Dynasties II tells the story of an animal family

Sunday:Dynasties II; (BBC One, 8pm)

Cheetah, hyena, elephant and puma
Cheetah, hyena, elephant and puma

From Patagonia’s frozen Andes, to the plains of Zambia, and sprawling grasslands in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, the captivating and compelling Dynasties returns to provide new insights into the secret lives of some of the planet’s most charismatic animals.

The second series features surprising, dramatic, and heart-warming stories with iconic favourites, the elephant and the cheetah, as well as two unsung heroes of the animal kingdom – the puma and the hyena.

We’ll see newborns being introduced to their families for the very first time – which can be a time of tension or of celebration – youngsters learning how to survive independently, rivals vying for the top spot, and mothers risking everything to protect their families.

Each episode of Dynasties II tells the story of an animal family, led by an individual, and Series Producer Simon Blakeney explains why he thinks it is important to create a natural history series from this perspective.

He says: “We often tend to look at animals in general terms – what is ‘normal’ for a species – but what working on Dynasties has shown us is that the reality for individual animals is often far from ‘normal’. The challenges that our characters face are specific to the exact situations they find themselves in, and the solutions they come up with often depend as much on the circumstances and experiences which that individual has gone through.”

With so many animal species piquing our interest, it must be difficult for the programme makers to decide which one to focus on.

Executive Producer Mike Gunton explains how they came to their decision: “It is crucial that people can relate to the species that we follow. The groups we look for are often those that are facing a particular set of circumstances that means they will have to work especially hard to overcome adversity.”

We begin in the wild and remote highlands of Patagonia, where a solitary mother puma named Rupestre battles to raise four cubs – her biggest litter yet. The family face extreme elemental forces, from driving white-out blizzards to 100mph winds.

To feed her cubs, Rupestre must grapple with giants – guanaco – but at nearly three times her size, one kick from the camelids could be fatal.

Hunting is not her only problem, however – over 30 rival puma also stalk these hills, among them a fearsome male whose desire to mate with Rupestre puts her cubs in mortal danger, and a rival female who is determined to lay her own claim on Rupestre’s territory.

In this dramatic story of feuding families and battles for survival, can Rupestre keep all four of her cubs alive until they are strong adults?

The footage that the Dynasties team filmed for this episode is groundbreaking. They were the first crew to film a puma mother have eight cubs in two years, the first to shoot two females having a prolonged territorial battle, and the first to film a female puma risk her life fighting a male.

And Mike believes that viewers will be captivated by Rupestre and her clan.

“It was striking how tactile the family were with each other – licking, playing and resting together – constantly reaffirming the all-important family bond through gentle physical behaviours,” he says.

“Rupestre’s unwavering resilience was hard not to admire – from her dramatic fights with rival puma to her long search for a lost cub – she didn’t always win her battles, but she always kept her family safe and came back stronger.”

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