tue 16/07/2024

Tigers about the House, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Tigers about the House, BBC Two

Tigers about the House, BBC Two

Outrageously photogenic Sumatran cubs do their bit for wildlife conservation

Cutest cats: Spot and Stripe turn it on for the cameras

There is a saying that dogs have owners but cats have staff, and it's an axiom forcibly borne out by this new three-part series. The felines in question are Sumatran tiger cubs rather than primped and pampered household pets, but they're so rare, and so prone to the tigerish equivalent of infant mortality, that Australia Zoo's tiger expert Giles Clark decided to rear them at his family home.

Like a first-time father, he was soon looking gaunt and haggard on three hours sleep a night, worn to a frazzle by leaping up to tend to the faintest mew or gurgle from the celebrity kittens. At first glance it might appear ludicrous or - if we prefer to rely on the manual of moribund PC cliches - "inappropriate" to rear baby apex predators in the Queensland suburbs. Surely they're wild animals who need to learn to cope with life in the great outdoors etc? (below, Giles Clark, wife Kerri and the cubs).

Well back in the Born Free era maybe, but today's tragic truth is that any Sumatran tiger found in the wild will be killed by poachers and turned into aphrodisiacs and magic potions for the insatiable Chinese market. There's only a handful of them left (the official term is "critically endangered"), and the ones being raised in captivity around the world are the only guarantee that future generations will ever be able to see one.

It looks like the next episodes of Tigers about the House will delve more fully into the poaching and conservation angles, but this first one was an exploration of an astonishingly intimate relationship between man and beast. Clark and his fellow-staffers at Australia Zoo (about an hour's drive north of Brisbane) work hard at developing close bonds with their charges, and, unfeasible though it may be, Clark seemingly enjoys a rapport with "his" tigers which is as casual as the ordinary citizen's relationship with their tabby or labrador. He strokes and cuddles the adult tigers (average weight: 130 kilos), and they enjoy being taken for walks in the bush.

Possibly the most amazing scenes were of the adult female, Caitlin, giving birth to her twin cubs while Clark sat close by, fretting neurotically. When Spot, the first-born cub, failed to suckle properly, Clark dived in, picked him up and attached him to a spare nipple. Caitlin, rather than ripping his arm off in a frenzy of maternal protectiveness, merely gazed at him sleepily.

Like it or not, the baby tigers are going to have to earn their living as poster-cats for the conservation campaign energetically promoted by Australia Zoo. There were tiny signs of diva-ism on the day when they were due to do a TV spot on the local Today Show - the cubs were teething, and kept up a sustained barrage of raucous caterwauling - but they made a miraculous recovery in time to get the TV presenter cooing about how cute and gorgeous they were. As indeed they are, but it's a macabre irony that even the earth's most majestic hunters are now mere pawns in the celebrity-culture game.


Will the BBC be bring out a DVD of Tigers in the house ? If not they should rethink this as it would be a good seller , I for one would buy it ....

Would definitely buy the dvd, this was the best tv I have watched in ages

I second that! Would the BBC produce the DVD and donate all proceeds to the Sumatran Tiger conservation charity, ta muchly!

Really enjoyed this series and fell in love with the tigers. Giles and his team are doing an incredible job and I hope their work makes a big difference to the future of these beautiful big cats. Will there be a follow on series so we can see how Spot and Stripe are getting on?

Great idea! Mums going nuts over this program please produce a dvd possibly in time for chrismas!

It seems it is available in Australia, shame as my other half would love this on dvd. Wish the BBC in uk would bring this out on DVD here too. Am sure it would sell well and some of the proceeds could go the the trust. I would certainly pay for this.

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