Night on Earth (2020) s01e01 Episode Script

Moonlit Plains

1 Darkness brings danger.
And on the Earth’s most exposed plains there’s nowhere to hide.
Using new technology, we can see into the blackness.
To discover a hidden side to the world's great deserts and grasslands.
Nocturnal worlds full of fear and wonder.
Where life and death is governed by the light of the moon.
Cheetahs are known as solitary, daytime hunters.
Sunset was thought to signal the end of their activity.
But this gang of cheetahs are just getting started.
What they do after dark has never been filmed.
Until now.
The full moon.
Just enough light for ultra-sensitive cameras to reveal the African savanna as if it's day.
These five males are heading out on night patrol.
Only the stars in the sky and the lights of Maasai villages show that it’s night.
Together, they can better defend their territory.
And take on larger prey.
With five mouths to feed they're driven to hunt deep into the night.
This is the gang's most accomplished hunter.
He can sprint at over 100 kilometers an hour.
But he needs light to see his prey.
The bright nights around the full moon are his best chance.
His speed is explosive.
But only over short distances.
He must get close.
The light of the full moon helps cheetahs hunt.
But it also exposes them.
Most hunts end in failure.
They must keep trying.
Few people believed that cheetahs could hunt after dark.
Now there's no question.
Darkness brings opportunity.
But it also brings danger.
Seven times heavier than a cheetah, and with vision six times more sensitive than our own, lions are the kings of the night.
They can kill a cheetah.
But they have to catch them first.
The cheetahs’ nocturnal success depends on the moon.
Hunting won't be this good again for weeks.
There are only a few bright nights every month.
Full moonlight is 400,000 times dimmer than the sun.
But still enough to see by.
Over 14 nights, its brightness fades.
Until the new moon, when nights can be 1,000 times darker.
On the open plains, each night brings a different challenge.
The African savanna is getting darker.
A heat-detecting thermal camera can see into the blackest of nights.
And reveals what’s hiding in the darkness.
A lioness and her 13-strong pride are on the hunt.
A reflective layer in their eyes amplifies what little light there is.
Ninety percent of lion kills happen at night.
But this pride is still struggling.
Over half of them are youngsters.
Hungry and inexperienced.
Darkening nights should make things a little easier.
But picking the right target takes experience.
There are lots of options.
Hippos keep cool in water during the heat of the day, only coming out to graze at night.
It is thought that their night vision is not much better than ours, so it's hard for them to see danger coming.
But these thick-skinned, one-ton tanks are more than these youngsters can handle.
Something smaller, perhaps.
A porcupine with two babies.
A painful lesson.
Never underestimate a protective mother.
This young pride’s survival depends on its lead lioness.
With experience on her side, she's their best hope of making a kill.
As the moon continues to wane, she must make the most of the blackest nights.
It's not only animals that are influenced by the moon.
It gets so hot in the scorching Mexican desert many cacti only bloom at night.
It's much cooler, but there are no birds or bees to spread their pollen.
Cacti need special nighttime assistance.
As the flowers open, their sweet fragrance and moonlight-reflecting petals act as a beacon.
Through sight, smell and echolocation, Mexican long-tongued bats hone in on the flowers.
And with tongues almost the length of their bodies, they lap the sugary nectar deep within.
These tiny bats migrate hundreds of kilometers each year, following the opening blooms.
And as they do so, they help the cacti reproduce.
Carrying pollen from flower to flower as they fly.
This partnership is fundamental to life here in the Sonoran Desert.
Towering cacti provide food and shelter.
Helping to make this the most biodiverse desert on Earth.
But despite the vast variety of life here, it isn't an easy place to live.
The scorching sun means many desert animals only come out at night.
Ultraviolet light reveals hidden hunters.
A giant hairy scorpion.
Why scorpions glow under ultraviolet light is still a mystery.
A tiny grasshopper mouse might want to steer clear.
Locked in a mating embrace, this pair is focused on each other.
The female is testing the male's strength.
She's not impressed.
Many animals try to avoid venomous scorpions but not this little rodent.
He's a scorpion eating specialist.
His body can block the pain from even the most lethal scorpion toxins.
Sting disarmed scorpion dispatched he claims his territory.
His cry carries over a hundred meters in the still night air.
Intruders beware.
With the break of dawn, temperatures soar.
In the arid Peruvian desert, there’s no escaping the relentless heat.
But where the desert meets the cool Pacific there is life.
And life isn't easy for a fur seal pup.
Up to a third will die before they are a month old.
She must fend for herself while her mother is fishing.
Nightfall may bring relief from the heat, but after dark, new threats emerge.
No one has recorded what happens on this beach after sunset before tonight.
The waning moon means there's little light.
It's dangerous to sleep in the dark.
The pups' eyes work best underwater.
On land and at night, her sight is worse than ours.
It's hard to see the demons that haunt her.
Vampire bats are most active on the darkest nights.
Seeking blood in the blackness.
A young pup is an ideal victim.
But with so many protective mothers around, and the pups on high alert, it's hard to sneak in unnoticed.
Vampires are not the only threat.
Sea lions live here too.
They may be closely related to fur seals, but they’re seven times the size.
This bull sea lion hasn’t grown this big on a diet of fish alone.
He has a taste for meat.
The cliffs offer some safety.
But she's left behind.
The small pup is more agile over the rocks.
But up here, there are fewer adults to protect her.
The bats use heat sensors around their noses to choose the target.
Thermal cameras reveal what they can sense warm blood in the pup's flipper.
Each bat can drink its body weight in blood every night.
At last, the pup hears a familiar call.
The welcome relief of her mother’s comfort and much-needed milk.
On the African savanna, the moon is almost at its darkest.
The waning light is a hunter's ally.
Wildebeest dare not sleep.
They rely on excellent hearing to sense danger.
But with poor night vision it's all too easy to miss their enemy's approach.
This may be the lioness’s best chance.
Rather than risk the cubs blowing her cover, she's hunting alone.
With so many animals on high alert, it’s still hard to set an ambush.
But the night is young.
Time to feed her family.
But the sound of the hunt travels far through the cool night air.
Hyenas can eavesdrop on lions from over ten kilometers away.
A solitary hyena is no match for a lion.
But a 30-strong clan can overpower a pride.
The new moon doesn't last long.
Soon, the lioness will lose the advantages brought by its dark nights.
During the blackness of the new moon, distant galaxies light up the night sky.
But down on the ground, it's so dark it takes super senses to survive.
This white lady huntsman spider is looking for a mate.
But it’s hard to navigate the vast, featureless dunes in the dark.
Starlight is over 200 times fainter than the moon.
So dim, we are virtually blind.
But the huntsman has a remarkable skill.
Standing completely still, he soaks up the scene with his eight eyes.
He creates a map of the horizon bright stars and constellations to find his way with pinpoint accuracy.
Just as well.
He may travel 400 meters to find a mate.
A long way when you're only three centimeters long.
Finally, another white lady huntsman, but not one he was looking for.
It’s a rival male.
He drums a warning that resonates through the sand.
It's not enough.
He's forced to retreat.
At least he won't get lost on his way home.
When attracting a mate in the dark, sound is often the best option.
This bachelor gecko won’t risk leaving home after dark.
Danger lurks in the shadows.
His tongue helps him detect predators nearby.
Far safer to lure a female to him.
But he needs to sound impressive.
To help get his message across, his funnel-shaped den acts as an amplifier.
Broadcasting his voice over 200 meters.
Other males are at it too.
A female.
The longer she's out in the open the higher the risk.
She has excellent hearing.
And high standards.
There’s something special in his call.
This time, his serenade has won him a mate.
On the darkest of nights, Namibia’s dunes are a treacherous place.
Danger comes from all angles.
A rarely-seen assassin operating in the pitch black.
Sometimes called the "shark of the dunes.
" In fact, she's a desert golden mole.
Her looks are as strange as her lifestyle.
Eyes covered with skin and fur render her totally blind.
But special bones in her ears register minute vibrations in the sand.
Even the pitter-patter of termite feet.
This undercover way of life also helps her hide from other predators.
But not all.
It’s so dark on the new moon that even a barn owl’s incredible night vision is not enough.
Instead it relies on its hearing.
Pinpointing the source of a sound with deadly accuracy.
As the moon gets brighter, super senses become less potent.
Predators lose their nighttime advantage and prey can better see the dangers in the dark.
Ultra light-sensitive cameras reveal a rare oasis.
Only the largest dare visit such an exposed place after dark.
Many have traveled for miles.
Signs of rain are on the horizon.
But until it arrives, this is one of the few places elephants can quench their thirst.
They can drink almost a bathtub full of water in five minutes.
There are other giants here too.
Black rhinos.
They're mostly solitary by day.
And extremely rare.
At night, water brings them together.
They aren't entirely comfortable with each other's company.
But using a surprisingly gentle language, they get along.
Only mothers and calves maintain close, long-term bonds.
But here, distant relatives and total strangers drink and bathe under the stars.
Together, they make an intimidating crowd who don’t like being disturbed.
Black rhino populations are slowly increasing.
If more places like this can be protected, perhaps that will continue.
The end of the monthly lunar cycle.
It's a full moon again.
Lighter conditions make hunting harder for the lioness.
And her cubs seem no closer to making a kill.
But even under a full moon, fortunes can turn quickly.
Gathering clouds plunge the savanna back into darkness.
This is the lions’ chance.
Thermal imaging reveals a remarkable strategy.
The lioness separates herself from the disorderly pride.
And carefully positions herself on the far side of the herd.
The chaos created by the novice pride becomes her advantage.
The cubs cause a stampede.
Straight toward her.
Finally the family can feast.
With the return of the full moon the cheetahs have killed too.
It’s now been proven that one third of cheetah hunts occur after dark.
Like so many animals, their fortunes are inextricably linked to the phases of the moon.
As we explore the world at night, even the most iconic animals and landscapes are revealing themselves in a completely new light.
Who knows what other secrets there are to uncover during a night on earth?
Previous EpisodeNext Episode