The “awww” factor in Discovery Channel’s “Man, Cheetah, Wild,” airing Thursday, Oct. 3, is off the charts because cheetah cubs are about as cute as cute gets.
The two-hour special is an intimate look into a mother and cubs in the Malilangwe Game Reserve, a 200-square-mile expanse in Zimbabwe, Africa. This has the feel of a home movie because Kim Wolhuter, a third-generation game ranger, is very much at home.
He prefers being barefoot in the stillness of the bush to wearing shoes in a bustling hotel in Beverly Hills, where he’s chatting. Unlike most angling to make documentaries and finding themselves in Hollywood, Wolhuter is a filmmaker “to make ends meet,” he says, to sustain his lifestyle.
“Everything where it was shot is total wilderness,” he says to Zap2it. “I don’t carry a weapon. When you carry a weapon, you tend to use it far sooner than you mean to. It changes the whole dynamic when you have a weapon. You have to respect the animal by not having the weapon.”
Wolhuter is so completely at ease in the wild, he stretches out on the red earth, and cheetah cubs walk on him. He also stands his ground against a four-ton elephant, which takes a staggering amount of kinship with nature and swagger.
This is a true nature documentary, so viewers will see predators kill some of the cubs. Wolhuter gets so close to them, we see them feeding from their mom.
“I start out in my vehicle and get out to get the shot and get in to the next stage,” he says. “They are not worrying about you.”
“I have never fed them, never tampered with their food,” Wolhuter says. “Because of it I developed a relationship.”
He tends to a cub’s wound, but the film also explains that cheetahs are endangered.
“I want people to engage more,” Wolhuter says. “We want to entertain them with really good stuff and hook them, then they will want to do more.”