How it all started
In 2004 Caroline Hawkins, executive producer at Oxford Scientific Films was asked to come up with an idea for a long-running series for Animal Planet International. She’d always thought that meerkats were charismatic and had the feeling that the public held a special affection for them too.
Around about the same time her bosses at Oxford Scientific Films – CEO Clare Birks and Head of Factual Simon Willock – were returning home from a meeting and saw an advertisement featuring meerkats on board the Gatwick Express. It seemed meerkats were popping up everywhere.
The idea for the soap-opera approach came following a film Caroline made for the BBC’s Natural World. The Wild Ladies of Viramba followed a wild troop of yellow baboons in Tanzania’s Mikumi National Park.
Caroline: “Each of the baboons had been given a name by the researchers who were studying them and we came to know each as an individual character. It was just a natural transition for me then to transfer the strengths of that storytelling approach to Meerkat Manor. It also occurred to me that it would be fun to have several plots running simultaneously in each show – just like a soap. Then we designed titles to be a bit like Dallas … and the title music to be a bit like Desperate Housewives … and the rest is history.
right: Caroline with the Whiskers
Friends of the Kalahari Meerkat Project website.