Wild Portugal (2020) Movie Script

On the wild edge of
the European continent
lies a meeting point for
the warm Mediterranean climate
and the cool Atlantic current.
This paradise boasts more than
500 miles of coastline.
And past its rugged shores
is a land full of spectacular
wildlife and wilderness,
home to both the mysterious
and the familiar.
Together, they reveal
the strange and diverse world
of Wild Portugal.
The broken, boulder-filled
coastline of Portugal
forms the westernmost
border of Europe.
Beyond it, the Atlantic Ocean.
Here, storm surges battle
with what's left of the
continent's coastal defense.
High above the turmoil below,
a male white stork has found
a secure place to make a home,
balanced atop a razor's edge.
This is the only place
known in the world
where storks build
their nests on cliffs.
And while this nest may shelter
him from terrestrial predators,
the turbulence surrounding him
leaves little room for error.
Out here, nesting sites
are in short supply
and difficult to reach.
But they are burned
into the memories
of these migrating storks.
Battling the relentless wind,
a female completes her journey
from Africa to a familiar place
and with a familiar companion.
As they've done in years past,
this pair now readies itself
for a new generation.
Portugal is home to around
11,000 pairs of storks,
so as rugged as their
living conditions might be
atop these jagged rocks,
they provide the birds
exactly what they need...
...if they can carve out
a place to build a nest.
The airspace becomes crowded,
and conflicts inevitable.
Established birds fiercely
defend their homes
against aggressive newcomers.
His takeover bid a failure,
the newcomer has no choice
except to take his chances
with an unproven,
more exposed location.
(beak clattering)
The powerful Atlantic winds
carry moisture from the ocean
inland toward the high
mountains of northern Portugal.
Beneath these clouds hides one
of Europe's great survivors.
The Garrano horse.
These horses
and their ancestors
have roamed these hills
for years.
Even our ancestors painted them
on cave walls.
In this mountainous landscape,
almost 11 1/2 feet of
precipitation falls annually
across more than
150 rainy days.
When the constant wetness
becomes too much to bear,
the horses retreat
to a sheltered forest...
protecting their foals from
the relentless cold water.
(horse snorts)
But the ever-alert mares know
that they are not the only ones
in this forest.
The Garranos share this habitat
with Iberian wolves
and have for millennia.
And the wolves learned long ago
that these woodlands are
a far better hunting ground
than an open mountain meadow.
They approach the herd
nearly undetected.
But the stallion refuses
to be intimidated.
The wolves' cover is blown.
And the showdown ends
with the wolves' retreat.
After such a close call,
the stallion leads his mares
high up into the mountains.
For thousands of years
our history has been linked
to these small, wiry horses.
In the past they helped carry
our loads and work our fields.
Now they rely on
the help of humans.
Less than 2,000 of Portugal's
Garrano horses remain.
The stallion will do
everything he can
to ensure the success
of his breed,
but he is almost powerless
against illegal hunting,
forest fires,
and hungry wolves.
With the arrival
of mating season,
tensions among the wolves
begin to escalate.
The pack's strict hierarchy
needs to be re-established.
A pack usually consists
of a parental pair
and their offspring
from the previous two years.
Once they reach age two,
most young wolves will leave
in search of
their own territory
and their own partners.
But until then, they will live
in their parents' pack,
under their parents' rules.
And the first rule is
that only the parents
have the right to reproduce.
For nearly a week
the female will be fertile,
and the male
her constant companion.
As with other canines,
these two will remain
coupled for some time.
Until the 1960s
wolves once stalked
every corner of Portugal.
Today they're confined to
this small northern enclave.
If they're going to survive
this last holdout,
it will be because these packs
remain strong and united.
At a safe distance
above the tree line,
Iberian ibexes inhabit
a barren kingdom.
Females guide their young
across a landscape
of slippery rocks.
The terrain may look exposed,
but this high up
in the mountains,
they are safe from wolves.
The trade-off for their safety
is the scarcity of food.
These ibexes owe
their sure-footedness
to their climbing shoes:
specially adapted hooves
with a soft, grippy
inner surface
and a hard, stable outer edge.
On a neighboring slope,
the bucks have gathered.
Their hierarchy is
well established.
By the time
they reach the females,
there will be no doubt
who will be able to mate
and who will not.
The dominant male wears
the largest horns like a crown.
In the rugged, mountainous
world of northern Portugal,
the wolves patrol
massive hunting grounds
as large as 116 square miles.
And now, more than ever,
the pack needs food.
Two new pups have arrived.
And at 10 weeks old,
they're already demanding meat.
And the entire pack
works together
to make sure they are fed.
That is the special purpose
of the pack.
They need each other to care
for the next generation.
Each of these wolves is
a part of the same dynasty,
helping secure the legacy
of this family
long before venturing off
to establish a bloodline
of their own.
These pups aren't worried
about blood right now.
They want to know who
is going to feed them.
And they've come
to the right place.
A regurgitated meat meal
from an older sibling
is exactly what
they're looking for.
With fewer than 400 wolves
remaining in Portugal,
scenes like these are
increasingly rare.
For the pack's
youngest members,
the best protection
against stressors
like hunting and habitat loss
may be to remain here
within the safe confines
of the national park.
Further southeast,
along the Spanish border,
the Douro River has
carved a deep gorge
through the Portuguese
Compared with the conditions
the wolves face
to the far north,
this landscape is dry and warm.
Instead of trapping moisture,
these slopes create
powerful updrafts;
ideal for a griffon vulture.
With his keen eyes,
he calmly searches the valley
for carcasses.
On the ground, a fox
goes hunting for mice,
but wouldn't be above
like a vulture either.
Full-grown red deer
don't need to worry
about vultures or foxes.
But why take any chances?
These green meadows
are bursting
with some of the deer's
favorite foods.
But even in this Eden,
animals fall prey
to disease and old age.
This same meadow now provides a
feast for the vultures as well.
A vulture seldom dines alone.
Word quickly gets around when
a carcass has been spotted.
These vultures will
share this banquet
whether they like it or not.
But even in their numbers,
they're not the rulers
of this domain.
That would be
the cinereous vulture.
When they want food,
they get it.
Their only real competition
is each other.
Alongside these moody giants,
a little Egyptian vulture
hardly stands a chance.
He'll be the last bird
served at this banquet.
As for the fox,
it's not looking like
there will be many
leftovers this time.
It's back to the mouse hunt
for him.
Journeying south
of the Tagus River,
the landscape turns desolate.
This was once a forest,
but now this 328-square-mile
steppe land
serves as a critical
bird habitat.
Here, courting male bustards
gather in leks,
strutting their stuff for
an audience of curious females.
The females are far smaller
than their suitors,
who can weigh three times
as much as they do.
They also present a more
impressive set of whiskers.
But before approaching females,
a suitor will do
one more thing.
What males really want
are these: blister beetles.
These inky insects are
packed with poison;
a defense against predators,
but also a stimulant in
traditional Chinese medicine.
So what kind of edge is
this male hoping to gain
with these little poison pills?
It turns out that
he's not looking
for a performance boost.
Instead he's treating himself
for parasites
and signaling his health
to choosy females.
Feeling good, he's ready
to approach the females.
With his tail folded up
and his wings flared out,
this one is a mighty
impressive specimen.
One of the females
appears interested.
But alas,
not interested enough.
Maybe next time.
Near the bustards'
proving ground
stands what might be Portugal's
most iconic landscape.
The cork forest
of the Alentejo.
It's a golden paradise
for insects...
...as well as birds.
Peckish Spanish sparrows
feed here in the thousands.
While their cousins,
the house sparrows,
have become more rare
in parts of Europe...
in this ancient landscape,
these sparrows find
more than enough grass
and grain to feed on.
At dusk, they retire into
the comfort of their nests.
Made from the most
simple materials:
grass, twigs and leaves.
In their excitement,
the sparrows have awoken
one of their worst enemies.
The sparrows have detected her.
Genets most likely came
to the Iberian Peninsula
with the Arabs
around 1,000 years ago.
But she is not just a hunter;
she's also a thief.
She understands the dark art
of the sneak attack.
If she can't capture
a bird on the wing,
she'll attempt a raid
on one of their delicate nests.
But she has come too early.
She'll need to return
under the cover of darkness.
This is prime time
for a night hunter.
The genet is
an excellent climber,
but most nights
she hunts on the ground.
The mouse has escaped.
But the genet has
a good memory.
He may find better luck
back up in the trees.
Even before they
lay their eggs,
sparrows sleep in their nests.
The genet has gotten
what it came for.
She'll greet the morning
with a full stomach.
In the south of Portugal,
the Spanish lavender
begins an early bloom.
The Mediterranean climate
brings mild winters...
...and hot, dry summers.
Throughout the south the songs
of crickets and grasshoppers
create the soundtrack
of spring.
Grasshoppers are highly attuned
to the vibrations in the air
and in the trees around them.
But a Mediterranean chameleon's
quick draw is too fast
and too smooth for
the grasshopper to detect.
Like the genet, chameleons
are not native to Portugal,
but they are here to stay.
There's nothing else
quite like this creature
anywhere in the country.
Its feet are adapted to grip
tree branches and twigs.
Its tongue, like a catapult,
can be fired in a split second.
Individually operated eyes
give it 360-degree vision
and an advantage over
potential predators and prey.
When a chameleon senses
his next victim nearby,
both eyes synchronize,
calibrating its depth
perception to the millimeter,
making its next strike...
...deadly accurate.
In Portugal's far south,
the beaches of the Algarve
coast are some of the sunniest
and most popular
in all of Europe.
With 300 days
of full sun per year,
it's easy to understand why.
Along a 37-mile
stretch of lagoon
known as the Ria Formosa,
the moon is in control.
Tidal forces expose an
underwater world to the light.
Drawing a full orchestra
of European fiddler crabs
out of their burrows.
This is feeding time.
While females begin snacking
using their two small claws...
...one of the male's claws has
evolved for a bigger purpose.
Some fiddler crabs
are right-handed,
while others are left-handed.
But even down one claw,
the males eventually
get their fill,
and ready their instruments
for some after-dinner
They wave their
eye-catching claws
to lure females
into their sandpits.
And if another male
gets between them,
he'll use this same claw
to intimidate the rival.
When the moon draws
the tide back in,
the show is over...
that is until the next
performance in about 12 hours.
These imposing cliffs
are one of the Algarve coast's
iconic landmarks.
Below these walls the story
of Wild Portugal continues.
Down into a frigid,
deep sea world.
The same kinds of crevices
favored by nesting birds
above the surface
are used below for fish.
Nudibranchs graze algae
on the rocks.
They may look delicate
and defenseless,
but their technicolor
skin patterns
are a signal that
they are toxic.
Nearby predators understand
this warning instinctively.
And today, like most days,
this nudibranch eats in peace.
This sun-filled coastline
allows seaweed and algae
to thrive.
But it's not just
plants and algae
that benefit from the sun.
The sap-sucking slug
has evolved
a much different
survival strategy
from its distant,
more colorful relative.
It dresses itself
in camouflage.
While it grazes on algae,
it avoids digesting
their small green cells,
known as chloroplasts.
Instead, she inserts them
into her skin.
Not only does this allow her to
blend in with her surroundings,
it allows her to use the cells
to generate energy.
So, with a food factory
on its back,
a sap-sucking slug can survive
for weeks without eating.
That is, so long as
the sun keeps shining
on the Algarve coast above it.
The last leg of this journey
around Portugal
returns us to where we began.
Much has happened
in the stork world.
The rival male pushed to
the outskirts of the colony
is now the proud father
of two fluffy chicks.
(beaks clattering)
And they're already
clattering away.
Similar scenes plays out
across the coastline.
At first, parents feed their
chicks a pre-digested porridge,
but soon their meals become
far more challenging.
And far more difficult
to share.
And with a beak designed more
like pliers than scissors,
there's only so much help
the mother can offer.
Leaving one chick still hungry
and the other ready
for a long nap.
In a few weeks the young storks
will leave the nest for good...
...then set out
to explore a land
that remains
Europe's Wild West.
Captioned by
Side Door Media Services