Natural History and Wildlife

Cheetahs of the Deep


Short-finned pilot whales are known as the 'Cheetahs of the Deep' for their ability to dive at high speed to hundreds of metres in search of prey. This film documents the lives of these highly sociable mammals and reveals a complex social behavior which is unique to this species.

The Canary Islands are sheltered by a mild climate, protected from any extremes of weather. But high up on the towering mountains, the conditions can turn treacherous. In winter, water is released by high altitude storms and fertilized by nutrients washed from the soil. As this drains into the sea the soupy waters around the islands attract a huge variety of life, draw in in from the vast Atlantic Ocean. Many whale and dolphin species congregate in these waters, but above all Short-finned pilot whales are found here in the vast numbers.

Isora is the leader and matriarch of one of the largest resident pilot whale pods between Tenerife and La Gomera and we document her activities over a one year period. Several females and their offspring form the hard-core of this close-knit society where all the main family members are related to the mother. Males in the pod also play a role, but not in reproduction, as they are blood relatives. With their vow of chastity, they ensure the protection of newborns and juveniles – a long-term investment which is crucial for pod survival.

Physical contact is important for the whales and the film reveals moving and rarely-seen interaction between the older pod members and the new arrivals. But this carefree innocence is undermined by harrowing footage of the effect plastic waste is having on the whales and other species.

This film also looks at other whale and dolphin species which frequent the area, including the rarely seen Risso’s dolphin, Brydes Whales and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins.


Programme Details

1 x 60'