Animal (2021) s02e04 Episode Script


1 There's something magical about dolphins.
They appear so friendly.
Yet so otherworldly.
They're clearly intelligent.
And agile.
But we've still barely glimpsed beneath the surface.
Now we can immerse ourselves in their world, we're discovering just how sophisticated they are.
And the deeper we look, the more like us they seem.
Born into a world where he can't even breathe, a young Atlantic spotted dolphin has a lot to learn about surviving at sea.
A good thing he has someone to show him the way.
And a wider group of family and friends.
They'll help teach him how to find food and how to avoid danger.
But dolphin society is complicated.
The greatest challenge is learning how to fit in.
These warm, shallow waters are also home to another species.
Bottlenose dolphins.
This might seem the perfect place for a mother to raise her newborn calf but even here, life isn't easy.
They're being followed.
A group of males, looking for a mate.
They could attack the baby to get to Mom.
More dolphins join the chase.
Mom does all she can to protect her calf.
Eventually, she fights them off.
But her baby is nowhere to be seen.
Alone, he stands little chance.
Reunited with Mom and her allies, the calf a little wiser in the ways of the world.
But his lessons in becoming a dolphin have only just begun.
Dolphins are air-breathing mammals, like us.
Their ancestors once lived on dry land, but 50 million years ago, they did something amazing.
Left the land to enter a life aquatic.
While one branch of the family became huge, filter-feeding baleen whales they turned into streamlined, quick-thinking predators.
Today, over 40 species of dolphin hunt the oceans of the world.
From tropical waters to polar seas, and even in rivers thousands of miles inland, wherever there is prey, there's a dolphin with a clever way of catching it.
Orca are the largest members of the family.
They can grow nearly 30 feet long and weigh seven tons.
Each needs to catch over 100 lb.
of food a day.
Not easy in the polar winter.
Unless you know where to look.
During the coldest months, their favorite prey shelters in protected fjords.
In their billions.
Tracking down their exact location can be tricky.
Catching them is even harder.
Led by an experienced female, the family pod home in on the vast shoal.
As long as the herring keep formation, they're hard to single out.
But the orca have a plan.
With pulsing calls, and by flashing their white bellies they herd the herring into the shallows.
In the panic, the fish form tighter and tighter shoals.
Until finally, the orca can strike.
Smashing their tail flukes creates powerful pressure waves.
A barrage of knockout blows.
Once the fish are stunned, the orca can eat at leisure.
Dolphins maximize their hunting success by working as a team.
And out in the open ocean, they operate on an epic scale.
A stampede of spinner dolphins.
A super pod over a thousand strong.
They make such an effective hunting force, they can afford plenty of downtime.
Two hundred miles east of Brazil, this archipelago is a favorite stop-off for Atlantic spinner dolphins.
They head for the island's shallow bays.
The first arrivals are in high spirits.
The Olympic gymnasts of the dolphin family.
They can leap ten feet and spin seven times.
It looks a lot of fun.
But it's thought there's more to these acrobatics.
Perhaps they're communicating, greeting other dolphins entering the bay.
With safety in numbers, the spinners can relax.
But they can't switch off completely, or they would drown.
So they shut down one side of their brain at a time with one eye on where they're going.
Sleep swimming at half speed.
While older dolphins rest, the younger ones play.
A game of seaweed catch.
It seems simple enough.
But this is surprisingly sophisticated play.
Manipulating objects, copying moves and, most importantly, understanding each other.
A skill every young dolphin must master as it grows.
By a year old, an Atlantic spotted calf is almost fluent in dolphin.
Much can be communicated through body language and touch.
A flipper rub reassures, like holding hands.
But some things can only be said with sound.
His mom repeats a unique call.
Her signature whistle.
It helps him to find her in a crowd.
And once he's learned to copy it, he can call her by her name.
Now it's time to experiment with a whistle of his own.
Like children, dolphins take years learning to speak.
And once they start talking they never let up.
But a dolphin's sonic skills go way beyond words.
The local bottlenose are searching for food on the sea floor.
There doesn't appear to be much here.
But they can see things we can't.
They fire a stream of high-pitched clicks.
Five hundred per second.
And interpret the echoes to pinpoint fish hiding in the sand.
Echolocation is an extraordinary sixth sense that allows dolphins to hunt in the most unlikely of places.
A muddy estuary, and the tide is dropping.
Right now, heading inland could be a risky move.
But this dolphin knows the estuary is full of fish.
Using echolocation, she can navigate the silty waters and find her prey.
Only problem is, at low tide they hide in the oyster beds.
Charging in would shred her sensitive skin.
Somehow, she needs to get the fish into the open.
Pumping her tail, she flushes them out of hiding and towards the sandy banks, where it's safe to strike.
Only a few dolphins have learned to hunt like this.
And the technique only works for a few hours each day.
When the tide begins to rise, the fish disperse.
A new strategy is needed.
She joins forces with friends and together they head towards wider channels.
Then, they wait.
Each time a shoal swims past, the dolphins attack, creating bow waves that wash the fish ashore.
Through echolocation and coordination, they conjure a feast from the mud.
Out in the big blue, dolphins must push their super senses to the limits.
The challenge of hunting in the abyss has created one of the most extraordinary dolphins of all.
Pilot whales may look strange, but their bulbous foreheads hold the secret to their success.
They project long-range sonic beams hundreds of feet.
The most powerful echolocation of any dolphin.
It enables pilot whales to hunt shoals of squid over half a mile down.
But young calves can't hold their breath long enough to follow.
So the family take turns babysitting at the surface.
Grandma is over 50 years old.
But she still produces milk to keep the youngsters fed.
These dolphins live up to 70 years and stay with the family for life.
Possibly the longest, most loyal bonds of any animal.
When the hunting party surfaces, it's clear they've had success.
Time to move on.
Grandma has a mental map of their ocean home.
She listens for the sounds of waves crashing on islands and currents washing around sea mouths.
Acoustic landmarks revealing the route.
But sometimes, even these great navigators lose their way.
Every year, hundreds of dolphins strand on beaches around the world.
Pilot whales more often than most.
It only takes one or two to go off course and family members feel compelled to swim to their side.
Sometimes, their distress calls bring hundreds more.
Natural disasters, noise pollution, and ill health all seem to play a part.
But the exact triggers for these events are poorly understood.
People do all they can to keep stranded whales alive and try to help them back out to sea.
The connection between humans and dolphins runs deep.
We share a thrill-seeking side found in few other animals.
And we express ourselves in ways that have no obvious role in survival.
But it seems there's purpose to all this play.
It produces a rush of hormones that create feelings of confidence and joy.
Playing together heightens these emotions encouraging teamwork and time spent with friends.
Perhaps this is why dolphins seek the company of others.
Playing with their own kind.
With us.
And with other animals.
Dolphins are famous for their friendly nature.
But they also have a darker side.
When the ocean's top predators go hunting, nothing is safe.
Southern right whales.
Up to 80 tons.
Ten times heavier than an orca.
But working as a team, orca are almost unstoppable.
The right whales make for the shallows to avoid attack from below.
But orca don't give up easily.
Taking turns, they smash into the whales' flanks, hitting them where it hurts.
The whales strike back.
But it's only when the sounds of struggle attract more right whales that the orca finally back off.
Orca's ability to take on such large prey earned them the nickname "whale killers," or "killer whales.
" Dolphins are not just ruthless hunters.
They can also be surprisingly aggressive to each other.
By six years old, this young spotted dolphin has finally developed his trademark spots.
He's seeing less of Mom and spending more time hanging out with friends.
Building alliances is crucial in these early years.
Dolphins form more numerous, more intense relationships than any other animal except us.
As he matures, life will become more complicated.
And he'll need all the friends he can get.
A community of bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia is considered the most sophisticated dolphin society of all.
Two thousand live in this one bay.
During the breeding season, who you know becomes more important than ever.
Males that are able to team up have more chance of winning a mate.
This trio hangs out on the east side of the bay.
They've been best friends for 20 years.
Swimming in sync shows just how tight they are.
And choreographed moves help impress the opposite sex.
There's the crossover.
The butterfly.
The duo tail touch.
Dual leaps.
Tango moves.
And the inverse rooster strut.
The slicker the routine, the more attractive they seem.
Even so, it often takes days to win over a female.
And now they have competition.
On the west side, rival gangs are forming.
The east side trio needs backup.
So they call on a wider circle of friends.
Weaker gangs usually back down.
But when the sides are equally matched, fights can cause serious injury.
An hour later, it's all over.
Through strong allegiances and tight teamwork, the east side friends emerge victorious and win the chance to father the next generation.
Intelligence and collaboration have enabled dolphins to navigate life in the ocean.
But their home is changing fast.
Even these adaptable animals are struggling to cope.
Our seas are becoming noisier.
And more polluted.
Instead of seaweed, many dolphins now play with plastic bags.
Swallowing trash kills over 100,000 marine mammals every year.
And chemical contamination threatens their ability to reproduce.
But industrial-scale fishing is the biggest problem dolphins face rapidly depleting their vital food and drowning hundreds of thousands of them each year.
However, even small changes in our actions can make a big difference.
When fishermen trawl for shrimp other animals are caught in their nets.
But these fishermen now incorporate special openings so larger animals can escape.
And the local bottlenose have learned to seek them out, using the exit holes to pick out a prize of fish.
Entering these death traps is a risky maneuver.
But these hungry dolphins take their chances.
And the fishermen tolerate them.
There's no loss to their catch.
We still have a lot to learn about dolphins.
And while some species are on the brink of extinction, new ones are still being found.
It's long been thought there were five species of river dolphin in the world.
Now biologists believe they've discovered a sixth.
Only around 1,000 Araguaian river dolphins are thought to exist.
But every day in this Brazilian town, a small number come to hang out.
The local children can hardly wait.
It's easy to understand their affinity with these magical animals.
Humans and dolphins may inhabit very different worlds but there's much in our nature that we share.
A deep connection to be cherished for generations to come.

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