Last Chance to See (2009) s01e04 Episode Script

Komodo Dragon

'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.
'Exasperating 'But I wouldn't miss it for the world.
' You seem to have brought me to some kind of paradise, Mark.
Isn't it wonderful?There's clear water, there's beautiful white sand.
What are we after?I thought you wouldn't complain.
Our main objective is to get to Komodo and look for the Komodo dragon, which is one of the most impressive animals on the planet.
The biggest lizard in the world, very dangerous and endangered, so that's what we're aiming for.
But rather than go straight there, which I thought would be too easy, I thought we'd go and explore a bit of the Malay Archipelago and look at some of the other reptiles and the other wildlife along the way.
We're actually heading for Snake Island.
"Snake Island"? Right.
Welcome to Snake Island, Mr Bond.
Yeah, that's a worrying title, and what sort of snakes do we find there? This is home to an animal called the yellow-lipped sea krait, which is a kind of sea snake.
It spends half its life in the water and half its life on shore.
It actually comes out onto the shore to rest and to lay eggs.
Are they venomous? I thought you'd ask that! It's actually the second most venomous snake in the world.
10 times more venomous than a rattle snake, more venomous than a king cobra.
I've got open-toe sandals on.
I forgot to mention that, yeah, you should have worn Great(!) No, I'm kidding, they're fine.
The sea kraits are just one of the many creatures that thrive in the marginal world that exists between sea and land which is so widespread throughout the islands that make up Malaysia and Indonesia.
Oh, did you see? Oh, there's a little lizard.
Quite a big lizard.
What kind?That was a water monitor.
Water monitor, that sounds like a job at school.
It does, actually.
Today, you'll be water monitor.
That was quite big.
It's a slightly weaker version of a milk monitor.
Oh, careful, careful.
Oh, my God! Oh, my That's a sea snake? Look at that, that's a good size one, isn't it? Yep.
You're not going to handle it? Oh, my God, you are.
Oh, my goodness! You are very brave! Mark told me this is possibly the second most venomous snake in the world.
God, look at that.
Gorgeous markings.
I was just going to say.
Because it's also called the banded sea krait, you can see why - all those dark bands across the body.
What's amazing about it is that it spends most of its time out at sea, out in the ocean.
It can dive and hold its breath for up to 2 hours.
Good Lord.
They'll come on land for mating also.
And lays the eggs.
Is this a female, this one? Yeah.
Normally the female is bigger than the male.
OK, so I'm going to release it.
We should release it.
Where are we going to do that? Just going to release it here.
Back to the same spot we found it.
It is a big one, isn't it?Beautiful.
It's a good four feet.
I didn't think snakes had feet!Hmm? Nothing, I didn't speak.
Je despair! 'On our journey through the archipelago, we'll be 'discovering more fascinating species 'who've adapted to this marine and terrestrial existence, but whose 'habitat is under increasing threat from human activity.
' From Snake Island, off the coast of Sabah in north east Borneo, we'll be travelling south east, to the islands around Flores in Indonesia, where that mighty, ugly, salivating giant lizard known as the Komodo dragon awaits our arrival with its foul and stinky breath.
After the fleeting glimpse of the water monitor, Mark is keen to show me more of these reptiles who so closely resemble the Komodos.
They are much smaller than the dragons and, unlike the Komodos, extremely successful, having colonised practically every island of the archipelago.
Got to take pictures of it.
Extraordinary, they're obviously flesh eating - they seem to be tearing at something.
They eat absolutely anything, from small insects to small deer.
They'll eat one another, they eat human faeces, they eat dead bodies, they eat absolutely anything - amazing animals.
Look at that tongue smelling.
Is that what it does? It's a blue tongue.
Just like a snake, yeah.
This is exactly how I was picturing a Komodo dragon to look, but It's hard to believe, but these are tiddlers compared to the dragons I'm hoping we're going to see.
Hello!Smaller guys have to watch out, cos they'll get eaten by some of the bigger adults.
Good gracious.
Are they aggressive? No, you'll be fine.
And they're being hunted.
Big numbers, hundred of thousands of them, are killed for their skin.
And the skin is imported to Europe and Japan and the States to make handbags.
So many of them are being killed, they're obviously at risk.
It's very humid.
And there is something bubbling.
Wow, that looks fantastic! 'The whole of this region is on a major fault line, 'and has the most active volcanoes anywhere in the world.
'Eruptions are frequent, 'albeit rarely as violent as the infamous Krakatoa, 'but even on this small island, 'there are some ominous evidences of all that subterranean activity.
' I'm going to take off my clothes.
You devil.
I'm going to go butt naked but with trunks.
Oh, my God, it's weird, look at that.
Oh, it is warm.
Oh! That's fantastic.
You actually can't get down.
You can feel it sort of pulling all around you, that's so amazing! Oh, it's great.
You also feel slightly like one of those Pompeii figures, caught in an attitude of Here comes the volcano.
Actually, it's like being weightless.
Like being an astronaut.
Can you swim? No, if I do a one-legged side Oh, I feel very slippery.
My goodness, they pull your trunks down This weight of mud.
'Muddy, but oh-so-thoroughly cleansed after our ad-hoc spa treatment, 'we head to the beach.
'But at the liminal zone between the sea and land, 'we find a curious species which has cunningly adapted to this habitat.
' Look, more mud.
Little creatures on it.
Look at these, these are mudskippers - they're fish, can you believe?What?! They actually come out of the water, and they've got fins like other fish, but they use their tails.
They curl their tails around and use them like springs and then leap.
Why? Is it food up here, or mating, or what do they do? They spend most of their time out of the water, actually.
They breed in the water, they have little tunnels they make out of mud that are underwater, and they do all of their social activities on the mud.
So in the breeding season, the males will suddenly leap up in the air and do back flips and try and impress the females, and if the female likes the look of the male, he'll then get her into his little tunnel and she'll lay eggs and he'll fertilise the eggs.
So would it be fanciful to regard these as a sort of missing link - is this how the first land animals moved from the sea to the land and became reptiles? Well, it's interesting to look at them and learn bit about how it might have happened.
They're not actually related any more than any other fish to the original animals that came out.
That happened 365 million years ago when fish started walking on land, and these are doing the same thing.
So they're interesting from that point of view.
Look at that one.
Did you see that one leap? Fantastic.
We should get into the water and wash off.
I think, frankly, let's there's the sea.
'It's hard to exaggerate the devastation that man has wrought 'on these seemingly pristine beaches 'and the wildlife that depend on them.
'One particular family of reptiles has suffered more than most - 'the sea turtles.
'For millions of years all over South East Asia, 'vast numbers of turtles 'came ashore on beaches like these to lay their eggsBut no more.
'Most of the beaches are now empty.
' 'However, a few hundred miles to the east, on Pulau Selingan, 'evidence of the turtles' nests pock mark the beach.
'Remarkably, 20 years after being born here, 'the female turtles return to exactly the same beach, 'to lay their eggs.
' The eggs are down there somewhere, and they're probably a good half a metre to 80cm underneath your feet.
'Dr Nick Pilcher has spent his career studying the turtles around these shores 'and has been actively involved, alongside Sabah National Parks, 'with a major conservation program here.
'Egg poaching, hunting for their meat and shells and 'drowning in fishing nets has led to a dramatic collapse in their numbers 'in spite of their protected status.
'To increase the remaining hatchlings' survival rate, 'which at best is less than 1% in the wild, 'Nick and the park rangers patrol the beaches 'and collect the eggs to put into a hatchery.
'Every night in the nesting season, up to a score of turtles will come ashore here to lay between 70 and 120 eggs each.
' Oh, look, you can see them, they just come one after the other! They look like table tennis balls, don't they? Oh, look, there they are Actually the ranger has to get the rest of the eggs out of this nest, there he comes.
It's extraordinary, isn't it? It's another example of how the act of conservation is almost exactly the same as the act of poaching.
That what we're doing here for good used to be done by people to take the eggs to steal them for food.
Do you want to try and reach in and grab some? So what do I do, just lean? Just put one hand down behind her flipper there.
Now you can reach in - try not to touch her tail.
Oops, got one.
Try and grab them all out before she finishes laying, so There's another one there.
It's hard.
Can I feel it?Yeah, look at that.
Oh, it's warm and heavy.
What's interesting is that you can make a little dimple in it - it's a little bit flexible, and that gives it a little bit of play when it falls into the nest.
I can't see anything through the light, I can't see a shape.
You don't get any fresher than these.
How many was that?95 total.
That's a good number.
She's starting to cover it up.
She thinks the eggs are still there, so she's going to cover this up just like it was any other nest.
She's being extremely careful about how she puts her weight down.
All the eggs are being kept in a sort of inner dome as it were, and then the looser sand will get It is more sophisticated than just filling the hole.
It is, she's building a whole shape around it.
The other thing that's interesting is she's using her front flippers, throwing sand to backfill.
Oh, we're getting showered in sand, straight in your face.
Yes, it was.
Extraordinary - there's a lot of power in those flippers.
I'm gradually disappearing.
There you go! Look at you.
So when she starts heading towards the sea, is she going towards the sound of the sea or the lights? She's actually going to follow the slope of the beach, possibly somewhat the sound of the waves.
She's going really quickly now.
Look at the speed!She can smell it.
She's so happy to be back.
Well done, mother.
Good job done.
Well done.
CLAPPING Some of the great scenes in nature - the power of maternity and the power of instinct and the fitness for purpose, all come together in the turtle - almost like no other animal.
That fitness of purpose, hundreds of millions of years.
Are there still lots of mysteries surrounding sea turtles, still a lot of unanswered questions? Absolutely.
We know what happens to them when they go into the sea, we understand a lot about this magnetic orientation and But how do they make it back? You stop and think about that and you go, "Well, who told them they should come back here?" Sure, it's natural and there's a homing instinct How is that homing instict derived, how do they even do it? That was fantastic.
That was one of the great evenings of my life.
I get to do this on a daily basis! 'The hatchery is half in shade, half in sun, 'as the slight temperature difference determines the sex 'of the animal.
2 degrees is all it takes to change a male to a female.
'If only our lives were that easy!' Actually, if the nest is quite warm, you'll get a greater number of females.
So have you got one that's due? Well, if we just wander up and down here and just see what there is, there could be some.
This one looks That one looks like it came out.
Look - here you go.
Look at this.
Do they climb out There's one hatching.
They're just about to come out.
Here you go.
Look at this.
Can I hold him?Yeah.
Oh, that's the most fantastic animal, isn't it? Literally just been born - effectively, its first sight of the world, isn't it? They're perfect.
One of the things you'll find with these animals When they're walking down the beach and they can feel something underneath them, then they've got an alternating gait.
Just on land, to run along the sand.
But the minute they go weightless - so the minute they're in the water - they'll start to swim.
Oh, wow, that's fantastic.
So he's swimming along as if he was in the water, and notice also that the head comes up for a breath, just like it would Look at that, see? The head is coming up for a breath as if it were in the water.
Oh, there are more down there.
Oh, they're all coming out now.
Once some of them start to move, that's the message for the ones underneath - "C'mon, guys, let's come out and go and see the beach.
" Swarm of them - does it say how many eggs? Well, there were 81 eggs.
That's very healthy, extremely healthy.
Let's get these guys out to the ocean rather than keep them waiting around.
Yes, please.
This is excellent.
Evening time, when hatchlings would typically be coming out.
So they'd come out just before the sun drops down, would they?Yep.
I think this is a good enough spot to let them go.
The idea is, in nature they would actually come out and run down the beach, and as they're running down, they're picking up on magnetic fields.
So they need a bit of a run-in, just to orient themselves.
To get their bearings.
Once they go through here, they'll have a much better idea of where they're headed.
So that's why we release them up here.
And we can just gently release this.
How extraordinary.
Here they go! And notice one thing - they're headed straight towards the brightest spot.
They are - straight for the sun.
That is the most incredible sight.
Look at them! Look at him! They're desperate! There's no hanging around, they're not nervous about it - straight in the sea.
Notice as soon as they float, they change their swimming pattern.
Just like a clockwork toy.
Look, there's one last one up here - look, Stephen.
Oh, yes.
Come on.
Come on, you.
Oh, no, the crab grabbed it as it went over the hole.
Rescue it! I know you're not supposed to intervene, but hey! That's it, go for it.
Good luck! Yeah! Made for the water.
Oh, that's fantastic.
I've never seen anything quite so magical in all my life.
That's one of the best wildlife things I've seen.
20-25 years from now, hopefully she'll be back laying eggs if she's a girl.
That was fantastic.
A great sight.
200 miles to the south on the border with Indonesia and the Philippines, we are to get a chance to see the adult turtles in their natural habitat.
See you in there.
Mark tells me these are some of the best coral reefs in the world, but their health is as much at risk as the turtles.
Dynamite and cyanide fishing, the pet trade and global warming are such serious threats to the reefs and all that are dependent on them, it's feared they may be extinct within 50 years.
But it's hard to imagine that now, as I gaze in wonder at the grace and beauty of the turtles in their weightless world.
Wow, that was amazing! Extraordinary.
I've never seen anything like it in all my life.
Two turtles I saw, at least.
So graceful and beautiful, those easy strokes of those amazing flippers.
I was watching them go off over the abyss, they go over the edge of the reef out to the open ocean.
We're staying on the island of Mabul, which is home to many different nationalities.
There are the Bugis, the sea gypsies that roam these waters, Malays, Filipinos, Indonesians from various ethnic groups, and all of them struggling to make a living on this crowded coral island.
Sprite? Sprite.
Terima Kasih.
Thank you.
There you go.
'For these islanders, shark fishing is a major resource, 'but one which itself is threatened with extinction.
' I don't know what species of shark it is - good size one.
Look at all the rows of teeth.
Oh, my goodness One, two, three, four, five, six You can't even count, they go right downThere's at least eight.
It's a conveyor belt, so these front teeth are in use and as they break off, which they do often, literally, the next one just pops up like that, and that works, and then there's another one ready to go, and there are others developing further back so they never run out of teeth.
Presumably it was killed for shark fin soup, is that one of the big problems? That's the big threat.
Sharks the world over are being killed by the million.
They reckon 150 million sharks are killed every year - every year - just for shark fin soup.
Things like this are a by-product.
Most of them just get caught and the fins get cut off, and they get thrown overboard, often alive, so most of the shark is wasted, and in these cases they just take the jaws, which they sell to tourists.
And there are so many of them.
'There are other endangered species nearby.
'In amongst the sea gypsy villages that flourish in these margins of sea and land trots one of the most endearing animals of all.
Good - that's the first stage complete, up to the knees.
The reason I'm wearing these today, which I didn't yesterday, is cos I've got really bad - it's quite red here - really bad sunburn from the snorkelling.
Just from lying, you know Weird.
Stephen, are you coming? Yes, sorry, just chatting to the ladies and gentlemen.
Ah Oh, dear Hello.
It'll be dark soon.
Oi, less of it.
Oh, I see.
Oh, dear, excuse me.
Ow! For goodness' sake, it's impossible.
Yeah, exactly! Ow! Have mercy on my poor flesh.
Say if it starts to hurt.
Oh, yeah, that's usually what I mean by "ow"! That was lovely, really good.
We were lucky to see one, cos they're so well camouflaged, aren't they?They really are, especially when they stretch themselves out - they become like a caterpillar.
They do.
I always think they look like bits of other animals.
They've got a monkey's tail, that prehensile tail that wraps around theGrasps the end of the blade.
Then they've got a horses head, obviously, and chameleon eyes, cos the eyes canSwivel.
In different directions.
Then the most amazing thing is they've got like a kangaroo pouch.
The males have got what's called a brood pouch and they are the ones that get pregnant.
It's very unusual - the male gives birth to the young andTo live young? Yeah, it's an extremely unusual way of reproducing.
So are seahorses in danger? Yeah, of course, there's all sorts of threats.
The main threat is traditional medicine in China.
They get dried and ground up and used as everything for medicine, from asthma to an aphrodisiac.
Thank you.
These little spratty things.
'In the markets of the archipelago, 'it's hard to persuade artisanal fishermen to limit what they catch.
'Such a seeming abundance and diversity of sea life to be eaten, 'or sold to the Chinese, belies the problem - 'a real threat to a whole range of vulnerable species.
' There's some sharks there.
Oh, yeah.
That's sad, that's the fin gone.
And they sell the rest of it, but the fin is the valuable part? That's right, the fin is what goes to make shark fin soup.
A very young one.
That's the trouble these days - most of the sharks being brought up are small, which is a sign that the big ones are already gone.
A sleepy time of the afternoon, isn't it? 'The trade in shark fins, seahorses and other unappetising sea creatures 'is thriving, in spite of the evidence that they're fast disappearing.
' Goodness me.
What an extraordinary collection of stuff.
Oh, are those Those are sea cucumbers, which they use in a soup.
Literally, millions of sea cucumbers are collected from the wild around the world.
They look like sort of ossified turds, to be honest.
Shark fins, they're all dried, ready to go.
Look, there's sea horses.
Look at that.
They're perfectly dried.
What they do with these is they put them in a cooking pot and boil them in water for 3-4 hours and then they drink the water.
Very, very popular, and millions of sea horses are traded around the world just for that.
That's a tonic, but there are several dozen different animal products that are being traded for Chinese medicine.
Things like tiger penises, rhino horns and it's such a huge volume.
When you think of 1.
5 billion people believing in this kind of medicine, demanding the products.
One of the key goals for conservation in years to come is to educate people in the far east not to buy these products.
If you can get rid of that demand then you'll start to solve the problem on the ground.
And it's not only the sea creatures that are under threat from the demands of Chinese traditional medicine.
The pangolin, or scaly anteater, that lives in the forests of South East Asia is highly sought after for its reputed health giving properties.
Many are caught, but this one is lucky.
It's going to be released by a park ranger into a protected reserve.
Can we just chat about it a little bit? I know a little cos funnily enough, we did the pangolin on QI.
It's a mammal, isn't it? People often think, "Gosh, that must be a reptile," cos I think it's the only mammal covered in scales, isn't it? Large scales.
These are made out of keratin like our fingernails, like rhino horns.
People call them sometimes walking pine cones, which I think is a great description.
That's very good.
And unfortunately, it's rather delicious flesh, isn't it? Isn't there an issue with them being stolen from the wild for the plates of Chinese restaurants and other places around the world? Yes, one of the delicacies.
And they're expensive and highly rated.
People drink the blood as well, and they reckon these keratin scales are good for things like blood circulation and swellings, and then they boil them to get the scales off and eat the meat.
He's taken his whole face out of his Isn't that fantastic? And how endangered is the pangolin? Vulnerable? Well, they are a protected species.
They are a protected species.
Well, we should let him go.
What are you going to do, just put him on the ground? Just put him on the ground here and then we will I think he's going to make a dash for it, wouldn't blame him.
Can't believe his luck.
OK, he's just smelling Oh, he's going the wrong way now.
There he goes.
There he goes! They find it hard to walk because of those big claws - of course they have to walk with the claws curled Oh, look at that.
That's where the claws come in handy as well.
Reasonably in handy! That's better.
Got the hang of it now.
That's fantastic.
Well done.
Well, that was a great success.
The pangolin faces an even greater threat than poaching.
Like so many other animals here, it's fast losing its habitat.
The main cause - the dramatic increase in palm oil plantations.
Rows and rows and rows of these palm trees.
I know.
It's scary, isn't it? It's literally as far as the eye can see.
Look, over that hill and beyond.
And these are all over South East Asia, aren't they? Yes, it's one of the big conservation issues in the world, let alone just in South East Asia, because what's happening is vast areas of tropical rainforests are being cleared and replaced with palm oil plantations like this.
And we in Europe are partly to blame because we're among the consumers.
Is it a foodstuff oil? Yeah, the palm oil is used in foodstuffs, food processing, and also in cosmetics.
And the latest thing, which is very ironic, is in bio fuels - environmentally friendly fuels.
So-called environmentally friendly.
Well, of course, the fuel itself is environmentally friendly, but the production not only destroys the rainforest, which destroys all the wildlife and so on, it also, by destroying the rainforest, releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than you save by using the bio fuels, so it's a bad thing all round.
Most of the wildlife in the forest that would have been here has gone.
'Palm oil has caused the destruction of much of Borneo's rainforest, 'but it's also the mangroves, 'those amazing trees that spend half their life in the sea, 'that are equally at risk, along with the species they nurture.
'One of the most endangered is also one of the most ridiculous looking - 'the aptly-named proboscis monkey.
'In Labuk Bay, a small area of 400 acres has been saved 'from the encroaching palm oil plantation 'by its owner Ambrose, who is dedicated to preserving 'the unique wildlife of these tidal swamp lands.
' What happens when we are here, looking at the monkeys all around, we feel that it's unfair to destroy their habitat.
No, quite.
I mean, sometimes we're thinking about this, studying all the pros and cons - in the end, we have to protect them.
So it's one little island though, with all around is palm, palm, palm, and this one part - because you have it, it's private land.
So you can do what you like with it.
Yes, it's all private property.
And you've turned it into a sanctuary for all, I mean, not just the monkeys, the proboscis and the Yes, and also we also want to protect the mangrove.
Knowing well that we need to help the mangrove.
And from this sanctuary, I think we are the leaders, we make the first move, you see? So hopefully the rest of all these big players in the plantation also follow suit.
Seeing them in profile there, you know the Indonesians used to call them "Dutch monkeys" because that was a bit of a dig at the Dutch settlers because of their big pot bellies, and of course, their big red noses.
You can see it, can't you? You can.
Also, there's something about the noise they make Reminds me of lunchtime at the Garrick Club.
"Oh, they've given him a peerage, what has he ever done? Ridiculous!" "Oh, I see from my paper that you're dead.
" "Urgh, argh.
" It's rather nice in this world, where most tropical fruit is available in the local British supermarket, to see things that aren't, and this is something I've long wanted to try.
This is the famous durian fruit, isn't it? I know, the smelly fruit that lots of airlines have banned.
Yes, you're not allowed to have it in Singapore in public transport, and in hotels there are signs with cigarettes crossed out and durian fruit crossed out.
Shall we get one, try one? I think so.
Oh, it's like an embryo.
Feels disgusting.
Oh, it's so unctuous and slippery.
Are you ready?Argh! I wish I could describe to you how disgusting that smells.
It's hot from Satan's anal ring.
Not quite that bad! You know, do you?! Tastes delicious, really sweet and Not bad at all.
As you say, the texture is not appealing particularly.
The taste is lovely.
I'll have another piece.
Terima Kasih.
As there are no direct flights from Borneo to our next destination, the Komodo islands, we need to do a spot of island hopping.
Our first waypoint is the island of Bali.
Unlike neighbouring Borneo, Bali destroyed its rainforests centuries ago, when the Hindus settled on this small island to escape the advance of Islam.
Every available piece of land was harnessed to feed the growing population, to the detriment of the forest fauna and flora.
The Balinese have remained resolutely Hindu in spite of the overwhelming dominance of Islam amongst Indonesia's 230 million people.
The mix of local deities, animism and Hindu mythology has created a dynamic ritual life for the Balinese that is seen everywhere on the island.
Though there is great respect for nature, ironically, animal, and specifically turtle sacrifices, have been a major ingredient in the ceremonies.
You can see everywhere in Bali how important Hinduism is, with all the offerings.
Everywhere you walk there are little offerings to different deities.
It shows just how hard it is to change traditions like sacrificing sea turtles.
It's been happening for time immemorial, and to actually make that change involves a lot of effort.
So instead of sacrificing turtles, what do they do? Well, some places are now using drawings or paintings of turtles.
Mock turtles? Yes!Why didn't I see that coming? No, they're using things like drawings and paintings and rice cakes in the shape of turtles - anything that represents a turtle.
Well, in a lot of religions, their history is a move from the actual to the symbolic, isn't it?Of course, yeah.
MEN SPEAK IN NATIVE TONGUE 'The evening entertainment in the temple grounds is the traditional 'shadow play, with a plot involving gods, demons, and fallible humans, 'as well as a fleeting glimpse of of a Komodo dragon.
' 'I wish we could have stayed longer, 'but our destiny lies to the east, where the real dragons await us.
Labuan Bajo is the main port on the island of Flores, and where we'll find our boat to the islands where the dragons live.
In the 20 years since Mark and Douglas came here, the five islands that make up the main Komodo habitat have become a National Park, and a popular destination for the intrepid traveller.
It's a rather nice town.
Has it changed much since you were here with Douglas? Oh, God, yes, so different - can't believe it's the same place.
But the islands are marvellous to see, aren't they? They've got that South East Asian sort of humpiness that's just very characteristic.
They're different from islands anywhere in the world.
That one there is just fantastic.
Mark "Man killed by Komodo dragons.
" I'm not making it up - look.
My goodness!"Two Komodo dragons mauled a fruit picker to death "in eastern Indonesia," police and witnesses said, yesterday.
"The latest in a string of attack on humans by the world's largest lizard species.
"! That's not good.
Well, they are incredibly dangerous animals.
I think the most scary thing is they have this amazing saliva, the saliva is dripping from their mouths they have so much of it, it's like a witch's brew of bacteria.
And what they do is, they don't like tackling the big animals and actually bringing them down, so they'll lie in ambush, and they'll leap out and bite a water buffalo, or a deer, or a horse or some huge prey animal, and then just wait for it to gradually lose strength and get weaker and weaker or die, and then it'll go and - maybe a week later - will go in for the kill.
That's the creepiest way for an animal to earn a living that I've ever heard of! That's revolting - that's lower than a dung beetle.
It's lower than an estate agent or a banker! How creepy is that? 'We hear that one of the Komodo park rangers, a man called Pak Main, was 'attacked last month while sitting 'at his desk in the rangers' office on the island of Rinca.
'He's still recuperating at home.
' I hear you had a fight with a Komodo dragon - what happened? The dragon bit my foot, the left.
After a bite here, still in my foot his mouth, so I had to step and take the right of my foot put in the body.
To stamp on him, yes.
I would like to make a break of the leg of the dragon, but he more strong and I cannot hold him.
So the dragon, throw down on the floor, try to bite anotheron the hand.
Oh, my goodness.
You have many more scars here and your hand is swollen.
And then I make like this.
I'm calling my friend.
Right, so you're shouting with blood coming out of you.
Help me, help me.
Well, this is a warning to us to be careful.
We're off!Yes, this is what we've come here for.
'The wind is fair and all is shipshape aboard the good ship Felicia, 'as we set sail for our encounter with the decidedly deadly dragons.
' 'Our first stop will be at Rinca, the second largest of the islands 'within the Komodo National Park, 'which in 1991 was designated a World Heritage Site.
'The result is that not only are the dragons protected, but so crucially, 'are the animals they feed on.
' We seem to be approaching land.
Yeah, so this is Rinca.
Seems quite a bare sort of landscape.
Rather Welsh or Scottish almost - not many trees, and scrubby grass and rocky outcrops.
What sort of animals and things does the Komodo dragon live on? Here, they're living on animals introduced by people, actually, the big things like water buffalo, horses, pigs, deerbig things.
For the past six years, zoologist Pak Deni has been studying the dragons, monitoring their movements, and examining their mating and hunting habits.
The most recent research indicates that the dragons are in fact highly venomous, so it now seems it's not just the toxic brew of bacteria in their saliva, but also the anti-coagulants in their venom which disable their prey.
So this makes them the largest venomous animal in the world.
And I'm about to meet them.
Great(!) Oh, my goodness! Look at this.
It's not, is it? They're huge! That's a really big one, isn't it? My goodness me.
How big would you say that is? This one, probably 80kg.
Are they aggressive to you?They keep an eye on us.
We have to be careful.
But this is where you live - the rangers live here.
And this is the office where - we were talking to Main yesterday - that's where he was attacked.
Yes, there's still blood remaining on the windows.
Oh, dear! And they can climb up these steps? Of course, that's why we have to be careful.
God, I thought I was ugly.
They really are not the most attractive animals, there's nothing about them that endears us as mammals to them, but I daresay they love each other in their own way.
They're so well armed - you've got those amazing claws, like tiger talons, and a really powerful tail they can knock an animal as big as a horse and a water buffalo over with, and the shark-like teeth.
He's nuzzling.
We could get some gay action going on.
How long have you studied and worked with Komodo dragons?Since 2002.
Do you - this is a strange question - do you like them? The first time, I have to be honest, it is a dangerous species and I have to be careful and I was a little bit worried, but after one year, two years, I try to love my job.
And do you now?Yes.
You do.
This is the only dragons that live in Indonesia which is my country.
I'm proud of it and it's kind of my pride.
You see all the folds of skin, that's what fascinates me.
That's partly so they can expand when they eat, cos they eat huge amounts, don't they? In one sitting they can eat almost sort of 80% of their own weight in one sitting.
They get really big, obviously, so all those extra bits of skin will stretch out like a big bag.
Do they use the tongue to smell? Yeah, it's an incredibly clever system cos it's the forked tongue and they can tell which direction the smell is coming from.
In stereo! It is, smell in stereo.
Left channel, right channel - brilliant.
It's so powerful they reckon I don't know what the latest theory is, but many kilometres away.
More than 4km.
They are as ugly as sin, but, like all animals, I suppose they're very good at being themselves.
You've got to respect that Komodo dragonness of them, it's so complete, isn't it? When their tongues come out, you can see where the Chinese dragon myth came from, cos the tongue is like fire coming out, and a couple of thousand years ago there were Chinese traders stopping off here, and that's where the "here be dragons" was written on the maps, warning people in this area that these animals were here.
There's one there looking straight at me, and it's one of the most malevolent expressions I've ever seen on any living thing.
The dragons live cheek by jowl with the rangers, but they also wander throughout the various villages or kampungs on the islands, whose inhabitants now number some 4,000.
Be interesting to know what the villagers think of living as it were in the shadow of the dragon.
Wouldn't it? We need to try and find a head man, or mayor, I don't know what you'd call the person in charge of the village here.
The kampung commandant.
Do you think?Yeah.
A local legend recounts how once upon a time, the Komodo was a human's twin, which may explain something of their mutual tolerance.
Goodness me, lovely, aren't they? But last year, on the largest kampung on Komodo, a child was eaten by a dragon, so we want to find out how the villagers' attitude to these dangerous predators has changed.
Could you ask him if the villagers are always aware, always conscious of the fact that they have these dangerous dragons close to them? HE SPEAKS NATIVE TONGUE Before the kids died, it just live in harmony.
But right after the kids die one year ago, the peoples here a little bit careful, they teach the little ones not enter the forest again.
And do they like the fact that tourists come to see the dragon, is that a good thing, are they welcomed here? HE SPEAKS NATIVE TONGUE Oh, it's happy, they're happy with the tourists, they get incomes from the tourists.
'I detect a certain insouciance towards the dragons, 'but maybe it's because there's simply no alternative.
'And maybe to them, killing the dragon would be tantamount to fratricide.
'We leave the village to sail to the far side of Rinca, 'where Deni has a research project to continue.
'As we pass the mangrove forests that adorn the islands like 'emerald necklaces, Mark is keen to show me how crucial they are to the health of the entire archipelago.
' Wow, isn't that incredible?! Fantastic, isn't it? I mean, it sounds a silly thing to say,but this is trees growing in the sea! I know, I always think of them as botanical amphibians.
They've sort of got one foot on the land and one foot in the sea - it's the most extraordinary habitat.
Aside from everything else it's just so beautiful, this kind of wonderful bushy margin to the islands.
Oh, I love it, it's great.
They're marvellous and they're multifunctional - are they in any way endangered? Of course, as most things are.
No, they are, there's coastal developments of all sorts from golf courses to hotels.
They're destroying mangroves and reclaiming the land.
Shrimp farming is one of the main threats, and the other problem is once you've destroyed a habitat, all the other wildlife goes and, you know, we've just seen not just the fish, there are barnacles and oysters and crabs and there are snakes living in here and all sort of birds, so they'd go as well.
Thanks for telling me! As the fruit bats leave these floating forests, I marvel at the extraordinary and complex evolutionary forces that have made these island habitats so utterly bewitching.
Next morning, the Rinca dragons are blithely unaware of Deni and the rangers' plan.
The idea is to trap some of the dragons and tag them with a radio collar so their movements can be tracked over the islands.
By doing this, they will have for the first time an accurate census, which will be vital in monitoring their survival.
But snagging a drooling, venomous lizard is no easy matter Or is it? So have we got one? We've got one, it's pretty big.
Wow, that's a big trap.
Oh, there he is.
Gosh, he's a big one.
Good grief.
So what's the plan then, what do we do? We will try to measure them, we will tie them up and then So you kind of hog-tie them and then attach some device A GPS device? Radio telemetry.
Right, radio telemetry.
Shall we try?You can try.
You can feel it, can't you? It's being hog-tied.
It's like a chicken when you Measurement's beginning now.
Head width 14.
Follow the line of the tail.
Two and 2/3 metres - wow! What's the next stage? The next stage is to attach the transmitter.
We'll see, it's probably thick enough.
That's working.
So this is fine tune.
OK, keep the leg like this, even though it's already released.
It's a tough animal.
And then we release them in the three count like that.
One, two, three and then everybody just go! Right, OK, ready.
Wait a second, we've just got rope on the Just undoing the tape around the Just undoing the tape on the snout.
Got it.
I count one, two, three.
So we can start to track them.
You don't really need the radio ID when you can see it, but nonetheless.
No, we're checking it's working!No, I know, exactly.
RADIO BEEPS All good, yeah, great.
Well, he looks none the worse for wear, does he? No, he's still interested in staying around here, I thought he'd want to vamoose.
They look so lethargic, and you do have to remember they can whip around in a split second.
Oh, my goodness, we're sort of surrounded, aren't we? Yeah, there's that one we've just released.
One, two Another one there.
This might be an appropriate moment to adjourn our little dragon meeting.
What do you think? Another way of putting it is shall we get the arse out of here? 'We sneak off the island to the safety of our boat and leave 'Deni and the rangers to continue their work.
'Deni estimates that the dragon population has remained 'pretty level over the past 20 years but, worryingly, some 'estimates suggest there may be very few breeding females.
'However, the Komodos have a little trick up their tail.
' What's interesting is, if this was a female and she was out at sea and got washed by currents or riptides or something and landed on another island, she could actually develop eggs and give birth to young Komodo dragons without a male being anywhere near.
They don't have to have the eggs fertilised, it's called parthenogenesis.
Virgin birth in Greek.
So they could in theory colonise another island with just one female.
For the foreseeable future, the Komodos shouldn't need to use their virgin birthing.
The creation of the National Park has certainly protected them and their habitat and in the process all the other species, especially those denizens that straddle thesea and land they have also been helped.
Barring some catastrophe - be it fire, flood or plague - with vigilant monitoring, the dragons should survive for years to come in their own small corner of this beautiful archipelago.
'Never let it be said that I'm less than willing to seek out endangered 'species, but when Mark said that he wanted me to travel with him 'to the other side of the world in search of a fat, flightless parrot, 'I knew I was with a man pursuing a very personal and peculiar passion.