Big Little Journeys (2023) s01e01 Episode Script

Episode 1

All around the planet,
billions of animals are
on the move
making incredible journeys.
The most amazing of these
are the smallest.
This series uses
the latest camera technology
to follow six tiny animals
on the biggest adventures
of their lives
as they travel through
extraordinary landscapes
where every little step counts.
In this episode,
a newly-hatched turtle must travel
through a tangled forest
to seek the safety of water
and a nocturnal bushbaby
must venture into
a strange world of light
to find a new home.
The greatest adventures
are the smallest.
This painted turtle hatchling
is the size of a walnut.
Her nest in Algonquin, Canada,
has been in the perfect place
for incubation.
Made of loose, sandy soil
and bathed in sunshine,
it has kept her safe
for three months.
But now, she must leave
on a mission
to find a lake she can call home
unaware of what lies ahead.
Only 1% of hatchlings
will make it to adulthood,
so her destiny is far from certain.
It is autumn
and night-time temperatures
are unpredictable,
so she must make it to water
in just eight hours
because if there is a frost,
the rapid drop in temperature
will Kill her.
For most hatchlings,
eight hours is plenty of time.
But her mother selected
an unconventional spot to nest in
the roadside verge of Highway 60.
Built in 1936,
it transects the southern portion
of Algonquin Provincial Park.
The sandy roadside edges have become
favoured sites for nesting turtles.
But it puts this newly-emerged
hatchling in mortal danger
as she tries to reach the lake.
Instinctively, she heads for
the horizon.
Turtles are hard-wired to associate
horizons with the presence of water.
Here, it takes her on a direct path
up to the road.
It's not just the traffic
she needs to worry about.
Predators patrol the highway,
searching for an easy meal.
Her body is adapted for swimming,
not climbing -
with webbed feet too tiny
to grip the gravel.
All the slipping wastes
valuable time.
A red fox.
Instinct kicks in and she freezes.
She is camouflaged
amongst the pebbles.
The forest lies
ten metres ahead of her
the equivalent of half a mile
for a human.
Out here, there's no hiding.
On this flat ground,
she can travel much quicker
at a quarter of a mile an hour.
But with vehicles travelling
at 50 miles an hour
the odds are stacked against her.
One lane down.
One more to go.
More trouble.
A raven.
These intelligent predators
have a keen eye.
Savedby a truck.
Sometimes, being little pays off.
Most hatchlings don't make it
this far.
Having succeeded against the odds,
she is about to enter
a completely different world.
8,000 miles away in South Africa,
the sun is setting
over a vast acacia forest.
An old tree hollow
is home to a family of
pint-sized nocturnal primates
Mohol bushbabies.
This ten-month-old male is waking up
alongside his mum and twin sister.
They will soon set off
to scour their territory
on the hunt for insects.
But it is winter,
and with the colder, drier weather,
food is becoming scarce.
His mum is also pregnant -
more than likely with twins again.
With more mouths to feed,
the territory cannot support
them all.
Having done all that she can
and with no other option,
his mother turns on him
driving him away.
Now, all alone,
he must find a new home
before he starves.
He needs around 200
unclaimed acacia trees
to create his own territory.
But first, he must find food
to fuel his journey.
He has learnt from his mother
where to find
an important winter food -
acacia gum.
A large and reliable source
can be found half a mile away.
He must navigate through the
dense forest to get there.
As he goes, he uses another skill
he learnt from his mother -
to pee on his hands.
It is a way of scent-marking,
and the super sticky urine
gives him grip.
A special membrane
at the back of his eye
reflects and amplifies the moonlight,
helping him find his way in the dark.
He makes fast progress.
Bushbaby hind legs are superpowered
with stretchy tendons
and extra-large muscles.
They catapult him from tree to tree
at two metres a second.
He's nearly made it to
the acacia gum.
But after the moon sets,
his vision is limited.
It is risky to keep going
when he can't see.
His hearing is now all he has to
keep himself safe from predators.
Bushbabies hear higher frequencies
than humans,
a range that is perfectly attuned
to detecting noises in the forest.
His enormous ears respond
to every sound
every creak
as he tries to work out
who is friend
who is foe
and what is food.
The coast appears to be clear,
and food is just one jump away.
Acacia gum is formed when a tree
is cut or damaged
as it releases sap
to seal the wound.
It is a vital food source for
bushbabies during the winter months,
but it only provides
three calories per gram.
He must lick a lot
if he is to replenish
his dwindling energy levels.
He is distracted enough to
let his guard down
not wise
when danger lurks in the shadows.
In Canada, the hatchling
has made it across the road
but she has entered
a completely new environment.
An ancient deciduous forest
lies between her and the lake.
With only six hours of daylight
it's a huge task to make it
to the lake by nightfall.
Beech, maple and pine trees
tower 45 metres above her.
Her minute body
with its cumbersome shell
isn't adapted
for this assault course.
But she is resilient.
Every time she falls over,
she uses her head
to flip herself back.
Like her, the animals here
have their own challenges
before winter sets in.
A pileated woodpecker feasts on
as many Medeola berries as it can
before they become buried
by the snow.
And chipmunks must stash
up to 150 nuts a day
to feed on through the winter months.
But she won't need to eat
until spring.
She's fuelled by the yolk
she fed upon
when she was still inside her egg.
Although she might not be hungry,
she is at risk of being eaten.
There are plenty of predators
here who would snatch her up
so the quicker she can get
through the forest, the better.
Navigating in the forest is
much harder with no obvious horizon.
If she could just get
a little higher,
she might get a better view.
Digging in with her claws,
she hauls herself to the top.
After getting her bearings,
she begins the descent -
not as easy to control.
Water - at last
in a black bear's pawprint.
It gives her skin a welcome refresh,
but it's no substitute for the lake.
She must keep moving.
Time is still her biggest enemy.
Minutes, then hours, are ticking by.
The woods at night are no place
for a miniature turtle.
She risks freezing to death
or being attacked
by nocturnal predators.
It is vital she makes it to the lake
by sunset.
But nightfall is just one hour away,
and the lake is nowhere to be seen.
Under a starlit sky
in South Africa
the young male bushbaby
is only half a mile into his journey
for a new home.
But, distracted by food,
he's left himself open to attack.
In these forests, for one so smalll,
danger lurks around every corner.
His scent has been picked up
by a genet
one of the few predators
adept enough in the trees
to catch a bushbaby.
Its flexible, slender body allows it
to creep closer to its prey.
Its tail provides vital balance.
If it gets within striking distance,
it can kill with a single bite
to the neck.
But it makes one tiny slip.
Saved by a superpowered jump.
Using stored energy in his tendons,
the bushbaby leaps
30 times his body length.
His rapid response has
saved his life.
But he's now in a completely
unfamiliar part of the forest.
An eerie glow in the distance
and the unmistakable buzz
of insects.
Al light outside
a remote bush lodge
surrounded by his favourite food.
It draws him closer.
Being a nocturnal animal,
he is wary of the light.
But in winter,
with insects harder to find,
this is a unique opportunity
for the bushbaby.
Hunger drives him on.
Moths not only provide the bushbaby
with twice as many calories
as acacia gum
but also valuable protein
to build and maintain his muscles.
The human world has given him
an opportunity,
but it also brings new dangers.
Domestic dogs can Kill bushbabies.
It is too risky for him to stay here.
But he has made a connection
between light and food.
And in the distance,
there are more lights to explore.
The hatchling is three quarters
of a mile into the forest
struggling through
the leaf litter
with no sign of the lake yet.
Eight hours since she left
her roadside nest,
and the sun is now setting.
And without its warmth,
the temperature rapidly drops
and her pace slows.
She is out of time.
The sharp autumn frost
could kill her
if the nocturnal predators
don't sniff her out first.
At ten degrees, her body temperature
is dangerously low.
Instinct kicks in
and she buries herself.
Using the leaf litter as a blanket,
it will keep her a few degrees
warmer and hide her from predators.
It is her best chance of surviving
the night.
A raccoon.
With dexterous paws,
it is skilled at finding food
amongst the leaf litter.
Being an omnivore,
it isn't fussy about what it eats.
It just needs to pile on the pounds
ahead of winter.
A turtle hatchling
would be a welcome find.
But nuts are a great
alternative source of protein.
The hatchling is safe
for now.
In South Africa,
the bushbaby has travelled
across six miles of acacia forest
over three nights.
Having made a connection
between light and food,
he is heading in a new direction
towards the human world.
Delicious food is laid out
for the taking
Including something he has never
come across before - banana.
This is a safari lodge
where all wildlife is welcome
to come and dine.
Not only that -
the owners have put up a
specially-designed bushbaby box.
Another bushbaby.
And another.
A third.
He's stumbled into hostile territory.
An adult male rules this roost
and has no intention
of letting another male
onto his patch.
Once they notice him,
he'll be in trouble.
Their alarm calls are a warning
for him to keep away.
But the lure of the sweet-smelling
banana is too much to resist.
Having escaped, he takes
his first bite of the stolen banana.
With so much sugar in it,
it is unlike anything
he has tasted before.
Powered by this new rocket fuel,
he can continue his search
for a new home.
Daybreak in Canada.
The hatchling's instinct to bury
herself overnight has paid off.
Being cold-blooded,
she basks in the autumn sunshine.
She must warm up to
at least 15 degrees
before she can continue
with her journey.
There are signs she is close.
Little did she know last night
that she was only 15 metres
from the lake.
But it still takes her half an hour
to make it to the water.
This is Whitefish Lake.
Finally, she is somewhere
she belongs.
No longer clumsy and slow,
her streamlined body
and webbed feet enable her to glide
through the water,
much faster than
when she was on land.
This could now be her home
for the next 50 years or more.
But she hasn't reached
the end of her journey just yet.
She now needs to find a spot
in which to hibernate.
She heads towards
the deeper, darker, cooler waters,
where she will be safe
over the winter.
But she is not alone.
A moose has come to feed here.
The turtle is as small as its eye
and practically invisible
amongst the pond weed.
She dives out of range.
But she must return to the surface
one last time
to take her last breath
for five months
before diving down to the bottom.
Here, the water won't freeze,
even in the middle of winter.
But lurking down here are monsters
1,000 times her size.
Snapping turtles.
In these waters,
they are the top predators
and painted turtle hatchlings
are on the menu.
For once, time is on her side.
At 15 degrees, snappers
start to slow down
as their bodies prepare for
It's becoming too cold for
hunting little turtles.
She must hurry to find a good place
to hibernate
before her body shuts down, too.
The cold water is already
taking effect.
But hibernation will trigger
even greater physiological changes.
The heart rate can drop as low
as eight beats an hour
and her metabolism will fall
to just 10% of its usual rate.
She finds a sheltered spot.
She'll hibernate here
for five months,
protected from the freezing
temperatures at the surface
only becoming active again
when spring brings warmer weather.
And in 12 years,
when she is sexually mature,
she'll venture back out of the lake
to lay her own eggs
a journey that may see her make
the same perilous trip
through the woodland and across
the road to the nesting grounds
along Highway 60.
Over the last few nights,
the bushbaby has travelled
five miles,
moving closer to the lights
on the horizon.
But he still hasn't found
a new territory.
Unbeknown to him
the lights are those of
a huge city.
Home to nearly three million people.
In the suburbs,
local conservation groups
have created a novel way
for bushbabies to move between
the surrounding patches of forest.
For this bushbaby,
it is a new way to travel.
He catches a whiff of
sweet-smelling banana
the rocket fuel he first
encountered at the safari lodge.
It has been left out by
a bushbaby-friendly resident.
He's unaware he is being watched.
A gang of city-savvy bushbabies
regularly feed on this balcony.
He may be driven away yet again.
But he can tell from their calls
that they are friendly.
Instead of chasing him away,
this time they tolerate
his presence
even grooming him
accepting him into their tribe
something that would never happen
in the wild acacia forests.
Although interactions with people,
pets and vehicles
can be stressful for bushbabies
there is an abundance of food here.
And urban bushbabies can weigh
a quarter more
than their forest counterparts.
Because there is less competition,
their social system has adapted
to be more welcoming to strangers
and unrelated bushbabies
band together
to form a different type of family.
The bushbaby follows his new gang
and they lead him deeper
into the metropolis.
They are taking him to
a secret location.
A place with 24/7 security
fortified with high walls
razor wire
and CCTV.
The gang are undeterred.
This is somewhere worth
breaking into.
Once inside
he discovers what the gang
have come to raid.
Pristine white bird of paradise
full of nutritious nectar and still
blooming in the middle of winter.
As they flee, he jumps past
some familiar-looking animals
and some less familiar.
This is Pretoria Zoo,
a 200-acre site
in the middle of the city
where the gardens are watered
year round,
giving the bushbaby gang
access to nectar,
even in the winter.
With sunrise fast approaching
he joins his new bushbaby gang
as they follow
their urine scent trail home.
Located at the top of
a huge palm tree,
their nest is quite
the penthouse suite.
The male bushbaby ventures inside.
Having travelled 15 miles
from his natal home
he has ended up in a very
different place to where he grew up.
But finally, he has food on tap
year round,
a new family and a new home.
Everything he could ever need.
To film the tiny animals featured
in this series,
the Big Little Journeys team
needed specialist camera technology.
And for the two animals
in this episode,
very different approaches
were needed.
Painted turtles and
bushbabies couldn't be more different.
Bushbabies are very unpredictable.
They're like ping-pong balls
pinging from tree to tree.
You think they're going to land in
a certain place,
and then they land
somewhere completely different.
And then the painted turtles
are incredibly slow-moving.
They only move
when they want to move,
which is absolutely fair enough.
So they just go
whichever way they want.
Arriving in South Africa,
the team set about filming
the bushbaby's journey first.
They are equipped with a five-metre
long gyrostabilised camera crane.
It allows us to get into the
bushbaby's world,
up into the canopy
and follow them smoothly,
as if we're travelling
alongside them.
Such complex moves
require two people.
One operates the crane,
while the other controls the camera.
So, to be able to control the crane,
I've got focus on this hand
and a joystick on this hand.
Thankfully, 15 years of playing
computer games
are finally paying off.
It's quite a challenge trying
to follow them
and sort of cross--coordinate
all the different moves.
But once you get that shot
where the bushbaby's moving,
the camera's following it
you can't beat that.
In Canada,
getting into the painted turtles' world
presents the team
with the opposite challenge
and requires a totally different
camera set-up.
You get what we're getting,
but as long as it's level this way.
We turned it upside down
so that we can actually push forward
on the slider.
So this allows us to follow
the turtle
as she goes through the undergrowth.
So, I can try
But the team must
constantly reset and re-level the rig
over and over again
in order to capture every stage
of a turtle's journey.
In South Africa, bushbabies are
not the only animals
the crew need to watch out for.
There have been reports of lions
in the area.
We're in the pitch-black filming,
you know, looking up
in the trees for our bushbabies
and not on the ground for lions.
So, it is a little bit stressful.
But the crew must keep filming,
as this is the peak time
for bushbaby activity.
Right now, it's super dark.
We can't see anything.
So we're using
really low-light cameras
to suck in as much light
as possible
into this world
that the bushbabies live in.
16 times more sensitive
than human vision,
the cameras are able to see the world
as if through the bushbabies' eyes.
They're just so intriguing
and so engaging to watch.
It's such an amazing challenge.
But just as the crew
are making progress,
news comes in that the lions
have been spotted
only 300 metres away.
Did you hear that?
We're filming the bushbabies.
We kept hearing
all these alarm calls.
The rangers have said, you know,
it's getting a bit dodgy.
We got some lovely shots,
but we're just going to pull out now
and we think that's
the safest decision.
The team retreat to the vehicle,
and once the lions move on,
will carry on filming.
In Canada, despite the slow progress,
the turtle is finally
nearing the lake.
The challenge is how to film
the incredible moment
that the hatchling enters the water
for the first time in her life.
Using a newly-developed
Periscope probe lens,
the hatchling can be fiimed
as she travels from land into water.
Here she comes.
Come on, little one! Whoops!
The team can now capture
the final chapter
in the hatchling's remarkable journey
as she tries to find somewhere
to hibernate.
In Pretoria Zoo, to film the end
of the bushbaby's story,
the team need to work out how
the gang are getting into the zoo.
We know that they're
coming into the zoo
and they're feeding
from the birds of paradise flowers,
so we're just popping up
a camera trap.
That's great.
But this is a very long wall,
so it's quite difficult to pick
the exact spot
that they might be coming in.
It is over to camera operator Ben
to apply some analytical thinking
to the situation.
Essentially, I've got to think that
the bushbaby's like a burglar
and they're breaking into the zoo.
I'm excited.
This is the thing about
camera traps.
You never know what you're
going to get,
and sometimes, it's disappointment.
- Bushbaby!
- That's cool.
It means that we know genuinely
this is how the bushbabies
are breaking into the zoo
and this has just proved it.
With knowledge of the
bushbabies' entry point,
the team are able
to film the bushbaby gang
as they jump around the zoo
before retreating to their home
deep in the urban jungle.
For the Big Little Journeys team,
it took specialist kit, perseverance
and a bit of luck to film
these two very different animals
in their own unique worlds
on their epic journeys.
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