Expedition China (2017) Movie Script

of international film crews
are traveling all over China
to film a unique
Disneynature movie.
Born In China is an ambitious
natural history film
never attempted before.
These rare creatures
are hard to film.
Located in remote corners
of this amazing country.
Notoriously camera shy.
They show up.
This is the story
of the film crews
as they travel
around China.
The amazing animal cast
they are privileged to film.
The next dust storm is coming,
it makes our work really hard!
The extreme
conditions they face.
I can't see a road anymore.
And how the teams
discover a country making
great strides to protect
remote landscapes and wildlife
found nowhere else on earth.
Disneynature's Born In China
follows the early life
of the country's rarest
To succeed, the crews must
capture the first
faltering steps of a cast
of endangered animals seldom
filmed and then follow
them as they grow up.
From the wetlands
of the North East,
through the central mountains
and up to the highest
plateau in the world,
filming crews head out
to remote corners of China.
The first behind-the-scenes
Ghost Of The Mountains,
focused entirely on finding
the elusive snow leopard.
That's a big cat. Damn.
One of the biggest
challenges ever faced by
a wildlife film crew.
It's really difficult for us
to climb the mountains
around here.
Over 250 days
in the field using the very
latest camera technology
from drones to camera traps...
- Cubs! Yes!
- Oh, man!
Oh, there we go!
...led to filming
snow leopard cubs in the wild
for the very first time.
Months of relentless
searching gave the crew
the unique opportunity
to film the life
of the cub's mom,
and revealed her
struggle hunting
blue sheep to provide
for a growing family.
A very difficult task,
even for the top
predator here.
Thanks to the protection
of this boundless remote area,
China now has the largest
population of snow
leopards in the world.
Helped by monks,
working with conservationists
to protect the cats
and the other animals
that live here.
For the other film crews,
life is just as tough.
Oh, disappointing, difficult,
anything you can
think of really.
Working in remote
locations in search
of endangered animals,
this is their story.
The expeditions begin
with a journey
to north-east China
in search of one the country's
rarest and most iconic birds.
The red-crowned crane.
If in Beijing
you were to go
to the Imperial Palace,
you would see a lot of amazing
fantasy animals represented.
But you can't help
but be struck
that one of the commonest
animals you see
is the red-crowned crane.
The heaviest
crane in the world
is hugely significant
in China.
It represents
faithfulness and longevity.
The effort put into
protecting it by China,
is a testament to its value
as a cultural icon.
For the Born In China team,
it's their first big
Very little footage exists
of these birds in the wild.
Paul Stewart is one of main
directors of photography
on this film.
The clever thing is to get
something that stands up here,
and that stays standing
vertical. That could be
quite hard actually.
A multi-award
winning cameraman.
For over 20 years, he has
filmed wildlife all over
the world.
Paul's knowledge of
birds, especially rare
ones hardly filmed
makes him the perfect
cameraman to lead the team.
The crew's ambition
is to film crane chicks,
and so they arrive
at the start of the
birds' hatching season.
At 810 square miles,
almost twice the size
of Los Angeles,
this is the largest
wetland in China,
home to one of the biggest
nesting populations
of these wild birds.
This place
is really, really flat.
And at first I thought
that would be great,
but the flatness
of this place is deceptive.
It's flat but it's marshy,
so it's still actually quite
a challenge
to get anywhere.
And even a bird as tall
as the red-crowned crane
with a red mark on top
is actually quite hard to find
when they're spread out
in a few pairs
across the marshes.
Their best chance to film
chicks is to find a nest.
Even if they find one,
it won't be easy to get close.
That's because the crew
are being watched.
These birds have
astonishing eyesight.
If you put a group
of cranes together you've
got a united front
that's almost impossible
to creep up on.
The team will have
to outsmart the birds.
When we wanted
to get very close
and very intimate
with birds and their chicks,
what we needed to find
was somewhere where birds
would allow that approach
because the last
thing you want to do
with a rare species
like this is disturb
it at the nest.
amongst the reeds,
two eggs.
A tiny movement suggests
they are ready to hatch.
Paul spends every daylight
hour, eyes and camera,
focused on the nest.
A few days later,
his patience is rewarded.
Two fragile chicks.
Paul and the team now filming
an event rarely witnessed.
We felt actually
very lucky
to find that there were
two tiny chicks that had
just hatched,
and realized that
we were at the right time
to film something that
really hasn't been seen
Very little footage
of wild red-crowned crane
chicks exists.
Partly because
of their rarity,
but also because they
don't stay on the nest
very long.
We knew that
as well as having
to get close,
we didn't have a huge
amount of time,
just a few days.
The chicks are very quickly
ready to leave the nest once
they've hatched.
The very first glimpse
we saw of a crane chick
I was amazed at
how small they are.
The adult bird is really
and in contrast to that
the chicks are
absolutely tiny,
and just seeing the adults
on the nest with their huge
feet walking around
their chicks you couldn't help
but be worried for the chicks.
and the team
are so much closer
to the nest than
they dared to hope.
By moving very slowly
and very quietly towards
the birds,
they're able to film
without causing them
any disturbance.
Despite their rather elegant
beauty, they're actually quite
and so if they are not
happy with you they
make it very clear.
But we've been
delighted that actually
the red-crowned cranes
have very much accepted
our presence,
and allowed us a real
privileged glimpse of
the life of the chicks.
The chicks have
an amazing ability.
Shortly after being born,
they are able to walk,
run, and even swim.
These tiny little chicks,
small little balls of fluff,
are able to
follow their parents
through the marshes
as they look for food.
As Paul films the birds,
he notices the crane's
doing something he's
never seen before.
When the chicks
were firstborn,
the adults were trying
to feed them bits of fish,
and that was clearly too much
for the chicks to swallow,
but something seemed to have
clicked in the adult's mind,
perhaps these were
relatively inexperienced birds
we were dealing with,
and so very shortly,
they were going off
into the reeds
and picking
the tiniest
little insects,
insects that clearly
the adults themselves
wouldn't eat,
they don't represent a meal.
But they'd bring those back
one at a time to the chicks,
and that was something
the chicks could swallow.
So I was quite impressed
how the adults
adapted to their
choosy-eating chicks.
For the team, it's amazing
to film the next generation
of such a rare bird
growing up in the wild.
Much work has gone
into studying the birds
breeding biology,
and the preservation
of their habitats
that the birds need
to survive in greater numbers.
The expedition is seeing
this work directly
to the survival of the birds.
This is a special place
for the red-crowned cranes
because it's one of their
breeding sites
and more importantly
probably it's one
of their breeding sites
that's being conserved
and actively managed
for their benefit.
So it's a place where
the red-crowned cranes
can feel safe
and where they can bring up
chicks with a really good
chance of success.
Paul and the team
have filmed a cultural icon
and are left
with precious
The chicks are growing well,
preparing for
their long migration south
later in the year.
A journey of thousands
of miles across China.
Encouraged by the success
of the crane team,
another Born In China crew
are starting their filming
1,600 miles to the south west.
They're also in search
of babies,
but of a different nature.
Thanks to conservation
efforts within China,
these mountain forests harbor
a colorful endangered primate
full of character.
These are golden
snub-nosed monkeys.
Amongst the rarest
of primates and only
found in central China.
The crew hope to get
a privileged look into
the life of a wild monkey
that lives at an elevation
almost as high as any
primate on Earth.
The challenge for this team
is to keep up
with these agile,
tree-swinging monkeys
living on wild steep-sided
The area we've been
principally filming
the golden snub-nosed
monkeys in has been
in the highest mountains
in central China.
They are very dramatic
steep mountains,
forested, and incredibly
China has set aside
a number of wild forest
areas to protect the monkeys.
The filming location
is over 1,200 square miles
in size,
as large as the state
of Rhode Island.
Justin Maguire has filmed
on all seven continents.
He's a multi-award winning
with many years of experience
in the field.
In order to film
the monkeys in a way
that we didn't
disturb them,
we tried to film
with as few people
as possible,
which involved my crew
carrying a very large tripod,
and me having to carry
the camera.
The ground
is incredibly steep,
there's lots of branches
and brambles and thorns.
It can be cold
and wet and miserable,
and those were our
biggest physical challenges
on the location, it's just
carrying all this heavy
gear up and down,
and keeping up
with the monkeys
who move much faster
than us with ease,
and we are sort of
flopping around just
trying to stay steady.
Jess Tombs
is a primatologist
who's spent many years
working with primates,
but none as cute as this.
Golden snub-nosed
monkeys were chosen
because they are the only
character in the film that
is a social animal
so you've got lots of
interactions between
individuals going on.
They're beautiful, they're
amazing, they're
charming, they're funny.
They're very entertaining.
Jacky Poon
is a Chinese Emmy-nominated
wildlife cameraman.
He's filmed all over China,
specializing in primates.
What is very amazing
and fascinating is
that we frequently
see that the father
would carry
a young baby and try
to keep him warm
by huddling together
and grooming each other,
and that's something
that a lot of males don't do
to their younger juveniles
in other primate societies.
What people really
relate to with these monkeys
is that they'll see
themselves in the monkeys.
They'll see the monkeys
being cold and miserable,
and they'll see them happy
with the first sign of spring
and be pleased when
they're groomed
by a family member,
and ecstatic when they get
to play with their friends,
and I think we
all relate to that.
They entertain themselves
all the time, particularly
the youngsters,
and that's what they
spend a huge portion
of their day doing,
is having fun.
Swinging, chasing each
other, you know just
doing silly things.
The crew quickly become
attached to the monkeys,
and are now in the right place
at the right time
to capture a special event.
It's baby time.
Only once every two years
in the spring, there's
a flurry of newborns.
Most arrive
between April and June.
A time when the forest
explodes with color
and new life.
At this time of year,
there are babies everywhere.
The newborns won't leave
their mom's side
for at least three months.
But it's not a time
of celebration for everyone.
This is Tao Tao,
a two-year-old male
whose mom has just
given birth.
At first, he welcomes
the arrival of a baby.
But this little one
takes up mom's entire time.
Tao Tao feels left out.
He's the center
of his family's attention
until his mum
has a little baby sister.
His world is about to change
forever and he's gonna have
to grow up,
and we follow him
on this journey.
Tao Tao finds
himself no longer the apple
of his parents' eye.
It's a tough lesson
at such a young age,
and while Tao Tao's sister
is being nursed,
there's little room for him
within the family.
But there's a safety net.
The all-male troop.
A gang of Lost Boys,
the perfect place for Tao Tao
and other young males
to hang out as they grow up.
It's a boisterous,
adventurous, and fun crew.
With the emphasis on fun.
And Tao Tao is getting
into the swing of things!
By making these adorable
golden snub-nosed monkeys
a conservation priority,
it's the Chinese themselves
who are discovering
the amazing wildlife
their country has to offer.
Ultimately the understanding
and appreciation
and enjoyment,
of the natural world
and wild animals
is one thing that will
hopefully lead
to the preservation
and protection.
As the seasons
change across China,
the freshness of spring
turns to summer,
and with it comes
a unique filming
to film the birth
of a very special antelope
on China's high plateau.
Fourteen hundred miles
to the north west
of the monkey location,
the next Born In China
expedition is underway
into one of the remotest
and highest corners
of the country
to find this antelope.
It's called a "Chiru."
Decimated by poaching
in the 1980s and '90s
for its warm fur to make
luxurious shawls known
as "Shatoosh,"
the chiru are now recovering
from the brink of extinction
thanks to its protection
and the establishment
of a vast wild area.
Weeks ago, the pregnant
females left the males behind
to begin a migration
to their birthing grounds.
The challenge is to be
the first international crew
to film a chiru birth.
of the remoteness of it,
we couldn't access
any local facilities.
We had to take all
our stores with us.
From fuel to food to bedding.
You name it, we took with us.
Steven Ballantyne is an expert
in remote location filming.
He's managed crews
from the jungles
of Papua New Guinea
to the vast grasslands
of Mongolia.
Above 8,000 feet, altitude
which can be fatal,
is the biggest threat
to the expedition's safety.
The team's final destination
is nearly twice as high.
To minimize its effects,
the crew must rest
after every 1,600 feet
they climb.
Already at Camp 1, the team
are nearly 10,000 feet
above sea level.
The thin air making
the crucial and simple
task of breathing difficult.
Any physical work on top
of that, even setting up
a tent, is really tough.
The crew must stay
here for 24 hours
to allow their bodies
to get used to the thin air.
The chef insists on wearing
his best whites.
He knows how important he is
to the welfare of the team.
A high-calorie diet is crucial
at these altitudes.
The food is a huge hit.
They journey on.
Beyond the last gas station,
the team have to fill
the trucks by hand.
Rolf Steinmann is the
director of photography
for the chiru expedition,
specializing in filming
skittish, endangered
in remote corners
of the world.
He's used to cold conditions,
but sub-zero temperatures
inside the car
is something else.
I just wanted to drink
a little bit of water and...
this happened.
So... it's getting
pretty cold.
Camp 2
at over 12,000 feet
is even more remote.
The crew will be here
for 48 hours to get fit
enough for the final stage.
It's a chance for Rolf
to brush up on his wildlife
as he waits for dinner.
He's not the only one.
All are eager
for essential calories.
The last day of the journey.
Today the team will push
inland to where they hope
to find the chiru.
Once we actually got
to the entrance of the reserve
of which there is no actual
entrance, it's just like this
huge open plateau,
you then turn off
the tarmac road
and enter the plateau region.
From here,
it's another 120 miles
off-road driving
across the highest plateau
on Earth.
This is Kekexili.
A place where
few Westerners have traveled
and one of the most
sparsely populated
regions on the planet.
The overwhelming
sense of space
was the first impression that
really struck me and always
stayed with me.
There's no trees,
there was literally
no mountains
except way off
in the distance.
I come from a city,
so to suddenly have
acres of land
with these massive beautiful
vistas was just breathtakingly
This area is over
17,000 square miles in size,
larger than the state
of Maryland.
Over 15,000 feet
above sea level
higher than the Rockies
with only a few human
it protects the unique plants
and animals that live here.
The team are heading to a camp
on the shores of Zhuonai Lake.
A beautiful remote
60 square mile body of water.
Just 15 years ago,
this area was discovered
to be the key birthing
ground of the chiru.
So difficult to access,
it remains seldom visited.
After 48 hours
driving off road,
this team are the first
international film crew
to reach the lake.
The heart of what
was the chiru poaching area.
We were able
to use a ranger station
which had been near
enough abandoned really.
It was surrounded
by a 14-foot steel fence.
As the crew unpacks,
an immediate reminder
of how wild this place is.
A bear.
The reason for the fence
is clear.
The Himalayan Blue Bear
is one of the rarest bear
subspecies in the world.
It is thought by some
to be the origin
of the legendary Yeti.
A creature rarely seen,
let alone filmed, in the wild.
It's just very amazing
to see the bear
in this vast beautiful
It's a very
special moment.
An early sign
for the team of the amazing
and rare animals
who call this huge
wild reserve "home."
This area became a sanctuary
just over 20 years ago
at the peak of the chiru
being poached,
and when their population
had collapsed
from around 1 million
to less than 100,000.
Their numbers
have increased since then,
but the chiru are still
wary of humans.
Their shyness is a problem
for Rolf and the crew.
It's pretty intimidating
if you use binoculars
you can see
these groups of chirus
all over the place, but...
the question will be
how to get close to them
because I have to be like
20, 40 meters close
to get good shots.
The team decide
their only option
is to position several hides
at strategic points
from which Rolf can film.
Dug into the hard ground
and designed to blend
into the landscape
as much as possible,
these will give the team
a fighting chance
to get a camera
close to the chiru
without disturbing them.
But setting up a number
of hides on the plateau,
doesn't go unnoticed
by curious bears.
Well, we actually just
wanted to inspect
our hide here
on the calving grounds
or the potential
calving grounds,
and we recognize
the bear has visited our hide.
And yeah, bears
are powerful animals
so if he inspects
a hide like that,
he leaves his tracks
But you know
you always have
to consider
these bears out here
they don't have TV,
they don't have
computer games,
so a hide like that
is something really
And that's why I have
no problems to forgive him
and we just have to repair
the little stuff here.
Alone in a tiny
hide in the middle
of bear territory
it's a nerve-wracking time
for Rolf.
He's spending days on end
hoping the chiru will turn up.
There is absolutely no sign
of life out there.
Not a chiru, not a yak,
no nothing.
And the weird thing is
this is an open grassland.
I can see really far,
but there is absolutely
All this at 15,000 feet
on the largest and highest
plateau in the world.
For most of us
this would be punishing,
but Rolf's sense of humor
hasn't been dented yet.
He's come to appreciate
the simple things in life.
Well, after
12 hours
in the hide
at, yeah, kind of serious
sub-zero temperatures,
it's quite nice
to be back in the open
and heat up
and have hot water.
Yeah, it's the...
little things which
are the biggest things
out here.
Even with changes of brutal
and unpredictable weather,
the team aren't giving up.
If I was a mother
I wouldn't
give birth to a baby
in these conditions.
There's no grass,
it's really cold,
it's snowy,
it's not a good start in life.
Then at last...
Rolf has something to film.
One by one,
thousands of female chiru
are arriving at the lake after
a journey of nearly 200 miles
over the last three weeks.
The highest mammal
migration on Earth.
The lake is the perfect place
to have their young.
are pleasantly cool
and the grasses
and water abundant.
As more and more
expectant moms arrive
and the numbers swell,
this is the moment
Rolf has been waiting for.
The birthing begins.
Hundreds are born
within days of each other.
It's a remarkable achievement
for the Chiru team
and one of "the" defining
moments of the
Born In China film.
An endangered
skittish antelope
confident enough to give
birth right in front
of the team's hide.
To see new life
come into this world
was just breathtakingly
The babies
are extraordinary.
Within just 15 minutes
of being born,
they can already stand
and feed themselves
almost immediately.
Although clearly,
it takes a little practice.
But even the straddlers
are soon up and confident
on their feet.
All the young staying close
to their moms as they
learn their way around.
As soon as
the birthing is over
and the females and young
are strong enough,
the herd begins the long
200-mile journey home
to reunite with the males.
The film crew will meet them
there later in the year
as the 100,000
strong chiru herds
complete their
high-altitude migration.
Over 900 miles away,
another Born In China crew
are traveling through
the steep-sided valleys
of Sichuan
to find a very special
and famous animal.
The panda.
The task for this team
is to film the intimate
between a mother panda
and her cub
for the first time.
As a symbol of good luck,
friendship, peace,
and invincibility,
the panda holds a special
place in Chinese culture.
One of the rarest creatures
on Earth,
largely due to habitat loss,
it lives in the forest,
surviving almost
exclusively on bamboo.
For over half a century,
the panda has been a flagship
for conservation,
a global ambassador for China,
and a bear that's had millions
of dollars spent on it
to restore its numbers
in the wild.
This is Ya Ya.
She's pregnant,
against all the odds.
Female pandas are fertile
for just three days a year,
and can only have one cub
every second year.
Each birth is precious.
Ya Ya's now at the end
of her five-month gestation,
and is looking for a den
in which she can
give birth safely.
But pandas don't do
anything in a hurry.
One last drink,
a scratch,
a sniff.
And in she goes.
A quiet safe den,
the floor covered in grasses
and branches to keep her warm.
The panda's story
in Born In China
seeks to follow a mother bear
as she seeks to find a place
to give birth to her young.
And then get a privileged
glimpse of that young
really when it's quite
recently born.
They're born incredibly tiny
and then they are kept
in that den for quite
some time.
A tiny cub.
Just seven inches long.
A thousand times
smaller than her mom,
this is Mei Mei.
She can hardly move
and it's eight weeks
before her eyes open.
A baby panda
that will, hopefully
in a few years' time,
boost the population of pandas
that remain in the wild.
For almost 80 years,
China's been working hard
to protect the panda,
and establish areas of habitat
where they can roam free.
As an animal out there
in the wild, kind of
on the edge,
physically and metaphorically
in terms of conservation,
it's not an animal
we want to disturb too much.
Pandas are found
in large wild mountain
in the central southern
part of the country.
Access to these areas
is tightly managed.
Designed to be as wild
as possible,
there are some zones
where any human entering
has to permanently wear
a full panda costume.
This is how serious
the Chinese are about
panda conservation.
It's a way for us to get
a little bit closer
without worrying
that we're disturbing
an animal.
Paul and the team
will spend the next few
months dressed as pandas
hoping to get close
and intimate footage
of a very rare bear.
It's a conservation program
that's working.
Logging was banned
in panda habitats
almost 20 years ago
and their numbers
are increasing.
But China's ambition
doesn't stop there.
There are plans for a wild
reserve three times
the size of Yellowstone.
Linking almost 70 panda
it will allow more pandas
to mingle and mate
in the hope of boosting
the panda's population.
This is conservation
on a truly epic scale.
In the mountain range
above Paul,
a second filming unit
led by cameraman Jacky Poon
is about to experience
first-hand how large
these wild reserves are.
People sort of nodded when
we said we were looking
for wild snow leopards.
They nodded "yeah, sure"
with red-crowned cranes.
The monkeys "no problem,"
but when we said
we wanted to film pandas,
everybody sort of had
a slight intake of breath,
and wanted to assure us that
that was not going to be easy.
Pandas live
in the most remote,
thickest, densest, highest
sort of habitats you
could hope to find,
and to track down
a panda really takes
a lot of perseverance
and a lot of luck.
At the last official count,
there were nearly 2,000 pandas
living in the wild,
almost 20% more
than a decade ago.
Although locating them
remains extremely hard,
Jacky and the team
are determined to film
the country's most iconic
Going to try
and find pandas
is physically very tough.
They live on mountain sides
that are kind of vertical.
And at the sort of altitudes
where oxygen
is noticeably thin,
so actually getting your
breath is quite difficult.
Add to that, in the times
that you might meet them,
it can be very cold
in those habitats.
Big snow storms, freezing
weather can come in
at any time
and you're pretty exposed
on those mountains
and you're likely
to be cut off.
The terrain
is extremely difficult.
What we have to do
is ascent from camp
every single day
to go in to a hide,
waiting for a panda
to approach us.
And there's essentially
no path, no trails,
we have to make our own
trails to look for pandas.
It just makes the whole
operation extremely hard.
The only way
Jacky can haul himself up
is to grab the sharp bamboo.
So he has to wear gloves
to prevent his hands
from being cut open.
He climbs this route every
morning at first light
to reach a filming hide
placed in the only
clearing he can find.
It's over 10,000 feet
above sea level,
higher than the Appalachians.
Today on the way up,
he discovers a tunnel
in the bamboo.
These paths
can only be made by pandas.
These are scratch
marks by pandas.
you can see here there's
also some fresh droppings.
Moments later,
further signs.
So we've got panda's poo
three to four days old.
news for the team.
Pandas are definitely here.
But even with promising
signs on the ground,
the ever-changing weather
is not helping filming.
Visibility is reduced
to less than 30 feet.
I got here five hours
ago this morning, early.
And I've been sitting
in a hide looking
to hopefully spot a panda
and be able to film it.
It's proving to be
very difficult though,
especially with the weather
condition now.
Filming pandas in these
conditions is almost
Nothing left
to do, but to head back
over the ridge to camp.
A three-hour scramble home.
Oh, oh, I'm wet through.
Soaked through.
Oh man.
Another day.
Another early start.
As the days
and weeks progress,
Jacky and the team repeat
the climb, determined
to succeed.
Come on, pandas.
Where are you?
Almost May.
It's meant to be like
20 degrees Celsius.
Oh, gosh.
it's colder than an icebox.
And getting around
is treacherous.
Oh, man...
Still waiting.
A month passes
without a single sighting.
Yeah, it's quite
frustrating, to be honest.
I guess this is wildlife
You get lucky or you don't.
I don't know what,
what we can do really,
just a...
But then, some
news reaches the team.
A panda's been spotted.
The first confirmed sighting
Jacky and the team
have heard about
in four weeks.
They relocate as fast
as possible.
And sure enough
hidden amongst the greenery.
We are finally able to film
a panda in a wild environment.
the thick undergrowth,
a very special bear.
Still remarkably rare to see,
China is working tirelessly
to increase their numbers.
This panda, the next step
in that success story.
A panda bear
is really special
in so far as they're
probably the most iconic
endangered species
that we have.
If you preserve the panda,
you preserve these amazing
forests over huge swathes
of China.
And with the panda,
all the species that
are in those forests.
So it seems only right
that these wonderful,
remarkable, amazing animals
are guaranteed a place
by our conservation efforts.
As summer
turns to autumn,
Ya Ya and Mei Mei venture out.
The main
thrust of our story
is the first year
of that baby panda's life.
And to witness the really
very special relationship
that mother panda bears
have with their cubs.
As Mei Mei grows up,
the crew follow
her adventures.
Panda bear mothers
and cubs have
a, I think genuinely
unique relationship.
I've never filmed an animal
where the bond seems as strong
as between a mother panda bear
and her cub.
And it's a really fun bond.
Mum really seems
to see her cub
as this fantastic
play partner,
and sometimes I have
to say almost seems
to treat it as this toy.
The cubs for their part
are incredibly boisterous,
very roly-poly.
They get into all
sorts of trouble.
And the incredible thing
about a panda is
it seems to be able to fall
huge distances,
to roll into rocks,
to bounce off trees,
and it's almost like
they're made of rubber,
there's a little
moment of shock,
and then they're straight
back into the play.
I just think that's a,
that's a wonderful thing
about pandas.
We've been filming panda cubs
since the beginning,
since they
were really young
and follow their livelihood
until they are grown up.
So you know every part
we've seen, every part
we've filmed
is always ultimately
we get an "ahh" out of it.
They are pandas.
They are just beautiful,
cuddly and adorable.
I think it's hard not
to look at a mother animal
to see the sheer effort
she puts in to bringing
up her young
and to not feel a little bit
of that care yourself.
So if by showing
these species' first year
in their journey towards
we make people care
a little bit about them
as individuals
and hence care about
the species as a population,
then it won't be a bad thing.
The autumn
leaves are in full display.
The trees as colorful
as any New England fall
in North America.
Across the country,
the Born In China crews
stay with their stars,
following their every move.
Tao Tao is thriving
outside the family group.
But every day
is a lesson in survival.
The goshawk is a proven hunter
of golden snub-nosed monkeys.
All must be careful here.
These are amongst the fastest
and most agile birds
of prey on the planet.
Armed with the best eyesight
in the animal kingdom,
eight times more powerful
than a human's.
The goshawk is capable
of tucking in its wings
during flight
to pass through the smallest
gaps in pursuit of prey.
Fortunately, there are
enough eyes on him today
to keep Tao Tao
and the other monkeys
out of danger.
The chiru herds
are also keeping an eye
out for predators
on the long walk back
from the birthing grounds.
And for good reason.
The herds are relentlessly
pursued by wolves.
But these young chiru
are already strong enough
to outrun their predators.
Again safety in numbers
wins the day.
And Mei Mei, well,
she's just
a danger to herself.
But she'll be okay.
Mom knows that falling down
for a young panda
is all part of growing up.
All is well with
the Born In China characters.
And as winter approaches,
the filming expeditions
become more frequent
as the animals
prepare for the cold.
At the monkey location,
the crew are hoping
to film a battle
over a seasonal delicacy.
Pine cones are a prized
source of energy before
winter sets in.
And it's one of Tao Tao's
favorite foods.
His gang are making the most
of an autumn bonanza
at the edge
of their territory.
But there's tension
amongst the monkeys.
With the cones
such a precious resource,
everyone wants in
on this patch.
Grazing rights
for the pine cones
will only be sorted
out one way.
The main fight
is between Tao Tao's dad
and the leader
of the Lost Boys.
Loyalties divided
between his family
and the gang,
Tao Tao looks on anxiously.
It's a fight
of tooth and claw.
Tao Tao's dad
emerges victorious
and the Lost Boy's leader
is defeated.
Tao Tao survives
another drama.
Back up on the high plateau,
it's the turn
of the chiru crew
to find their stars.
The team are 200 miles
southeast of Zhuonai Lake,
the first filming location,
to film a special event
that only happens once a year.
It's the chiru
courtship season.
After three weeks
of walking from where
the chiru gave birth,
the moms and babies
are arriving
at the courtship grounds.
Where the males,
who have been alone
for many weeks,
are waiting patiently.
It's time for the antelope
to start a new family again.
For the next few weeks,
the males will be
thinking of nothing else
than getting together
with the females.
But unlike at the lake
where the herd
was concentrated
in one place to give birth,
the females are now spread
far and wide across
the high plateau.
Both film crew and male
chirus are going to have
to track them down.
At least the team
are in expert hands.
Jiaxi is a ranger
for this wild reserve.
He knows this place
and how the chiru
behave better than anyone.
Now the chirus
are on the plateau,
the males start to try
to capture the females.
They will all move
to that area,
close to our camp.
- So we are actually...
- ...in a good spot.
It's great
local knowledge,
but actually filming
the chiru courtship
is a different matter
Especially as the males
are still seeking out
the females.
But right now the male's
advances aren't
impressing any of them.
The best tactic for the film
crew with the chiru
spread so far and wide
is to try on foot.
And it's still
before sunrise.
We try to find the chirus
to get them in the nice
light in the morning.
It's minus 18 degrees,
so it's quite cold.
Fingers crossed.
But any
chance of filming
is quickly dashed.
It's amazing
how chirus survive
in this plateau.
It's very windy again.
And there in the background,
you can see the dark clouds,
brownish clouds,
it's all dust storm.
So the next
dust storm is coming,
it makes our work
really hard, so...
Yeah, we have to wait it out.
For the next few hours,
the team will be going
nowhere on foot.
And even in the vehicle,
getting around is becoming
I can't see the road anymore.
The wind
gradually subsides,
the dust settles,
and the skies clear bringing
not only fine weather,
but also good fortune.
The courtship begins.
We have a male there
with a harem of eight females
and he's pretty
active trying to keep
the girls together
and chasing other males away
and we start to get behavior
which is really uplifting.
With his harem
of females in place,
this male will now
do everything he can
to keep them.
He must herd his females
away from other males
to give him the best chance
to play his part
before the females leave
for the lake again
to give birth.
Now so determined
to impress the females,
he won't stop
chasing them for weeks
in a bid for mating rights.
All his energies are spent
on this courtship ritual
dominated by calling
and prancing.
He won't even stop to eat.
There's nothing else
on his mind.
Any of the other males
that dare enter his space
are chased off
at lightning speed.
This is his territory.
The loudest, fastest,
and most imposing male
wins the day.
The chirus
were really undisturbed
and did their thing.
So, um...
it was a pretty good day
and we got the start
of the males chasing
each other.
Filming the chiru
has been an epic effort.
Over 150 days,
the team have ventured
into areas few people
have ever been,
experienced isolation
and extreme cold.
My fingers
are incredibly cold.
But successfully
filmed an animal
which lives at extremes
and is fighting back
from the edge of extinction.
For the first time,
the lives of the chiru
have been captured on film.
The team's achievement
is unique,
to say the least.
Far to the east,
the family of cranes are ready
to begin their migration.
Paul and the team
are there to see them off.
Now nine months old,
the crane chicks
are almost unrecognizable.
Already nearly
as tall as their parents.
Before the first signs
of winter hit their
they will leave
for warmer pastures.
A migration that will
hopefully remain possible
for years to come.
Red-crowned cranes
find themselves where
cities are being built,
where populations
are expanding
and industry is working.
Hand in hand with that
there has to be, and I would
say, there is a sensitivity
to preserving the wetlands
and the marshes that
the cranes need.
Now that's important
for the cranes,
but obviously one day,
it will also be important
for the populations
of people here.
Because having
big cities is important,
but you also need
somewhere to escape
from those big cities,
and experience the wild.
And there couldn't be
a more rewarding summit
to that experience
than to see the beautiful
red-crowned cranes out
in these marshes.
The first flakes
of winter snow arrive.
Soon vast areas
of the country are covered.
Winter is here.
The Born In China film crews
capture picture-perfect images
of a winter wonderland
from the ground.
And from the air.
These aerial shots filmed
from a state-of-the-art
stabilized camera
mounted to a helicopter,
are the first of their kind.
No crew has filmed
this high over China.
Back on the ground
and baby Mei Mei
continues to flourish
doing her best to become
independent from mom Ya Ya.
Like all pandas,
Mei Mei is born to climb.
Under the watchful
eye of Ya Ya,
she's spending
her days exploring.
But Mei Mei's trying
to reach too high too soon.
It will be a few more months
until she is strong enough
and wise enough
to survive on her own.
For now, her mom is not
going to let her go.
For the monkey team,
this is their most
important time of year.
They only have one winter
to try and capture on film
an extraordinary
and very rare behavior.
that's special about
golden snub-nosed monkeys
is they live
right up into the snowline
and this is something
we really wanted to show.
In the winter shoot,
we were really hoping to
film something
we were told about
that happens
specifically in winter,
and that's the monkeys
walking bipedally
on two feet like we do.
And it seems
as if they do
this to avoid
putting their hands
on to the ground
because it's cold.
This was our goal
for the winter filming.
What the crew need
is cold temperatures
and enough snow to settle.
A few days later,
the perfect conditions arrive.
We have to go
and find the monkeys now,
they're somewhere
up the mountain.
But for Justin
and the crew,
following fast moving
monkeys up steep
snow-covered slopes
with heavy filming gear
isn't easy.
More than two hours
into the climb,
the team eventually
find the monkeys
and set up to film.
There was one
particular moment
which I loved was
which I found
funny as well,
we were filming
our very first snow,
and I just happened
to be standing right
by a tree
and the monkeys decided
to use me as a perch.
Do I have two on me?
- Yeah, you have two.
- Feels like it.
- I've got two tails anyway.
- You have two monkeys now.
Oh, yeah, he's just trying
to get right on your head.
So, how's
filming going today?
I've got a very good
view of a monkey's
bottom right now.
The conditions stay perfect
for the next few days.
And the team
are seeing glimpses
of the monkey behavior
they are hoping for.
- Oh, my God!
- That is so sweet.
Oh, you are like
the cutest thing.
That is just the sweetest
thing you could ever
possibly see.
It happens so quickly,
and it's not necessarily
in the right setting,
so getting all
of the things right
to capture it is really hard.
You might, you know,
we're starting to see it now,
but actually
getting it on camera is
a whole different story.
Not a good angle and there's
lots of scruffy vegetation.
It needs to be
more attractive
and a better camera angle
would be good.
It's not really working
because we are too close.
I wasn't fast enough.
it all clicks into place
and the team capture
the monkeys walking
on two feet.
It was definitely a moment,
the best bit is the mum
with the baby attached to her.
- Running along.
- There's another one.
That one in the back.
It's been
a very successful year
for the monkey team,
full of fond memories
thanks to these amazing
wild primates.
A bit of warmth
and the monkeys
are just so much more
relaxed and happy.
And just
before the crew up pack up,
a bonus.
We had one
that particularly
liked doing back flips
I mean he doesn't need to do
back flips but...
obviously doing it
for fun, I can't think
what other reason.
Oh, my goodness.
We were very privileged
to be spending time
with these animals
which are very habituated.
They knew us, each
crew member as individuals.
And they
were cheeky at times.
They would jump
onto the camera,
and push bits
or want to interact with us,
and mostly we were trying
not to distract them
in any way,
you know we wanted to observe
purely natural behavior.
But I loved the moments
when they were engaged with us
and wanted
to be engaged
with us.
I'm not quite happy
with the position
of my camera flag.
It's really hard
to pick a favorite moment
with the golden snub-nosed
because there were so many.
The thing I found probably
the most entertaining
about them
was the youngsters,
they just love to play so much
and they would often come
and play near us and jump
on the camera bags
and the camera and us.
And I could just sit
and watch them for hours.
Those were my favorite times.
The filming of Born In China
is a remarkable achievement.
Teams of experienced
international crews
often working in little
explored corners of
this amazing country,
successfully filmed rare
endangered animals
and landscapes.
Tao Tao survived
being pushed out,
returning happily to grow up
with his sister
and his family.
The crane family completed
their journey south.
Once again, the chiru herds
set off on the highest
mammal migration on Earth.
And Mei Mei, finally,
grew strong enough
to branch out
on her own.
These expeditions
revealed a country
working to preserve
its wildlife and habitats,
and those striving
to make it happen.
The people we've met
in the areas that
we've been filming
have been really
wonderful and helpful.
Of course, we've needed
their help with bags,
just the sheer amount of kit.
But more importantly,
we've needed their expertise.
They know those
animals so well.
They can spot
an animal at distances
that frankly I couldn't
see an animal through
binoculars at.
We were really lucky to find
some brilliant local crew.
They were absolutely
to the footage that
we were able to capture.
Without them we just wouldn't
have been able to do
what we've done.
We could not have achieved
what we've done
without the local support.
In fact, we wouldn't
have achieved it.
the filming of Born In China,
the team spent 1,000
filming days in the country.
Alongside the biggest human
population on the planet,
they filmed vast
remote habitats.
Home to rare creatures
unfamiliar inside the country,
let alone to the rest
of the world.
The expeditions have opened
a window onto the rarely seen
animals of China.