My friends are wild

My friends are wild

Fitting in is tough, especially with a completely different species. But one man has made some unlikely buddies.

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Kim Wolhuter spent much of his time living in the wild among a family of cheetahs for his documentary Man, Cheetah, WIld.
Kim Wolhuter spent much of his time living in the wild among a family of cheetahs for his documentary Man, Cheetah, WIld.

On the day Young Post was supposed to interview him, Kim Wolhuter got stuck in quicksand in the African bush. Luckily for readers, our chat with the daring Discovery Channel host was quickly rescheduled.

Wolhuter, 55, is known for his bold wildlife documentaries. Forget filming from the safety of a jeep - this award-winning Zimbabwean filmmaker walks right up to wild animals with his camera until he's close enough to touch them.

"[What's] fairly new in my films is the way that I'm able to engage with the animals and take the viewer into a place that they've never been before: a place where they actually feel like they are the animals," he explains.

In his latest documentary, Man, Cheetah, Wild, which premieres tonight, Wolhuter follows a cheetah family in Zimbabwe's Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. In one of many jaw-dropping moments, he even lets the cubs play on top of him while he is lying down.

"It was just amazing. I would fall asleep with them on the ground and they would sometimes wake up and come and lick me," recalls the filmmaker.

But Wolhuter's goal is not simply to entertain. Through his films, he inspires viewers to care more deeply for animals, since he believes one of our biggest problems is that many of us have lost touch with nature. "We've totally forgotten how the natural world survives: how it's all linked together and how everything works," he says. Wolhuter believes that it is possible for humans to have a deep connection with wild, rather than domesticated, animals - and he wants to show that through Man, Cheetah, Wild.

"I just really want people to understand that this is where [humans] were hundreds of years ago when we were still living with the wild animals. It's a far more natural place to be."

While closeness to nature may be a human's natural state, it was no easy task for Wolhuter to create Man, Cheetah, Wild. He filmed the documentary over 18 months, taking six months to gain the trust of teh cheetah family featured in the film.

"These are completely wild animals," he reminds us. "We don't want them getting used to anybody and everybody, because if they leave the reserve and go outside, people [might] kill them."

Wolhuter survived potentially life-threatening scenarios during the filmmaking process, facing off a humongous black rhino and letting a cheetah mother charge at him during his very first time up close with the animals.

"It's not something I would encourage people to do because you will get [hurt] if you just go out and go and walk with these animals," he admits. "You've got to understand what goes on. And if you don't know how to react in [certain] situations, then it could be critical, it could be fatal."

When asked the most important thing he learned about cheetahs from the experience, Wolhuter says that he was repeatedly impressed with the persistence of these predators while hunting.

"They're very different to us humans because really we tend to think too much into a situation - we don't have the patience," he says. "Whereas [with] these animals, the whole time, it's just try again, try again, try again. So when you fall down, or if something doesn't work - get up and try again."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
My friends are wild

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