Dynasties (2018) s01e04 Episode Script

Painted Wolf

Here, in the heart of Africa, lives one of this great continent's most extraordinary yet misunderstood animals.
Animals that only thrive through remarkable team work, and through the strength and skill of their leaders.
Painted wolves, once known as Cape Hunting Dogs, are one of Africa's most threatened predators.
Their packs require huge areas of territory in which to hunt.
But today, because of human pressure, their world is shrinking fast.
And whereas once neighbours could live together in relative peace, today there is intense rivalry between them.
For more than two years, our team here in Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, have been following the fortunes of one of the last great families.
We join them at a moment when competition between mother and one of her daughters is boiling up, threatening to not only shatter a long-established peace, but to tear apart the whole family.
This is Tait, the family's ruling queen.
She's a mother and a grandmother.
For years, she has used her position to keep the peace within her sprawling family.
But Tait is now old.
Her powers are waning.
Tait still controls the very best hunting territory, the rich lands on the banks of the Zambezi.
But she's surrounded.
To the east lie the dangerous lion pridelands.
To the south, forests full of hyena.
And to the west, 5 pack led by one of Tait's daughters, Blacktip.
For many years, Blacktip has lived in peaceful coexistence with her mother, each with enough territory to survive.
But Blacktip's pack has grown huge.
It's now 30 strong.
For the first time, she needs more territory if she's to feed her growing family.
Normally, a daughter would not invade her mother's territory.
However, with hyenas ruling to the south, and humans having taken the hunting lands to the west, Blacktip has no choice but to turn her sights east, towards her mother's lands.
Where, after a morning's hunt, Tait and her pack are resting.
Blacktip's pack outnumbers her mother's by more than two to one.
An ambush! Against these odds, Tait is powerless.
Retreat is the only option.
This has now become Blacktip's territory.
A brief but bloody battle.
Tait and her pack are now homeless.
She retreats eastwards.
But this is dangerous country.
This river marks the boundary between her own territory and the lion pridelands.
In her long life, Tait has explored every part of Mana.
She knows that this is too perilous a place to make a home.
Lions will search out and kill puppies, and even adults, if they get the chance.
For now, it's the only place to hide.
But Tait must keep her family safe, well away from the 26 lions that rule here.
Three months have passed since Blacktip's takeover.
And all these lands are now firmly under her control.
Blacktip's pack have spent a great deal of time scent marking, establishing their new territorial boundaries.
And Blacktip and her family have fed well on what was her mother's lands.
But now, it's the dry season, and the landscape is changing.
The ground is dangerous for hunters who rely on speed.
Deep footprints left by elephants in soft mud have baked as hard as rock.
And a painted wolf putting a foot wrong could seriously damage itself.
The impalas' ability to leap over the worst of the pot holes now gives them an edge.
In these conditions, Blacktip's pack will find it hard to feed themselves.
But the size and strength of the pack might enable her to catch a totally new kind of prey.
A large male baboon is strong, almost twice the weight of a painted wolf.
And armed with huge canine teeth.
The great size of Blacktip's pack means the large males can't defend their troupe against them all.
The meal has been hard-won.
But discovering this new possibility has come at just the right time.
Blacktip won more than just hunting lands in her battle to claim Tait's territory.
She secured the safest place to raise puppies in all of Mana Pools.
And sure enough, Blacktip has a new litter of five hungry pups.
Their father is babysitting them today.
Everyone is impatient for the return of the hunting party.
While they wait, the pups discover that there's more to the world than just their pack.
There's no rest for Blacktip.
She not only leads the hunting trips, but, as the alpha female, she's the only who breeds and provides milk for the pups.
It's not just milk.
They're already eagerly eating meat.
Blacktip's hold on Tait's territory appears to be paying off.
It has been four months since Tait and her pack were forced into exile here in the lion pridelands.
Compared to her home territory, there is not only more danger, but there's much less prey.
Yet, remarkably, even here, Tait has managed to keep every member of her pack alive.
But she is nowhere to be seen.
The rest of her family are waiting close to an abandoned aardvark burrow.
And this is why.
Tait has spent the last three weeks hidden underground.
She has managed, against the odds, to produce her eighth litter.
Two tiny puppies emerge for the very first time.
Honey badgers.
They are notoriously aggressive, and a danger to the pups.
Tait's youngest daughter, Tammy, has never seen one before.
But her instinct tells her to drive them away.
And this gives Tait the chance to get her pups to safety underground.
This year, both Tait and Blacktip have produced far fewer puppies than ever before.
Perhaps this is the first sign that the conflict between the two packs is threatening the future of the entire family.
Twice a day, Tait has to lead her hunting party on a risky journey to the banks of the Zambezi river, where the prey gather.
But it is also the very heart of lion territory.
She must sneak them into position undetected.
Then, it's in and out as fast as possible.
The pack need to work fast.
All that effort for a few mouthfuls of food.
The puppies will go hungry today.
And the pack has been dealt another blow.
Again it's Tammy, Tate's youngest daughter, who spots the problem.
Tammy's sister has fallen.
She has broken a leg stumbling into an elephant's footprint.
For most animals, this would be the end.
But the family won't just leave her to fend for herself.
Painted wolves, perhaps more than any other animal, care for pack members who are old or injured.
Tait's family will protect and feed her while she herself cannot join in the hunt.
The dry season turns to drought.
The great buffalo herds are on the move.
Food and water are becoming increasingly scarce.
All of Mana's inhabitants are now drawn towards the Zambezi and the few pools that remain along its banks.
The drought also means that it's time for Blacktip and her pups to leave their den behind.
For the pups, this is their first adventure.
Now the pups are old enough to follow the adults, Blacktip can resume marking the new boundaries of her territory to consolidate her takeover.
On the far eastern borders, Blacktip picks up a familiar scent.
It's old, but unmistakable.
Her mother.
This discovery has an extraordinary effect on Blacktip.
She can tell from this smell which direction Tait took.
Blacktip stops territorial marking and instead sets off in pursuit of her mother.
It seems that Blacktip is going to try and drive Tait out of Mana once and for all.
But she's taking a huge risk by going into territory she doesn't know.
Hyenas.
On moonless nights, the pack would normally rest up somewhere safe until dawn.
But instead, Blacktip leads them, marching on into the gloom.
No one wants to be the straggler in the dark.
The family bunch together much more closely at night.
And now, 15 hyenas are tracking them.
Attack may be the best form of defence.
Blacktip thinks she's got the upper hand, but she's let her pups get separated.
The puppy is lost.
Heads down, tails down, they seem to mourn.
For hours, they march in silence.
A solemn procession.
Despite her loss, Blacktip drives her pack on, far beyond the boundary of Tait's old territory.
Tracking her mother into a place she's never been before, deep into the heart of the lion pridelands.
Tait, remarkably, has now managed to keep her pack safe from the lions for eight months.
Her injured daughter is on the mend.
The family have been protecting her while she recovers.
They only survive here by being on constant alert for signs of danger.
And today it is the wind that carries a warning.
Blacktip is coming.
Forewarned, Tait isn't going to risk an attack.
The pack turns tail and runs.
The temperature has reached 50 degrees.
Still, Blacktip pushes her pack on in pursuit.
They're closing in, less than a mile behind Tait.
But, finally, the heat is just too much.
Blacktip is forced to call a halt.
But danger is approaching.
The pack has scattered! And now the lions will try to pick off the puppies.
There's only one adult with the pups.
That won't be enough to save them.
But this might.
Buffaloes and [ions are always in conflict.
To charge in alone is very unusual.
But it's certainly saved the pups.
Blacktip and her pack have been halted in their tracks.
Blacktip's pursuit of Tait has exposed her family to too many dangers, too many risks.
The pack are desperate to help, but there is nothing they can do.
The pursuit of Tait is over.
Blacktip's pack run.
They run, and run.
Mile after mile.
Puppies in tow.
All through the day, all through the night.
All the way home.
The territory they stole, abandoned.
The conflict is over.
It cost too much.
Tait and her pack can already sense Blacktip's retreat.
For the first time since the beginning of the conflict, they appear relaxed.
Soon, their keen sense of smell will tell them their stolen territory is no longer occupied.
It won't be long until it's time for Tait's pack to also go home.
But Tait will not be joining them.
For seven-and-a-half years, she's been their leader, their matriarch.
And now, as their exile finally draws to a close, she has ensured her pack still have a future, a real chance to reclaim their old territory.
Before her pack could, at last, head home, age finally caught up with Tait.
Too old, too slow, she was no longer able to evade the lions.
Her alpha male refused to abandon her.
Together, they died in the pridelands.
Tait's pack are left leaderless.
But the story doesn't end with Tait's passing.
Life-giving rains follow the drought.
Hard times are quickly forgotten in times of plenty.
And the story takes another twist.
On their way home, Tait's pack attract a band of roving males.
And with these reinforcements, they not only reclaim some of Tait's old territory, but also perform a ritual never witnessed before.
With these haunting calls, they are choosing their new leader.
And the chance to continue Tait's bloodline.
Six months later, hidden away in a secluded part of the forest, a litter of seven tiny puppies.
They're born to Tammy, Tait's youngest daughter, and now heir to Tait's throne.
With these new arrivals, and the new males, Tait's old pack has bounced back to 23 members.
Tammy now leads a pack that is once again a force to be reckoned with.
Back in the west, with the conflict long over, Blacktip has produced 10 healthy puppies of her own.
Balance has finally been restored to Tait's dynasty.
There are only 6,600 painted wolves left in the world.
To date, we count 280 descendants from Tait's bloodline.
Tait's contribution to the survival of this species is unparalleled.
Her dynasty feels secure.
For now, at least.
Of all the animals featured in this series, painted wolves range over the greatest distances.
To document the unfolding story of Tait and Blacktip, the team first needed to find them, and that required help.
This film is essentially undoable without people who really know the dogs.
Principally Nick and Henry.
Nick's been working with the dogs for years.
Not only does he know how to track them incredibly well, but he also knows their habits and their behaviours.
So, for 20 years, I've been watching these dogs, and when you're sitting on the ground and you've got them running around you, and they're totally unfazed by you, that's a great experience.
Nick Murray can identify all of the 91 painted wolves that the team saw on the floodplains.
But there's one individual that he knows better than any.
MURRAY We've been interacting with Tait for literally ten-and-a-half years of her life.
With each successive litter that she has, we've got to know all of those dogs when they come out of the den and spend time with them.
Nick's knowledge of who is related to whom, meant the team knew that it was Tait's own daughter who was challenging her.
What was unfolding in front of camera was a family drama.
The crew not only have a team of trackers, luckily the filming coincided with a research project.
The reason for collaring the dogs is to aid our monitoring of the pack.
Because we're actually able to physically follow the dogs so we can record their movements, their territory size, where they're going.
And that builds up a picture of their land use.
In open landscapes, these collars can transmit for miles.
But in the mixed habitat of Mana, the signal often struggles beyond 500 metres.
This is where Nick and Henry's tracking skills really come into play.
Henry's been incredible on this.
His tracking is unbelievable.
Tracks are the key to the Whole game.
They tell the story.
And it's Henry's highly-tuned tracker senses that allow the team to capture the pivotal moment in the film.
The team are tracking Tait's pack when they drive through a pile of droppings from the painted wolves.
I recognised the smell which is Blacktip, not Tait.
Blacktip's diet of baboons is enough for Henry to be able to tell the packs apart simply by smell alone.
The team quickly switch from following Tait's radio channel to Blacktip's.
Right away we heard the very strong "ping, ping," so we carried on down to the river.
Sure enough, they were right there, which is an area they'd never been before.
It was incredible.
And then Henry noticed some lions approaching through the grass.
Knowing that there are puppies in their pack, I just turned my head away from the scene.
You know, I just didn't want to see, um, any of the pups getting harmed.
I just stayed with the lion, and suddenly this huge buffalo came into shot.
I think what was amazing for me was to see the lions interact with the dogs.
But to then catch a buffalo under the very same tree, that's just ridiculous.
I tell you, I just like stood there dumbfounded, mesmerised, seeing the whole scene that was going on.
It was like a dream, really.
To try to capture every aspect of the unfolding story, it was sometimes necessary to have five camera teams working simultaneously.
We've got 52 cases of kit.
A Cineflex, a night thermal camera, and umpteen other things.
It's very ambitious, what we're trying to achieve.
Not wanting to miss a thing, our teams follow both packs, on the ground, and in the air.
One ground team with Tait, the other with Blacktip.
Employing the latest in unmanned aerial camera technology allows the crew to capture unique views as the pack go about their business undisturbed.
To cover more ground the crew bring in a helicopter.
And as the days draw to an end, the latest ultra high-definition, low-light cameras capture the action, even when it's almost too dark to see.
And once complete darkness falls, the night team take over.
A thermal camera can penetrate the darkness with no need for any artificial light.
You know, to get those shots, it takes a lot of skill.
And that is not our skill, that is our guide's skill.
Oh, there they are, over there.
The yield of shots has gotten better and better on every shoot.
On the last shoot we were with them every day.
And that's What's brilliant about being able to put true time in.
And it's tough, actually, because you spend day in, day out with these animals for months and months and months.
And their lives become very important to you, and the story can be incredible.
But it's actually quite an emotional roller-coaster to see what happens to them.
This story of family rivalry only began because Blacktip was unable to expand her territory away from Tail; and was forced instead to invade her mother's lands.
The biggest problem facing painted wolves today is habitat loss.
Basically, they're running out of space.
We have isolated National Parks surrounded by human settlements.
In the modern world, that means they're running across roads, they're hitting snares, getting poisoned.
It's a It's a tough world out there for them.
7% of painted wolves actually live outside of the National Park system.
Their future is very bleak.
It's not looking good.
So the wild dogs of the Zambezi Valley are lucky, because these dogs can travel But that's not the case in most areas in Africa.
If you came back in ten years' time, I think Tammy's descendants will still be around, battling it out against the lions and hyenas.
It's a tough life, never mind the human conflict.
Painted wolves, individually, may lack the nobility of a lion, but the subtlety of their communications and the complexity of their social organisation gives them a fascination all of their own.
Surely they deserve to hold their place alongside the great hunters of the African plain.
Next time A tigress struggles to rear her new family.
Rivals are trespassing on her territory.
Can she raise her cubs through adulthood?