Netflix acquires documentary on Britain’s only remaining native cat species

The Tigers of Scotland is a 1-hour long documentary about the Scottish Wildcat produced by Wild Films Ltd and directed by Leanne Gater. Netflix has now acquired the film for their subscribers in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia.

Affectionately known as ‘Highland Tigers’, the Scottish Wildcat is Britain’s only remaining native cat species since the Lynx went extinct around 1,000 years ago. Sadly, they are also Britain’s rarest mammal, yet the majority of the general public has no knowledge of the species’ existence in the UK. With potentially fewer than 100 left in the wild, this icon of Scottish culture and heritage could soon slip into extinction.

When Leanne Gater of OIA members Wild Films learned about the wildcat’s fragile existence, she knew it was a story that needed telling. With the aim of raising awareness about the wildcat and the issues it faces, she set about contacting relevant experts in the field of wildcat conservation, as well as zoos and private collections who are home to Scottish Wildcats.

She says, “I realised pretty early on that this film needed to be an hour long in order to give the public as much information about this species as possible. These animals are extremely elusive and are incredibly perceptive of their surroundings and environment, which makes them very difficult to film or photograph in the wild.”

To ensure the narration was as informative and engaging as possible, Wild Films worked closely with acclaimed Scottish poet John Rice to write the script. His work often features animals and nature, and it was this script that attracted Iain Glen to narrate the project. A native Scot himself, Iain is best known for his role as Ser Jorah Mormont in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Of working with Iain, Leanne says, “I was quite nervous at first, but he is so down to earth and genuinely lovely, that he put me at ease very quickly. I first heard his voiceover work on an advert for Visit Scotland and immediately knew that’s who I wanted to narrate the film, so it was a little overwhelming when he agreed to read John’s fantastic script for us – especially given that he was able to fit it in around his work on Game of Thrones!”

The Tigers Of Scotland gives the viewer a broad overview of the wildcat: the differences to domestic cats, the culture associated with the species, the issues it faces and – most importantly – the steps being taken to save it. Filmed across the entirety of Scotland, it took nearly a year of researching the subject before filming even began. “The first interview we conducted was with Louise Hughes at Aigas Field Centre, and only then did I fully grasp the extent of the challenges both the Wildcats and the conservationists face. All of the information I had found in my research turned out to be several years out of date”, says Leanne. It took a further year of filming to complete the documentary, carefully ensuring all of the data was current and factually accurate.

Wild Films spent a great deal of time working closely with a wide range of people involved in various areas of wildcat conservation – beginning with Aigas Field Centre in Inverness-shire, who kindly allowed them to film their breeding wildcats on several occasions. Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian also allowed the team to film the Wildcats and Lynx that they care for. Lesley Coupar of Five Sisters Zoo states that the zoo is “incredibly proud to have helped in the making of this film, which highlights the plight of the Scottish Wildcat”. Other organisations involved include the Government led Scottish Wildcat Action, who work to remove threats in areas known to have populations of wildcats, as well as monitoring these populations carefully using trail cameras.

Since completing the film late last year, Wild Films have organised special screenings in areas around Scotland which are known to be home to wildcats. They feel it is vital to raise awareness among the communities living alongside these creatures, in addition to the wider national public and international audiences.

Those without a Netflix subscription can also watch the film on Amazon Video in the UK/US and iTunes in 60 countries globally, with Wild Films hoping that more platforms will choose to screen the film to their audiences in the near future.

However, Netflix acquiring the film is very exciting for the company, as Leanne explains. “We’ve been told by our distributor that Netflix is a difficult platform to get a film onto, so we were over the moon when we learned that they had acquired it for not one but four territories, including the UK, for the next two years. We all know so much about tigers, lions, gorillas and rhinos, but this creature is rarer than all of them and yet so few people know about wildcats. It’s fantastic to see the film on such a large platform where it can introduce more viewers to these wonderful animals”.

The Tigers Of Scotland is now available to watch on Netflix.

Some Wildcat Facts

Size: around 25% larger than the average domestic cat

Colouration: always tabby marked with distinctive stripes down their flanks, giving them the nickname of ‘Highland Tigers’

Fur: very thick – they have around 20,000 hairs per square cm compared to a domestic cat’s 4,000 hairs per square cm

Characteristics: famously fierce and untameable

What to look for: the tail is the most obvious feature – it should be slightly shorter than a domestic cat’s, club-shaped with 3-5 thick black rings and a black tip. Ideally, there should also be no dorsal stripe down the tail joining the rings, as this should end at the root of the tail.

Trailer

The Tigers Of Scotland – Trailer from Wild Films on Vimeo.