It’s the most wonderful time of the year – Nat Geo WILD’s Big Cat Week! We had the pleasure of speaking with veteran wildlife cinematographer Bob Poole about his new documentary “Man Among Cheetahs,” premiering tonight, Monday Dec. 11 at 8:00 pm CST on Nat Geo WILD. If you can’t make the premiere, you can catch it again on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 8:00 and 11:00 pm CST and Saturday, Dec. 16 at 4:00 pm CST.

“Man Among Cheetahs” follows a cheetah mother and her two cubs as they fight to survive in the African wilderness. “It’s really action-packed,” says Poole. “One minute [the cubs] are playing and having a ball, and the next minute they’re in danger for their lives.” (May we suggest watching with your indoor cat to remind them of how great they have it?)

Note: This particular video clip is from last year’s Big Cat’s Week, but the cubs are so adorable!

Speaking of which, you might recognize traces of your own feline friend in these magnificent cheetahs as you watch them play and hunt. “Even domestic cats have this wild edge to them, don’t they?” Poole remarks. He considers himself very lucky to have had the chance to spend time with individual cats while filming, showcasing how they each have their own unique, evolving personality.

“Man Among Cheetahs” is distinctive in that Poole and his team relied solely on their own watchful eyes to keep track of the mother and her cubs. Tracking collars were not used, which proved difficult on such a vast area of land. “It was by design,” Poole explains. “We think of the cheetah being out in the open planes in the Serengeti…this is different because it’s rugged and difficult terrain and it makes it hard to keep up with her, but it makes it more interesting.”

Man Among Cheetahs Nat Geo Wild
Nabosihio Conservancy, Kenya – Naborr and two cubs rest by a tree (Credit: Gina Poole for National Geographic)

You might think an experienced wildlife filmmaker such as Poole has seen it all, but even he found something to be surprised by while filming. He is enthusiastic as he talks about how amazing it was to watch the cheetah mother anticipate her enemies’ actions. She shares the land with lions and hyenas, two dangerous predators who her cubs could fall prey to. “She would just hide during the night with her cubs, and during the daytime she’d be out hunting while the lions and hyenas were sleeping.”

This year’s Big Cat Week has no shortage of thrilling specials on all your favorite big cats. As you watch, it’s important to keep in mind that these beautiful animals are living under the constant threat of habitat loss. According to the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative, cheetahs have disappeared from more than 75% of their historic range. The Big Cats Initiative works with scientists and conservationists to help preserve the declining big cat population. If you would like to get involved, too, the Big Cats Initiative is an excellent place to start. A small donation can make a big difference!

Man Among Cheetahs Nat Geo Wild
Nabosihio Conservancy, Kenya – One cub reaches out to play with the other (Credit: Gina Poole for National Geographic)

As you watch “Man Among Cheetahs,” consider these parting words from Poole: “The more you spend time with [big cats], the more you realize that they are so much like us. They struggle to keep themselves fed and safe and struggle to raise their offspring, and life is hard in so many ways for all these animals, so they’re just like us.” If you’re as bummed as us that “Man Among Cheetahs” is not a weekly series, you can keep up with Poole’s work on his Instagram, where he posts photos and videos of all sorts of wild animals on a regular basis.

Poole’s work is stunning, and it takes him places most of us can only imagine. Fortunately, documentaries such as “Man Among Cheetahs” allow us the opportunity to see into his world and experience the true majesty of these wild animals.