THIRTEEN’s Nature Reveals Some Survival Secrets in Charlie and the Curious Otters Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 8 p.m. on PBS
Wildlife filmmaker Charlie Hamilton James presents this first-person account
The elusive, playful, and adaptable otter has the distinction of having mastered both the aquatic and terrestrial worlds. They are equally adept at hunting underwater as they are foraging and chasing prey in a forest. But they are not easy to spot, despite the fact there are 13 different species on earth. Although they’ve been hunted for sport and fur and their numbers are down, not one species has become extinct. How otters are able to operate so successfully on both land and in water has fascinated wildlife filmmaker Charlie Hamilton James for years, so he decided to see what he could learn from studying several species around the world to discover their survival secrets.
The program focuses on efforts to rehabilitate three orphaned river otters in Wisconsin, shows some ground breaking experiments using cool cameras and anatomical CGI, and captures other wild encounters. Charlie and the Curious Otters premieres nationwide Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). The film will be available to stream the following day for four weeks via pbs.org/nature and PBS OTT apps.
At the Wild Instincts Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Charlie is introduced to three orphan river otter pups and films their progress and training: from needing around the clock care and feeding, to being taught the crucial skills they will need in order to return to the wild. Despite the fact otters can swim nearly a quarter mile without coming up for air, baby otters do not start out as natural swimmers and they don’t really like water. So the center’s manager Mark Naniot assumes the roles of surrogate mother and teacher. Charlie films him coaxing the pups into a small pool for swimming lessons and later adding minnows which the orphans instinctively chase and catch.
The filmmakers also go to Florida Springs, Florida where a clear spring fed river provides Charlie with great conditions to capture rare shots of otters hunting underwater. At the Oakland Zoo, he films otters hunting fish in slow motion to determine how they detect and capture their prey so quickly. He also visits the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s head vet Dr. Mike Murray who explains that sea otters have the densest fur in the animal kingdom which is a key survival asset both on land and in the water.
In a film studio, high-speed, thermal and other cameras are on hand to shed light on some of the otter’s survival secrets by examining its physiology and anatomy. A thermal camera shows which parts of a sea otter retain heat and which give off heat. Its thick fur is so good at insulating itself that the camera shows little heat escaping. In another experiment, Charlie puts his theory to the test as to whether otters blow bubbles onto an item, like fish, and re-inhale it to determine if it is food or something else.
No matter which species they belong to, these inquisitive and intelligent animals all have long, highly flexible bodies, a powerful tail, and webbed feet which allow otters to live a successful semi-aquatic life.
Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Charlie and the Curious Otters is a co-production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC and BBC Studios in association with WNET. Mark Wheeler is the film’s producer/director.
Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers. The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.
Nature has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 17 Emmys and three Peabodys. The series received two of wildlife film industry’s highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media.
PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher’s guides and more.
Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Halmi Family in memory of Robert Halmi, Sr., Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, Sandra Atlas Bass, the Arlene and Milton D. Berkman Philanthropic Fund, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and by the nation’s public television stations.
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Theater Close-Up, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere: www.thirteen.org/passport.