TV presenter and nature expert Chris Packham has unveiled a spectacular pop-up habitat in Central London to mark the start of Big Cat Week on National Geographic WILD.
Bringing to life a hyper-realistic animatronic leopard in its natural habitat of the Okavango Delta, the four-dimensional ‘living billboard’ features a waterfall, sculpted tree trunk, rocks and jungle plants.
The convincing 50kg, 1.3-metre-long leopard, named Lily by its creator John Nolan, has over 40 moving components and a fearsome roar, which surprised many passing by Observation Point on London’s Southbank!
The aim of the live installation is to raise awareness of the threats the majestic leopard is under from habitat loss and human activity. National Geographic WILD is dedicating 70 hours of programmes to Big Cat Week (7th to 14th February), in an effort to shine a light on the challenges the species faces.
Chris Packham, TV presenter and narrator of Big Cat Week UK, said “If we are to protect majestic creatures like leopards, we must stop the destruction of their natural habitat, which is occurring at an alarming rate, with the latest research from the Big Cats Initiative showing leopards have lost over 75% of their natural habitat due to urban expansion, resulting in loss of food source and the ongoing threat to poachers and farmers.
“This spectacular installation marking the beginning of Big Cat Week on National Geographic WILD brings to life this natural habitat and asks passersby to consider how we can protect it.
“Big Cat Week is such a special event to be a part of, so it was a joy to narrate the programming this year. With nature and big cats being a huge passion of mine, I hope this visual representation of a leopard’s beautiful home will allow the public to see just how important it is to save their habitats.”
Big Cat Week is broadcast on National Geographic WILD all this week.
Facts on Leopards, courtesy of National Geographic
- Leopards are extinct in six countries/regions: Hong Kong SAR of China, Kuwait, Libya, Singapore, Syrian Arab Republic, and Tunisia
- Amur leopards are the rarest big cat in the world, listed as critically endangered since 1996, there’s only around 100 Amur leopards in the wild
- The largest threat to leopards is human activity. Urban expansion results in habitat loss and a decrease in food sources, as well as the threat of poachers & farmers
- Leopards are solitary creatures, with females only breaking their solitude when raising cubs
- Leopards can run at a speed of up to 60kmph (37mph) and have the ability to leap forward 5.5m
- Leopard spots are known as rosettes
- The origin of the Okavango River lies in the Angolan Highlands
- The Okavango Delta has been classified as one of the largest inland delta’s in the world
- Leopards are predominantly active at night and use the white tip of their tail as a marker or guide when leading their cubs
Main image: Chris Packham unveils National Geographic WILD’S Big Cat Week living habitat on London’s Southbank.