Natural World (1983–…): Season 17, Episode 13 - Natural World - full transcript

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IN NORTH AMERICA
THERE IS A WATERY LAND

WHERE NATURE'S FORCES
CAN STILL ERUPT

WITH PRIMEVAL VIOLENCE.

WHEN THEIR FURY IS UNLEASHED
LIFE HERE CAN BE TERRIFYING,

ALMOST HELL ON EARTH.

YET THIS LAND, WHERE HURRICANE
AND FIRE WREAK HAVOC,

IS ALSO
A WILDERNESS OF PEACE

AND A HAVEN
FOR MANY ANIMALS.

IT'S A FLAT WORLD
OF WATER AND LONG SAW GRASS.

THE NATIVE AMERICANS
OF THE EVERGLADES WILDERNESS

CALL IT "PA-HAY-OKEE,"
GRASSY WATERS.



MOST OF THE EVERGLADES
IS AN IMMENSE, SHALLOW RIVER,

100 KILOMETERS WIDE,
AND 200 FROM TOP TO BOTTOM,

CREEPING AT A MERE
20 CENTIMETERS EVERY HOUR.

IT HAS ONLY TWO
REAL SEASONS, WET AND DRY.

AND THIS IS THE WET SEASON.

CLUMPS OF TREES
FORM GREEN ISLANDS
IN THE EXPANSE OF WATER.

THEY RING SMALL WATERHOLES
DUG NOT BY NATURAL FORCES,
BUT BY ALLIGATORS,

AND THE WATERHOLES
ARE VITAL IN TIME OF DROUGHT.

IT'S A LAND WITH
AN EXTRAORDINARY MIXTURE
OF HABITATS.

TROPICAL MANGROVE SWAMPS
LIE CLOSE

TO TEMPERATE PINE
AND CYPRESS FORESTS.

THESE STAND IN SWAMPY WATER,

AND THERE ARE HIDDEN
ALLIGATOR HOLES HERE, TOO.

THE EVERGLADES LIES
IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA,



AND COVERS ALMOST 9,000
SQUARE KILOMETERS.

IMMENSE AND FLAT,

ITS HIGHEST POINT
IS LESS THAN SIX METERS
ABOVE SEA LEVEL.

PINELANDS LIE TO THE EAST;

MANGROVES TO THE SOUTH;

CYPRESS FORESTS TO THE WEST.

AND, WHERE ONCE
ENDLESS PINE FORESTS GREW,

THERE'S NOW THE EXTENDED
METROPOLIS OF MIAMI,

FORT LAUDERDALE
AND PALM BEACH.

THIS IS NORTH AMERICA'S
ONLY SUBTROPICAL WETLAND.

EVERY YEAR THE EBB
AND FLOW OF WATER

DECIDES THE FATE OF EACH ANIMAL
AND PLANT IN IT.

THE GREATEST DIVERSITY
IS FOUND AT THE WATERHOLES,

KEY TO THE SURVIVAL
OF MUCH EVERGLADES WILDLIFE.

AND THIS ANIMAL,
THE ALLIGATOR,

KING OF THE EVERGLADES,
MAINTAINS THESE WATERHOLES

BY SCRAPING OUT MUD AND DEBRIS
WITH TAIL AND CLAW.

A COLD-BLOODED
PRIMEVAL MONSTER

CRAWLS FROM THE SWAMP
TO WARM UP ITS BODY

FOR THE DAY'S ACTION.

THE EVERGLADES SWAMPS,
THOUGH, ARE NOT PRIMEVAL.

THEY'RE ONLY
ABOUT 7,000 YEARS OLD.

THIS ALLIGATOR IS NOT BASKING.

SHE'S ON GUARD.

UNDER THE WARM EARTH
HER EGGS ARE HATCHING,

AND SHE'S WAITING
TO HELP OUT.

THIS POWERFUL REPTILE
SHOWS AN AMAZING CAPACITY
FOR GENTLENESS.

THE TEETH THAT HOLD
FRAGILE YOUNG SO TENDERLY

CAN CRUSH A TURTLE'S BACK
LIKE AN EGGSHELL.

JUST 20 CENTIMETERS LONG,

ONLY MINUTES OLD,
AND ENTERING A DANGEROUS WORLD.

BUT FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS
AT LEAST,

IT'LL HAVE ITS MOTHER
TO KEEP AN EYE ON IT.

GAR, ONE OF THE LARGEST
OF EVERGLADES FISH,

A SPOTTED,
TRAP-JAWED PREDATOR,

A PROWLING LEOPARD
OF THE WATERS.

MANY FISH COME
TO THE ALLIGATOR HOLES,

THE DENSELY CROWDED
DINING HALLS OF THE EVERGLADES.

THE PREDATORY FISH
PLAY A DEADLY GAME,

WAITING TO POUNCE
ON SMALL FISH

WHEN THEY HAVE TO LEAVE
THE SAFETY OF ONE CLUMP
OF WEEDS FOR ANOTHER.

IN SPITE OF THE EVER-PRESENT
DANGER FROM ALLIGATORS,

THE WATERHOLE IS STILL
THE BEST PLACE FOR EVERYONE
TO FEED...

EVEN THE SMALL FISH,
FOR WHOM THIS REALLY CAN
BE A HELLHOLE.

EVERYONE HAS
A DIFFERENT HUNTING TECHNIQUE.

THE LARGEMOUTH BASS
IS A SMASH AND GRAB MERCHANT.

THE GAR STALKS.

ITS SLENDER MOUTH PROBES
THE WEEDS LIKE A LONG STICK,

AND ITS SPOTTED
CHAIN-MAIL COAT

BLENDS WELL WITH THE MURK.

OF THE MANY WATER BIRDS
FOUND HERE,

THE ANHINGA IS PERHAPS
THE ODDEST.

A PRIMITIVE FISHING BIRD,

IT HAS NO OILS WITH WHICH
TO WATERPROOF ITS FEATHERS.

IT RETURNS SOAKED TO THE SKIN
FROM FISHING TRIPS.

THE SUN HAS TO HELP OUT
TO DRY IT OFF AND WARM IT

SO THAT IT DOESN'T
CATCH A CHILL.

IT SUBMERGES COMPLETELY
TO FISH,

A SMALL, LITHE HUNTER
WITH A FAN OF TAIL-FEATHERS

THAT PROBABLY GAVE
IT THE ALTERNATIVE NAME
"WATER TURKEY."

BECAUSE IT HAS
NO WATERPROOFING OILS,
IT'S NOT BUOYANT,

AND SO UNDERWATER IT BEHAVES
MORE LIKE A FISH THAN A BIRD.

IT HAS TO HARPOON BIG FISH
WITH ITS SHARP BEAK

BEFORE IT CAN SWALLOW THEM--
HEAD FIRST.

BARELY HIGHER
THAN THE GRASSLANDS

ARE THE PINELANDS
OF THE EVERGLADES.

BUT A MERE METER
MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

FOR MOST OF THE YEAR,
THESE PINELANDS
ARE ABOVE WATER,

AND THE VEGETATION
IS QUITE DIFFERENT.

MAMMALS THAT CANNOT LIVE
IN THE TRUE WETLANDS

GRAZE AND HUNT
THESE OPEN FORESTS.

WHITE-TAILED DEER...

AND AN ANIMAL
THAT EATS THEM.

THIS IS ALMOST THE FLORIDA
PANTHER'S LAST REFUGE,

BECAUSE MOST OF THE PINELANDS
HAVE BEEN TAKEN OVER
BY BIG CITIES.

THESE CUBS WERE BORN
JUST 10 DAYS AGO.

THE PANTHERS ARE NOW CLAWING
THEIR WAY BACK FROM THE EDGE
OF EXTINCTION,

GREATLY HELPED BY HUMAN
MANAGEMENT AND PROTECTION.

IN THE TIDAL EBB AND FLOW
OF THE MANGROVE FORESTS

LIVES AN ANIMAL
THAT'S ALSO RARE,

AND STILL DECLINING
EACH YEAR.

FAT, SLOW-MOVING
WEST INDIAN MANATEES

ARE GENTLE,
PASSIVE CREATURES,

CLOSELY RELATED
TO THE ELEPHANT.

BECAUSE THEY SWIM
JUST BELOW THE SURFACE,

IT'S EASY FOR BOAT PROPELLERS
TO HARM OR KILL THEM.

THE EVERGLADES' WET SEASON

CAN BE A TIME
WHEN ALL HELL'S LET LOOSE.

IT'S WHEN
THE HURRICANES BLOW.

A HELLISH CAULDRON
OF CLOUD AND WIND

HUNDREDS OF KILOMETERS ACROSS.

IN THE FACE OF WINDS THAT BLOW
AT 200 KILOMETERS AN HOUR,

EVERYTHING CAN COLLAPSE
LIKE A PACK OF CARDS.

IN 1992, HURRICANE ANDREW
SNAPPED PINES LIKE TOOTHPICKS.

IT WAS TOO MUCH FOR SOME
OF THE EVERGLADES FORESTS,
STRUGGLING TO RECOVER

FROM SEVERAL YEARS
OF PERSISTENT DROUGHT.

THEY SIMPLY DIED.

YET EVEN SUCH DEVASTATION
HAS MINOR BENEFITS.

NEVER SLOW TO COME FORWARD
IN THE FACE OF DEATH,

VULTURES SOON ARRIVE
FOR THE HURRICANE'S LEFTOVERS.

AN ALLIGATOR,
KILLED PERHAPS BY THE TEMPEST,

SOMETHING WHICH RARELY HAPPENS.

THE REFUSE COLLECTORS
OF THE WILD GET STUCK IN.

ASTONISHINGLY, AS SOON AS
THE HURRICANE HAS BLOWN AWAY,

THE WILDLIFE REAPPEARS,
APPARENTLY UNHARMED,

AND WITH ALL LIMBS INTACT.

QUITE WHERE THE ANIMALS
HIDE AWAY

REMAINS ONE OF THE MYSTERIES
OF THIS STILL LITTLE-UNDERSTOOD
WILDERNESS.

A RARE BIRD OF PREY
OUT LOOKING FOR FOOD.

AS THE WATER LEVEL DROPS,
AQUATIC ANIMALS BECOME
MORE EXPOSED.

THESE SNAILS, FOR INSTANCE.

THEY MUST COME
TO THE SURFACE TO BREED,

WHICH MAKES THEM
DOUBLY VULNERABLE.

AND THIS IS WHEN
THE SNAILKITE HAS A FEAST.

IT PREFERS TO EAT
APPLE SNAILS,

AND THERE ARE MORE
THAN ENOUGH OF THEM
IN THE EVERGLADES

TO PROVIDE SUCH A SPECIALIST
WITH A CONSTANT SUPPLY.

THE SNAILS ARE ABOUT
THE SIZE AND COLOR

OF SMALL GREEN APPLES.

THE KITE
IS A PRACTICED GOURMET,

SKILLFULLY WINKLING THE SNAILS
FROM THEIR SHELL

WITH ITS SPECIALIZED
HOOKED BEAK.

JUST AN EMPTY VESSEL
OR A GIFT FROM THE GODS?

A SMALL CRAYFISH CAN PINCH OUT
THE TINIEST LEFTOVERS.

UNLIKE THE KITE,
IT'S NOT A FUSSY GOURMET.

IT'LL EAT
JUST ABOUT ANYTHING.

BUT A FOOD QUEUE
HAS QUICKLY FORMED.

THIS DELICACY
IS WORTH A PUNCH-UP.

THE LAST IN LINE
IS THE LARGEST,

AND HE HAS NO SCRUPLES
ABOUT JUMPING THE QUEUE,
OR STEALING.

THE THIEF RETIRES
TO ITS MUD BURROW,

AND THE LOSER CAN ONLY WAVE
A FRUSTRATED CLAW.

ALLIGATORS, WHICH WILL
ALSO EAT ALMOST ANYTHING,

LIVE THROUGHOUT
THE EVERGLADES.

WHEN WATER LEVELS ARE HIGH,
THEY MOVE EVERYWHERE FREELY.

HERE IS A WORLD
OF DANGLING SPANISH MOSS

WHERE EPIPHYTES
CLING TO BRANCHES,

AND TAKE THEIR FOOD
AND MOISTURE FROM THE AIR.

AMONG THE TREES
OF BIG CYPRESS SWAMP

THERE ARE ALSO DEEP POOLS
MAINTAINED BY THESE REPTILES.

ALLIGATOR HOLES
MAKE THIS STEAMY SWAMP

A FISHING BIRD'S PARADISE.

A PADDLE-FOOTED HUNTER
AND UNDERWATER ATHLETE,

THE CORMORANT SWIMS AS FAST
AS THE FISH IT CHASES.

WHEN THE DRY WEATHER WORSENS,

POOLS LIKE THIS WILL SAVE
THE LIVES OF MANY BIRDS.

WADING BIRDS HOME IN
ON THESE DEEP POOLS
DURING THE DRY SEASON.

THEY'RE HERE BECAUSE
OF THE CONCENTRATION OF FISH.

THE BIRDS WILL SOON
START TO NEST.

THEIR NESTING SEASON
AND THE FALLING WATER LEVELS
ARE CLOSELY TIED.

THEY WILL ONLY BREED
IF THE WATER GOES DOWN,

FORCING THE FISH
TO CONGREGATE IN THE SHALLOWS.

APRIL,
AND IT'S HOTTING UP.

THE STRONG SUNLIGHT SPEEDS UP
PLANT GROWTH IN THE WATER.

BLADDERWORT ARE FREE-FLOATING,
CARNIVOROUS PLANTS,

WHICH HAVE FOUND
A WAY OF FEEDING

WITHOUT ROOTS IN THIS PLACE
THAT HAS VERY FEW NUTRIENTS.

EACH PLANT IS ARMED
WITH SPECIALIZED
FEEDING ORGANS--

TINY HOLLOW BLADDERS,
WAITING TO SUCK IN
THE UNSUSPECTING.

THE BLADDERS HAVE
AN OPENING SURROUNDED
BY SENSITIVE BRISTLES.

THE MOMENT ANY PASSING
TINY ANIMAL TOUCHES THESE,

THE BLADDERS REACT INSTANTLY
BY DILATING,

AND CREATING
IRRESISTIBLE SUCTION,

SOMETIMES REACTING
TO FALSE ALARMS.

BUT EVENTUALLY,
SOMETHING EDIBLE,

LIKE A RED WATER MITE,
WILL SWIM BY.

THE RED WATER MITE
IS NOW ON DEATH ROW,

CONDEMNED TO EXECUTION
BY DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

WHICH HAVE ALREADY STARTED
THEIR WORK.

THIS IS AN IDEAL,
IF TO US A GRUESOME WAY

FOR THE ROOTLESS BLADDERWORT
TO GET ITS NUTRIENTS.

AS THE DRY SEASON ADVANCES,

MORE AND MORE WATER VANISHES
UNDER THE HEAT OF THE SUN.

THE ALLIGATOR HOLES ARE NOW
THE VERY BEST PLACES TO BE,

AND WADING BIRDS
HAVE CONCENTRATED ROUND THEM.

EACH BIRD
STRIKES AT THE FISH

WITH ITS OWN DEADLY TACTIC.

THE REDDISH EGRET
LOOKS A REAL DITHERER.

BUT THE USE OF A VARIETY
OF TACTICS

IS IN ITSELF AN EFFECTIVE
FISHING TECHNIQUE.

SUCCESS.

THE RARE,
AND STRANGE WOODSTORK

STICKS TO ONE TRIED
AND TESTED METHOD.

WORKING BY FEEL,
AND TAKING CARE

TO STAY OUT OF RANGE
OF THE POND OWNER.

IT PRODS WITH ITS TOES,

AND RAKES THE MURK
WITH ITS BILL OPEN.

THE SHADOW FROM ITS WING
CUTS OUT SURFACE GLARE

AND GIVES IT A BETTER VIEW.

WHEN IT'S FOUND ITS PREY,

THE WOODSTORK'S BIG BEAK
WILL SHUT

AS FAST AS A MOUSETRAP.

THE LAND HAS NOW
DRIED OUT SO MUCH

THAT DEER CAN GO
ALMOST ANYWHERE.

BUTTERFLIES DRINK NECTAR
FROM FLOWERS IN BLOOM
ROUND ALLIGATOR HOLES.

IF DROUGHT COMES,
THEIR BRIEF LIVES
WILL BE EVEN BRIEFER.

THEY MUST BREED QUICKLY.

MALE ZEBRA BUTTERFLIES

EMERGE A FEW DAYS
BEFORE THE FEMALES,

WHO'RE STILL SLEEPING BEAUTIES
INSIDE THEIR COCOONS.

IMPATIENT SUITORS
ARE ALREADY IN LINE.

AS SHE EMERGES,
A FEMALE BARELY HAS TIME
TO DRAW HER FIRST BREATH

BEFORE THE IMPATIENT MALES
POUNCE.

AND BEFORE SHE'S EVEN HAD
A CHANCE TO SHOW OFF
HER SPLENDID WINGS,

SHE HAS A MALE
MATING WITH HER.

SUCH IS THE URGENCY
OF THEIR SITUATION

THAT SOMETIMES MALES DON'T EVEN
WAIT FOR FEMALES TO EMERGE.

ONE OF THESE MALES,
CLINGING TO A SEALED COCOON,

HAS ACTUALLY PUNCTURED IT
WITH HIS ABDOMEN

TO MATE
WITH THE FEMALE INSIDE.

IN THE TREES, A MALE ANOLE
COURTS A FEMALE

WITH HIS COLORFUL
THROAT FLAP.

ANOLES ALSO USE FLAPS
TO THREATEN,

BUT THAT HASN'T WORKED HERE.

LIKE TINY DRAGONS,
TWO MALES DO BATTLE

FOR SEX AND TERRITORY.

THE BIRDS ARE NOW
SETTING UP HOME

ROUND THE ALLIGATOR HOLES.

THIS IS THE BEST TERRITORY
IN TOWN

BECAUSE IT'S RIGHT OVER
THE ALLIGATOR'S FISH
RESTAURANT,

WHERE HELPINGS
CAN BE VERY GENEROUS.

THE AMOUNT OF WATER
IN THE POOLS IS CRITICAL.

IF THERE'S TOO MUCH,
THE FISH DON'T GO INTO THEM.

AND IF THERE'S TOO LITTLE,
THEY DIE,

AND SO DO
THE YOUNG CHICKS.

NOW, IT'S JUST RIGHT.

AND THIS IS GOOD NEWS
FOR THE WADING BIRDS.

BUT THERE CAN BE THE VERY DEVIL
TO PAY FOR LIVING HERE.

A REPTILIAN LANDLORD
LIES PATIENTLY IN HIS POOL,

WAITING TO COLLECT THE RENT.

IF IT HAS
THE BAD LUCK TO FALL,

AN EGRET CHICK MIGHT HELP
PAY FOR THE POOL'S UPKEEP.

THE IMPORTANT THING
IS ALWAYS TO MIND

WHERE YOU PUT YOUR FEET.

IT'S A GOOD BREEDING YEAR
SO FAR,

AND THE HIGH-RISE APARTMENTS
ARE FULL OF GROWING FAMILIES,

EAGERLY SWALLOWING
ENDLESS AMOUNTS OF FRESH FISH.

BUT THE LANDLORD IS NOW
IN A FAMILY MOOD HIMSELF.

HE'S DISPLAYING FOR A MATE.

ALLIGATORS BELLOW BY VIBRATING
AIR IN THEIR THROATS.

THE SOUND CAN TRAVEL
UP TO A KILOMETER.

( rumbling )

THE VIBRATIONS ARE SO STRONG

THEY MAKE THE WATER DANCE.

MORE THAN JUST A SIGNAL,

THEY'RE A SEXUAL STIMULUS.

ALLIGATORS DON'T GO
IN MUCH FOR INTIMACY.

IT'S USUALLY
ONLY WHEN THEY COURT

THAT ONE WILL ALLOW
ANOTHER TO COME CLOSE.

COURTSHIP ITSELF
IS MUCH QUIETER

THAN THE RUN-UP TO IT.

A QUARTER OF A TON
OF TOOTHY, SCALY LOVER.

THE PAIR WILL SINK
BELOW THE SURFACE TO MATE.

NOW, THE DRY SEASON
IS REALLY GRIPPING.

MAROONED IN A SEA
OF DEAD GRASS,

THE ALLIGATOR POOLS
ARE ALMOST THE ONLY
SIGNS OF LIFE.

AT MIDDAY, THE LATE SPRING SUN
IS SCORCHING.

DRIED TO A CRISP,
LICHENS, GRASSES AND LEAVES

ARE A POWDER KEG
WAITING TO BLOW.

CLOUDS, NOT OF RAIN,
BUT SMOKE,

WHIPPED HIGH
BY STRONG WINDS.

THE FIRE ALARM
HAS SOUNDED FOR THE ANIMALS
OF THE EVERGLADES.

IT'S A RACE FROM THE BURNING
HELL AROUND THEM.

FIRES ARE A REGULAR
EVERGLADES FACT OF LIFE.

SPARKED BY LIGHTNING,
THEY CAN DESTROY
THE VEGETATION

OVER LARGE AREAS,
SOMETIMES BURNING FOR WEEKS.

MANY ANIMALS CAN FLEE.

SOME DON'T HAVE THE OPTION.

AT THIS TIME OF YEAR
THE EVERGLADES PINELANDS

ARE SO DRY THEY'RE REGULARLY
TORCHED BY FIRES.

BUT THIS DOES NOT
BOTHER THE PINES.

THEIR SCALY BARK
PROTECTS THEM,

AND THEY REGENERATE QUICKLY.

YOUNG HARDWOOD SAPLINGS,
THOUGH, ARE DESTROYED,

WHICH LEAVES
MORE LIVING SPACE
FOR YOUNG PINES.

FIRES ALSO BURN OFF
DEAD GROWTH EVERYWHERE,

GIVING SEEDLINGS
AND NEW PLANTS A CHANCE.

FIRES MAY BE KILLERS,

BUT THERE ARE ALWAYS ANIMALS
THAT MANAGE TO CHEAT DEATH.

FIRES ARE SO VITAL TO THE WAY
THIS WILDERNESS OPERATES,

THAT THEY'RE NOW
DELIBERATELY STARTED
UNDER EVERGLADES MANAGEMENT.

IF SUN AND FIRE
CAN TURN THE EVERGLADES
INTO A PARCHED HELL,

SO CAN HUMANS.

IRRIGATION, AND DEMAND
FOR DRINKING WATER

ROUTINELY STARVE
THE WILDERNESS

OF ITS ANCIENT,
NATURAL WATER SUPPLY.

THOUSANDS OF ACRES
THAT WAS ONCE SAW GRASS

IS NOW UNDER SUGARCANE,

SUCKING MILLIONS OF GALLONS
OF WATER FROM THE EVERGLADES.

EACH DAY, 1,000 PEOPLE
POUR INTO FLORIDA TO LIVE,

AND DAILY WATER CONSUMPTION
GOES UP

BY AROUND 200,000 GALLONS.

CANALS DIRECT PRECIOUS WATER
AWAY FROM THE EVERGLADES,

AND BLOCK ITS OVERLAND FLOW
INTO THEM.

BUT THE GOVERNMENT IS NOW
SPENDING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
TRYING TO MANAGE WATER,

SO THAT THIS WILDERNESS
DOES NOT DIE OF THIRST.

THE CANALS
ARE ALSO THE HIGHWAYS

THAT EXOTIC PLANTS
AND FISH HAVE USED

TO COLONIZE
EVERGLADES WATERS,

AND THEIR PRESENCE
UPSETS THE NATURAL BALANCE.

ONE SPECIES
HAS ENTERED THESE CORRIDORS
FROM NEARBY FISH FARMS

FLOODED BY STORMS
AND HURRICANES.

AFRICAN TILAPIA
HAVE FOUND PERFECT
LIVING CONDITIONS HERE,

AND HAVE BEEN
HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL COLONIZERS

BECAUSE OF THE WAY
THEY BREED.

THIS IS IDEAL
TILAPIA REAL ESTATE,

AND THIS BACHELOR IS ARRANGING
HIS HONEYMOON SUITE,

A METER WIDE
AND A HALF METER DEEP TRENCH

THAT HE'S DUG
ALMOST ENTIRELY BY MOUTH.

NOW ALL HE NEEDS
IS A SUITABLE PARTNER
HE CAN INVITE HOME.

THIS IS WHERE
THE NURSERY WILL BE,

AND IT HAS TO BE
ABSOLUTELY IMMACULATE.

NEXT DOOR,
THERE'S ANOTHER MALE.

MALE TILAPIA USE LEKS,

COMMUNAL GROUNDS
WHERE THEY PARADE
AND DISPLAY FOR FEMALES,

WHO LIKE TO SHOP AROUND
FOR THE BEST ON OFFER.

PROTECTING A GOOD NEST SITE
IS A SERIOUS MATTER...

AND THE MALES FLING
THEMSELVES INTO THE FRAY,

MOUTHING THREATS.

A DASHING STYLE
ON THE BATTLEFIELD

AND TIDY HOUSEWORK

HAVE WON HIM HIS PARTNER.

THE FEMALE LAYS HER EGGS
ON THE SAND.

AND THEN, SHE APPEARS
TO SWALLOW THEM.

BUT IN FACT,
SHE HOLDS THEM IN HER MOUTH

WHERE THE MALE
FERTILIZES THEM.

AND SHE KEEPS
THEM WELL AERATED HERE
WHILE THEY INCUBATE.

SHE'S NOW ON
A SELF-IMPOSED FAST.

AFTER EIGHT DAYS,
THE EGGS HAVE HATCHED.

HUNDREDS OF TINY FRY
MAKE A BREAK FOR FREEDOM.

KEEPING THEM HIDDEN AWAY
UNTIL THEY'VE HATCHED

HAS MEANT MANY MORE
HAVE SURVIVED.

THE SHALLOWS
OF THE EVERGLADES

HAVE NOW DRIED TO DUST
IN THE SUN.

THE ALLIGATOR HOLES
ARE NOW PRECIOUS OASES,

KEPT FROM SILTING UP
BECAUSE THE ALLIGATORS

SCRAPE OUT MUD AND DEBRIS.

FLOCKS OF BIRDS WADE IN,

KNOWING THE FISH WILL MAKE
A LAST STAND HERE,

AS THEY'VE
NOWHERE ELSE TO GO.

A FISHING SPIDER
STRADDLES THE SURFACE

FEELING FOR THE MOVEMENTS
OF PREY WITH ITS FRONT LEGS.

THERE'S NO LONGER
ANYWHERE TO RUN.

BY NOW,
THE LARGEMOUTH BASS

HAVE WORKED THEIR WAY
THROUGH THE SMALL FISH COURSE.

CRAYFISH COMES NEXT

BUT THERE'S SEVERAL INCHES
OF SPIKY DEFENSE TO GET PAST.

IN BETWEEN MEALS,
THE BASS GO TO THE CLEANERS.

BLUEGILL SUNFISH
OFFER A VALET SERVICE,

CLEANING UP
IRRITATING PARASITES,

AND MAKING A MEAL OF THEM.

THE STRANGE,
ANCIENT BOWFIN

IS ONE OF A KIND
IN THIS CROWD.

SOLE SURVIVOR
OF A LONG-EXTINCT FAMILY,

IT HAS A LUNG-LIKE
GAS BLADDER

THAT CAN EXTRACT
THE VERY LAST OUNCE OF OXYGEN
FROM TEPID WATER.

THE POOL ATMOSPHERE'S
SUFFOCATING.

TOO MANY DINERS,
TOO LITTLE AIR.

NOW THE ALLIGATOR
PREPARES TO STRIKE.

IT'S TIME TO PRESENT THE BILL
FOR THE DRY SEASON FEAST,

THE YEAR'S BIGGEST AND BEST.

THE ALLIGATOR'S POOL
MAINTENANCE WORK IS PAYING OFF.

ONLY A FEW WEEKS AGO,

THIS WAS THE CORMORANT'S
DEEP-WATER POOL.

NOW, WHITE IBIS
PICK OFF FISH THAT STRUGGLE

IN JUST A FEW
CENTIMETERS OF WATER.

WHIRLIGIGS DANCE
ROUND ANOTHER VICTIM.

ANYTHING THAT CAN EAT FISH

IS ENJOYING AN ABUNDANCE
OF EASY MEALS.

IT HAS NOT RAINED
FOR MANY WEEKS,

AND THE SUN IS MERCILESS.

LIFE IN THE SWAMPS
IS NOW BECOMING TRULY HELLISH.

IN THE CRACKED,
PARCHED GROUND

ONLY SMALL WATER HOLES
OFFER ANY SANCTUARY,

AND EVEN THEY
ARE DRYING FAST.

DROUGHT RESPECTS NO ONE.

VULTURES PICK
AT A SHRIVELED ALLIGATOR,

WHICH DIED WHEN ITS WATERHOLE
FINALLY GAVE OUT.

( thunder rumbling )

JUST WHEN IT SEEMS LIFE
CAN TAKE NO MORE,

THINGS BEGIN TO CHANGE.

IN ONLY A MATTER OF DAYS,

THE LAND IS COVERED AGAIN
BY A FILM OF WATER.

THE WET SEASON
HAS STARTED.

THE POOLS
ARE REVITALIZED,

WATER LEVELS
ARE BACK TO NORMAL...

AND ALMOST MIRACULOUSLY,

LIFE RETURNS.

( thunder rumbling )

BABY TURTLES BREAK FREE
AT THE TOUCH OF RAIN.

AND THE EVERGLADES
FROG ORCHESTRA

STRIKES UP
FOR A CELEBRATORY CONCERT.

A NEW BREEDING SEASON
IS HERE.

THE MOSQUITO FISH POPULATION
WILL SOON BE BOOSTED

WITH THE ARRIVAL
OF TINY YOUNGSTERS,

IMMEDIATELY ABLE
TO LOOK AFTER THEMSELVES.

THAT ANY FISH COULD SURVIVE
THE DEADLY ONSLAUGHT

OF DROUGHT AND PREDATORS
IS ASTONISHING.

BUT SOME,
LIKE THE WALKING CATFISH,

RODE OUT THE DEVASTATION
IN THE TINIEST OF POOLS.

EVEN SO, THE RAINS MUST HAVE
COME IN THE NICK OF TIME.

WALKING CATFISH,
FOREIGNERS LIKE THE TILAPIA,

CRAWL OVERLAND ON THEIR FINS

TO FIND NEW POOLS
TO BREED IN.

WET WEATHER
MAKES THEIR ONWARD
COLONIZING MARCH EASIER.

THERE'S NOW LITTLE TO SHOW
THAT THE EVERGLADES

HAS JUST BEEN THROUGH
THE HELL OF DROUGHT.

FLUSHED A HEALTHY
AND LUSH GREEN,

IT'S BECOME A PARADISE
FOR ITS EXTRAORDINARILY
RESILIENT WILDLIFE.

THIS IS ONE OF THE LAST
GREAT WILDERNESSES
OF NORTH AMERICA.

THAT IT'S STILL HERE,
SQUEEZED BY GROWING CITIES
AND FARMS,

AND PERIODICALLY DEVASTATED
BY THE ELEMENTS,

SOMETIMES SEEMS
LITTLE SHORT OF MIRACULOUS.

( end theme music playing )