Animal (2021) s01e03 Episode Script


1 [mysterious music playing.]
[Rebel Wilson.]
For a quirky mix of creatures look no further [bellows.]
than the marsupials.
Those mammalian misfits with the pouch.
They might seem a bit bizarre but don't underestimate them.
With unexpected superpowers and amazing adaptability they have conquered a continent.
These high-altitude valleys are home to an iconic marsupial.
The eastern grey kangaroo.
[didgeridoo music playing.]
Today, a new roo is being welcomed into the world.
All kangaroo babies start out the same way.
Little more than an embryo.
Blind, with hind limbs barely grown, he must scale a wall of fur six times his height.
His goal? Mum's pouch.
The pouch keeps the young joey warm, fed, and safe [upbeat music plays.]
until he's ready to emerge.
Fast forward six months.
The eastern grey joey takes his first look at the world.
To learn he's part of a group, known as a mob.
Mum and a handful of females, jealously guarded by the boss.
That's his dad.
Joey is about to discover the secret to his father's success.
A lot of muscle, a lot of flexing.
A challenger has arrived to contest Dad's mating rights.
It's an exhibition of power [growling.]
urine and there's a bit of scratching as well.
Body language says, "I could fight you.
" "But you don't want to go there.
" "No, no, no.
" [growls.]
It seems to do the job.
Until next time.
One day, the joey will make his bid to be a kangaroo king.
If he makes it that far.
This valley is also home to a pack of dingoes.
[sinister music plays.]
And catching kangaroos is their specialty.
At 25 miles an hour, dingoes are pretty quick.
But roos can go 40! [intense music plays.]
The pack looks for stragglers.
[intense music continues.]
But no luck this time.
For now, joey can relax in the safety of Mum's pouch.
It's just a simple fold of skin, but it's given marsupials a head start for millions of years.
The marsupials first arose alongside the dinosaurs on an ancient supercontinent.
Today, in most places, they're being outcompeted by placental mammals.
But a number of opossums still survive in the Americas.
Including the monito del monte, the last remaining member of a family that gave rise to three-quarters of marsupials alive today.
It's thought that as the supercontinent fragmented, a close relative of this living fossil was cast away.
Isolated in what is now Australia, with little competition from other mammals, this pioneering possum's descendants branched out across a land of opportunity.
Over time, 200 different species evolved.
Each with a fantastical name.
Each with a unique way of life.
Most are nocturnal insectivores, or vegetarians.
But some grew larger, fiercer, and developed a taste for meat.
Filmed in 1936, the thylacine, also know as the Tasmanian tiger, was once Australia's apex predator.
This is the last time it was documented before human settlement and bounty hunters wiped it out.
Today, only a few marsupial carnivores survive.
The largest lurks in one of the wildest corners of the continent.
[sinister music plays.]
A legendary beast [caws.]
with a fearsome reputation.
The Tasmanian devil.
A young imp might act tough [growling.]
[growl echoes.]
but he's probably more anxious than aggressive.
Like all devils, he prefers the dark.
He's just eight months old, only recently left Mum, and not had much to eat since.
If that doesn't change soon, chances of making it to adulthood are slim.
[animal shrieking.]
[suspenseful music plays.]
His biggest problem? Other devils.
The imp can't compete with the big boys.
Two full-grown adults scrapping over a carcass.
But he could steal a quick snack while they fight it out.
[suspenseful music plays.]
[growling and shrieking.]
He'd better eat fast [shrieking.]
before trouble returns.
All he can do is hope for some leftovers.
But considering a devil can devour almost half its body weight in a sitting, it could be a long wait.
[Rebel sighs.]
[dramatic music plays.]
Come dawn, his patience has paid off.
Well kind of.
Only skin and bone left, but an imp can't afford to be picky.
Devils do hunt sometimes, but they're just as happy to scavenge.
This ability to eat the uneatable helped marsupials claim a continent.
[waves crashing.]
Eucalyptus trees make up three-quarters of Australia's native forest.
Their leaves are so toxic, they're inedible to almost every living thing.
But one famous marsupial has found a way to exploit this bountiful resource.
[mellow music plays.]
This koala mum may look a little dozy, but she's feeding for two.
And her body's working overtime.
Her gut contains a unique cocktail of microbes which neutralize the poisons that would put us into a coma.
[mellow music continues.]
But koalas aren't born with such strong digestion.
It has to be acquired.
So baby is on a mix of milk and pap.
Slushy droppings that pass on the bacteria he'll need.
Even with the toxins taken care of, it takes almost all of the koala's energy to break down these low-nutrient leaves.
It's no wonder they spend 90% of their lives asleep.
[mellow music continues.]
But not all marsupials lead such laid-back lives.
Meet nature's BASE jumper.
The sugar glider.
This palm-sized possum can glide half the length of a soccer field in a single leap.
[dramatic music playing.]
His fast-paced lifestyle is fueled by sugary sap.
But his teeth are too small to cut through thick bark.
Time to drop in on his heavyweight cousins.
The yellow-bellied gliders.
Their stronger jaws are quick to slice through the toughest trees.
And when the yellow-bellies move on, the little fella takes his chance.
[squeaking in distance.]
But gliders are social animals.
More and more join the party.
[high-energy music plays.]
This many uninvited guests are hard to ignore.
The yellow-belly's had enough.
[dramatic music plays.]
It's fight or flight.
An easy choice for a sugar glider.
[birds chirping.]
[Australian instrumental music.]
Back in the Australian Alps, the joey is now one big baby.
[drums play.]
[cymbal crashes.]
Nine months old and well on course to adulthood.
Well, almost.
[bouncy music plays.]
He'll continue to hop in and out of the pouch for the next few months.
Following in his father's footsteps, he's working on his tough guy image.
And sparring with Mum.
Lucky she's long-suffering.
[growls softly.]
She'll put up with this until he's a year and a half.
Then he'll be on his own, fighting his way to the top.
Because only the mob boss is allowed to mate and right now, that's Dad.
The rival male is back.
And now it's time.
Time for a showdown.
[dramatic music plays.]
Fights are brutal.
Sometimes fatal.
[dramatic music continues.]
Rival defeated, Dad claims his reward.
A little kangaroo courtship.
His caresses and sniffs are well-received.
Seems joey will soon have a sibling.
But when it arrives, he'll lose the security of Mum's pouch.
[ominous music plays.]
From then on, he'll have to count on his own turn of speed.
The challenge of surviving Australia's vast desert interior has shaped the fastest marsupial of all.
The red kangaroo.
Named for the males' distinctive coat, the red kangaroo is also the largest marsupial in the world.
Food sources here are few and far between, and water is even scarcer, so red kangaroos need to keep moving to stay alive.
They spend their lives chasing the rains.
[dramatic music plays.]
They can cover eight meters in a single leap.
[uplifting music plays.]
Tendons in their hind legs work like giant springs, recycling up to 70% of the energy in every hop.
And this rhythmic bounce also pumps more oxygen through their lungs allowing them to cruise at 30 miles an hour.
[uplifting music continues.]
Fast and efficient, red kangaroos migrate vast distances.
When they finally reach greener pastures they extract almost all the water they need from the plants they eat and can go for weeks without drinking at all.
With incredible specialization, red roos can thrive in Australia's arid regions.
But most marsupials are tied to permanent water.
Agile wallabies are smaller cousins of red kangaroos.
They graze around the billabongs and creeks of Northern Australia and have to regularly come down to the water to drink.
Saltwater crocodiles prey on the thirsty.
[sinister drum beats.]
An ancient foe that's haunted these waters since the time of the dinosaurs.
[sinister music continues.]
[sinister music ends.]
[sinister music resumes.]
Collective vigilance and fast reactions mean, more often than not, the wallabies get away.
They've had millions of years to adapt to this danger.
But now, marsupials face new threats, and they're struggling to cope.
Two hundred years ago, humans introduced new predators to Australia.
Feral cats kill nearly 1.
5 billion native animals a year.
And they've played a major part in the extinction of 22 marsupial species.
The greater bilby is in danger of going the same way.
[suspenseful music plays.]
These timid creatures rely on acute senses to navigate the night.
Their elongated noses allow them to sniff out seeds and fruit in the dark.
And oversized ears help detect danger.
But they don't have the agility to outrun a cat.
Greater bilbies have disappeared from 80% of their range.
Some wilderness areas are now protected by cat-proof fences.
And here, bilby numbers are on the rise.
But the greatest threat facing marsupials is even harder to control.
In recent years, Australia's natural bushfires have become more destructive than ever before.
Climate change means occasional burns have become regular firestorms.
[birds squawking.]
Almost every year, thousands of koalas and other marsupials die.
[somber music plays.]
In the aftermath, it seems nothing could survive.
But eucalyptus trees are protected by thick bark.
Within weeks of a burn, they spring back to life.
[waves crashing.]
And soon, all across Australia, the survivors are fighting back.
Come the koala breeding season, the usually sleepy animals are raring to go.
[koala bellowing.]
A male's bellow carries for miles [bellowing continues.]
[bellowing echoes.]
broadcasting his location showing off his size.
[bellowing continues.]
It's an invitation to females.
[bellowing continues.]
A response.
[grunting continues.]
But not the one he wanted.
Disputes between males are rare and pretty quickly, they turn ugly.
[intense music plays.]
[koalas squealing.]
[squealing continues.]
[squealing continues.]
Rival dispatched.
[koala grunts.]
Time to get back to finding a female.
[koala bellows.]
[bellowing continues.]
At long last, his love song is heard.
[koala squeals.]
[koala squeals.]
Well, she's in no rush to commit.
[koala squeaks.]
But when it comes to actually making babies, koalas don't hang around.
In just 35 days, she'll give birth.
So long as he gets his way.
Such rapid reproduction has helped marsupials to exploit every corner of the continent, no matter how extreme.
[majestic music playing.]
These are some of Australia's tallest trees.
Now, you might wonder what a kangaroo joey is doing up here.
But he's a tree kangaroo.
His ancestors evolved out on the plains, but six million years ago, one daring roo took to the trees.
Slowly but not so surely, its descendants are making the canopy their home.
They've developed stronger front limbs, curvier claws and shorter hind feet than a regular roo.
But evolution is a slow process.
Compared to other tree dwellers, they're not the most graceful.
And that's just the adults.
After seven months in the pouch, it's time for the joey to go it alone.
[suspenseful music plays.]
No experience, under-equipped, and seven floors up.
Ooh, Mum can only watch.
[tense music plays.]
But the kangaroo gods are smiling on this little joey.
So long as his luck holds, he'll spend another year in Mum's care.
Though the day comes when all marsupials have to leave the protection of the pouch.
Now 15 months old, joey's taken a big leap forward.
He spends his days sparring with his peers.
Mum's pouch has been taken over by a sister.
She's just six months old, and hasn't set foot outside.
But roos aren't the only ones in the valley with young.
The dingo pack have left their pups to go hunting.
Early human settlers introduced dingoes to Australia around 3,500 years ago.
Since then, they've become the grey kangaroo's worst enemy.
Other youngsters head for safety.
But joey's got nowhere to go.
[tense music playing.]
If he can't keep up with the mob, he's in trouble.
[dramatic music plays.]
- The dingoes rush the roos - [dingoes howling.]
searching for the slow.
[dramatic music continues.]
A heavily-laden Mum is lagging behind.
[suspenseful music plays.]
The hunters close in.
[dramatic music plays.]
Fewer than half of all joeys make it to adulthood.
But on the far side of the valley, joey, Mum and his sister have all survived.
With pioneering spirit, amazing adaptability and, let's face it, not much competition, Australia's marsupials have risen to the challenges of this unforgiving land.
But this wonderful collection of eccentric animals is struggling to adapt to the threat of new predators [howling.]
and the chaos of climate change.
But there are some who are fighting for their future.
Across Australia, people are devoting their lives to rescuing releasing and protecting the marsupials most in need.
[hopeful music plays.]
And some species are proving remarkably resilient.
Eastern grey kangaroos still thrive in their millions.
Thanks to the might of the mob, one seriously dedicated mum and her amazing pouch, joey's had a great start.
Now it's time to grow up.
And just maybe, maybe one day, become a kangaroo king.
[closing theme music playing.]

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