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NGC, Nat Geo Wild’s new global show ‘Urban Jungle’ explores Mumbai

MUMBAI: Black bears sleeping in our basements, baboons breaking into our kitchens, coyotes snatching our pets out of our backyards – wild animals are moving into our space. As humans continue to build and expand cities and suburbs around the world, animals are losing their homes and inching their way into ours. Nat Geo Wild and National Geographic Channel take a different kind of adventure – into cities, suburbs and the outskirts of towns – to witness which creatures are lurking in the shadows and which ones aren’t afraid to stand out in the streets. This is an ‘Urban Jungle’.

Guided by big cat tracker Boone Smith, ‘Urban Jungle’ takes a closer look into cities across the planet including Mumbai, Moscow and New York, which humans consider their own, but have become overrun with wildlife.

‘Urban Jungle’ will premiere as a simulcast on 3 August on Nat Geo Wild and National Geographic Channel in the US and internationally later this year.

Boone begins his journey in the most densely packed city in the world – Mumbai. Most residents don’t see the leopards prowling the streets of Mumbai at night. Using night vision cameras, Boone exposes just how close these big cats come to city doors and that some leopards will travel more than four miles into the city to find the pounds of meat they need per day to survive.

Talking about Mumbai Boone said, “This is mind-boggling … there are great big apartment buildings and skyscrapers. And we’re talking about a leopard. We’re not talking about maybe a deer that wandered into town, or a rabbit, or a rat, or a stray dog. This is a wild leopard in the middle of the city. This is not supposed to ever happen.”

Mumbai isn’t the only city bustling with invaders. In the heart of downtown Manhattan, rats are a typical sight, and city dwellers learn to get used to them. But what they don’t always notice are the red-tailed hawks scanning the packed streets like snipers. When a hawk spots its desired prey – which can be an animal twice its size – it swoops down at 100 miles per hour to catch it. And humans are stocking the streets with pets – potential prey for the hawks. Then, travel west with Boone to Chicago, where coyotes roam the streets and backyards. With the use of GPS technology, Boone demonstrates how researchers discovered that coyotes have adapted to city living. The animals now do their hunting at night, instead of getting caught in broad daylight.

In suburban Lake Tahoe, where there have been more than 1,000 reports of black bears over the past year, Boone uses heat-sensing cameras to track the bears and the warm “dens” they are drawn to – and sometimes these “dens” are our homes. Whether in Chicago, New York, Cape Town or Mumbai, one thing is for sure: Wild animals have made themselves at homes in our cities and towns. And the more they learn to adapt to city living, the more they will thrive. Wherever we take over the wild, its creatures can take it back, creating an urban jungle.