In the Wild (1992) s01e17 Episode Script

The Sanctuary Part 1 Rainforest

The Great Dividing Range - the spine of eastern Australia.
It forces up the cool, moist air off the sea to form clouds and they quickly drop rain just over the range.
Where there's rain, there's growth.
And it's thick, lush tropical growth.
It's called closed forest or rainforest or jungle.
But whatever you call it, it's one of the richest and most diversified habitats in the whole of Australia.
It only occupies a very small part - less than 1.
5% of the total landmass is this sort of environment.
Due to earth movement and normal climatic weathering, the mountains sometimes break up into these big, rounded talus slopes of rock.
And they look black.
They're not really, because that colour is due to a lichen.
There's the real colour of the rock - a grey.
This is granite.
And this black colouring is a symbiosis - a relationship between a fungus and an algae that actually destroys the rock.
It's almost as though the rocks are painted black by this peculiar colouring, which attracts the heat in and so increases the breakdown of the rock.
And they provide perfect cover for lizards.
And you can see evolution taking place here.
That little lizard sunning himself on the rock, that black fellow, he's got a very close relative down on the forest floor who's a bright, shiny fellow with an orange throat, really brilliant colours.
If he was up here on the rocks, he'd be picked up by any predator.
But evolution has taken place and the animals that survive here are the black ones.
And you find them all over the rocks.
(BIRDS CHIRP) The most prolific area of Australian rainforest is along the North Queensland coast.
And that's where we are.
Entering the rainforest isn't always easy.
You've first gotta get past the guardians.
(LAUGHS) Whoo, boy.
I know you.
That's the guardian.
That's the thing that guards this country.
That's the gympie, or giant stinging nettle.
These luscious red fruit are said to be edible but, like a lot of these things in the Australian bush that are SAID to be edible, they're edible if you're really hungry but they're not terribly palatable.
Very attractive fruits, but underneath those leaves are little, tiny, glistening stinging hairs.
Behind each hair, a poison sac.
If they bump up against you, it'll go on itching for a month at least.
I bumped onto one coming up here earlier.
It's itching now.
Nothing to show, no rash, no nothing, just an itch but I know that it's gonna keep itching for at least a month.
So whatever you do, if you see this thing - beautiful purple berries and these shiny, glistening hairs, these big heart-shaped leaves - forget it, give it a wide berth.
Bad news.
Once you've passed it, though, you're pretty right because there's the jungle.
These are the edge, these are really the guardians of the rainforest.
Ah, yes, here we are.
The famous triantiwontigong.
You see him lurking around there? Come on.
This is the great, dangerous, terrible spider that all sorts of people worry about.
He comes in the house.
This is a hunting spider.
He actively hunts his prey.
There's two basic groups of these - wolf spiders and this group, which are the flat hunting spiders.
Very fast, very active and they jump on their prey.
You can see how fast he's running up there.
Come on, come onto my hand.
I just wanna show you how dangerous these things aren't.
But he's so fragile that if I pick him up the wrong way I'll hurt HIM.
He's got eight legs but even with eight legs, they could all get broken.
Now, see, he's not at all worried about biting me or eating me or anything nasty like that.
He's running a little silk trail behind me, or it's running over me.
And if he drops off or cares to jump, he'll hang on his own silk until such time Waaah - nasty! That's what troubles most people - that wriggly feeling of spiders running over you.
Ever had the feeling? They're really quite harmless but they just look dangerous and all those legs moving at once put most people off.
I started off to say, I was telling lies when I said this was 'him' - in fact it's her.
And you can tell from the palps - those little feelers.
Eight legs and two feelers.
The males have their sex organs in their feelers - they're very elaborate.
The feelers, not the sex organs.
And you can tell them by looking, and these clubbed and knobbed and spiked feelers tell a male.
Very simple, plain feelers tell a female.
We'll put you back on the tree and see how you go.
Go! See how quickly she blends back into the tree trunk and disappears.
Totally vanished again.
Beautiful animals.
Good things to leave alone.
They're insect eaters, killers of the biggest scourge to man that we have.
Our greatest enemy is insects and these are one of the things that help us control them.
That's just one of the animals that finds refuge in this sanctuary.
And I say 'sanctuary' quite deliberately.
Because once, rainforest extended over a vast area of Australia but as the climatic situation changed, it contracted to these isolated pockets on the east coast.
Wherever you look there's a lush profusion of life - plants growing on plants, ferns and orchids all jostling and fighting for life and sunlight.
And for every layer of plant life, there's a comparative layer of animal life.
All in all, a wonderfully diversified place.
These orchids are characteristic.
They're epiphytes.
That is, they live on tree trunks and never touch the ground.
Beautiful native plants, equal to those found anywhere else in the world.
Really a superb feeling in this forest.
One of the really noticeable things are these huge buttress figtrees.
Their roots flare out, or in some cases they hang down like curtains.
This particular one is a strangler fig.
There's the original tree, there.
It was once growing up.
The fig grew up around it.
Up inside there where the wood is moist and wet is a favourite place for one particular animal.
(CHUCKLES) Come on.
You probably know.
If you hadn't guessed what lives in dark, quiet places, there's the answer.
A little horseshoe bat.
Great big wings, long Whoa, whoa! slender legs.
Sharp teeth - he's an insectivore.
Hunts at night, of course.
And those great big wings, big rounded wings, he can move and manoeuvre very, very quickly around the forest at night.
The tail isn't included in the membrane.
It's a free tail.
But he scoops up insects in his wingtips, in that soft membrane, scoops them out of the air like a hand and then transfers them to his tail membrane and then sort of does a somersault through the air, tumbling, as he feeds in the tail membrane.
Spits out the shells, on he goes.
Eats very small insects - things like midges, mosquitoes, little moths and beetles, soft sort of things like that.
(SQUEAKS) Bats are mammals - that is, they're furry animals with backbones and they feed their young on milk.
And like a lot of other animals that come out at night and not much is known about them, they're subjects of much speculation and much nonsense.
Very beautiful little animal.
I like bats.
They don't hurt anybody, they don't have any problems.
The only bats that are a real problem in this country are the flying foxes, and they don't camp in this sort of place, although they do like jungle.
I'll pop this fellow back in his position.
There you go, little man.
Is that good? Oh, yes.
Look at that.
Just hang there.
That's it.
(LEAVES RUSTLE, BIRDS CHIRP) Every level of the forest is moving with some form of life.
The forest floor has hunters.
Be careful.
There's a brown snake.
A snake of that colour could be a taipan, so leave it alone.
Leave all snakes alone.
He's minding his own business, provided you don't interfere with him.
The upper part of the forest is the canopy, and there the insectivorous birds have their own world.
This Macleay's honeyeater uses it all.
The trouble with birdwatching in the forest is that you lose the bird.
It's just another shape against the shadows.
Even dead logs become things of beauty as fungus proliferates across them, and so nutrients are recycled back into the jungle.
(ANIMAL SCREECHES) (CONTINUES SCREECHING) (LAUGHS) Gotta be pretty careful with these blokes.
(GROWLS) That's the white-tailed tree rat.
He bites at both ends.
Well, he doesn't bite at the back end.
Those claws are really sharp.
There we are.
That's better.
He's quite a nice, pleasant-Iooking rat but he's got very sharp front teeth, big eyes for nocturnal hunting and of course the little rat ears.
He's one of the first invaders into this country.
Came down through Timor, through the western invasion, when there was a land bridge.
First, man came in there, probably - spread across the continent and animals spread across with him.
They modified and varied to meet the conditions.
This one fought with the marsupials, lost on the ground and so moved into the trees, where it is successful competing against the possums.
Well, I'm gonna put him back in his hole.
We'll let him go here.
See those claws - straightaway they get a grip on the tree.
And there he goes.
He knows exactly where he's going.
He's got a scent trail across all of these branches, and he's following that, running through.
And he's completely at home.
He knows exactly where he's going.
But that's the thing in this country - if you stop still, it's a nice thing, you can just sit down and relax.
It's beaut.
Find yourself a comfortable seat and really take it easy and let it happen.
You become part of the forest and the things in the forest accept you.
Doesn't take long.
There's the first one now - a sulphur-crested cockatoo.
Birds are usually the first thing to come and investigate.
There's a lesser Lewin honeyeater having a quick check-out.
The most noticeable thing when you sit quiet are the insects.
Butterflies come out and sun in the odd dappled patches of light.
It's very interesting in Queensland - butterflies are protected by law.
That's a young butterfly.
He'll turn into a butterfly if he doesn't get eaten by one of the other inhabitants.
Like this particular frog, who at the same time as he's looking for a caterpillar to eat is also making sure he doesn't get eaten.
This Children's python, also hunting on the forest floor, might be the one.
There's marvellous dramas in the making every time you just sit and look and listen.
One of the most common hiding places in the forest zone is the floor where some things live in leaf litter and some things live under broken logs.
Like this frog - he was living under here.
Beautifully coloured animal.
Come on, frog, sit down.
That's it.
That's it.
Whoops, he's gone.
Not all the things you find on the forest floor are nice.
That's a scorpion.
Quite a nasty beast.
The claws are pretty harmless.
It's the sting that matters, the bit on the end.
These little flat scorpions live under bark.
They live under logs on the ground.
So it's always a good idea to check out where you're going to sit down in this country.
While he's held like that, he's not gonna hurt me at all.
What usually happens is one walks on you and you feel him and you put your hand down to swat it, thinking it's a spider or something, and that's when you get stung.
He's typical of these little tiny things in the forest floor.
That's why when you camp, you never put your boots down the ground because these are the fellows who get in your socks or your towels or your boots if you leave them out overnight.
They're pretty hard to get rid of once you get them in there.
Oh, well, cover him up again.
Like all these things, when you've looked at them, just cover them up and leave them alone.
Here's a newcomer to the forest.
Cane toads.
These wretched things destroy everything in the forest floor either by direct predation or by poisoning them.
It's going to be very interesting to see in a few years time the total effect on this whole ecosystem of the rainforest by these toads.
There's a land snail.
Huge animal.
Native land snails - these aren't introduced ones, although they probably did come down from the islands as one of the invaders coming in from the north.
The animal is right back up inside the shell.
Yes, there's a couple more of them, half-buried into the rotting debris and mud.
Beautiful animals.
They are feeding on the dead leaves and the fungus on the forest floor, and, in turn, they're eaten by various animals and birds that come along here.
There's something.
These pits, little scratchings.
Bandicoot digging for worms and snails, grubs, things like that.
They're very fresh, only done last night, so this is probably a territory for one bandicoot.
And in this rainforest there are a lot of them and so the territory will be pretty small.
He'll live here somewhere.
This is a likely place.
It was here last night.
Yes, this log looks lived-in.
Just have a look.
Ah, yes, there you are.
Oh, having a snuffle and a snort, eh? Good lad.
Come on.
Come on.
That's it.
Nobody's gonna hurt you.
Ooh, you've been fighting, haven't you? Your back feet, that's what I want.
Just your feet, that's it.
There he is.
(LAUGHS) Oh, lovely little man.
You know what he is? He's a giant brindled bandicoot.
Live on this rainforest floor.
Beautiful animal.
Very quiet and docile while there's just one person around.
But get a few people moving or dogs or pets or things like that, he gets really spooky and scared.
Great big, sharp claws for digging those pits we saw.
Australia's the home of bandicoots.
There would be, oh, perhaps a dozen species, and so far we've lost about five or six, vanished completely from the face of the Earth since we've been in this country.
This is called a short-nosed bandicoot.
Now, now, now, it's alright.
Even though it appears to be a very long nose, this short nose and the short tail gives them a rather rat-like appearance.
In fact, that's where the name comes from.
The Indian word for 'rat' is 'bandicoot'.
And the first settlers who came out to Australia came through India in their sailing ships.
And when they saw these animals "What are they?" "Bandicoots.
" they were rats.
And they saw these and they called them bandicoots.
Didn't realise these were marsupials, have a pouch and carry their young in pouches.
Not this one, he's a male, so they don't have pouches - not that sort, anyway.
Must be a strange for an animal that owns a territory and is undisputed master to suddenly find himself quite helpless in somebody else's hands.
(GRUNTS) Whoa, back.
Ah, he's got me.
That's my blood, not his.
Yeah, have a look around, that's good.
I think what we'll do is put this fellow down, let him go.
We won't put him back in his log - he'll come back to it straightaway, or to another one in his territory - then you can see how he runs.
There's a good open spot.
Come on, little man.
There you go.
He's off.
Peculiar hopping gait.
Doesn't take long to disappear in this country.
Just a few yards and you're into undergrowth, brush or something like that, and you're gone immediately, vanished.
Through the heart of this closed forest runs the open corridor of the river, from the top of the mountain down to the sea.
It's a feeding ground for many sorts of animals.
(LAUGHS) Look at this bloke.
He's been disturbed by me coming through.
Now he's looking for a new place to hide.
This is one of the little bush rats that move in and colonise this out of the forest floor.
They're really nice little animals.
Called mosaic-tail rats.
Has a rather rough tail, hence the name mosaic-tail.
This is an invader too, but he came with the second invasion.
It's very hard to tell this sort of bush rat from the common or garden introduced rat, which is the third lot of invaders, that came with the white man.
So you've really got three animal invasions of Australia.
The first one came down through the Timor side, and things like the water rats, the tree rats, the hopping mice - the things that have evolved and adapted in competition to our environment.
And with them came the first group of Aboriginals, the Negrito peoples.
Then the second invasion came here, somewhere where I am, through Cape York Peninsula.
It came down and with them came things like the dingo and these little secondary rats that haven't had time to evolve into something different.
They just established themself and held on.
And then, finally, the third wave of invasion - the white man and his common rat, common mouse, introduced things.
I'll let this little fellow go on the water's edge.
He's very active, hunting on the edge.
There we go.
This country's always attracted man's attention.
In the early days, the gold in the streams.
And the pioneers pushed through and their evidence is taken over by the closed forest, by the rainforest and the jungle.
But modern man's technology and his machines allow this to be cleared and developed.
Because of its timber, because of its soil, because of its rainfall, it's an incredibly important asset to modern man.
But National Parks and Wildlife Service of Queensland, Forestry Commission of Queensland and other government instrumentalities have put aside part of this for reserve.
And the time will come in the future when the impact of man clearing and using closes the reserves down to little single islands.
But while that time is happening, the introduced animals and plants, the insidious effects of man, will have fought their battle with the wildlife and won or lost, as the case may be.
And then all that will remain from the mountaintops to the sea will be the rivers running through, making a connecting tissue.
And that connecting tissue is very important.
The rainforests contain an enormous number of animals which can't live anywhere else.
And unless we have the sanctuary of reserve - with connections so that the reserves don't become islands - these wonderful life forms will vanish forever.
Once they're gone, they can never come back.