Planet Earth Live: Meerkats in the Kalahari

Cameraman Toby Strong makes a good look out point for a meerkat. Photo from Planet Earth Live team in the Kalahari, South Africa.

As part of our Planet Earth Live global event, here’s an exclusive post from Toby Strong, Witness Cameraman.

A week into our shoot and already there is a lot to tell. Myself (cameraman), Stuart (producer), Gianni (Edit Assistant) and Tracy (Editor) are based on the Southern fringes of the Kalahari Desert.

We are filming a group of twenty-five meerkats called ‘Whiskers’ led by Thunder cat and Enelie; the dominant male and female.

There are four pups, which are about a month old.  Swift, a pretty wee thing, is the size of an economy sausage roll, who flits about like a puff of thistle down. Whilst here we are the guests of the Kalahari Project, with Joff being our guide and mentor.

Due to their research spanning more than two decades, the meerkats are completely habituated allowing us a unique opportunity to follow their lives from the middle of an amazing animal family.

Whiskers inhabit a beautiful broad valley, shouldered by dunes and dotted with gnarled trees and thorn bushes.

Meerkats grooming.  (C) Sophie Lanfear – Photographer: Sophie Lanfear

Temperatures fluctuate massively calling for Harris Tweed first thing and a cooling glass of fresh lemonade at lunch.

Our day starts at about five with tea and toast before Stuart and Joff  and I head into the field to the burrow where the meerkats have overnighted.

This is my favorite time of day, as the soft fat Kalahari sun rises skyward, setting light to the long grass and backlighting the meerkats’ fur as they all stand like a furry fence warming their bellies.

Back at base Tracey and Gianni are editing and battling with all the technology necessary to transmit from this remote desert.

Their companions are a resident cape cobra, thousands of scorpions and a black widow in the loo.

We have had close calls, forays into enemy territory and run in’s with other groups and cuteness enough to take your breath away and make you go ‘ohhhhhhhhhh’.

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About Annisa Muchtar

Online Communications at BBC Worldwide: I manage our blogs and help guest bloggers contribute on this space.
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