Last Chance to See (2009) s01e03 Episode Script

Aye Aye

'20 years ago, my good friend Douglas Adams spent a year tracking down 'endangered animals together with the zoologist Mark Carwardine.
'Now it's my turn.
'Mark and I are heading off to find out exactly what happened 'to those species that he'd seen dangling on the edge of extinction two decades ago.
'It promises to be exhausting 'exhilarating' Unbelievable! '.
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and exasperating' Agh! '.
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but I wouldn't miss it for the world.
' Having completed our expedition through Uganda and Kenya in search of rhinos, Mark and I have stepped off the beaten path, travelling directly to Madagascar.
I have to confess, Mark, to me Madagascar is a children's film title and not much more.
I know vanilla comes from here.
That's terrible! I'm sorry.
So tell me what there is that excites you about the place, cos you've been bubbling about it for weeks.
Well, if you're into wildlife, this is probably the most exciting place in the world to come because most of the animals and plants here are found nowhere else.
If you come here for the first time, virtually everything you're seeing is new.
Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean, 285 miles off the coast of Mozambique.
We've come in search of the aye-aye, a peculiar nocturnal lemur said to be so strikingly unattractive that it chills the heart of all who see it.
20 years ago, Mark encountered the fearsome aye-aye on the little island of Nosy Mangabe, which is where he's decided we should begin OUR adventure.
Nosy Mangabe.
Oh, this is amazing! I never thought I'd come back.
Let's see if we can leap off.
Well, you say "leap" - you know what happens with me and boats! I know, just be careful.
Ohhhh Hang on, oops.
Wait for the sea.
Ooh, my God.
Thank you.
OK? Yeah! 'But for me, at least, encountering the unique wildlife 'won't be the only novel experience on Nosy Mangabe.
'Mark has arranged that we shall be camping.
' No, I don't I haven't camped since I was 16.
One night.
You're joking! Chagford, Devon It was supposed to be a fortnight.
The first night camping - hated it so much I spent all my pocket money in the Ring Of Bells pub.
You are kidding me! You've surely camped since 16? No, only in the homosexual sense.
Ooh.
I know.
Oh, hell.
Well I wish I'd ordered two tents now.
I'm going to go and sort that out.
I know, in every way.
The island of Nosy Mangabe is an idyllic tropical paradise and just the sort of place any self-respecting exotic species might choose to set up home.
But Mark's keen we waste no time looking at the scenery.
Oh, well Look at this, Stephen.
Look at this.
This is a leaf-tailed gecko, and look at its tail.
It's just like an old mouldy leaf.
Oh, flicked it.
Oh! It's OK, but it is probably the most extraordinary example of camouflage you'll ever see, and it's even got this ragged edge so that it breaks up the outline a little bit, and all these marking all over it just match the tree trunk.
This one's a panther chameleon.
'Even before our search for wildlife has properly begun, it seems to be finding us at every turn.
' They're wonderful creatures, aren't they? Fantastic.
Do their eyes go through 360 degrees? They seem to go in any direction, swivel up and down.
They do.
They can do two things.
They can either look at and focus on two things as once, or they can put them both in front and then get binocular vision.
To hone in exactly on an insect with their tongue, is it? Yes.
'For Mark, this island is also special for another reason.
'It was right here, way back in 1985, that the idea for Last Chance To See began.
' Now, as a matter of fact, Mark, I've gone to a great deal of trouble on this long, long journey of bringing this with me.
Wow! What's this? See if this means anything to you.
Oh, my goodness! Do you know what it is? I recognise it.
Douglas Adams pursues one of the world's rarest animals.
I haven't seen this for years and years.
So tell me, this was your first Was it? Yeah, what happened was Douglas and I came here to Nosy Mangabe and landed on this very beach in 1985 to look for the aye-aye, and the idea was that Douglas was going to write an article for the Observer, and the whole point was, because he'd had never had any involvement in wildlife or conservation, he'd look at it from a different point of view, and hopefully add a new dimension to the story.
Yeah.
We spent a few nights here and we I remember we sat on a rock or on the edge of a hut we were staying in on the last day, and talking about how much we'd enjoyed the whole experience, and I remember Douglas said, "Why don't we do more?" And we did.
It took us three years to get our act together But that's how? Then we started travelling and looking for more endangered species.
So we are where it all began? That's very kind of you because I lost my copy, that's great.
Ah! Here we are.
We had the most amazing experience.
Douglas and I went out with our torches, 50 yards from the hut, we saw an aye-aye Oh, my God! .
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and Alan, the photographer, got this picture.
We went running back, it was only, like, five seconds, and it was the first time one had been seen in the wild for years.
Mark has long harboured an ambition to get his own photograph of an aye-aye in the wild.
He's determined not to leave Madagascar without it.
We're going to hunt in the exact spot where Mark found his aye-aye.
So long as it hasn't moved in the intervening 20 years, our encounter is virtually guaranteed(!) Cor, it gets dark very quickly.
It really does.
Suddenly.
Is there something moving up there? The first thing you'd see would be the eyes, their luminous eyes.
They reflect the light? Yes, exactly.
It's alive this jungle, though, isn't it? Oh, it's fantastic.
Unbelievable.
Bloody hell, what's that? Oh, it's a snake.
Oh, yes, yes.
It's very hard to identify as a snake because it's now coiled up, its head is pointing directly at the light.
How did you spot it? Because it was moving.
Stephen? Yeah? Look what I've found.
I've found the most amazing thing.
Look, that Oh, my God! .
.
is the smallest chameleon in the world.
Pigmy chameleon.
Oh, my God! And that's an adult.
You're joking? I mean, everything about him is perfect.
You can see Look at the tail.
That is fantastic.
You take that end.
There we go.
There we go.
Look at that! His face is fabulous.
Slightly He looks slightly annoyed.
It's so delicate, so delicate.
I'm frightened to hurt him.
Isn't that just fantastic? It's a finger wide.
And you're telling me that is a full-grown adult? That is the smallest chameleon in the world.
It just shows what's here.
Goodness knows what we're missing, walking through the forest like this.
'We've been hunting now for a couple of hours, and the one thing we do know we are missing is an aye-aye.
'Unlike bugs, every one of which we encounter!' Those things - what are they? Keep calm! Well, you weren't! See you when it flew on you! You're a naturalist.
You screamed like a pansy.
THEY LAUGH The thing is, not that many years ago, there were some trees that the aye-ayes really liked, their favourite trees, but they got blown down in a cyclone, so the trouble is now no-one really knows where they're going, it's a bit more hit and miss, and I think we'd be really lucky to find them.
Still, we have seen something quite extraordinary, the pigmy chameleon.
I never believed I'd see that.
It's just heaving with wildlife, this place.
God, I hate camping.
I hate it.
It's so uncomfortable, so unnatural.
I miss all the things that I rely on at home.
I miss my computer, I miss my wife, I miss the internet Hang on, I'm not married.
Oh, no, that's right! .
.
I miss my Wi-Fi, miss the internet.
Wi-Fioh, Wi-Fi.
If only, out here Wi-FiWi-Fi HE SIGHS Well, Stephen went to bed a few hours ago, but I just want to make the most of being on this amazing place.
If you had to be cast away on a desert island, this would be the one to choose.
It's absolutely heaving with wildlife, thick forest.
It's like a microcosm of how Madagascar used to be.
I could stay here for months, actually, there's so much to explore and so much to see.
It's absolutely brilliant.
GROANING What? Oh, my God.
HE EXHALES Well, I slept In patches and snatches, I slept.
The sea to one side of me and the noisiest jungle in the world to the other, but I suppose I can't complain, but HE SIGHS .
.
I'd rather have had a bed, to be perfectly honest.
Having failed to make an early encounter with the world's ugliest lemur, Mark is not down hearted.
While he re-thinks our strategy, Mark has decided that what I need is a fully immersive crash course on lemurs.
He's taking us 300 miles to the far south of Madagascar.
I'm shocked by the stark contrast between this landscape and the lush island we've left behind.
Wow.
Well, let's have a look.
Here we are, down here.
God, it's huge, isn't it? I know, it's phenomenal.
Nosy Mangabe is up here, isn't it? That's right.
We've come all this distance down the east coast to here.
I don't know.
One of the things I've noticed as we've been travelling is how little forest there is.
I know.
All the hills are bald.
It's frightening what's happening.
All the way down here, it's just bare.
And this whole island, pretty much, was covered in forest.
Four-fifths of it gone already.
Terrible, four-fifths.
What's frightening is, I can see the difference from when I was here 20-odd years ago.
We can see that there's less forest, and that's in that short space of time, so it's only a matter of a few years before it all goes, And not only the forest.
The people will find it harder to survive, and all the wildlife goes as well.
Yeah.
We've come to Berenty, a preserved island of forest in the sprawling desert.
I'm assured that if you want an introduction to lemurs, there is nowhere better, owing to a 20-year study programme responsible for much of our understanding of lemurs.
'Josia Razafindramanana and Raymond Tsaramanana 'are the latest researchers to contribute to the programme.
' We are doing a survey of the brown lemurs' population.
In 1977, eight brown lemurs being kept in cages escaped during a cyclone into this isolated forest.
30 years later, the brown lemurs number many hundreds and are suspected of out-competing the native ring-tailed lemurs.
To discover exactly how many brown lemurs there are, Josia is undertaking a survey.
First, attract your lemur with a banana.
Look at that row of them up there.
Oh, yes, they're all looking down.
Six or seven.
I can't believe they'll spot it.
Lemursbananaready? Look out.
Oh, no BANANA THUDS ON GROUND Oh, they did see it.
They're looking.
Banana! I'll do it again.
Ready? Yep, they're all concentrating.
There is one looking at you.
It's going to fall on the cameraman.
Missed! There.
Is it working? OK, they're getting interested.
OK, they definitely know Oh, look.
Shall I just gradually ease them in? 'Next, each surveyed lemur must be expertly marked with a harmless purple dye.
'And as the dye must be shot from a syringe, 'this is the part that requires someone with skill and precision.
' Yeah.
Excellent.
Are you ready, Stephen? Yeah.
MARK CLICKS HIS TONGUE Just throw it Here Damn! Missed it.
Yes, yes, yes.
Ready? Oh Here we are Wait, wait wait.
Aw, I'm such a crap shot.
SHE LAUGHS Overshot.
Let me tell you when you when you have to OK, now you can't miss.
It's from three feet away.
Give a banana Oh, no! Nerves! Nerves are getting the better of me.
Come on.
It's all right.
Wow.
Ohhh Yeah! You got the tail.
That is really visible.
Wow.
Yes.
Well done.
Great! Thank you.
The pressure, I can't tell you, was enormous.
I thought I was going to miss every one.
Never has a brown lemur been so professionally marked.
You're just being kind now.
THEY ALL LAUGH The following morning, Mark's ready to get to work on my lemur learning.
Though there've been no reported sightings of aye-ayes in Berenty, the ongoing research has ensured a healthy population of various different species of lemur more than happy to be pointed at and talked about.
It's a dancing sifaka.
Look at that.
Funny animal.
Like the illusive aye-aye, the dancing sifaka are one of almost a hundred species of lemur.
Oh, wow! Oh, my Lord! That's fantastic.
That's extraordinary.
That's fantastic.
What a sight.
Aww That is brilliant.
Absolutely brilliant, I love it.
There's nothing else quite like it, is there? It's extraordinary.
Starting with the basics, Mark is keen to establish that all species of lemur live here, and only here, on Madagascar.
And while distantly related, they are not, under any circumstances, monkeys.
They are primates.
These are Well, it's complicated, but a primate is surely what we are, isn't it? Yeah, they're primates like us.
What happened was, when Madagascar split away from Africa, from Gondwanaland, the super-continent, which is about 160 million years ago, there were no primates here at all.
And what they reckon happened is the ancestors of these guys rafted out across the Mozambique channel.
You know you get floating mats of vegetation sometimes? Yes.
The theory is that there were some of the ancestors, early primates, that got on one of these rafts and made it to Madagascar, amazingly, and then of course, cos Madagascar is cut off, they have evolved separately, so they've evolved into lemurs here, whereas on the mainland of Africa they evolved into monkeys and apes and so on And into humans.
And into humans, yeah.
So they're all primates but they've evolved separately over all those millions of years.
I see.
Cos the other thing that makes lemurs so interesting is female dominance.
It's very unusual in the mammal world where, not just that you have female leaders but the females are boss.
How interesting.
And it's actually the females that defend the territory as well.
They have a hilarious way of doing it.
When they meet other groups, in the ring-tailed lemurs - see that one just leap up - they, um They outstare one another.
I had an ex-girlfriend who did that.
It was really frightening.
STEPHEN LAUGHS There's a lot in that tree.
Yeah.
Deep in the heart of Berenty, it's hard to imagine that this idyllic lemur playground is just a small island of forest in an almost completely barren landscape.
The trees that once covered these surrounding plains have now been cut down to be replaced by this commercial crop, sisal.
And here's a thing.
The reason sisal has replaced trees is because, as we in the West have become concerned about the environment, we demand that packaging is recyclable, and one of the best materials to make recyclable packaging out of is sisal.
For any conservation work to be successful, it's necessary first to understand the people whose lives it would impact upon.
Mark has arranged a visit to a local village that promises to be truly eye opening.
I'm told this is to be the first time a film crew has ever been allowed into the village.
STEPHEN GASPS We've arrived in the middle of a traditional healing ceremony.
This is a country, I'm learning, in which tradition is very much a part of modern life.
The lady in the middle has been possessed by spirits.
Oh, I see.
In Malagasy culture, nature is central to life.
Nature is responsible for protecting, sustaining and healing.
She looks all right.
She looks like she's doing quite well.
She's lasting well.
Maybe it's working.
'For longer than anyone can remember, it's been said that nature is an endless resource.
'The forests and the wildlife are there to be exploited, and will always be replenished.
' GOATS BLEA Wonder what they're doing with the goats Do you think there may be blood-letting? I hope not.
I can't help feeling sorry for them.
Hmm.
Well, it seems like it was a false alarm.
They're not going to slaughter or sacrifice the goats.
They're just honouring them.
They're just lying there in the arena.
Though there has been talk about sacrificing the "vazar" - the white man, the European - apparently.
There's a strong chance there may be some throat-cutting yet, so stay tuned.
Tallest first! This is not a people wheeling out tradition on high days and holy days.
It runs through every aspect of life.
One of the key things in Madagascar is what they call "fady", which is a kind of taboo.
It's almost like it is dangerous to do something in a certain way, or see something in a certain way, so for example, I mean, some of them sound ridiculous to us, like it's actually bad luck to hand an egg to somebody directly.
You have to place it on the ground, and they pick the egg up.
Others are a bit more logical in a way.
One is that if you're digging a grave, the handle on the spade has to be loose, otherwise you have too strong a connection with the dead.
But what does all this have to do with our aye-aye adventure? I confess I fear the worst.
Aye-ayes, generally speaking, are bad luck.
If you see an aye-aye and it points at you with its middle finger, then it means you're going to die.
So they're animals of ill omen, essentially? Exactly, and they get killed as a result.
They kill Oh, I see.
Yeah, and the feeling is so strong.
There's one story of an aye-aye that walked into a village and the villagers saw it and they actually moved the entire village as a result so it didn't bring bad luck.
And this persisted right into the 21st century? Yeah, it still exists all over Madagascar.
Leaving the village, I can't help feeling that squeezed between the twin threats of modern farming and traditional superstition, the aye-aye's chances of long-term survival are slight.
OK, I'm going to have a little bit of a moan, because we're all tired and ill.
We've travelled thousands of miles and we've all had stomach upsets.
The cameraman has been on the loo non-stop for the last three days.
We're all getting a bit tired and grumpy.
Look at the bags under my eyes.
I don't know where they've come from.
This shirt's about four days old, andit's not nice.
But anyway, mustn't grumble.
With the whole team thoroughly dosed up against the worst Madagascar can throw at us, we elect for a day off in the capital city of Antananarivo.
The only problem is that between us and the city lie some of the worst roads in Madagascar.
With stomachs churning and buttocks clenched, never have aye-aye-hunters more wished that a journey might be smooth .
.
and unhindered.
Antananarivo has a scattering of cafes, restaurants and hotels with internet connection, in many ways the perfect place for a rest day in a hectic schedule.
Mark, however, has his own idea of what constitutes a rest day.
With his heart set on the closest of aye-aye encounters, Mark has had an idea of how we might while away an houror five.
Here, the city zoo is one of the few places in the world to keep the mysterious nocturnal aye-ayes captive.
Stephen, last time I went into a cage with an aye-aye, there was a baby, and it was spinning like a top and urinating, spray urinating, just to warn you.
Oh, thanks(!) Oh, here we are.
Merci.
My goodness.
Can you see them? Oh, there's one here.
Oh, yes.
Let's just shut the door.
That would be a disaster, wouldn't it? Oh, Lord, they're extraordinary.
It's like, sort of either it's very old or does it naturally have those grey hairs in their coat? They do.
They're very shaggy coats.
They almost look unkempt.
There's nothing else like them.
Completely peculiar.
'I must confess, the aye-aye is not an animal I was ever going to fall in love with at first sight.
'And it's not hard to see how it gained its fearsome reputation.
' Saw its reflection.
It sniffed the camera and tapped the camera lens with its twiggy finger.
Just checking it out.
So inquisitive.
It's lovely.
(Gosh, how extraordinary.
(That's amazing.
(Look at this.
) Hello.
Gosh.
You're inquisitive, aren't you? Aren't you? (My goodness.
) That was brilliant! I know.
Close up, actually, there's something charming about them.
You can just see the finger there, can you see that long middle finger? Oh, yes, yes.
It is just like a twig, isn't it? It's unbelievable.
What's it for? It's for feeding.
What the aye-aye's doing in Madagascar is filling the niche of a woodpecker, believe it or not.
There are no woodpeckers? There are no woodpeckers here at all, so it goes along the branches, like this, and it taps with its middle finger anywhere along a branch or a tree trunk where it might be hollow, and listens with that amazing ear.
What they're listening for is hollow bits in the wood and grubs moving around.
Escaping or rushing around.
It's called percussive foraging, which I think is a great name.
Oh, how brilliant! When they hear something moving, they use those amazing incisors and gnaw away a hole, just like a woodpecker tapping, and then like a surgeon's instrument, it inserts the middle finger and pulls out the grub.
Amazing.
That's Uses that finger for everything.
It really does.
'This may not be Mark's wildest encounter, but it will have to do for now.
' That is brilliant.
That's one extraordinary animal.
They're real characters.
Come on! Eggs.
Where are you? They're looking.
Look, look, look.
That's an egg, look.
Look, that's an egg.
Oh, it didn't want it.
Not so keen on the egg.
It didn't want its egg.
Right, if you're not going to have your breakfast egg, you can have some fruit.
CRACKING I just trod on the egg! Oh, no, how embarrassing.
I'm so sorry.
I just trod on the egg.
Stephen! Oh, dear.
He didn't want it anyway.
Where's the honey? Look (He can smell it.
) He's licking your finger.
Oh, my God.
That's fantastic.
What an honour.
Oh, wow.
That's made my week.
That is absolutely marvellous.
Aye-aye-aye.
The strange thing is, after a couple of hours with this grotesque and frankly smelly creature, we are both utterly entranced and completely under its spell.
I've never seen anything like you.
You're very mysterious and lovely, kind of lovely in the end.
There's a French expression, jolie-laide.
Jolie means pretty and laide means ugly, but it means that it's actually attractive.
Sums it up quite well.
I think they're fantastic.
But how do you change attitudes towards aye-ayes for people who can't spend an afternoon getting up close and personal in the city zoo? We're heading to one project that's trying to reshape deeply entrenched attitudes to an entire forest.
We're on the road west, heading to Kirindy, one of the most threatened islands of forest in Madagascar.
All around us on the journey, the landscape is littered with strange and wonderful peculiarities.
But perhaps the strangest and most wonderful, 10 miles from the nearest town, is an orange fridge.
A fridge.
Bonsoir.
Oh! Not bad, is it? Classiko Cola, no less.
Perfecto.
Merci beaucoup.
Merci a vous.
A votre sante! This is an entrepreneurial response to one of Madagascar's most famous sights, known locally as Baobab Alley.
If baobab trees are your thing, this is where you need to come.
They almost look upside down or something.
There's something so wrong.
There's a great story that God gave each animal one tree to plant, and the hyena got the baobab, and planted it upside down.
Oh, there you are, you see.
They look like giant Chianti bottles, with bad hair days.
They're very spooky aren't they, these lone fingers poking up in this sort of plateau of weirdness.
It's just so odd.
I know, but the thing is, of course, this whole area was clothed in native dry deciduous forests and all the other trees have gone, so all that's left of that are these few baobabs.
Cos the baobab wood isn't very good for building, and it doesn't burn well, so it's not good firewood.
So people would just leave the baobabs alone, and they've taken the rest, and this whole region was covered in the kind of forest we're heading for now.
That's why they look so lonely and strange.
They do.
Baobabs.
Not so much the proud sentinels of a barren landscape as the last survivors of a mighty forest.
It's evidence that this was, within the life of these few trees, a mighty jungle, and home to a cacophony of wildlife.
A little way down the road, we get our first encounter of what's known as slash and burn agriculture.
The burning of trees returns nutrients to the ground, and, for a single year following, this dust can be farmed before it's abandoned, and the farmer moves on.
It's a devastating fight for survival scratched out by some of the poorest farmers in the world.
Arriving at the research station in Kirindy, we've hardly had time to get our bearings before we are whisked off to a cabin where Melanie Dammhahn, one of Kirindy's research scientists, has a surprise to show us.
You promised a surprise.
Yeah.
Is it an insect? No.
Insect(!) Well, what is it? It's a little box.
What could it be? It's trapped in the little box.
Uh! Oh, my God, it's fantastic.
This is another of almost a hundred species of lemurs.
This one is unique to the isolated forest of Kirindy.
He doesn't like the light.
A few years ago, we didn't even know this existed.
Is this a recent discovery? These are babies of the other species.
So what's it called again? It's called Madame Berthe.
Madame Berthe's mouse lemur.
It's called after a Madagascan primatologist.
So this is a lemur.
In other words, this is a primate.
This is the same order as gorillas and human beings.
It's the smallest primate in the world.
It must be.
I've seen bigger mice.
So this alone is a good reason for protecting this forest.
It needs primary forests.
It's only found in Kirindy, and it's a very special animal.
It'd be worth protecting it just for these guys.
Yeah.
Melanie's research involves catching the little-known mouse lemurs for study, before releasing them as quickly as possible.
So we're going to release it into its original place that you found it now, are we? Yeah, let's bring it home.
Let's bring it home, exactly.
Oh, there it goes.
Time to come out.
Oh! It's just divine.
I love the way it checks everything out in slow motion.
Its perfect little hands and eyes.
Oh, my darling! It's so nervous.
Not surprised! Hello.
Here he goes, here he goes.
That's it, good.
Up the tree.
And then going for it.
I'm sorry, but this is one of the most beautiful animals I've ever seen.
I'm glad you realise.
I really do, it's so, so beautiful.
Kirindy is now just 3% of its original size, and Madame Berthe's mouse lemur is just one of many species that live only in this island of isolated and shrinking forest.
This feels all too horribly like it could be a last chance to see.
But there is a chance for the mouse lemur, and the other species of Kirindy.
The following morning, we're on our way to Tsitakabasia.
This is 1 of 10 villages, dotted through the forest, and literally translates as "Far from the stars".
Tsitakabasia is one of the poorest communities in Madagascar, but the future of the forest rests with these people.
We're being brought by Richard Lewis of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, a man who is bringing very new ideas to a very old way of life.
Richard is working with the people of the forest to establish an extraordinary competition.
Each forest village has been given a section of forest to conserve.
After one year, a survey takes place, and the village that's best conserved its piece of forest wins a significant prize.
Today is the day of reckoning.
So what exactly are we doing here, Richard? We look at all of the threats.
For example if we find tree stumps, freshly-cut tree stumps, if we find fires.
And then the positive side, the biodiversity.
We're looking for birds, for lemurs.
When you say "we", you mean the villagers.
Oh, yeah.
With you from Durrell? The team walk a transect, a straight line chosen at random, marking down all the positive and negative points they encounter along the way.
Not an exhaustive survey, but a good indication of the health of the forest.
You can't say there were this many animals in the forest, but you can say there are more animals than in another forest, and there are more animals this year than last year.
That's the important thing.
You do this every year, same time every year.
Ecological monitoring was always considered a hard-scientific discipline.
You had to have a bank of PhDs to do it.
And we thought "You know, it's not rocket science, counting birds in the forests".
It's our old friend, the sifaka.
It's lovely, isn't it? That was very well spotted.
That's great.
It's a good sight, isn't it? Isn't it amazing they saw it? I think we'd have walked straight past.
A lot of these fruits, what are they? I don't know if that's relevant to a transect.
These are baobab fruits.
There must be a baobab somewhere.
We looked at Baobab Alley, and there weren't any fruits and flowers.
These are one of the species of tree that we record on the transects, because they're important for biodiversity.
It remains to be seen if the people of Tsitakabasia will win the competition.
But it's immediately clear that the burning of trees in this part of Kirindy has ended.
We're travelling east to an isolated piece of rainforest, and a naturalist's dream.
Mark has been making calls to anyone who may be able to lead him to an aye-aye, and has heard that there have been recent sightings close to Andasibe.
ANIMAL CALLS What was that? Did you hear something? Hell of a row, what are they? That was black and white ruffed lemurs, which really is black and white.
Amazing animal.
They come out in the day, so they're sort of settling down for the night.
Change of shift for when the aye-aye comes out.
Mucking around in the dormitory.
But with Mr Carwardine in charge, there'll be no dormitory for me.
Let's be honest, aye-ayes don't make life easy for aye-aye hunters.
Not only are they endangered, but they only appear in darkness, and then prefer to stay in the tops of trees.
And there's another thing.
Mark has revealed that they also have the widest range of any lemur, each individual roaming up to 500 acres of dense forest.
So, just another 499 and three quarter acres for us to search, then.
Nothing, absolutely nothing.
My torch is going.
With another total fiasco under our belts, a new day beckons.
Yeah, this is what woke me up this morning.
'Mark has arranged for us to meet with Dr Rainer Dolch and his guide, Joseph.
'I don't know what it was about Joseph, but something told me 'we weren't the first team from the BBC that he had led into this forest.
' This is such a gorgeous forest, isn't it? It's lovely, absolutely lovely.
It's just dripping with life.
And water, but life.
Look at all the moths and flies that you have.
I know it's stunning.
It's paradise wood, really.
Rainer is fighting to protect every inch of this ancient fragment of forest, not just for the wide-ranging aye-ayes, but also for another lemur that needs a lot of space, the biggest lemur of all, the mighty Indri.
I'm terrified of putting my hand on anything because I've been warned there are leeches.
They hang under leaves and things like that, and they drop down on your neck.
They'll be up your trousers.
That's the thing to worry about.
Oh, Lord.
Are you wearing pants? Oh, dear.
The Indri is not just the biggest lemur, but I'm told it's also the loudest.
Mark has instructed me to listen out for a cry not unlike whale song.
PIERCING WAIL That's it.
Isn't it fantastic? WAILING Isn't it the most extraordinary sound? You're so right about whale song.
It is very like it.
It really is.
It's so eerie, otherworldly.
So what it is is, this will be a male and a female calling that we're hearing now, and probably another one, a youngster as well, so it's literally like a family sing-song.
And there's some others calling off in the distance, harder to hear.
They're all listening, so they can tell where all the different groups are, and it's a lot easier than going off and scent-marking the territory.
It uses much less energy.
Yeah, why widdle when you can yodel? Yeah, they're close.
Let's see if we can get right up to them.
Just look for any sign of movement, cos they leap.
And they're sort of black and white.
Yeah, they look a bit like pandas gone wrong.
That's a Channel Five documentary - When Pandas Go Wrong.
Where are you looking? (Look, look, look!) There, right in the tree.
Huge! My heavens! It really is a big lemur, isn't it? It's wonderful.
Oh.
Oh, nice jump.
Where did it go? Just to the left.
Oh, yeah.
There's a great view of two.
Yes! Got them? Absolutely.
Look at that.
.
LOUD WAILING That's amazing.
Unbelievable.
I thought a fire alarm had gone off.
I mean, you know the sound has to be loud to travel across the forest, but that's deafening.
We've been so lucky, becauseow.
God, that's sharp! It's serrated, isn't it? We've been so lucky to see such a range.
We've got such an insight into what variety there is here, from that tiny mouse lemur to these huge animals.
Am I right in thinking that when man first came to Madagascar, there were also really giant lemurs, bigger than mountain gorillas, really huge ones? There was an amazing selection.
15 or 16 species have become extinct already since people arrived.
But you know, when Douglas and I came, I remember there were 21 species of lemur known, and now there's more than 80.
And there's probably more still to be discovered.
That's not because they're doing well It's just because they're discovering more.
What's scary is, they're being discovered, new species, and they're immediately going on the endangered list.
That's the problem.
Yeah.
And after all, we mustn't look at people who live in these countries with too sour an eye.
I mean, at the time of Shakespeare, there were more bear pits than there were theatres, where they were tormenting and torturing bears.
We British have been just as stupid and cruel with our animals, and we've, you know, made just as much of a mess of our woodlands.
We've made all the same mistakes before.
Yeah.
Somewhere out there, there are aye-ayes.
And we're still keen to see them.
But encountering the Indri, one can't help but be aware that such big and wide-ranging creatures won't thrive isolated from others in islands of forest, hemmed in by paddy fields and farmland.
But Rainer Dolch has a solution.
Rainer's vision is vast.
He is leading a scheme to establish nurseries that will literally re-seed the rainforest.
So your solution, if I've got it right, is to grow to plant corridors of living rainforest, or living habitat through which they can pass from one island to another.
The real challenge of this big project is to link forest patches via corridors that we restore, and so that's why in this area, we are beginning to plant native trees that we produce in our nurseries.
Can you really create a natural rainforest by planting like this? Well, this is a big question.
Of course you can't plant all the trees that occur in a natural forest, but you can help the forest to come back on its own.
So you have these 120 species, and these are species that we have chosen because they're actually preferred by lemurs and other seed dispersers.
How big is this corridor that we're seeing? In this particular area, we would have to restore about 3,000,000 trees if you think that you're planting a thousand trees per hectare.
If they planted 3,000 trees a day every single day of the year, that would be slightly over a million in one year, so they have to do that for three years.
That gives you an idea of 3,000,000.
And that's one corridor.
This is a vast undertaking.
And it's not just planting, so actually restoration of natural forest is more than just digging holes and putting a tree in it.
Yes.
You're a youngish man, Rainer, but will you live to see these corridors as active places where animals can pass through? Well, I hope so.
The whole project is designed for 30 years, so after 30 years we hope that these trees would have grown to something that is recognisable as a rainforest.
We receive news from the forest of Kirindy, where Durrell was running their competition.
The results are in, and the village has been victorious, winning about ?1,000, and choosing to spend its windfall on building a school, something the village has never had in the past.
It has also made a commitment to put special emphasis on teaching about the forest environment.
But for us, the real highlight of our time in Madagascar was always going to be an aye-aye encounter in the wild.
When Mark took a call from Louise Marie, a self-styled aye-aye tracker, claiming to know a tree where aye-ayes had been nesting very recently, we knew we were in with a chance.
Do you know how many aye-ayes are on the island? There is four aye-aye living.
Only four? Only four.
That's why I hope that we are lucky tonight.
We'd have to be lucky.
And they sleep in the tree during the day? Of course.
In the trees, in the nest.
They have a nest? Yeah, they have a nest.
So do they have favourite trees that you know on the island? Cos there are so many trees here, our chances of finding one of four aye-aye's is quite small.
Even on a small island.
Even on a small island, yeah.
How will you do it? What's the trick? Favourite place of aye-aye is the coconut Oh, they like coconuts? They like coconuts.
Can they open them? Do they use their teeth? Ah, yeah, good question.
Thank you! Interesting question.
My first good question of the entire series.
'Dizzied by the brilliance of my question, 'the answer is a blur of razor-sharp teeth and strength of jaw.
'I'm beginning to think Louise sees the aye-aye 'as more like a miniature cornered tiger than a benign lemur'.
It's very dangerous, don't touch.
No, I won't touch.
I can see all the coconut shells.
Yeah.
I show you later.
I can show you later.
So from here, look up.
That's what we have to do, look up? Yeah.
This kind of place, you might see one? Is that the nest up there? Yeah.
Those are dry leaves.
That's quite a big nest.
That's aye-aye nest.
So how recently We found aye-aye from this nest last night.
Last night? So this is quite recent.
That's good.
Do they stay in the same nest every night for a week or a few days? No, no, they change every four days, normally.
Right.
So, all we can do is wait for dark and hope the aye-aye hasn't moved on since last night.
Oh, snake.
Snake on a stick.
Amazing what they can come up with to pass the time waiting for aye-ayes.
Yeah.
What about this sort of thing you get in The Jungle Book and various other Is this your main source of information? As it should be.
Literature is the only access to truth we have on this planet, Mark, you should know that, and there's this idea that snakes hypnotise their foe.
Oh, yeah, stand in front of it Not literally hypnotise, obviously, but actually they somehow cause them to freeze.
No, not true.
No.
As the sun sinks below the horizon, all eyes are trained on a palm tree that may or may not contain an aye-aye.
I'm starting to wonder if this is the closest we'll ever come to a sighting and Mark's long-awaited photograph.
Suddenly, Louise claims to see movement in the branches.
Here.
Yeah.
I must confess I didn't, but it seems rude not to make the effort.
There.
Then we see it.
Not much of it, admittedly, but we see it.
A real, live aye-aye in the wild.
Is it walking back over here? On the branch.
Can you see it? Yeah, yeah.
Are you all right? Yeah.
Oh, my goodness.
That was very professional, if I may say so.
Thank you.
There we are.
Beside the branch.
It's difficult to see from here.
He's making fun of us.
Yes! Look at that, right out in the open.
Wow.
One of the rarest and most unusual animals in the world.
He's hanging upside down like a bat.
I know, they do that.
When they come out from sleeping all day, they hang upside down and groom before it goes off and starts to feed.
We've literally caught him just as he's woken up.
We did it.
We've seen them in the wild.
Unbelievable.
I really didn't think we would.
That is so fantastic.
It's literally just come out of its nest.
So this is the morning ritual, as it were.
Yeah, just getting ready.
Shaving and showering, and then it'll go off and feed.
And we might even see it eat a coconut, or at least Well, I hope so.
Can't believe it.
That is so lucky.
And then a real surprise we could never have hoped for.
There are two! Oh, my Look at that.
That's half the population of this island.
We're so lucky.
My goodness.
Look, it's actually tapping the coconut with its middle finger.
You can actually see.
It's tapping the side of the coconut to see how much milk or water is inside there.
And if there's enough, it'll actually gnaw a hole and then start getting the flesh.
It's gone behind.
Let's go round.
OK.
'And at last, a chance for the shot Mark has waited for for 20 years'.
Look, it's moving down the frond.
Oh, yeah.
That's it.
Come on.
He's moving again.
Damn.
Damn, damn, that would have been superb.
Look, he's starting to eat the coconut.
It's not looking in the right direction.
Come on CAMERA CLICKS No, that was rubbish.
That's hopeless.
Come on.
CAMERA CLICKS Yes! Did you get it? No! Very coy.
Yes.
That was it.
You can see the fingers.
And those bat ears.
Aye-aye mission accomplished.
He's on to one of these.
What are these trees? Was it in a lychee tree? We've spent three weeks on islands.
I'm struck that it was this island of Madagascar that allowed such a peculiar creature to evolve in the first place, and it is shrinking islands of forest that threaten to wipe it from the face of the earth for ever.
The aye-aye may not be the most appealing creature on the planet.
But one thing's for sure.
There's nothing else anywhere quite like it.
That's incredible.
The aye-aye is beguiling, certainly bizarre, for some even a little revolting, and I say long may it continue being so.
In the next episode, we'll be exploring the animals that inhabit the margins between sea and land around the islands of Malaysia and Indonesia, getting up close and personal with sea snakes, sea horses, baby turtles and the largest venomous animal in the world, the Komodo dragon.