It was the night before 2015 and all the television commissioners were at a drinks reception at The Ivy and their audiences were at the pub. So, as tradition dictates, there wasn’t a lot on the box that was a) much cop or b) not live. Our deadlines (hic!) – and this writer’s sanity – dictate that reviewing Queen + Adam Lambert Rock Big Ben Live was out of the question so instead we visited Australia.
Specifically, we visited the tiger enclosure at Australia Zoo, which you might remember from deadly animal documentaries such as The Crocodile Hunter and Croc Files, and which is still owned by Terri Irwin, widow of Steve Irwin.
Giles Clark, the star of Tigers About the House: What Happened Next (BBC2), is in charge of tigers at Australia Zoo. Like his late boss, he takes a hands-on approach to dealing with the deadly creatures in his care. Hands-on like kissing them on the lips hands-on.
But that’s OK because the two tigers featured here, Spot and Stripe, were raised by his hand in his house – they first appeared on BBC2 in this summer’s Tigers About the House. This two-part film follows up what’s happened to the pair since. They’ve grown, they’ve learned to swim, their big teeth are even coming through (Clark demonstrates this by using his forearm as a wedge with which to prop a mouth open).
It’s certainly a bold approach. Clark reckons that by being hands-on with the cats, he’s giving them a better quality of life. And the pair certainly seem happy. But you do wonder whether the next we’ll hear of him will be a heartwarming viral video or on the News at 10.
Either way, Spot and Stripe are incredible creatures just to watch. The programme-makers certainly left it late, but managed to sneak in one of the telly moments of the year with a sequence in which Clark explained that because Spot is nearly blind, thanks to a congenital eye condition, his brother Stripe takes great pleasure in sneaking up behind him and jumping him. Thus providing incontrovertible proof that whether you’re a human, a monkey or a rare-as-gold Sumatran tiger, brothers are idiots.
Despite being billed as a show about tigers, this really is the story of Clark and his family. Having taken the rather sensible decision to send Spot and Stripe back to the tiger enclosure at Australia Zoo, Clark was keen to show his family the creatures in their natural habitat and packed them off to Indonesia. The thought of spending time in the jungle prompted a decent bit of to-camera mum-in-lawing from his wife Kerri’s mum when it came to her daughter’s wellbeing in Sumatra: “She’s worried about doing twosies.”
The Clarks then headed to Indonesia (we’d forgotten about the tigers by now). They included a spot of undercover work at a Jakarta street pet shop – nothing like the sight of an orphaned baby monkey in a tiny cage to end your year on a tear-sodden note. Then Kerri helped to rescue an orang-utan called Jacko who’d been left to rot in a rubbish-filled cage.
Just to make sure any faith in humanity didn’t go up in the air with the New Year fireworks, the Clarks then decamped to an elephant sanctuary and helped the keepers build a fence to keep the residents from wandering off into the path of poachers. Clark isn’t quite as natural as Steve Irwin in front of the cameras, but – as his determination to work through the night building that fence while covered in sweat and leeches proved – he cares more than your average bear/deadly tiger. He could be a contender.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies