Planet Earth II, a new BBC America docuseries which premiered last week in the United States, included jaw-dropping close-range footage of snow leopards in their natural habitat.
The series premiere episode aired on February 25, 2017 and featured the incredible footage of four wild snow leopards on camera; the first time ever according to the network.
Scientists estimate that as few as 3,500 of these evasive and solitary animals currently exist in the wild. Known to reside in extremely difficult to access cold mountainous terrain, snow leopards are notoriously difficult to capture on camera.
Snow leopards have been categorized as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2003.
A producer of the docuseries, Justin Anderson, explained to Business Insider how the show’s crew was able to film the majestic animals, which are recognizable by their near white coats speckled with black rosettes and long tails, at such a remarkably close range that the snow leopards often brushed against the cameras.
After consulting with locals familiar with tracking the snow leopards and witnessing where they marked their territory, the crew was able to strategically place new, high-tech “camera traps” which they operated remotely.
“Our camera man on snow leopards also spent time in Ladakh as a child and knew some of the best contacts from his time there,” said Anderson referring to the 16 weeks the crew spent on location in India, often hiking into the Himalayas placing cameras, which would be left for months at a time, as high as 16,400 feet. “It was a huge team effort, a remote location with lots of challenges.”
In the original 2006 installment of the Planet Earth series, by camping out a mile away and using high-power camera lenses, the crew was able to secure footage of one lone snow leopard.
“Four snow leopards together is unheard of,” exclaimed Anderson. “I’m not sure anyone will film that again, but you never know!”
Maybe we will have to wait until Planet Earth III to find out!