Inside the Perfect Predator (2010) Movie Script

This is the inside story
of four extraordinary predators.
The peregrine falcon...
the Nile crocodile...
the cheetah...
and the great white shark.
With ground-breaking
computer graphics...
and incredible
close-up photography...
we reveal the inner alchemy
that gives our hunters the edge.
Reconstructing their intimate lives
as they make their kills.
But who is
the planet's perfect predator?
Living right above the heads
of the people of London...
...the fastest animal on the planet,
the peregrine falcon.
Man-made cliff tops
offer sanctuary to the peregrines...
...but they also present new dangers.
With the arrival of spring
come new demands
on the peregrines' hunting skills.
Demands that will stretch
them to their limit.
There are new mouths to feed.
If these chicks are to survive
long enough to fly the nest,
their parents will have to catch two
pigeons a day for the next month.
This will be the greatest
challenge of their mother's life.
Her secret weapon is speed.
But on the flat,
a pigeon can out-fly a peregrine.
She must use gravity
to reach her maximum speed.
For this, she rides the updraft.
Half a mile above the city,
she can now survey
the whole of her territory.
Of all the four predators,
the peregrine falcon
has the keenest eyesight.
At the base of each retina,
she has two concentrations
of visual sensors,
where humans have only one.
This gives her incredible powers
of triangulation.
From two miles away, she locks on
to her unsuspecting target.
The hunt is on.
While this peregrine falcon
must kill every day,
there's one predator that can
survive without food for a year.
It lives in the rivers of Africa.
Even when they have run dry.
Months ago a five-metre,
half-ton Nile crocodile
scraped out a burrow
to escape the heat.
Now he's in a state
of suspended animation.
His heart beats
only twice a minute.
Delivering just enough blood to keep his
vital organs from shutting down completely.
To survive, he draws
on the fat reserves...
...accumulated from
last year's hunt.
In this condition, he rides out
the worst of the drought.
When the rains finally return...
...the predator flickers to life.
But before the cold-bloodied reptile
can hunt, it must first power up.
The ridges of scales along his back
are more than just body armour.
They act like solar panels,
absorbing the heat.
Just beneath the surface, a web of
capillaries carries the warm blood
to the crocodile's core
activating his systems.
His eyesight sharpens.
His hearing tunes in
to the world around him.
For the next six months, he must
make do with only fish to snack on.
Then, it is the moment
he's been waiting for.
Inside his ears,
minute hair-like structures
detect a low-frequency...
...sound well beyond human hearing.
It's the rumble
of a distant stampede.
Hordes of wildebeest on their
never-ending quest for fresh pastures.
he has his quarry in his sight.
The hunt is on.
While the crocodile
can wait for prey to come to him,
another predator must make
an epic journey to reach hers.
Deep in the Indian Ocean,
the world's largest predatory fish
is heading to her feeding grounds.
One ton and five metres long,
this female great white shark
left the coast of Australia over 100
days ago on a 7,000-mile journey.
She cruises half a mile down,
in a world of pitch black.
Up above,
fishing fleets are scooping out
the last of the big shoals.
Down below, the shark is burning
the last of her fuel supply.
She has almost exhausted
the fatty oils in her liver.
She must get to
her feeding grounds soon.
Highly sophisticated
electro-sensors in her nose...
...allow her to detect
the Earth's magnetic grid...
...and accurately
compute her position.
Occasionally, she returns to the surface,
possibly to get her bearings from the stars.
Finally, the near-starving shark
reaches her destination,
the coast of South Africa.
It's early winter and she has timed
her arrival to perfection.
Thousands of six-month-old
Cape fur seals are venturing
into deep water for the first time.
Thanks to their energy-rich blubber,
these seals would make
a perfect meal for most sharks.
But most sharks can't cope
with these cold temperatures.
They're cold-blooded
and lose body heat as their blood
passes through their gills.
The great white, however,
uses a specialised network of blood
vessels to reabsorb its body heat.
Because of this,
it can raise its body temperature
14 degrees higher than other sharks,
giving it superior strength,
speed and brain power.
She's crossed an ocean to be here.
It's time to eat.
From two miles away,
she can smell the colony,
able to detect one molecule
of blood in a million of water.
From 250 metres away,
she can distinguish the sound
of seals from the background surf.
From 25 metres, she can make out
surface objects only 15 centimetres across.
The hunt is on!
While the ultimate sea predator
can go without a kill for weeks,
the ultimate land predator must
kill almost every day to survive.
The fastest animal on land
has had the run of
the African plains for millennia.
But sometimes speed isn't enough.
The cheetah.
So far, this mother has succeeded
in keeping her three cubs alive...
...when typically, only one
would reach its first birthday.
They will kill cheetah cubs.
Not only do they have strength in numbers,
they're also bigger with bone-crushing jaws.
To protect her young,
the cheetah must act as a decoy.
Inside, her body fires into action.
Adrenalin is quickly
flushed into the bloodstream.
Her huge heart doubles
its rate to 250 beats a minute...
...sending extra oxygen
and sugars directly
to her enormous leg muscles.
She is now ready
to engage the enemy.
This time, she has won.
But her cubs are hungry.
They need meat and milk every day.
She too is weakening.
To achieve her killer speed,
she carries little fat
and is constantly
on the verge of starvation.
She must eat.
Cheetahs have enhanced vision
in the horizontal plane...
and can spot a moving gazelle
from over a mile away.
Approaching downwind,
she creeps towards
her 30-metre striking distance.
Making the most of her camouflage.
Once again,
there's a chain reaction...
as she prepares for
the fastest chase on land.
The hunt is on.
All four predators
are poised for the attack.
Their insides a powder keg,
just waiting to explode.
But who will make the kill,
and who will go hungry?
Nature's top gun,
the peregrine falcon.
Desperate to feed her chicks...
...she locks onto her target,
a fast and agile pigeon.
Time to turn on the speed.
Tucking in her wings,
she shoots towards Earth.
Her teardrop-shaped body,
the height of aerodynamic design.
Within seconds, she has reached
her terminal velocity of 200 miles per hour.
The force of air
would explode her lungs,
if not for
the baffles in her nostrils,
a design so effective
it is now used in jet engines.
Nictating membranes wipe her eyes
to clear them of debris
and stop them drying out.
She prepares for impact, a manoeuvre
requiring split-second timing.
But the pigeon spotted her...
and she can't compete on the flat.
Despite their speed, peregrine
falcons have a poor strike rate,
with only 20% of attacks
ending in a kill.
But her chicks must feed
before the day is out.
Back in Africa,
hunger is also preying on the mind
of the freshwater predator.
So far, this Nile crocodile
has survived on meagre pickings.
Now is his chance for a proper meal.
The crocodile is an ambush predator.
But to succeed, he must get close.
No more than three metres away.
The wildebeest
are wary of any movement.
For his final approach,
he must vanish completely.
Although he can barely see, he uses
his claws to feel his way forward.
Pressure receptors studded along his
jaws pick up vibrations in the water
guiding him to his prey.
A large crocodile can hide itself
in 30 centimetres of water.
Now, he must wait for them
to come to him.
By lowering his heart rate...
...and slowing down his metabolism...
...he can stay submerged
for up to two hours.
Finally, the temptation to drink
is too much for the wildebeest.
He swipes his muscular tail,
half his body length.
It launches him
three metres out of the water.
He shuts his eyes to protect them...
...and snaps blindly, his jaws
studded with five-centimetre fangs.
He's missed.
The Nile crocodile's hit rate of 30%
may beat that
of the peregrine falcon...
...but the wildebeest are only
fleeting visitors to his river.
He must make a kill soon if he
is to survive the lean times ahead.
Drained after an epic voyage,
the ultimate ocean predator
is also ravenous.
She's come all this way to feast on
the thousands of young seals
braving open water
for the first time.
25 metres down,
she launches her lightning strike.
Three-quarters of her bodyweight
is muscle that powers
her enormous tail.
Thanks to her fortified scales,
her streamlined body
glides through the water
with minimal friction.
At 31 miles an hour,
she's like a living torpedo.
Moments before the strike, she
rolls her eyes back to protect them.
Steering blind,
she now depends on her sixth sense.
The electro-sensors on her snout
detect the seal's electric field.
Her jaws open almost a metre wide...
...revealing row upon row
of serrated daggers.
With a 50% hit rate, she is
the most efficient hunter so far.
But she must consume more blubber
if she's to make it
back to peak condition.
Back on the African plains,
the fastest land animal
is moving in for the kill.
The survival of her cubs
is at stake.
From 0 to 60 in under three seconds,
she outperforms a Porsche.
Extra-wide airways
and outsized lungs
allow her to take in more oxygen.
Loose hip and shoulder joints
give her extended reach.
Combined with an elastic spine...
...that both arches up
and curves down.
This gives her a seven-metre stride.
For more than half the time,
she is airborne.
Thrusting her forward
are her huge leg muscles...
Composed mainly
of fast-twitch fibres
that contract far quicker
than normal muscles...
...and that run on glycogen,
nature's own rocket fuel.
But there's a catch.
Glycogen breaks down
into lactic acid,
the poison that causes muscle cramp.
She has just 20 seconds to make her
kill before her muscles burn out.
Hurtling at 70 miles an hour,
she risks everything on a trip.
With a 50% strike rate,
the cheetah matches
the efficiency of the great white,
but holding onto her kill
will be another matter.
By strike rate alone, the cheetah...
...and great white
are the top predators.
Snapping at their heels
is the Nile crocodile...
with the peregrine falcon
swooping into fourth.
But there is more to survival
than just hunting.
The great white
has made her first kill
but she must make up for lost time.
Kill number two.
Her liver starts
to store its fatty oils,
but she still needs more.
Over the short winter season,
an experienced shark
may catch up to three seals a day.
Months later, however,
the tide has turned.
The seals are both
stronger and cannier.
While some are still being eaten...
...most can now run rings
around their enemy.
The shark's incredible metabolism
is both a strength and a weakness.
Like the cheetah,
her fast-twitch muscles
are perfect for short bursts
of speed but quickly burn out.
The exhausted shark gives up.
But she's done well.
Her fatty liver
has now doubled in size.
With energy in reserve, she moves on
to her next feeding ground... that may be
hundreds of miles away.
But avoiding the fishing fleets
is becoming more difficult.
Her luck has run out.
This ruthlessly efficient predator
has ruled the waves
for millions of years,
but now these waves
are ruled by humans.
So what does the future hold
for the other top predators?
On the African plains,
the cheetah has made her kill.
But the chase
has attracted attention...
...and taken its toll on her body.
Struggling to recover, her lungs
heave at 200 breaths per minute.
Oxygen races
to her aching muscles...
...breaking down
the cramping lactic acid.
But time is running out.
This time, the hyenas went
for the easy meat.
But it was meat
that the cubs desperately needed.
In the past, cheetahs could
avoid their enemies.
But now,
their grasslands are shrinking
and being replaced by farmland...
Where the cheetahs are considered
a threat to livestock...
...and shot.
She may have had the run of
the plains for millennia,
but in the next 30 years the cheetah
may become extinct in the wild.
Rapid change is sweeping
across the African landscape.
The crocodile's first ambush
was a spectacular failure.
To survive the dry season,
he must catch a wildebeest
in the few weeks
they are passing through.
This time, his jaws find their mark
Bringing two tons of pressure to
bear on each square inch of flesh.
At last, he has his prize.
Rather than fend off
the other crocodiles,
he welcomes them to the feast,
unable to dine alone.
His teeth may be formidable
but they are grippers, not carvers.
Together they perform
twisting death rolls
to rip the flesh
into bite-size chunks.
A croc's stomach
can hold over 25 kilos of meat.
To help him digest the cache
before it begins to rot,
the crocodile
has a unique adaptation.
His heart.
No other animal has two aortas.
By closing his right aorta,
the main blood supply to his body,
and opening up his left aorta,
he can divert the carbon
dioxide-rich blood
that he accumulated during
his underwater stake-out
straight to his stomach.
The acidic blood produces
ten times more stomach acid... help dissolve
the huge chunks of meat.
The potent solution
is then converted to fat
and stored for the lean times ahead.
He's made his big kill just in time.
His world is slowly turning to dust.
The wildebeest are moving on.
It's time to escape the furnace.
He shuts down once more.
He has only his new fat reserves to
see him through to the next rains.
Thanks to the crocodile's
remarkable physiology,
it has outlived the dinosaurs
and survived the ice ages.
Now, there is every chance it will
weather the worsening droughts
brought on by climate change, too.
All the predators
have challenges ahead.
But some may fare
better than others.
Like the crocodile, the peregrine's
first strike was a miss.
As her chicks depend
on a daily kill.
The stakes could not be higher.
Moments before impact...
...she unleashes
her five-centimetre talons.
The force of the blow
snaps the pigeon's backbone.
Today, the hungry chicks get to eat.
But their parents
will have to do this
every day, twice a day, for a month,
if all three chicks are to survive.
Weeks later,
these three rookie predators
are testament
to their parents' perseverance.
Despite their challenges,
and their low strike rate,
urban peregrines are on the rise.
Around 30 of the world's
fastest animal now soar over London.
All four predators
have incredible inside stories.
But the real perfect predator
is the one that can best adapt
to a rapidly changing world...
...and learn to live
alongside humankind.