Magical Land of Oz (2019) s01e03 Episode Script


Cast adrift in the far reaches of the Southern hemisphere lies a continent separated from all other lands for 45 million years.
Evolving in isolation, nature has created a unique world of wonders Spiders that dance, birds that spread fire, where bouncing beats walk and youngsters are carried in pouches.
It's a world where animals have had to adapt to surprisingly diverse landscapes and to thrive in its vibrant seas, even making their homes amongst the growing concrete jungle.
In this episode, we explore how human expansion is impacting the lives of Australia's wildlife, and we discover what it takes to survive in the changing landscapes of a magical land of oz.
Humans have walked on the continent of Australia for 60,000 years.
Though they have worked the land and hunted its animals, generations of indigenous Australians have left only subtle marks on the landscape.
They tread lightly on the earth's surface.
It is new waves of migration in the last two centuries that have introduced radical transformations and a very different future for the continent's wildlife, yet some creatures are coping surprisingly well with this change, even in human hotspots.
Melbourne Australia's second largest city, pulsating with nearly 5 million people And tens of thousands of brushtail possums.
These tree-dwelling creatures are members of the marsupial family.
Like kangaroos, they carry and suckle their young in pouches.
Living alongside humans has helped their numbers increase, but they live a very different life to their country cousins.
Food is abundant But trees are not.
In the bush, each possum would be living a solitary life, but in this park, every tree must be shared with many others.
In such an intense environment, squabbles inevitably break out between neighbors.
City life may be stressful, but it's conducive to making babies.
This mother has enough food to breed continuously and will be pregnant almost her entire adult life, meaning she may have twice as many offspring as her counterparts in the wild.
At just 6 months, her eldest must make space for his younger siblings.
In the wild, he would enjoy her comforts for a whole year.
He has no option but to find his own way in the world, But with the park's few trees so heavily defended, he can't find a safe place to rest.
Like many young possums born in this park, he must take a huge risk.
He heads into the human chaos in search of a new place to call home.
Domestic cats, the possum's main urban predator, are an ever-present threat to be avoided at all costs.
A shed roof presents an opportunity.
It's the ultimate jackpot for a homeless possum A sanctuary without competition And this one comes with a bonus A friendly human face.
Urban possums now live a different, often treeless life, but they have adapted to cope and may even prefer human dens to natural ones.
A corner of a suburban garden offers refuge for Australia's smaller native creatures to make their magic.
One flamboyant resident has some unique attributes that help it overcome the problems created by humans.
This male peacock spider is the size of a grain of rice.
He's perfectly at home in a lawn that resembles his natural grassland.
He has superb eyesight Which helps in his search for a mate And there she is A female peacock spider.
To invite her to mate, he will produce a series of vibrations known scientifically as rumble-rumps.
Sensing his movements through her legs, the female demands a suitor who can produce soothing, even vibrations.
Anything muddled or intermittent is unacceptable But the pandemonium created by humans can make sensing vibrations very difficult.
Fortunately, he has another tactic he can employ to divert her attention from all else in the garden.
Eyes locked, the enchantment begins.
She appraises the dance in all its colorful splendor as his routine becomes increasingly vigorous But her head is easily turned.
A rival suitor muscles in to try his luck.
She strikes in less than a tenth of a second and injects a lethal dose of venom into his brain.
The rival is now not a mate, but a meal.
Undeterred, our suitor once more steps into the line of fire.
He must mesmerize Or die.
At touching distance, he gears up for the final flourish.
Just one mistake now will cost him his life.
While his front legs rotate her abdomen into position, he gathers his sperm and passes it into her reproductive organs.
So simple quirks of nature allow him to thrive in this suburban environment.
He can either tap dance or use his dazzling good looks to overcome disturbance from his noisy neighbors.
There are over 50 different species of peacock spider, each dancing their own routine, many in the gardens and green spaces of Australia's cities.
After all, a suburban garden is not all that different to Savannah when you're just 0.
2 inches long.
Creatures that can be flexible tend to do better in the city, but adaptability only takes you so far.
Sometimes you simply have to change with your environment.
A thousand miles north, the cold-blooded inhabitants of Brisbane are demonstrating evolution in overdrive.
Dotted between the freeways and skyscrapers, there are some green oases.
These city parks are home to eastern water dragons.
For this young buck, it's the only world he's ever known.
He shares it with many other dragons and human visitors who enjoy the parks' offer of close encounters with not-so-shy reptiles.
I have one like that, and it looks just like a plate.
he is, in effect, marooned on an island, living in an entirely man-made ecosystem.
Almost everything about it is different from the natural world, from its size and surfaces to its prey and predators.
This dragon population is evolving to survive in this new world right before our eyes.
In a timescale of little more than 150 years, they have become metropolitan dragons Not just living a different lifestyle, but now genetically distinct from their wild cousins.
His ancestors were here long before the city developed around them, yet in many ways, this modern dragon generation has things easier Like staff who do the digging for them A bee-flavored fun park And water features A fair replacement for their natural creek habitat.
It seems a charmed life.
With abundant food and few natural predators, the city's park populations have soared.
This male lives amongst the highest density of water dragons on the planet, so good communication is essential to maintain social Harmony.
A raised arm, a tail slap, a tilt of the head are all ways of communicating the pecking order.
Now coming of age with his chest turning a deep red, he will start to assert his dominance But it's hard to get ahead in a city of strong males.
The current ruler is intolerant of young upstarts, so the young buck's presence is not welcome.
The spectacle attracts attention.
Can he overthrow the leader? Unable to outmaneuver his opponent, he soon surrenders and is banished But in this world, you find friends in strange places.
At least the gardeners are sympathetic.
Brisbane's parks have proved to be a pressure cooker for evolution, forcing dramatic physical change.
The water dragons have grown to twice the size of their wild cousins, and without their usual trees to climb, limbs are getting longer and claws less defined.
Their behavior has altered, too.
In the wild, water dragons are timid towards people, but in Brisbane, they refuse to even move for humans.
These dashing dragons are Australia's most surprising example of rapid evolution, driven almost entirely by the changing environment But it's not just the native species that have taken advantage of this new environment.
900 miles south along the coast is Sydney, Australia's most populous city Many of them sun worshippers.
As night falls, the beach crowd disperses.
The stage is set for the next shift of beachgoers The red fox, now one of Australia's most common predators.
This beach is her home, and every night is hers to enjoy.
Foxes are not native to Australia.
They were imported from england in the mid 1800s for sport hunting.
Their resourcefulness and lack of competition has seen them spread right across the continent.
For this fox, it seems a carefree life, one shared with a playful sibling.
They may look charming, but they have contributed to the extinction of numerous native species, unprepared for such an efficient hunter.
It's estimated there are now close to 7 million foxes in Australia.
In Sydney, there's an average of 25 every square mile.
Around midnight, the siblings split up and head out for their nightly rounds.
Hunting or scavenging, they enjoy a varied diet, much of it generous offerings left by humans.
The female has a 3-mile range.
It extends from the beach into neighboring residential streets.
She'll visit all the spots she knows might yield rewards.
Whilst most residents sleep, the town is hers.
Her hearing is so acute, she can detect snoring several houses away.
Moving silently, she will even steal from her canine cousins.
With her belly full, she returns to the beach for one last happy reunion before the sun rises.
Their night is rubbed out And the beach belongs to humans once more.
Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world Yet it's also one of the most sparsely populated.
Only 10% of its 3 million square miles is considered habitable, but the reach of humans can still be felt in its most remote regions.
In the deserts of western Australia, where temperatures reach over 120 degrees fahrenheit and mining operations continue round the clock, another of Australia's top predators is drawn from the desert plains towards the lights, sounds, and the smells of human industry Australia's native dingo.
Amid the noise and machinery, several dingo packs eke out an existence.
This Alpha pair and their offspring lay claim to a shale heap which overlooks the mine site.
In a man-made mechanized oasis, they enjoy the luxuries of water and shade Both in short supply on the plains beyond But luxury comes at a cost.
Danger is everywhere.
The adults head out to forage before the heat of the day becomes too intense, leaving the youngsters behind.
They follow the reliable tracks across the mine.
The offerings are meager, and they will take what they can get, traveling up to 12 miles a day in search of food.
The pack leader surveys the desert as his ancestors have done for thousands of years.
The isolation of this great desert has protected him from breeding with domestic dogs, so he is father to some of the continent's last, precious, purebred dingoes.
As the day heats up, the family members who have stayed behind stick close to their water hole, watched over by a patient, older sibling.
This is the hottest part of the country, and it could be months before rain falls again.
The wastewater from the mine creates an oasis for all desert creatures, providing new foraging opportunities for the family.
The young dingoes dine on worms and forage for scraps No feast, perhaps, but vital protein in the desert.
The pack expend energy, knowing that when they overheat, there's plenty of water in which to cool off But one pup is a little too adventurous.
The thick, plastic lining offers no grip.
Fortunately, an older sibling provides a clue to an escape route.
Lesson learnt.
The mine is a hive of activity 24 hours a day.
It may not seem like an obvious place to raise a family, but amid the debris, the newest generation emerges from their makeshift den.
Dingoes normally make a home of rabbit holes, caves, or hollow logs, but here, they have man-made structures.
They offer reasonable protection from the trucks rumbling past.
These pups are being guarded by an older sister while their parents hunt But they're getting hungry, impatient for mum to return.
The desert day trippers are on their way back to the rest of the pack And their family members are on the lookout for them.
The reunion at the end of the day is an important part of pack life, reinforcing family bonds.
These animals have learned to live amid the infrastructure pounding around them and use it to their advantage.
Dingoes have a much better chance of survival here than in the arid plains.
It's no picture book, perhaps, but for these dingoes, it's as comfortable as life will get in this desert environment.
Most man-made structures do not benefit Australia's wildlife.
Instead they add to the perils animals confront in these harsh landscapes Like the networks of supply lines ferrying the desert's offerings to cities and ports.
With little warning, storms sweep hundreds of miles inland from the sea, bringing flooding rains to the great northern highway that crosses western Australia, triggering unexpected events Like blooms of fish in the desert's heart.
Yellowtail grunters wait out the dry season in small, ever-decreasing pools.
With these occasional flash floods comes an opportunity to disperse If they can cross the road.
Nobody knows what motivates them to make this perilous journey or where their destination lies.
Crossing this road will take courage in the face of hovering predators.
Terns, which have flown to this desert from as far as Siberia, are welcomed with an easy meal.
They feast for hours as the offerings just keep on coming Only stopping for the trucks to power through, sluicing the grunters back to where they started.
What chance for a little fish? Every now and then, a grunter defies the odds Joining a slippery battalion who made it through One step closer to their mystery destination.
Australia's wildlife has evolved to deal with erratic weather patterns, but now the climate itself is changing more dramatically here than in many other parts of the world, and animals are struggling to cope.
In the farmlands of new south wales, summers are getting tougher, hot days more frequent, droughts longer.
This region is home to a species identified as being one of the world's most threatened by climate change.
In a eucalyptus tree, one of Australia's most iconic marsupials lays her body against the cool of a branch.
The tree's trunk is 5 degrees lower than the air temperature and will keep her from overheating.
The koala is reliant on the eucalypts for all they need to survive.
Its tough, waxy leaves, toxic to most animals, provide her only source of food.
The eucalypt even hydrates this super specialist, giving her no reason to leave the safety of this tree Or so it was thought.
Farmer Rob frend has lived on this land for over 70 years.
Today, as he surveys his paddocks, he finds a lifeless body at the base of a seemingly healthy tree.
In the last major heat wave, 25% of the region's koala population died.
Locals report koalas drinking at puddles, pools, taps, and cattle troughs.
Rob believes the no-drink koala is dying of thirst.
As the climate changes and temperatures increase, it seems that the chemical content of eucalyptus leaves is changing, too, losing its ability to hydrate these finely tuned marsupials.
Rob can't bear to see them go, and he is motivated to try something on his own farm, at least.
He fits a drinking trough to a tree on his property.
He then positions an infrared camera alongside.
Rob will monitor his watering hole to find out if his resident koalas need more than their trees can now supply But when the cameras spring into action, it's not koalas they capture.
Parrots, butcher, and miner birds fight for space.
Bees, too, come to quench their thirst.
After nightfall, nocturnal drinkers are no less varied.
Tree frogs get there first, followed by possums, and tiny sugar gliders Then, at last, a koala Drinking deeply, quenching his thirst, something the eucalypt seems no longer able to do in times of drought.
Over days, Rob captures koalas drinking time and time again.
Sometimes they sip for hours.
They are thirsty koalas.
On Rob's land, there are tiny signs of renewal.
While one farmer can give koalas a fighting chance, he can't save the species alone.
The very trees they need to survive are also being lost.
In the 200 years since European colonization, 40% of Australia's forests have been cleared, and, despite all that is known about the critical importance of old-growth trees, land clearance shows no signs of abating.
Australia's wildlife is facing a perfect storm of challenges to its survival.
At current rates, koalas in new south wales are on course for extinction by 2050.
To turn the koala story around, it will require a national recovery plan, one that recognizes as a priority the value of a single, incomparable species, but Australia is capable of such a thing.
In another part of the country, people have been dramatically changing their lives to accommodate their animal neighbors.
This is Phillip island on Victoria's Southern coast.
The island's shores tumble into bass strait, where the aptly named little penguin, the world's smallest, spends 80% of its time.
Despite being only 10 inches, it can swim rapidly, eating 25% of its body weight in fish in a day.
When they hit the shore, they are a little less graceful, and yet these tough, little birds have for thousands of years battled the rocks here to reach their breeding grounds.
It's only in the past 100 years that their journey has been lit by more than stars.
Human development on the island has turned their remote home into a baffling and dangerous puzzle.
The population looked set for extinction until a bold decision was made to make this a penguin housing estate at the cost of the human one.
This hill above summerland beach is where penguins have long dug their nests.
Given a chance, little penguins are excellent breeders.
A mating pair share all chick-raising responsibilities.
Females lay two eggs at a time and can have two clutches a year if fishing is good and they're protected while nesting.
The population is now booming due to pioneering conservation efforts.
Over the past 25 years, human residents have been moved out to make way for the penguins.
180 holiday homes have been removed And with them go the cars, the lights, the people, and dogs that collectively took this penguin colony to the edge of extinction.
The sight and sound of penguins dominates the landscape once again.
The little penguin population on Phillip island has tripled since the 1980s But humans aren't quite out of the picture.
In fact, they're now being invited back as paying customers.
The tourist trade funds the conservation effort.
With 700,000 carefully controlled visitors a year, humans might outnumber penguins, but the tables are turned.
Finally, people are here on nature's terms.
The little penguins on Phillip island are a conservation success story, an example of how species can be protected.
In all corners of Australia, wildlife is feeling the impact of a modern, human-dominated world.
Many creatures are now forced to live a different, metropolitan life Where towering buildings have encircled them, even changing the course of their evolution.
While some have taken advantage of change, too many are disappearing to make way for human expansion.
Australia has one of the highest rates of extinction in the world.
The human population must learn to value their country's natural treasures For only with its extraordinary wildlife can Australia remain truly magical.
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