Nat Geo Wild is exploring the wild beasts who enter urban settings in the network’s new series, “Urban Jungle.” But according to series star Boone Smith, it’s really the humans who are invading the animals’ homes, and the animals who are adapting to displacement — rather well, actually.
As an example, Smith says he’s heard about bears who learn how to find shelter under houses, so families who come to their homes for winter sports season only to discover a bear hibernating there. Photographer Steve Winter recalls being fascinated by leopards integrating themselves in Mumbai, and is best recognized for his recent photo of the mountain lion P22 in Griffith Park, Calif.
“In a lot of these situations, these animals really have us figured out,” Smith says. “It’s this brand new, sometimes concrete environment, so this really is amazing.”
Executive producer Geoff Luck says a “wide array of animals” are featured in the first season of the Nat Geo Wild series. His personal favorites are the sloths they found in Rio de Janeiro and the 14-foot pythons spotted in downtown Bangkok. “We need to adapt to share that space as they figure out us through habituation,” Luck says.
More often than not, animals make the news because of bad things that happen, such as attacks. In recent weeks, a photo of 19-year-old Texas Tech cheerleader Kendall Jones posing over a lion she killed in Africa sparked outrage. Smith, Luck and Winter says they expect “Urban Jungle” to educate people instead of incentivizing more fear and misunderstandings.
“I think the show does a really good job in the sense that we bring that back around,” Smith says. “Though there are at times that negative things do happen, there are populations that really [learn to live with humans].”
Luck adds, “There’s also an enormous numbers of ways … where the wildlife living near us are of enormous benefit to us.”
“Urban Jungle” premieres on Sunday, Aug. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo Wild.