Meet the characters

Meet five of the world's most celebrated, yet endangered animals; chimpanzees, penguins, lions, painted wolves and tigers. Discover their struggles against rivals and the forces of nature ahead of natural history’s biggest drama.

David - The Ruler

Power plays and politics dominate in this chimpanzee’s dramatic fight to stay at the top. David is a strong and determined leader who rules over his troop of 32 in Senegal, West Africa. He has already led this group for 3 years - most alpha males here don't hold on to the power much longer than this. Ruthless rivals are circling, eager to snatch his crown, and are even prepared to kill him for it. David needs allies – and fast. Who can he trust?


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David the chimp
David. As leader he has to always be alert and showing his power to theothers in the group. Senegal, West Africa. © Mark MacEwen

Emperor Penguin - The Survivor

The emperor penguin colony has to battle to survive the cruellest winter on earth – and can only do so through teamwork. Four thousand male penguins join forces in a huddle that creates a giant incubator for their eggs. After 2 months the eggs hatch and the females return to relieve the starving males and feed the new chick. The parents then take it in turns to go and feed and bring back food for their young. And eventually the chicks are old enough to adopt their father’s survival strategy – by forming their own mini huddles when blizzards threaten to freeze them.

Two Emperor penguin parents, each with their own 5-month-old chicks,begging for food. Atka Bay, Antarctica. © Stefan Chrismann

Charm - The Defender

The future of the pride depends on this mighty lioness. Charm may be the most powerful leader in the history of the Marsh Pride of Kenya’s Masai Mara, but if her cubs don’t make it to adulthood, her dynastic bloodline will be lost. Since the pride’s adult males abandoned the family, she must not only hunt around the clock to feed the pride’s young, but also defend them from marauding hyena clans, huge herds of buffalo, and even other lions. There’s nothing Charm won’t do to protect her pride.

lion cub being carried in mothers mouth
Charm - the matriarch of the Marsh Pride - carries one of her cubs to meet the rest of its family, for the first time. © Simon Blakeney BBC NHU 2018

Blacktip - The Rebel

Family treachery is central to Blacktip’s story. The rebellious, risk-taking painted wolf roams the floodplains and forests in Mana Pools, Northern Zimbabwe, leading an intimidating pack of 30. But the group has become so huge that this alpha female needs more territory. And she’s prepared to make tough choices when it comes to feeding her growing family.

painted wolves
Blacktip is a risk-taker with a pack of 30. She'll do everything it takes to get more territory for her swelling pack. © Nick Lyon 2018

Raj - The Protector

An experienced hunter, tigress Raj Bhera will do anything to keep her cubs alive. She lives in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in India and is a devoted mother to four young cubs – but, she has a troubled relationship with an older daughter Solo. Solo is a dangerous rival and is looking to invade Raj Bhera’s territory. Raj Bhera must spend her time precariously balanced between hunting for her cubs, scent marking to keep her boundaries safe and nursing her small cubs.

A mother-daughter rivalry between tigress Raj and Solo puts the safety of Raj's cubs at risk. © Theo Webb BBC NHU

Featured image © Mark MacEwen 2018