The fiberglass menagerie before you is made up of 34 animatronic beasts, created for Spy in the Wild, a Nature miniseries on PBS in which cameras disguised as animals embed with the real beasts for an immersive take on the nature documentary. Each spy is outfitted with ultra-high-definition (UHD) spy cameras for eyes, allowing it to see its surroundings.
The Spy series began 16 years ago when producer and director John Downer became the first filmmaker to capture life among a pride of lions. He did it by shooting from the point of view of a mobile rock, fondly referred to as Bouldercam. Spy Puffer Fish from his BBC One documentary Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, captured iconic footage revealing how dolphins deliberately get high on puffer fish nerve toxins by chewing on them.
This year’s program is the most ambitious the Spy series has taken on, according to Downer. Filming the 8,000 hours of footage for Spy in the Wild took three years and required the team to travel to 21 different countries, often staying within hundreds of feet of the wildlife they were filming day and night. The five-part series airs Wednesdays through March 1 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS and is available for limited-time streaming at pbs.org/nature.