Planet Earth III (2023) s01e07 Episode Script


Sauraha, Nepal.
This rhino is not lost.
He is on his way to find food.
To get it, he must travel through
a new and alien world.
This rhino in his lifetime
has seen more changes than
any of his previous generations.
Across the globe,
animals of all kinds
are now contending
with one newly dominant
Like so many wild creatures,
he's had to learn
how to live in the human world.
Some animals
have changed their behaviour
to make the most
out of living amongst us.
These long-tailed macaques
live in Bali.
They have developed
new interests
brought by human visitors.
Every morning,
the troop heads for a building
in the centre
of their territory.
Uluwatu Temple.
Tourists come here every day -
in crowds.
So the temple grounds
are full of opportunities
..if you know where to look.
There is a constant supply
of hats
..and sunglasses.
And if you've mastered
the element of surprise's easy to get them.
But this harvest
is not for eating.
It's for bargaining.
Seems like a fair trade.
But there are greater rewards
to be had
for those who know
how to get them.
And this old male
appears to be doing
..very well.
He and the other elders
in this troop
have both experience
and knowledge.
They've been working the temple
for over ten years,
and now concentrate
on the big stuff
..things that human beings
just can't do without.
No-one wants to walk home
with just one shoe.
And these old boys can't wait
to get their hands
on the latest tech.
They've worked out
that we simply can't survive
without our phones
..or our wallets.
The older males understand
something the youngsters
have yet to learn
..the art of the deal.
A banana?
How dare you!
A bar of chocolate?
That's better.
The real skill
is in the negotiations.
The macaques are playing us
at our own game.
They demand
..whatever they want.
Humanity has spread
to every corner of the globe.
We have become
a force of nature.
We have altered
80% of the land's surface.
Eight billion people
now live on this planet
..and we are changing
the world around us
at such speed
..that, for animals,
the challenge is to keep up.
New York City.
This particular species
is thought to have arrived here
with the first European settlers.
They are now known as pavement ants
because they live almost exclusively
in our towns and cities.
And they're thriving
because of junk food.
And here on Broadway Avenue,
there's a lot of it.
This is what every pavement ant
And to get it
..the ants use
the city's thousands of miles
of underground tunnels.
This scout is closing in
on its target.
But the animals with which
they share the pavement
are 40 million times
their weight it's best
to stay in the cracks.
A meat mountain.
This is too big a job
for just one ant.
This worker is female,
as they are
in all ant colonies,
and she leaves a trail of pheromones
to mark a path.
She communicates
with every sister she meets
as she returns to the nest,
and news on the street
spreads fast.
This ultra-processed meat
is very different
from their original food.
But their digestive system
is the key to their success.
It's able to keep up
with the way
humans constantly change
their diet.
Nowadays, the vast majority
of what they eat
comes from human food.
On Broadway alone,
pavement ants
eat the equivalent
of a staggering 60,000 hot dogs
every year.
The calories
in a single hot dog
could fuel the growth
of the entire ant colony
for a month
..if only they can get it
back to the nest.
But this slow work
makes them vulnerable.
They aren't the only ones
partial to fast food.
It's a race
to get their prize home.
There may be losses
..but the colony as a whole
will now thrive.
In fact, pavement ants
are so successful here
that they outnumber
human New Yorkers 1,000 to 1.
But success in the human world
can be harder to achieve
if your reputation precedes you.
Here in India,
this cobra is heading directly
for a village.
It has detected
the scent of prey.
Nearly two metres long,
it has enough venom
in a single bite
to kill ten people.
Snake bites are responsible
for nearly 60,000 deaths a year
in India alone.
They travel so silently
that their presence
is often undetected.
And when they are hunting
..there is no place
they won't go.
A toad.
Each tip of its forked tongue
collects chemical signals
from the prey
and helps to reveal
its position.
But up close
..the snake relies on movement
to precisely locate its prey.
The toad must pick its moment
to escape.
Every time
it touches the ground
..the toad leaves behind a scent.
It can hide
..but the trail
will lead the snake to it.
These cobras
don't just hunt here.
They live here.
They have found a home where
the Hindu villagers revere them
and consider them
to be demigods.
Remarkably, scientists believe
that this tolerance
has led to a change
in the snakes' behaviour.
They move more slowly
and are less likely
to strike if disturbed.
One of the most feared animals
on the planet
has found a place
where they are accepted
and can coexist
with human beings.
But for many animals
living in the human world,
it pays to keep a low profile.
Here in Melbourne, Australia,
one creature has perfected
the art of camouflage.
A frogmouth chick.
Its father helps to hide it
during the day.
They are nocturnal birds,
and as day turns to night,
its parents come out
of the shadows
to reap the rewards
of urban living.
The city lights create
excellent conditions
for hunting.
Every night in the city
is as bright
as when there is a full moon.
So city frogmouths often
..have their mouths full.
He's growing fast, and today
he just won't sit still.
And now he has revealed
his presence.
The first rule
of frogmouth behaviour is
don't move in the day.
But this is the one time
in a frogmouth's life
when the urge to fly
simply cannot be suppressed.
But he's not ready
to leave home just yet.
Come night-time
..he's hungry again.
He is wide awake
..and wants to take off
where he left off.
But he's getting
unwanted attention,
and this time his parent
is not nearby to protect him.
Humans bring pets,
and cats in Australia
kill a million birds a day.
His first proper flight.
But unless he can find
a safe place to roost,
he is still in peril.
Made it.
But if he is to survive
in the city, like the adults,
he'll have to learn
how to blend in.
Some animals are so bold
that they don't even
try to hide.
To see a large predator in the
built-up world is a rare sight.
And here in Lake Tahoe,
in North America,
these black bears
are particularly big
..and they're heading
right to the centre of town.
Winter is approaching,
and these bears need to put on
as much weight as possible
before the snow arrives.
This is a great place to gorge.
It's now bear country.
Why struggle for a meal
..when you can cross the street
..for a takeaway?
There's so much food here
that some of the bears
are 50% heavier
than their country cousins.
But why stop here?
Some bears
just want to dine in.
A lucky few are able to get
an easy meal from the human world.
But when WE venture to the natural
world in search of food
..the harvest
is on a different scale.
In just four decades,
fishing reduced
fish populations by half
..and created great problems
for the ocean predators
that once had such food
to themselves.
Off the coast
of Vancouver Island,
humpback whales inhabit waters
where herring
have been overfished.
Humpbacks, however, are
renowned for their ingenuity.
12 years ago, an adult male
called Conger
adopted a totally new way
of feeding.
When the density of fish
in the water is low,
and birds are diving
to catch them
..the humpback opens its mouth
and creates a space that
the fish mistake for shelter.
The fish swim in
..and the trap is closed.
Conger was the first humpback
whale to be seen doing this.
Now 30 whales in the area
use this same technique.
The population of humpbacks
here is growing,
and you might think
that this would
reduce fish stocks even more,
but something surprising
is thought to be happening.
These tiny phytoplankton
are the basis of the food chain
and need a vital ingredient to grow.
Whale faeces are rich in iron
..and great whales produce it
in enormous quantities the phytoplankton flourishes,
and herring feed on it.
Whale faeces, in fact,
are helping to restore
the whole ecosystem.
The herring attract seabirds,
diving birds attack them
from beneath,
and gulls and shearwaters
dive on them from above.
Even bald eagles
benefit from this rich feast.
Astonishingly, even though
Conger and all the other whales
are feasting on fish,
their role in fertilising
the ocean is so influential
that herring numbers here are
actually predicted to increase.
And the role they play in
rejuvenating the environment having an even greater
impact on the human world.
The flourishing plankton
also collects carbon
from the atmosphere,
just as trees do much so
that each great whale
has the same impact
as a forest of 30,000 trees.
Our great whales
were once hunted
..and if they return
to their pre-whaling numbers,
it's estimated that this
would be equivalent to planting
over 30 billion trees.
Whales are now being recognised
as benefiting humanity.
But for most large animals,
competition with humans
brings conflict.
This six-tonne African
bull elephant is in his prime.
To stand the best chance
of winning fights for females,
he needs to be big.
He can smell
highly nutritious food is near.
But crossing the boundary
to reach it
is a dangerous journey.
He must wait
for the cover of darkness.
These Kenyan farmers are
preparing for the night ahead.
They have had to guard
their crops every night
for the last two months.
With only two days
until harvest,
this is a critical time.
In a single night,
a bull elephant
can destroy the entire crops
produced by ten farmers.
But he's taking a huge risk.
He's twice the height
of a man
..and he won't back down easily.
This human-wildlife conflict
happens night after night.
And each year,
it takes the lives
of up to 200 elephants
and 20 people in Kenya alone.
This standoff
is potentially lethal.
The farmers
have had to call for help
from a team
of highly experienced rangers.
Although they're armed,
their task is to drive
the elephant out of the field
without harming it.
But the bull is determined hold ground.
The rangers
will have to get closer
..on foot.
The rangers have to resort firecrackers.
The bull is driven
from this field
..and retreats deep into the bush.
Fortunately for this bull,
the battle
has been resolved peacefully.
And efforts like these are seeing
fewer elephants killed,
and their population in Kenya
is starting to rise again.
But conflict with wildlife
is now occurring
on a far greater scale
as a consequence
of the way we are changing
the world's climate.
Some arid regions
are now experiencing
unusually high rainfall.
And that is good
for growing crops
here in northeastern Africa.
But it's also
the perfect conditions
for one particular insect.
Desert locusts.
They're normally solitary creatures,
but emerging from the sand
in great numbers
triggers a dramatic physical change.
They turn a vivid yellow
and become highly social.
they are an unstoppable army.
On foot,
they can cover a mile a day.
But they can only go so far
in this way.
They need to find height.
Up here, they begin
their final transformation.
it takes an individual insect
at least a month
to become a winged adult
..but in their social form,
their development speeds up.
Now all they need
is for their wings to harden.
Once airborne, they can travel
60 miles in a day.
Swarms merge
and they become a plague.
This one contains
billions of individuals,
and eats as much in a day
as the entire population
of Germany.
Today in northeastern Africa,
as a consequence
of climate change
..devastating surges of locusts
are becoming more frequent.
Two worlds are colliding.
Unintentionally, humanity has
created exactly the conditions
that cause this species
to explode in numbers.
But another group of animals
has seen
an even more dramatic rise
as a consequence of OUR actions.
We have increased the numbers
of a few species
almost astronomically.
By weight,
70% of the world's birds
are now chickens
or other domesticated fowl.
We rear 70 billion farm animals
each year
..and every one of them
needs feeding.
Producing the food
for such numbers
of domesticated animals
is having a profound impact
on the natural world.
The Amazon rainforest -
twice the size of India.
It's so rich,
it contains one in every ten
species on the planet.
And it's home to this sloth
and her ten-month-old baby.
He was born into an environment
virtually untouched by humanity.
But now human beings
are claiming even this space.
Year after year, we clear
over two million hectares
of the Amazon forest -
an area the size of Wales.
And we use nearly all of it
to make more space
for cattle
..and to grow soya
to feed our livestock.
Today, habitat destruction
is the biggest problem
we have created for wildlife
around the world.
This porcupine
has survived the fire
..and is being rescued.
It's being relocated
to pristine forests.
This will be its new home.
Only a fortunate few animals
are being given
such a second chance.
A healthy natural world is
not only vital for wildlife.
..but for our own very existence.
Somehow we must find ways
to redress the balance.
Currently, the vast majority
of agricultural land,
more than 75%,
is used to raise livestock,
and this is very inefficient.
There are solutions.
One is considering what we eat.
If we shift away
from eating meat and dairy
and move towards
a plant-based diet,
then the sun's energy goes directly
into growing our food.
And because
that's so much more efficient,
we could still produce
enough to feed us,
but do so
using a quarter of the land.
This could free up an area
the size of the United States,
China, the European Union
and Australia combined that could then
be given back to nature.
And human innovations
may be able
to do even more for wildlife.
High-tech farms
now grow plants vertically,
yielding up to 350 times
the food grown in the same area.
This is one of many solutions
we already have,
and others
are surely on the horizon.
To find ways
to protect all life on Earth
means reimagining how we live
on this planet in the future.
Human ingenuity,
our extraordinary ability
to find solutions,
gives me hope that we can.
It will be the major challenge
for this generation
and the next.
To film the impact
that fires are having
on the Amazon,
the Planet Earth III team
joined a local
volunteer fire brigade.
The fire brigade
are responding to a patch
of primary rainforest
that is burning.
It's been burning
for two days now.
It's difficult to know
what we're going to see.
The fires
are mainly lit illegally clear space for cattle.
Battling fires
is dangerous work.
But the firefighters
face them every day.
For the wildlife film crew,
this is a totally new
And these fires
can be unpredictable.
Neil, don't spend long
in there.
With the ground team
the safest way to carry on
filming is with the drone.
Have we lost the drone?
I think Abi has seen it.
Abi is on her way.
Can you confirm you're on
your way to the drone, Abi?
The drone is damaged
beyond repair.
Don't worry about it.
I mean it.
Don't worry about it.
It's absolutely fine.
It's not OK. It is. It's OK.
It's equipment.
We've got a spare.
The main thing is,
we're all safe. No-one's hurt.
The team regroup
..and decide to move away
from the heart of the fire
to its fringes
to look for animals
caught up in the flames.
There's been reports
of a monkey in the trees, so
The problem is, there's fires
all the way along here,
as well as all along here, so
It's hard to know what all
this wildlife is going to do
when their home
is burnt up like this.
I don't know what it's like
for these rainforest animals
to be experiencing a fire.
It's horrific for me, so
..I don't know
what it is for them.
The fires burn into the night.
The following day,
the crew accompany
the firefighters
in the search for animals
in the aftermath.
Oh, my God, there are flames
all inside of it.
Little termite
Oh, my God!
some animals have survived.
Clearing land for farming
is not a problem
unique to the Amazon.
Agriculture now takes up
half of the habitable land
on the planet.
To produce food with less impact
on the natural world
requires new approaches.
And that led the wildlife
film crew to a farm
in a warehouse.
We're in the middle of the city!
I can't believe so much food
being grown
in such a small space!
Here in Los Angeles,
6,000 miles from the Amazon,
this farm is part of
a burgeoning food revolution.
This is the most productive
farm in the world,
and it's our goal to reduce the
amount of land and resources
necessary to grow
down to the bare minimum.
It took a while
to understand that, for nature,
agricultural use of land
was the primary, like, destructive
behaviour of humanity.
As we expand
this means of growing,
I'm very hopeful that
this approach can ultimately
give a lot of land back
to nature
and allow that biodiversity
to re-establish and flourish.
Not only does this farm
use less space
..but it also uses 90% less water,
no pesticides,
and cuts food miles.
It does feel
like a really good start.
Ideas like this can reduce
our footprint on the planet,
giving the natural world
a chance to bounce back.
Next time,
the heroes on the frontline
saving wildlife.
They're exploring remote jungles
..working undercover to catch
..and leading endangered creatures
to safety.
Habitat Explorer brings animals
and their habitats to life.
Explore this free interactive
and make origami animals.
Go to
..and follow the links to the
Open University.
Or to order a free printed version,
visit the website
or call the number on the screen.
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