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Planet Earth II (2016): Season 1, Episode 3 - Jungles - full transcript

Jungles provide the richest habitats on the planet - mysterious worlds of high drama where extraordinary animals attempt to survive in the most competitive place on earth. Flooded forests are home to caiman-hunting jaguars and strange dolphins that swim amongst the tree tops, while in the dense underworld, ninja frogs fight off wasps and flying dragons soar between trees. Acrobatic indri leap through the forests of Madagascar, while the jungle night conceals strange fungi and glow-in-the-dark creatures never filmed before.


Earth is the only planet

we know of where life exists.

- And here, it does so in abundance.
{BIRDS CHIRPING)

The jungle is Eden.

It covers less than 6%
of the Earth's surface,

but it's home to half of all
the plants and animals on land.

jungles have just the right amount
of light, water and nutrients,

and they have had
every day for millennia.

Life here should be easy.

This is an indri.

It's a primate like us,

and these forests in Madagascar
are its home.

But to survive here

it has to face one major challenge.

Paradise is crowded.

Life fills every niche.

And at any one time,

a staggering variety of species
and countless individuals

are striving for space and food.

Like every jungle animal,

indri have to find their own way
to survive

in the most competitive place on Earth.

jungles are complex places.

Tangled, three-dimensional worlds
created by lush tropical vegetation.

90% of the animals here
spend their whole lives up in the trees,

and each of them has to find
its own way of getting around.

Hanging 30 metres above the ground,

a spider monkey.

They travel in family groups
and find everything they need

in the top storey of the jungle.

Up here isn't a place
for the faint-hearted.

With long limbs and a prehensile tail
that can grip like a hand,

they're built for climbing.

But imagine having to learn these skills
as high up as this.

One-third of spider monkeys
never make it to adulthood.

This youngster is only a few months old.

Her future depends on
her ability to climb.

Playing on a practice tree
with her older brother and sister,

she's already learning to use her tail
as a safety line...

...under her father's close watch.

She's keen to join in the game,

but she's the youngest
and, as is the way of things,

she's not always welcome.

So she chooses her own place to play.

But not all trees are the same.

This one is for more advanced climbers.

Enthusiasm?

Certainly.

Technique?

Room for improvement.

Meanwhile, some of her family
have moved on

to look for a new patch of fresh food.

The top of the canopy
isn't for youngsters.

But father's not looking

And the temptation to join
the others is irresistible.

She'll need to be careful.

A fall from here
will mean certain death.

It's the first time she's been
as high as this on her own.

As she climbs still higher,
the branches get thinner and thinner.

Her tail has caught her.

But now she's stuck in mid-air,
unable to reach any other branch.

Father, however, was watching.

He's big and strong enough
to form a bridge with his body

so that she can climb to safety.

Lesson learned.

But it's not just monkeys
that live here up in the treetops.

And if you are small,

finding the right tree
can mean a home for life.

He's a Draco lizard.

He's only the size of a pencil
and he eats ants.

This one tree could provide him
with all he will ever need.

A conveyor belt of food.

It's a perfect place to settle down.

Well, it would be...

...but there's already someone here.

This larger male is the tree's owner

and Dracos don't share.

The owner's flag is a warning.

Trespassers won't be tolerated.

The owner's not only intimidating,

he's prepared to battle.

A dead end.

Safety is a long way away.

Now he must choose.

Fight?

Or flee?

Only in the jungle do you find lizards
that can soar like dragons.

He can travel over 30 metres
in a single leap.

It's a very fast and efficient way
to move through the jungle.

Maybe this new tree will have food

and no resident owner.

Everything in the jungle
has to compete for space.

Only 2% of the sun's rays
reach the ground,

so even the plants must battle

for the light they need
if they're to grow.

500 years ago, this hura tree
began its race for light,

and, every day since, it has absorbed
the water and sunshine it needed

to grow into a giant.

It has succeeded in doing
what every tree must do to survive.

Rise above the gloom
of the jungle floor.

And, what is more, its success
has given life to others.

Its branches now carry
a thousand other plants.

These particular ferns, figs and orchids

live only on the branches
of other trees.

A thousand plants
growing on one single tree.

Throughout the forest,
this story is repeated endless times.

As a consequence, jungles are home
to more species of plants

than anywhere else on Earth.

And they, in turn,
support a wealth of animals.

In Ecuador the competition
is at its most intense.

Here they are a hundred species
of hummingbirds alone.

All fighting for nectar.

Each flower only has a small amount
at any one time

and so it's first come, first served.

One hummingbird
has gone to great lengths

to avoid conflict with other species.

Sword-bills are the only bird
with a beak longer than their body.

And some flowers are too elongated

for the other 99 species
of hummingbirds here to feed from them.

A sword-bill's
extraordinary beak, however,

enables it to reach the places
that others can't.

The top of this flower,
where the sweet nectar is produced.

It has found a solution that means
it doesn't have to join the fight.

And as each long flower blooms,

it gives the sword-bill a fresh supply
of food all to itself.

But having a beak longer than your body
does have its drawbacks.

For a start,
it's tricky to keep it clean.

Harder still, how do
you preen your body feathers?

Unlike the other hummers,

wword-bills can't reach their feathers
with their beak.

The only option,

a good old scratch.

It's a little unrefined,

but a small price to pay
for an exclusive food supply.

Especially when feeding times are only
too frequently interrupted by storms.

jungles are the richest places on Earth
because of one remarkable fact.

They make their own weather.

Every day water rises from the surface
of the leaves as vapour.

It's as if the trees breathe out clouds.

They gather over the forest,
until, finally...

...they burst.

Rain is the lifeblood of every jungle.

And all have to do their best
to endure the daily downpour.

In some jungles, like here in Brazil,

it rains so much that
for part of the year,

the trees are almost totally submerged.

The forest floor is ten metres
below the water's surface.

This is a mysterious world.

A place few people have ever explored.

We have much to discover about
the animals for which this is home.

Including some you might never
expect to find amongst trees.

One and a half thousand kilometres
from the sea,

are dolphins.

A newly identified species
of river dolphin

found nowhere else on Earth.

In these black, tangled waters,
they have become almost totally blind,

so they move slowly,

carefully using their sonar
to scan the forest floor for fish.

If this forest can hide
a new species of dolphin,

what else might there be here,
awaiting discovery?

At the shallow margins
of the flooded jungle,

rivers flow through lush vegetation.

Here, food is so abundant,
it supports giants.

Capybara, the biggest rodents
in the world.

Giant otters, the size of a man.

And the rulers of these rivers.

Caiman.

They grow to ten feet long,

and kill anything
they get between their jaws.

But there are more artful hunters

drawn here from the surrounding forest.

A jaguar, the supreme jungle predator.

The river marks
the edge of his territory.

But here, he has competition.

He's now in the territory of a female.

She has ruled this stretch of river
for five years.

This is her place to hunt.

Capybara are strong and wary.

The key is stealth.

She needs to get within a metre
if she's to pounce.

Not this time.

She's not the only female here.

Each part of this jungle's edge
is ruled by a different queen.

Few places on Earth have enough food
to support so many big cats.

The male hunts in a different way.

Weighing almost 150 kilos,
it's hard to be stealthy.

And with so many other jaguars around,

he doesn't bother with wary capybara.

He seeks a different prey.

He's become a killer of killers.

jaguars have the most powerful bite...

- ...of any cat.

And he knows
the caiman's most vulnerable point,

the back of its skull.

Hunters living in the dense
understorey of the jungle

come in all shapes and sizes,

but they share a problem.

How to tell what is a plant
and what is prey.

This is a game of hide and seek,

that can be won or lost
in the blink of an eye.

The long contest
between predator and prey

has produced mimicry
of astounding accuracy.

A leaf-tailed gecko
masquerading as lichen.

Some animals take camouflage
a stage further still.

And these streams in Costa Rica
are home to one of the most remarkable.

A glass frog.

A male, and tiny,
no bigger than your fingernail,

and almost entirely transparent.

As he needs to be.

Almost everything that walks past here
could eat him.

Even a cricket.

His best chance
is to stay absolutely still,

and trust that the cricket
looks right through him.

Danger passed,

and that's just as well,

because he is a father.

And he's guarding
some very precious eggs.

For the last few weeks,
females, one after the other,

have visited him
and entrusted him with their offspring.

Some are now almost ready to hatch.

There are several clutches on the leaf,

and those at the top,
the most recently laid,

are barely a day old.

But in the jungle,
there's always someone out to get you.

This wasp is a specialist hunter
of frog's eggs.

It's noticed the wriggling tadpoles
at the bottom of the leaf.

He mustn't move.

The youngest eggs
are the most vulnerable,

and he can't guard them all.

But these tadpoles are not as helpless
as they might appear.

Incredibly, the un-hatched tadpoles
can sense danger,

and the oldest and strongest
wriggle free,

and drop into the stream below.

The eggs at the top
of the leaf, however,

are still too young to hatch,

and now the wasps know they're there.

But the male's back looks very like
the youngest cluster of eggs.

And that seems to confuse the wasps.

Using his on body as decoy
is a huge risk.

The wasps' stings could kill him.

He's managed to save most of his young.

He'll have to remain on guard
for another two weeks.

But in the jungle,
just surviving the day

can count as a SUCCESS.

With the coming of the night,

a new cast of jungle characters
takes to the stage.

Flying insects begin to glow
as they search for mates.

Fungi, unlike plants,

thrive in the darkness
of the forest floor.

They're hidden, until they begin
to develop the incredible structures

with which they reproduce.

Each releases
millions of microscopic spores

that drift invisibly away.

Many have fruiting bodies
that reach upwards

to catch any feeble current
there might be

in the clammy air.

But this one, as it grows,
becomes luminous.

Why fungi light up
has remained a mystery...

...until now.

Scientists studying
the brightest fungi in the world

think they may have an answer.

Like a beacon,
the light attracts insects...

...from far and wide.

To this click beetle,

a bright light means only one thing,

a female click beetle.

So, he flashes in reply.

But he doesn't get
the reception he was expecting.

Confused, he starts
searching for a female

and that helps the fungus.

By the time he gives up,

he's covered in the fungus' spores.

And as he continues
his quest for a female,

he carries these spores
to other parts of the forest.

And there are even stranger things
glowing in the jungle night.

These are the multi-coloured lights
of a railroad worm.

It's not really a worm,

but a poisonous,
caterpillar-like beetle.

The yellow lights warn other creatures
to keep out of its way.

It's hunting for millipedes.

When it finds the trail of one,

it switches off its yellow lights.

Now, it only has
a red light on its head.

Millipedes can't see red light.

So, to them,
the railroad worm in stealth mode

is virtually invisible.

And that is the end of the millipede.

Competition in the jungles

forces animals to specialise
in every aspect of their life,

including courtship.

This has produced
some of the most beautiful

and elaborate displays on the planet.

A male red bird-of-paradise

competing to attract
a female by dancing.

One has come to survey what's on offer.

She is an independent lady

and she will select
whichever male takes her fancy.

She makes her choice.

But now she doesn't seem quite so sure.

No.

Perhaps he's just a little too keen.

Maybe he'll have better luck tomorrow.

Red birds-of-paradise
display in the tree tops.

Other members of the family
dance in the gloom of the forest floor.

This is a Wilson's bird-of-paradise.

He's brightly coloured,

but about the size of a sparrow.

He's lived most of his life alone.

But now he's an adult,

and he too needs to attract a mate.

This little patch of light
might help him do so.

First, he tidies things up.

Showing off in this jumble of leaves
wouldn't be easy,

and his beauty will stand out better
against a plain background.

He doesn't want bright leaves
to divert a visitor's attention.

They all need to go.

Even the green ones.

Especially the green ones.

His stage is set.

A central pole
and a little patch of light...

It's perfect.

And now he must hope
a female hears his call.

He can wait here for weeks on end.

At last, a female.

Time to take up position.

She will judge him
by the brightness of his feathers.

But for the female
to see him at his best,

he needs her to perch
directly above his stage,

under the light.

This might be his only chance to shine.

Now, when she's looking
directly down on him,

he reveals a display for her eyes only.

In the gloom of the forest floor,

he is a dazzling blaze
of iridescent green.

The brightest "leaf" in the forest.

And that does the trick.

Each animal must find its own way

of surviving the competition
of the jungle.

This crowded world
is so full of invention

that almost all kinds of animals on land
can trace their origins back here...

Including us.

These forests in Madagascar
are home to one of our distant cousins.

This female indri has fought
to keep this particular patch of forest

safe for herself and her family.

Every morning, the family
come together to sing,

their way of reminding others
that this is their home.

Indri are so closely adapted
to living here,

that now they can live nowhere else.

For them, and the billions of animals
with whom they share their home,

the jungle is a sanctuary.

But this is changing.

Even in the ten years
since the head of this family was born,

ten thousand square kilometres of
the rainforest have been destroyed

in Madagascar alone,

and, with it, half the indri families
that once lived there.

The local people say
the indris are our brothers

and their song is a call to remind us

that we too once depended on the jungle.

This Eden is still a place
of wonder and magic.

Something surely worth protecting.

Next time...

A land of extremes,
that pushes life to the limit.

Animals have extraordinary ways
of dealing with the hostile conditions.

Creating the most epic
survival stories on Earth...

These are deserts.