mon 16/12/2019

Takaya: Lone Wolf, BBC Four review - enigmatic predator baffles boffins | reviews, news & interviews

Takaya: Lone Wolf, BBC Four review - enigmatic predator baffles boffins

Takaya: Lone Wolf, BBC Four review - enigmatic predator baffles boffins

Outcast of the islands poses intriguing questions about animal behaviour

Howlin' wolf: is Takaya lonely or just alone?

Who can explain the mystery of the solitary wolf who has taken up residence on an archipelago off Vancouver Island – the Discovery and Chatham Islands to be precise – and has developed his own unique hunting methods while patrolling his self-contained personal turf? His behaviour runs totally contrary to the close family bonding typical of wolves, but if anybody can shed some light it’s wildlife photographer and environmentalist Cheryl Alexander, who (as we saw in this BBC Four film) has been carefully studying Takaya (it means “wolf” in the language of the indigenous Songhees people) for the seven years he’s been living there.

Set against a hauntingly beautiful backdrop of mountains and ocean, the story felt like an elemental parable of man and nature. Alexander obviously feels a powerful emotional connection with Takaya, but manages to avoid anthropomorphising him too much. Although not entirely. “There was a moment when I looked directly into his eyes and it was a very powerful experience,” she confided (does her husband know about this?). But watching Takaya throw his head back to emit a soul-piercing wolf-howl, it was impossible not to feel an excruciating pang of sympathy for his solitary state. Alexander had enlisted Fred Harrington, an expert on “wolf vocalisation”, to run his professional rule over Takaya, and he noted the way that wolf cries seem to speak directly to humans (“we feel some empathy to the animal making it”).

This is a slippery slope though, because before long you might find yourself inventing a back story and a cast of supporting characters for him. Perhaps Takaya is an existential outcast from his pack, unable to reach a philosophical rapprochement with his fellow specimens of canis lupus. Or he may be a wandering Byronic hero, grieving for his lost love, consoling himself by artfully stealing goose eggs and imitating the fishing techniques of herons. A wolf expert at Yellowstone National Park surmised that he may simply have chosen to be alone, and gets all the company he needs from his cautious interactions with Alexander. After all, he had to swim one and a half kilometres through strong currents to reach his present home, which suggests he had a compelling motive.

Whatever his reasons, Takaya is doing wonders for the public image of wolves. Far from the slavering monsters portrayed in films like The Grey, he’s intelligent, resourceful (for instance he knows where to dig for water in dry seasons), has movie-star looks and has never shown any inclination to take a bite out of a human (though he’s developed an extraordinary ability to peel the skin off a seal). And the good news was that a young female wolf has been spotted not too far away, perhaps lured by Takaya’s beseeching wails. We breathlessly await further developments.

 

Comments

I watched this Programme with my Wife and was completely captured. How Takaya had adapted to his new surrounds and how placid he seemed to be when in close company with Humans, This documentary certainly opened up the debate on how they live. The only part that made me sad was Takaya,s isolation and whilst the various commentators suggestions that perhaps this was ok when clearly the wolf is a very social animal. We ought to intervene and bring this lady wolf over, seems like the way to go. Thanks Andy

Yes, it's a fascinating story. The female wolf sounds like the perfect solution, but you have to leave it to Takaya. He's a smart guy!

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