadrachalam, which is valuable data for explorers everywhere.
The reason manis are so hard to see is the aggressive poaching of which they are victims; as the episode confirms, manis are currently the busiest wild animal on the planet, to meet international demand for their scales, meat and as live pets. Aditya’s research surrounds better understanding of the illegal trade, through surveys and conversations with locals, surrounding tribal people, and through interviews with actual hunters and poachers. Several of these hunters believe that despite their activities, the manis population is increasing daily. Aditya hopes that once poachers realize how rapidly the food of pangolins is declining, and how quickly they will become extinct within a decade, trade and poaching will decline.
The episode ends with a picture of the future, discussing the impact of the Polavaram dam on the Godavari river, a hydroelectric and irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh. The project will water a large area of the landscape of northern Eastern Ghat, which will affect forests at the lower elevation, the preferred habitat of manis. “Vikram believes,” adds the narrator, that “one of the few solutions remains to breed the animals in captivity,” questioning the meaning and changing definition of “fauna”.
The garrison episode tells how, with less than 200 breeding adults in 2004, the effort of the Ecological Garial Project is a conservation success story, as the Chambal River now stands as the last garrison fortress in the country.
It also discusses the current questions about the breeding cycle of the gharial, which researchers Pankaj Kumar and A Jailabdeen are dealing with today, as they could offer clues that could help the animal survive. To do this, they study the exact population and size of each adult, capture the communication and vocalization between the animals, track them with infrared cameras, and more. Researchers also find the nests with hatched eggs buried in the sand and check the hatching of those eggs, leaving viewers with as yet unanswered questions as to how the garial knows which buried nest is hers and how she can make sure the chicks are ready. to go out.
The episode leaves viewers with a joyous ending that in the recorded season, 300 nests hatched, with 12,000 chicks surviving ultimately counting.
Basically, through two short episodes that are part of a larger series, the program details the importance of conservation and research for India’s endangered species, presenting a lively, promising overview of their status and current situation.
The two titles from Planet Possible, Queen of Taru and On the Edge, will premiere at 12 noon and 1 pm on National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild on April 22 on World Earth Day.
– All photos courtesy of National Geographic India