Episode 1 Lost Land of the Tiger


Episode 1

Series following a dramatic expedition searching for tigers hidden in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, featuring explorer Steve Backshall and cameraman Gordon Buchanan.


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Transcript


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The tiger.

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Feared, revered and hunted

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to the very brink of extinction.

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Within 20 years, wild tigers may be gone for ever,

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but there could be a last chance to save them.

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-Now an international team of scientists...

-Wow.

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..explorers and film-makers

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have come to the Himalayas to search for a hidden population.

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Our job is to find out if there are tigers here

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and if there are, how they're doing,

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because tiger conservation worldwide is in a critical condition.

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This mission will push the team to the limit.

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They'll take on the world's most challenging mountains...

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My lungs are burning.

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My legs are burning.

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..face the planet's most extreme weather...

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Jeez!

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..and explore the mightiest rivers.

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What they find here will be crucial.

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For the tiger, it's a matter of survival.

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For the team,

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it could be the discovery of a lifetime.

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The team has travelled to the Himalayas,

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to the remote mountain kingdom of Bhutan.

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It's been closed to outsiders for decades.

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Almost nothing is known about tigers here.

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The team must find out whether there's just a handful,

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or a thriving population.

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In charge of the expedition

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is one of the world's leading tiger experts, Dr Alan Rabinowitz.

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This expedition is one of the first, if not the first, outside attempt

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to figure out what is happening in here with the tiger,

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with other wildlife that the tiger needs to survive,

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and perhaps, just perhaps,

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this vast land, this lost land of the tiger

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could be the tiger's last hope.

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Joining Alan are biologist Dr George McGavin

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and explorer and naturalist Steve Backshall.

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It's just perfect, absolutely perfect tiger habitat.

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Probably could do with a little bit more open kind of areas

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to stand any chance of seeing them.

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They're fantastically difficult to actually get a sighting of.

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I love that feeling you get in a country for the first time,

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and you get that smell, you can smell it.

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This riverbank will be the expedition headquarters

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for the next three weeks.

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The rugged terrain

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will make wildlife exceptionally difficult to find.

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They've brought the latest technology

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for filming and surveillance.

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That's about half of it.

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-Alan...

-Hello.

-..in charge of the camp.

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Steve is optimistic.

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Tigers need three things.

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They need an abundant source of large prey,

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they need dense vegetation and they need water,

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and here you've got all three of them.

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It may look good, but tigers are now so rare,

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there's no guarantee they'll find them.

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The team has its work cut out.

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Even expert tracker Steve Backshall has called in specialist help.

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For the first time, he'll be working with a highly trained sniffer dog

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all the way from the States.

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Hi, Bruiser!

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This guy here is our best chance of finding tigers.

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Justine Evans is a leading BBC Wildlife camerawoman.

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She has 20 years' experience and eyes like a hawk.

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If tigers are here, she'll spot them.

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We're going to throw some time at it.

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We've got all the cameras - day, night, thermal, everything.

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We're just going to see what we can get.

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Oh!

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-Look at that.

-Oxford University biologist Dr George McGavin

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is the only person not looking for tigers,

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but his job is just as vital.

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My role is to assess the health of the forest

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to see if it's a fit place for a tiger to be.

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Head of the expedition, Dr Alan Rabinowitz,

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has dedicated his life to saving the tiger.

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The tiger is the largest cat in the world.

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It's one of the most magnificent species

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to ever walk the face of our earth.

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To even think that it could be lost from this earth in our lifetime

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or shortly after, to me, is just an unthinkable thought.

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It's just unthinkable.

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But over the last century, 98% of tigers have been lost.

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The last of them are trapped in isolated areas

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where they and their prey have become easy targets for poachers.

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Wild tigers need space. Without it, they rapidly die out.

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The best hope lies with the small populations

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clinging to existence along the edge of the Himalayas.

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The solution I have for saving tigers

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is to connect these isolated populations

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through corridors, through linkages in the landscape

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so that genetically, biologically, these animals could move

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between isolated fragments, and thus the isolated fragments

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become part of a larger whole.

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Bhutan is the missing link.

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Alan's plan can only succeed

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if there's a flourishing population of tigers here,

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something not even he knows.

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Bhutan is the last country left in the world throughout tiger range

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that we have not had really good systematic studies of tigers done.

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We have no idea how many tigers are in the country, where they exist,

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and yet where Bhutan is situated

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is critically important if we're going to save tigers.

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What are the first things that we need to get doing?

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We have to go out and find tiger evidence.

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Their pugmarks, their tracks, their scrapes, their sprays,

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and by setting up camera traps.

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I can put the pieces of the puzzle together,

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but you have to give me those pieces.

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Steve will be on the case with big-cat scientist Claudia Wultsch

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and her dog, Bruiser.

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I'm quite looking forward to working with Bruiser.

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This is the first time I've looked for animals using a dog.

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It seems a strange way of doing things,

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but he does have a remarkable sense of smell and he'll be able to

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pick up things that we would never have a chance to find,

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and all the evidence he manages to bring in will be incredibly valuable

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for learning what's going on in this area.

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Camerawoman Justine Evans will try a different tack.

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She's going to stake out tigers from the top of a very tall tree.

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We're loading up the elephants to go out to a big, dry riverbed.

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Oops. It's a bit slower with the elephants,

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but they carry all the weight.

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Along with her daily essentials,

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she's taking four specialist cameras to spot tigers day and night.

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This is the first time I've had to saddle up an elephant.

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I hadn't thought about the logistics.

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Lucky I brought bungee cords along.

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Never go anywhere without bungee cords.

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We want a tiger. Just a fleeting glimpse in the bushes.

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-Good luck.

-Bye.

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Justine will have to keep her wits about her.

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She's a long way from medical help, and no-one knows

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what dangerous creatures lurk in this forest.

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Steve and Claudia are also treading carefully.

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Oh, what was that?

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Hey! Come here. Bruiser, come on.

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Very clear elephant tusk driven up into there, look.

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Little bit nerve-racking

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to think of an animal that powerful just wandering around the forest.

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Could walk round a corner, and it could be right there in front of us.

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There's no choice.

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The only trails through the forest are the ones made by wild elephants.

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They keep Bruiser close.

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He's one of a few dogs trained to find big cats,

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and he does it by sniffing out their droppings, or scats.

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Bruiser's just coursing ahead of us

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with his nose down close to the ground, searching out those scents.

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I'm really just hoping that we'll come across a scat

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that is definitive, that you have to say is going to be a tiger.

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Bruiser, let's go.

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Bruiser can sniff out even the tiniest remains of a cat's scat.

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Steve and Claudia have to work out which species it belongs to.

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-Oh, look what he's found.

-What did you find?

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Such a good boy. Bruiser, come down.

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Bruiser's rewarded with his favourite toy.

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Good boy! Good boy!

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(Good boy, Bruiser.)

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Well, that's absolutely full of interesting stuff.

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Lots of little feathers here.

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In fact, most of what I can see looks like bird to me.

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-What do you think?

-Could be clouded leopard.

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Clouded leopard, absolutely.

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This isn't tiger scat, we can say that for 100% certainty,

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but it could be from a leopard or a clouded leopard,

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both of which are pretty exciting for us.

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Bruiser's on great form.

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But evidence that tigers live here might be harder to find.

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Tigers are one of the most elusive animals on the planet.

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The team will have to use a variety of methods to track them down.

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Alan's placing remote video cameras on trails made by wild animals.

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He hopes that tigers are using them.

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Anything passing in front of the camera

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will trigger a ten-second recording.

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I have high hopes for this.

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For Alan, the stakes could not be higher.

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After 20 years trying to save the tiger,

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this could be his last crusade.

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He has an incurable form of leukaemia.

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'I don't think about it all the time,

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'and yet it's always there all the time.'

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It gives a sense of urgency to my life.

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There were times before I was diagnosed with leukaemia

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that I thought "OK, you know, I'm getting older.

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"Probably ten years or so, I'll slow down."

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There is no slowing down.

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There's only speeding up now,

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because I don't have the time and the tigers don't have the time.

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With as few as 3,000 left, any wild tiger the team finds in Bhutan

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would be a precious discovery.

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Alan knows from experience that even though the forest looks promising,

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it's far from certain that tigers have a future here.

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The health of the forest is everything. In the past,

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people thought, "If there's forest,

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"it's good potential tiger habitat, there must be tigers."

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Unfortunately, it took us quite a few years to realise

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just what the forest looks like is not enough.

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You need to look at everything.

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You need to look at the birds, you need to look at the insects,

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you need to look at the whole chain of life

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through that forest and say, "This is truly an intact system."

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In charge of this forest's health check is Dr George McGavin,

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aided by a team of local scientists.

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Rebecca Pradhan and her colleague will rig mist nets

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to catch and record the birds of the forest.

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This net is mainly for the smaller to medium-size of birds.

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Dr Kashmira Kakati is an expert on smaller jungle cats.

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She'll carefully position her remote cameras

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to discover which species live here.

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It's like a really big, exciting treasure hunt in the forest.

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You go put these things out and when you're picking them up,

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you're just waiting to see what you've got.

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It's really, really thrilling.

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George's lifetime passion is insects.

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His survey starts close to home, in Justine's elephants' bed.

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Oh, ho, ho, bingo!

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Bingo!

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Look at that!

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Look at that.

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Now, they don't come much bigger than that.

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Now, that's what I call a dung beetle.

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That is an absolute monster.

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This is

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the biggest dung beetle

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I've ever found.

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He's got these huge hind legs,

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big spiny legs for pushing through the dung.

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I find it very hard to actually hold this.

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If I try to hold it in my hand like that,

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watch, I'm holding it quite hard,

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and it's just able to power its way out there.

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Look, see. There, it's free.

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They're immensely strong.

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You are beautiful!

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I know not everybody agrees with me, but I think you're rather beautiful.

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George will record every species the expedition finds,

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from beetles to tigers.

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It's all part of a report for the Prime Minister of Bhutan.

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Finding tigers in the lowlands around base camp

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would be a good start,

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but to create a corridor that will protect tigers across the region,

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the team needs to find them throughout the country.

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Just north of base camp, the Himalayas begin,

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and rise rapidly to over 7,000 metres.

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Most of the country is mountainous.

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Jagged peaks and thin air

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are the last place anyone would expect to find tigers,

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but the team's heard extraordinary rumours.

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The final member of the expedition has gone to investigate.

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Gordon Buchanan has filmed big cats all over the world,

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but never anywhere like this.

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It's amazing to think of the other places that I've seen tigers.

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Down in India, just 200 miles away, but very, very different habitat.

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We're up in the Himalayas here.

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It feels so different and I will be flabbergasted

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if we find tigers up in these mountains.

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Gordon's going to live rough for the next two weeks,

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on a mission that will test his endurance to the limit.

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We've been following the river all morning,

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but unfortunately we're about to start climbing up the mountain,

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so it's going to get a lot tougher from now on.

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This is the foal of one of the ponies.

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He's just along to learn the ropes.

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Poor little thing's just lagging behind,

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so I'm giving him a bit of a helping hand.

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With every step, the air is getting thinner.

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The journey will be far too tough for the mules.

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Before long, Gordon will be on his own.

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Good boy, Bruiser. What did you get?

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Near base camp, Bruiser's been

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hot on the trail of big cats all morning.

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-We're getting there.

-OK, Bruiser, let's go.

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He's found leopard and clouded leopard scat, but no signs of tiger.

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Now he's flagging.

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You've got to feel sorry for the dog.

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He must be crazy, crazy hot, trekking through this.

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It's so hot and humid, Bruiser can only be worked in short shifts.

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Further down the trail, they startle something.

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Uh-oh. Bruiser, come here, hey.

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Bruiser! Good boy.

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Wow, look at that.

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There's a group of golden langurs in the tree just ahead of us

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and as we approached and they saw the dog,

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their first response was a kind of barking alarm call,

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warning the others he was coming by.

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(Good boy, Bruiser.)

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They're just looking down at us curiously.

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Golden langur monkeys rarely spend time on the ground

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in case they're taken by large predators

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like leopards, or even tigers.

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There are only 5,000 or so left in the wild.

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A group like this, with young, is an exceptional sight.

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It just shows, really, that you need to preserve the habitat here

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not just for the tiger, but for all the other

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really, really valuable endangered species that live here.

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On the forest floor, the remote cameras are doing their job.

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Macaques, enjoying a meal of pondweed.

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Buffalo...

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..who use the camera as a scratching post.

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A herd of wild elephants.

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They're curious...

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and rather camera-shy.

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GLASS SHATTERS, BUZZING

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Four hours from base camp, Justine's elephants

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have delivered her safely to the tree chosen for the tiger stakeout.

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This is the tree that we're going to spend the night up in.

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I think to really stand any chance of seeing a glimpse of a big cat,

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the only way is to be able to see a huge view,

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because otherwise, they're too canny.

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If I can see 200 metres, 300 metres away,

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there's a chance that it might not be aware of my presence.

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And I've got really long lenses,

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so I will be able to see it, even though it can't see me.

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She'll be staying out in the jungle day and night.

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High up is the safest place to be.

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The elephants head for camp

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and Justine settles down for her first night of surveillance.

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Back at base, everyone returns before dark.

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It's safe and relatively luxurious.

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Ah!

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For dinner, there's fish curry

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and a few unwanted guests on the side.

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You're attracting a hell of a lot of bugs.

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Lots of things are hatching out now,

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-so I reckon in the next couple of nights it'll be really alive.

-INSECT BUZZES

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-Hello?

-INSECT BUZZES LOUDLY

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Ow! God, that was loud.

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Kashmira has already recovered one of her remote cameras

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and Steve's been called to the kit tent.

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Hi, Kashmira. I heard you've got something good on your camera traps.

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Nice-looking barking deer.

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Fantastic. Anything else?

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Then...

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-No way!

-Isn't it exciting?

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It's a clouded leopard.

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What a beautiful shot!

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This is fantastic.

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This is absolutely sensational.

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This is exactly the same riverbed where we found what we

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took to be clouded leopard scat.

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The clouded leopard is one of the most elusive, difficult animals

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in the whole world to film, and this is conclusive evidence that

0:24:270:24:30

there is one living not more than a couple of miles away from camp.

0:24:300:24:34

Looking for tracks and signs is detective work.

0:24:340:24:37

It's almost like putting all the parts of the puzzle together.

0:24:370:24:40

And to find, you know, this at the end of it -

0:24:400:24:43

conclusive proof that it all added up to the right signs -

0:24:430:24:47

is just incredibly exciting.

0:24:470:24:49

The rare clouded leopard raises their hopes

0:24:530:24:56

that there will be other big cats here too.

0:24:560:24:59

THUNDER CRACKS

0:25:060:25:08

But they hadn't counted on an early monsoon.

0:25:080:25:11

This is total madness. Just a couple of seconds ago

0:25:140:25:17

there was absolutely nothing, completely calm.

0:25:170:25:20

And from nowhere, a massive gust of wind and look at this!

0:25:200:25:24

Full-on hailstones just come pelting down.

0:25:240:25:28

It's like wandering around

0:25:280:25:29

in a cloud of bullets just falling from the heavens.

0:25:290:25:32

Deep in the jungle, the remote cameras are triggered by the rain

0:25:380:25:41

and the animals running for cover.

0:25:410:25:44

30 metres up her tree, Justine's stranded.

0:25:480:25:50

This is the worst that can happen.

0:25:550:25:57

We've been listening to this storm all evening,

0:25:570:26:00

hoping that it was going to pass us by,

0:26:000:26:02

but it's just hit, the whole, full strength of it,

0:26:020:26:06

right above our heads.

0:26:060:26:08

Even the crickets are scurrying for cover.

0:26:080:26:10

Oh! It's not a good situation.

0:26:140:26:18

The lightning is right overhead now.

0:26:270:26:30

This is rain.

0:26:310:26:33

THUNDER CRACKS LOUDLY

0:26:330:26:35

Jeez!

0:26:350:26:37

Base camp is in danger of blowing away.

0:26:460:26:49

Going to tether everything down,

0:26:580:27:00

try and keep it from taking off, which is what it's doing now.

0:27:000:27:03

Last night's storm disappeared as quickly as it arrived.

0:27:290:27:32

Justine survived...

0:27:350:27:37

..just.

0:27:380:27:39

After the storm, the forest is alive with birds.

0:27:430:27:47

Justine's spied some hornbills on the other side of the clearing.

0:27:470:27:50

(This hornbill's just flown in.

0:27:520:27:54

(It's having a good, long look around.)

0:27:550:27:58

Hornbills eat fruit, small mammals and reptiles.

0:28:010:28:05

Throughout Asia, they're renowned targets for hunters.

0:28:060:28:09

Their presence suggests there's less poaching here than elsewhere.

0:28:090:28:13

Nearer base camp, the mist nets

0:28:220:28:25

have caught something just as dazzling.

0:28:250:28:27

Hey, what else have you got?

0:28:270:28:29

-Blue-throated Barbet.

-Blue-throated Barbet.

0:28:290:28:33

Oh, that's... God that is stunning!

0:28:330:28:35

What a splendid-looking chap.

0:28:350:28:39

Every bird's vital statistics are recorded.

0:28:390:28:43

CAMERA CLICKS

0:28:450:28:46

-He's a star.

-A pygmy kingfisher poses for its place in the report,

0:28:460:28:50

which George will ultimately present to the government of Bhutan.

0:28:500:28:54

While Bruiser's on down time,

0:28:570:28:59

Steve gets called out to something in the long grass near camp.

0:28:590:29:03

Oh, it's big, really big!

0:29:060:29:08

That's the tail,

0:29:110:29:14

which means the head is just...

0:29:140:29:16

there.

0:29:160:29:18

Oh, wow.

0:29:180:29:21

This is an Indian rock python.

0:29:210:29:24

OK, I just need to get a better grip on him,

0:29:240:29:26

I'm a little bit high at the moment and he can get a bite on me.

0:29:260:29:29

There, that's it.

0:29:290:29:31

He's not venomous,

0:29:310:29:33

but he could put a really unpleasant bite into you.

0:29:330:29:35

It's easily the largest snake found round here.

0:29:350:29:38

There have been specimens of these that have been found

0:29:380:29:40

up to six metres long,

0:29:400:29:42

and it's a snake that is inextricably linked with a tiger.

0:29:420:29:46

It's something that a tiger will actually feed on,

0:29:460:29:49

also these big snakes take the same sort of prey as the tiger do.

0:29:490:29:52

Let's let him go.

0:29:520:29:55

It's evidence that the conditions here

0:29:570:29:59

are ideal for tigers.

0:29:590:30:02

In the north of Bhutan,

0:30:090:30:10

Gordon remains unconvinced by tales of tigers living so high up.

0:30:100:30:14

We're heading up further into what is snow leopard territory,

0:30:190:30:23

but I am intrigued to see if we can find evidence of tigers beyond this.

0:30:230:30:27

I would be amazed if there are tigers living up here.

0:30:270:30:31

If they are here, they've adapted to live at this elevation

0:30:310:30:35

because tigers are supposed to live way, way down there.

0:30:350:30:39

While the mules rest, Gordon explores trails

0:30:390:30:43

etched into the mountainside by generations of nomadic herders.

0:30:430:30:47

If tigers are living up here,

0:30:520:30:54

they would make use of these same paths

0:30:540:30:57

He searches for three hours.

0:31:010:31:04

I haven't seen anything. The things I'm looking for,

0:31:060:31:10

the first thing I've been looking for is the prey,

0:31:100:31:13

what are the tigers feeding on up here.

0:31:130:31:15

But in the absence of that, looking for their tracks

0:31:150:31:19

along this loose, dusty soil.

0:31:190:31:22

Tigers, when they're patrolling, they make these scrapes on the ground,

0:31:220:31:26

they urinate against bushes, you can smell that, they scratch on trees.

0:31:260:31:30

There is none of that.

0:31:300:31:31

I haven't seen one piece of evidence that backs up the rumours

0:31:310:31:34

that there are tigers up here and I keep on telling myself

0:31:340:31:38

these are rumours that there are tigers here,

0:31:380:31:40

but there are also rumours in Bhutan that there are yetis.

0:31:400:31:45

So I'm beginning to wonder whether here at all.

0:31:450:31:49

It's beginning to look like a wild goose chase.

0:32:000:32:04

But the plight of the tigers is so desperate,

0:32:040:32:07

Gordon won't give up until he's exhausted all leads.

0:32:070:32:09

In the south, the search for tigers has come to an abrupt halt.

0:32:210:32:27

Another heavy rainstorm

0:32:270:32:29

is washing away any telltale footprints or scat.

0:32:290:32:33

This is pretty hopeless now.

0:32:330:32:36

Down here is just a running stream so there is absolutely nothing

0:32:360:32:39

going to hold there and unless we were to come across

0:32:390:32:42

an area where the tiger had been within minutes beforehand,

0:32:420:32:45

which really isn't going to happen, our mission is over for today.

0:32:450:32:49

So I think we need to head back to camp, get dry, get the dog dry.

0:32:490:32:53

He's looking a bit miserable, isn't he?

0:32:530:32:55

Let's go.

0:33:010:33:03

These delays are the last thing the team needs.

0:33:080:33:12

Time is running out for the tiger.

0:33:120:33:15

The Chinese medicine market for tiger bones and body parts is booming.

0:33:150:33:21

As tigers become rarer, the price on their heads just gets higher.

0:33:250:33:30

They are an irresistible temptation for poachers.

0:33:340:33:37

Alan has frequently witnessed the aftermath of their dirty work.

0:33:440:33:48

But seeing these images for the first time can be deeply shocking.

0:33:480:33:53

I wanted to show you some of the things we have found

0:33:530:33:56

in the 10 to 20 years I have been studying tigers,

0:33:560:34:00

and what's still happening right now.

0:34:000:34:04

Tigers have just become so valuable today on the Chinese medicinal market

0:34:040:34:09

that people are going after every individual tiger.

0:34:090:34:13

Oh, for God's sake! What's happened there?

0:34:140:34:18

They just killed the tiger and took its entire skeleton out.

0:34:180:34:23

The rest was trashed.

0:34:230:34:24

Again, the same, in Russia. Here they decided to take the whole tiger.

0:34:310:34:36

The largest cat in the world.

0:34:380:34:41

By every count, one of the most magnificent species

0:34:410:34:44

to ever walk the face of our earth.

0:34:440:34:46

Look what people do to it.

0:34:460:34:49

I have to get angry.

0:34:490:34:51

This can't happen, this can't go on,

0:34:510:34:53

but they're not going to kill every tiger on my watch

0:34:530:34:56

and on the watch of others who feel so strongly

0:34:560:35:00

that this animal has every right to survive and should survive.

0:35:000:35:06

Some of these are so disgusting...

0:35:170:35:19

..that I just don't want to see them.

0:35:230:35:25

How anybody could do...

0:35:290:35:31

I don't know how you stand it.

0:35:310:35:34

I couldn't do this. I couldn't do this job.

0:35:340:35:38

It's hard.

0:35:390:35:41

I wish you hadn't shown me those.

0:35:510:35:53

George, it stinks, it really does.

0:35:530:35:56

They must hope that Bhutan offers any remaining tigers

0:36:020:36:06

a safe place to stay hidden.

0:36:060:36:08

Tigers are not easy to find, not in a natural area.

0:36:160:36:20

People think, "If you're not seeing tigers, why don't you go to place where you can see tigers?"

0:36:200:36:24

Well, frankly, any place where you can go and see tigers easily

0:36:240:36:29

is not the most natural area for tigers.

0:36:290:36:31

This is a truly, wild, natural landscape for the tiger.

0:36:310:36:36

Tigers roam over hundreds of miles, and avoid humans wherever they can.

0:36:390:36:44

If they do live in these thick forests, they would rarely be seen.

0:36:440:36:49

But for the Himalayan tiger corridor to be successful,

0:36:490:36:52

the expedition must discover a healthy population in Bhutan,

0:36:520:36:56

from the southern lowlands up into the mountains.

0:36:560:37:00

At altitude, finding them is even more of a challenge.

0:37:040:37:08

Gordon has been searching the mountain ridge all day.

0:37:110:37:15

He's about to set up camp when one of the porters spots something of interest.

0:37:150:37:19

Oh, yeah, just down here.

0:37:220:37:24

The yak carcass.

0:37:240:37:27

Most big cats start feeding from the rear.

0:37:310:37:33

If you look, the front half is intact and the back half is almost completely gone.

0:37:330:37:39

That might be a big clue as to what happened to it.

0:37:390:37:42

If there is a big cat up here and there were yaks grazing around here,

0:37:420:37:46

what they would do is lurk on the tree line and wait for a yak to get close enough.

0:37:460:37:50

They'd just charge out, grab it and then drag it back in to somewhere like this.

0:37:500:37:56

What I'd be looking for on a fresh kill, is puncture marks on the neck.

0:37:560:38:00

And, actually, the hair is quite badly disturbed around there, but...

0:38:000:38:05

There's a deep hole in there.

0:38:080:38:10

Actually, there's a very deep hole.

0:38:100:38:12

Oh!

0:38:120:38:14

Come and have a look.

0:38:140:38:16

I've found something here which...

0:38:160:38:18

It could really mean that a tiger took this. A big puncture wound.

0:38:200:38:25

It looks maybe a little bit too big for a leopard.

0:38:250:38:29

Often, when they attack, it's only one tooth that actually punctures.

0:38:290:38:33

It's like a bullet hole, exactly where a tiger would attack.

0:38:340:38:38

It would grab onto it and swing round and grab under the neck.

0:38:380:38:43

Quite often the puncture wound is located behind the ear,

0:38:430:38:46

which is exactly where this one is.

0:38:460:38:48

The gruesome remains are an intriguing discovery.

0:38:550:38:59

Gordon will rig the surrounding area with his remote cameras.

0:38:590:39:02

He'll return to check them at the end of the expedition.

0:39:050:39:09

Near base camp, Alan's camera traps have been whirring away for a week.

0:39:230:39:28

They've recorded everything that's walked past.

0:39:290:39:32

It's always very, very exciting looking at these pictures.

0:39:350:39:38

It's like going into a candy store and not being sure of

0:39:380:39:41

exactly what kind of candy is in there.

0:39:410:39:44

And hoping your favourite candy is there.

0:39:440:39:47

A big bird of some type.

0:39:530:39:54

Oh, a macaque.

0:39:580:40:00

Oh, beautiful. Water buffalo.

0:40:020:40:05

Lots of animals for a tiger to feed on.

0:40:070:40:11

Just wait for the tiger to come around the corner.

0:40:110:40:14

Oh!

0:40:250:40:26

Look at that. That's a beauty.

0:40:260:40:29

Drinking water.

0:40:290:40:31

Beautiful shot.

0:40:310:40:33

It's not a tiger, but a rare leopard.

0:40:330:40:37

We didn't have a tiger this time, but we have some great pictures.

0:40:370:40:41

People don't understand, unless they've been in other areas where

0:40:410:40:44

so much of the animals have been killed off, how special this is.

0:40:440:40:47

In Bhutan, where Buddhist respect for wildlife is strong, hunting is rare.

0:40:570:41:03

Animals are safer here than elsewhere.

0:41:050:41:07

Civets search for food under the cover of darkness.

0:41:130:41:17

It's the best time for species like the leopard cat,

0:41:200:41:25

and the leopard, to hunt.

0:41:250:41:28

There's a good population of leopards here.

0:41:370:41:40

And even rare form of leopard - a black panther.

0:41:420:41:48

But still no tigers.

0:41:510:41:55

High up in her tree, Justine hopes for better luck.

0:42:010:42:05

She's scanning the darkness with a heat-sensing camera.

0:42:050:42:08

It will pick out animals in the cool of the forest night.

0:42:080:42:12

I can see something.

0:42:170:42:19

It's amazing how it glows.

0:42:190:42:21

This is the first mammal I've seen on a thermal camera.

0:42:240:42:27

She switches to her infrared camera for a more detailed look.

0:42:270:42:32

Great.

0:42:350:42:37

Great, great, great - it's a Sambar deer. It's a female.

0:42:370:42:41

The Sambar deer is a great find.

0:42:420:42:45

It's one of the tiger's favourite prey.

0:42:450:42:49

She's looking nervous.

0:42:490:42:51

I guess if you're a Sambar deer,

0:42:510:42:54

you'd spend your whole life being nervous.

0:42:540:42:56

There's another deer.

0:43:010:43:03

I'm really glad to see these Sambar deer, because it means that there's quite a good population around,

0:43:060:43:11

which does raise our chances somewhat of seeing tiger.

0:43:130:43:18

Justine will keep her tiger vigil all night.

0:43:180:43:22

At base camp, everyone is desperate for some rest.

0:43:240:43:28

Goodnight, Bruiser. Goodnight.

0:43:300:43:32

All except George.

0:43:350:43:37

Darkness is when his favourite creatures appear.

0:43:370:43:40

Oh, my goodness.

0:43:430:43:45

This is a beautiful moon moth.

0:43:450:43:49

And it's a male and you've got these long hind wing tails.

0:43:490:43:54

Absolutely gorgeous.

0:43:540:43:57

What a sight to see.

0:43:570:44:00

I'll just bend it round, and you can see how stunning...

0:44:000:44:03

Look at that.

0:44:060:44:07

Is that not just the prettiest moth you've ever seen in your life?

0:44:070:44:14

That is one of the best things I've seen so far.

0:44:140:44:18

George is also drawn to little glowing lights in the forest.

0:44:200:44:26

There's fireflies all over here, they're absolutely fantastic, look.

0:44:260:44:30

And these aren't, of course, flies.

0:44:300:44:32

They are little beetles and they emit this cold,

0:44:320:44:36

greenish glow from a special organ on the underside of their abdomen.

0:44:360:44:40

I do remember a book I had when I was a kid, saying that you could

0:44:400:44:43

read a book if you had enough fireflies or glow-worms in a jar.

0:44:430:44:48

First, he has to catch them.

0:44:480:44:52

Oh! Ah!

0:44:530:44:55

Don't lose them!

0:44:550:44:57

I reckon I've got about 50 fireflies in here,

0:44:570:45:01

at least 50.

0:45:010:45:04

Well, when you've got them in the jar...

0:45:090:45:11

Oh, wow.

0:45:110:45:13

That is just fabulous!

0:45:130:45:18

Let me see.

0:45:180:45:21

Switch off your light and see if we can do this.

0:45:210:45:24

It's like a little disco show.

0:45:240:45:27

Around the world in 80 days.

0:45:290:45:36

I think you would ruin your eyesight.

0:45:360:45:39

But George's night shift has not been in vain -

0:45:390:45:42

he's proven one thing for sure.

0:45:420:45:44

This is a very special place.

0:45:440:45:47

It does seem to be incredibly rich,

0:45:470:45:49

and it's these armies of small insects that feed birds and other animals,

0:45:490:45:54

which in turn feed the higher carnivores, including cats.

0:45:540:45:59

I know the word "pristine" is often used, but in this regard,

0:45:590:46:04

I think for this forest, it really is accurate.

0:46:040:46:07

All that's missing from the picture are the tigers themselves.

0:46:070:46:12

If anyone knows how tigers might survive in these hostile conditions,

0:46:210:46:26

it's the yak herders.

0:46:260:46:27

Gordon needs to find them.

0:46:270:46:29

It's just started snowing.

0:46:420:46:43

Just hoping it doesn't get too heavy, because these paths are so narrow

0:46:430:46:47

and the ledges are really quite steep.

0:46:470:46:50

I'm really up against it here.

0:46:500:46:52

It's minus five, and Gordon faces an uncomfortable obstacle.

0:46:540:46:58

No way.

0:47:010:47:03

There is a bridge there,

0:47:030:47:05

but the bridge is long gone. It's lovely, crystal clear water.

0:47:050:47:09

Hey, hey. It's fine, it's fine!

0:47:090:47:14

With hours of tough walking ahead,

0:47:190:47:22

freezing cold, wet boots are not an option.

0:47:220:47:24

Oh, that's painful.

0:47:400:47:43

Oh, that's cold!

0:47:430:47:47

So I was going to cross it as fast as I could, but you can't cross

0:47:470:47:51

a river full of slippery boulders very quickly.

0:47:510:47:53

It just got colder and colder and now my feet are kind of on fire.

0:47:530:47:57

I'm getting a little bit worried.

0:47:590:48:01

I just want to get to camp.

0:48:010:48:04

100 miles downstream, Steve and the dog team are widening their search.

0:48:160:48:20

They're scouring the river banks.

0:48:280:48:30

Actually, let's go out to the edge.

0:48:300:48:33

Almost immediately, Bruiser comes to a stop.

0:48:360:48:39

Show me, Bruiser.

0:48:430:48:44

Ah, here we go.

0:48:470:48:48

He just found it and I can see it now.

0:48:480:48:50

Bruiser, step back.

0:48:500:48:52

Wow, that's pretty cool.

0:48:520:48:55

It's by far the largest scat Bruiser's found.

0:48:550:49:00

He's found some tiger scat. And this is some Sambar deer, you think?

0:49:000:49:05

-Yes.

-That's almost exclusively hair, isn't it?

0:49:050:49:08

-You can tell the size, it's not small.

-There's a lot of it around.

0:49:080:49:11

-Look at this here.

-There's more here.

0:49:110:49:13

This is just absolutely phenomenal.

0:49:130:49:15

I can't believe that right here, a tiger has been

0:49:150:49:18

within the last couple of weeks, just walking down this beach.

0:49:180:49:22

I mean, it's incredible.

0:49:220:49:23

Well done!

0:49:230:49:25

Well done, Bruiser! That's amazing.

0:49:250:49:29

-It's the evidence the dog team have been longing to find.

-Good job, Bruiser.

0:49:290:49:33

Bruiser's rewarded with extra play time.

0:49:330:49:37

And a long cool down.

0:49:390:49:42

But Steve doesn't want to get his hopes up

0:49:420:49:44

until Alan has given his expert opinion.

0:49:440:49:47

This looks like Sambar deer.

0:49:490:49:52

This is the kind of piece to the puzzle that you need, and you want.

0:49:530:49:57

You want faecal material with the tiger's favourite prey in it.

0:49:570:50:01

That's neat, that's exciting.

0:50:010:50:04

This pile of hair is an amazing find.

0:50:040:50:06

It's the first proof

0:50:060:50:08

there's a tiger within striking distance of base camp.

0:50:080:50:12

They'll leave the camera traps running for a few more days.

0:50:140:50:18

4,000 metres up, and after two days relentless trekking,

0:50:260:50:30

Gordon and translator, Phup, reach the yak herders.

0:50:300:50:34

Hopefully, they'll have some answers.

0:50:340:50:37

Have you lost any of your yaks recently?

0:50:390:50:41

SPEAKS IN NATIVE TONGUE

0:50:410:50:44

A big cat has killed one of his favourite bulls.

0:50:490:50:52

And was it close to the camp?

0:50:520:50:55

Other side of the ridge in a forest.

0:51:010:51:04

And he says it was attacked by the big cat and he sees all these

0:51:040:51:11

bites all over his throat and his left shoulder has been smashed off.

0:51:110:51:16

-He has seen the pugmark.

-The pugmark that you saw, how big was it?

0:51:160:51:21

If it's that size, it's definitely a tiger.

0:51:230:51:25

How high is that? How many metres?

0:51:250:51:27

What he said was 4,300 metres.

0:51:270:51:30

It doesn't matter how many times he's seen a tiger pug mark.

0:51:300:51:34

At 4000 metres, if he's seen one there, he's seen it.

0:51:340:51:37

It's incredible, unbelievable that this man is telling us

0:51:370:51:41

that he's found evidence of tigers, 4,000 metres plus.

0:51:410:51:48

-If the gentleman wants to come into...

-Thank you.

0:51:480:51:51

Gordon now has a first-hand account, suggesting at least one tiger lives on these peaks.

0:51:520:51:58

We still need proof of this.

0:52:000:52:04

This is anecdotal evidence,

0:52:040:52:06

not that I'm doubting what anyone is saying, but we need evidence.

0:52:060:52:11

We need to see a tiger at this elevation for ourselves,

0:52:110:52:15

either with our own eyes, or with camera traps.

0:52:150:52:17

Gordon must plant his camera traps even higher.

0:52:200:52:24

If he can show that tigers live in these mountains,

0:52:240:52:27

it would massively expand the proposed Himalayan tiger corridor.

0:52:270:52:31

It would be a huge boost to saving them in the wild.

0:52:310:52:35

Ten days into the expedition, they've found a wealth of animals,

0:52:460:52:50

which George will include in his report.

0:52:500:52:52

Alan is bringing in his camera traps.

0:52:540:52:57

Everyone piles into the dining tent to see the results.

0:53:010:53:05

-Oh!

-That's beautiful.

0:53:060:53:10

Nice big chunk of tiger food, is what that is.

0:53:110:53:14

-ALL:

-Oooh!

-Very nice, more tiger prey.

0:53:150:53:18

Tigers love these big wild pigs.

0:53:180:53:21

Oh, that's very nice. Two big chunks of tiger food.

0:53:210:53:24

Oh! Well, there's no mistaking that.

0:53:240:53:28

-Female?

-Male.

0:53:280:53:30

-Really? Oh, yeah!

-LAUGHTER

0:53:300:53:33

Oh, yeah, so it is! Oh, lots of ellies and a baby elly.

0:53:330:53:38

Very close to the camera, isn't it?

0:53:380:53:41

Amazing. That's a great shot.

0:53:410:53:44

But there's only one animal the team really wants to see.

0:53:450:53:49

ALL: Ah!

0:53:490:53:52

It sure is.

0:53:520:53:53

It's a tiger!

0:53:530:53:56

-Look at that big boy.

-Look at it!.

-Play it again.

0:53:560:53:58

It's what the expedition have been dreaming of,

0:54:010:54:03

hard evidence that the world's largest cat is living in these forests.

0:54:030:54:08

That is the most fantastic thing I've ever seen.

0:54:080:54:11

It's just absolutely... What a magnificent animal.

0:54:110:54:13

As they continue to watch, they're in for a surprise.

0:54:160:54:19

ALL: Oh!

0:54:190:54:21

That is beautiful.

0:54:210:54:23

There's not just one, but two tigers,

0:54:230:54:25

walking the trails a couple of miles from camp.

0:54:250:54:28

Oh, that is beautiful.

0:54:300:54:32

It's the first time Bhutan's precious tigers have been filmed.

0:54:340:54:38

Man, oh, man!

0:54:410:54:43

Do you see that, just right on that crack?

0:54:450:54:48

Oh, look at that. Unbelievable.

0:54:480:54:53

They're here, they're healthy, the forest's healthy.

0:54:540:54:58

It's just incredible.

0:54:580:55:01

To me, this is as good as it gets.

0:55:010:55:04

I would rather see these kind of great shots

0:55:040:55:08

at several different locations, followed by prey on the same trail, frankly,

0:55:080:55:14

than I would having a moment seeing a tiger in the forest.

0:55:140:55:17

The team now have three images

0:55:220:55:24

of one of the rarest animals on the planet.

0:55:240:55:26

It's a fantastic start.

0:55:310:55:33

Now they can extend their search throughout the forests of Bhutan

0:55:330:55:37

and begin to work out how many breeding pairs there are.

0:55:370:55:41

Look at that! That is spectacular.

0:55:440:55:48

Awesome.

0:55:480:55:50

High in the Himalayas, Gordon is looking for places to set his remote cameras.

0:55:560:56:01

The air is getting thinner.

0:56:030:56:06

I just can't breathe.

0:56:090:56:10

I feel as if I don't belong here.

0:56:100:56:12

You've got hardly any breath.

0:56:120:56:15

Every five steps, I need to...

0:56:150:56:16

I feel as if I have to stop.

0:56:160:56:20

This is downright painful.

0:56:270:56:30

My lungs are burning. My legs are burning.

0:56:300:56:35

Man, do I really want to do this?

0:56:410:56:45

Jesus.

0:56:450:56:47

Altitude sickness is a real danger, but Gordon summons his last ounce of will.

0:57:060:57:11

At 5,000 metres, he rigs his final camera.

0:57:140:57:19

He has given his all.

0:57:280:57:30

From now on, the remote cameras will be his eyes in the clouds.

0:57:340:57:39

He'll recover them at the end of the expedition,

0:57:390:57:42

to see if they bear witness to the highest living tigers in the world.

0:57:420:57:47

Next time:

0:57:490:57:50

The team strikes out from base camp.

0:57:500:57:53

And their mission to save the tiger

0:57:530:57:55

takes Steve on a dangerous journey into the unknown.

0:57:550:57:59

Down there is where we'll find some answers about the tiger.

0:57:590:58:02

George meets the king of the jungle...

0:58:020:58:06

Look at him!

0:58:060:58:07

Absolutely magnificent.

0:58:070:58:10

And Alan's master plan begins to take shape...

0:58:100:58:12

Can we save tigers?

0:58:120:58:14

Absolutely, we can save tigers.

0:58:140:58:16

We will save tigers.

0:58:160:58:18

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:290:58:31

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:310:58:35

Documentary series following a dramatic expedition searching for tigers hidden in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

With tigers heading for extinction, an international team of big-cat experts and wildlife film-makers are given unique access to the jungles and mountains of Bhutan for what could be the last chance to save this magnificent animal.

Explorer Steve Backshall is joined by sniffer dog Bruiser - together, they hunt for tigers through the dense forest undergrowth. High in the mountains, wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan drives himself to exhaustion tracking tigers that seem as elusive as the yeti. And in a jungle base camp, scientist George McGavin organises a firefly disco, while camerawoman Justine Evans is stuck at the top of a tree during a tropical lightning storm.

For the final team member, big-cat biologist Alan Rabinowitz, time to save the tiger is running out, as he has been diagnosed with incurable leukaemia. Alan bugs the forest with remote cameras to capture whatever secretive creatures are lurking there, but ultimately he needs to find tigers if his ambitious plan to protect them across the Himalayas is to succeed.

We follow the expedition every emotional step of the way as they strive to find evidence that could help to bring wild tigers back from the brink of extinction and safeguard their future.


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