Seven Worlds, One Planet (2019–…): Season 1, Episode 5 - Europe - full transcript
Sir David Attenborough explores the continent of Europe - a crowded continent transformed by mankind. From the rare and elusive wolves to the almost-extinct Iberian lynx, this continent ...
Home to more than
700 million people.
This is a continent that has been
transformed by humanity.
It is a crowded world.
But not all of it.
There are still precious areas
and, living within them,
some very surprising animals.
Forest once covered 80% of Europe.
Now only half of it remains.
A brown bear.
One of only 1,500 that are left
in Finland's forests.
Her cubs have recently emerged
from their nursery den.
The long summer days means there's
plenty of time for play.
With two boisterous cubs...
..it pays to rest, whenever you can.
But their mother must be on her
The cubs have spotted something.
A large male, looking for a mate.
The cubs aren't his.
So he might try to kill them.
Bear cubs are excellent climbers.
And now they're beyond his reach,
15 metres up.
MAKES GUTTURAL, PULSING SOUND
Their mother warns him
to keep his distance.
But the cubs are coming down too
MAKES GUTTURAL, PULSING SOUND
She can't take any chances.
That was a close call.
Finland's forests give us a glimpse
of what Europe was once like.
A land of endless wilderness,
where large animals roamed far and
In the north, the continent extends
beyond the Arctic Circle.
Here, the skies are illuminated
by the aurora borealis,
the northern lights.
Trillions of charged particles,
ejected by electric storms on the
react with the Earth's atmosphere
this surreal nocturnal spectacle.
But by day, this is a barren land.
The Dovrefjell mountains of Norway.
One of the last refuges
for an animal that once lived
all across northern Europe.
The musk ox.
This bull is in his prime.
He protects the herd
and fathers all the calves.
His is a greatly sought-after
..and that means that,
in the mating season,
he has to deal with rivals.
And here is one.
Raking the ground is a warning
to other males to keep away.
But some ignore it.
He now has no choice
but to defend his crown.
The challenger attacks.
Each male weighs nearly half a
These clashes are usually short
but not this time.
As his family looks on,
neither gives in.
The bull will need to draw
on all his experience.
But he's beginning to lose ground.
Now he's broadsided.
If he's defeated,
he will lose all his females.
With one final effort,
the bull pushes the challenger
back up the hill.
The old bull successfully defended
his rights as head of the family.
And the challenger has to return
to a lonely life for another year.
One of Europe's last remaining areas
of wilderness lies at its heart.
A mountain range spanning
750 miles across eight countries.
Europe's mountain ranges
may be inhospitable,
but wildlife has shared this terrain
with people for centuries.
It's dusk in the mountain villages
of Abruzzo, in central Italy.
And deep in the surrounding woods,
thermal imaging cameras reveal the
continent's most elusive predators.
Right on the edge of the village.
and food is hard to come by.
This pack may not have fed for a
They can travel many miles in a
searching for prey.
Perfect conditions for an ambush.
But even so...
..the odds are stacked
against the wolves.
One wrong footstep,
and they have lost
the advantage of surprise.
The deer scatter
right across the mountainside.
And to make matters worse,
the hunt is interrupted.
VEHICLE ZOOMS PAST
The deer are now high up the
But the wolves use the road
to travel faster and in silence.
They manage to get above the herd.
Now they make their move.
The pack needs to single out one
A wolf is more nimble in thick
but a deer can run faster on open
Once they're close,
the pack drive the deer
straight down the mountain.
And now it's more likely to stumble.
In this case, the icy road proves
But the commotion has attracted
sheepdogs from the nearby village.
They have been bred to protect
livestock by chasing away wolves.
With the kill lost to the sheepdogs,
the wolves will go hungry
for yet another night.
Today, much of Europe's wildlife
has to live alongside people.
The most adaptable can be found
in our towns and cities.
Gibraltar, right on the southern tip
of the continent.
Home to Europe's only monkeys.
Four family troops live here.
In macaque society,
there is a strict hierarchy,
and status within it is inherited.
This female has just given birth
to her first baby.
She is at the bottom of the pecking
So her son is, too.
SHIP HORN BLARES
They're bullied constantly...
..and forced to live
on the fringes of the troop.
their only comfort is each other.
He's been snatched,
stolen by a higher-ranking female.
She is childless,
and she wants a baby of her own.
He's only a few metres away...
..but if his mother approaches,
the rest of the troop
could well attack her.
has never raised a baby before,
so this one is in danger.
towards a cable car tower.
The young mother can't let them
out of her sight.
They're 30 metres up.
If she tries to grab her baby and
he could fall to his death.
The kidnapper refuses
to surrender him.
There's one last thing a mother can
and to do it
she needs to recruit another
Now the mother begins to groom
in full view of the kidnapper.
All monkeys love to be groomed,
even by a low-ranking female.
It's the basis for peace
in macaque society.
Eventually, the urge to join in
is just too strong.
The kidnap is over.
And the youngster can climb
back into his mother's arms.
There are pockets of wilderness
even in Europe's cities.
Green oases among the urban sprawl.
Vienna, in Austria, has over 2,000
parks, gardens and cemeteries.
And down in the undergrowth,
a rather unusual resident.
A European hamster.
Wild hamsters are found in
grasslands throughout central
Here, in the city,
they're doing extremely well.
This male is on a mission to find
and he's set his sights
on one thing in particular.
To survive the winter,
hamsters must fatten up.
So there's no time to waste.
The only problem - these flowers
are in someone else's patch.
Graveside bouquets are worth
The winner gets to keep the
territory and all the food within
The loser has to beat a hasty
But the lure of fresh petals
is just too much.
The coast looks clear.
But best not take any chances.
The trick is to get in and out
before you're caught.
And now... dessert.
Candle wax - it's full of oil and
high in calories.
A hamster's cheeks can hold
a quarter of its body weight.
Just one more mouthful.
Big cheeks and narrow bottlenecks -
how very embarrassing.
has changed dramatically,
but its temperate climate
is still good for wildlife.
The continent has warm summers...
..and mild winters.
These conditions are a consequence
of its position on the globe...
..and the influence of the Gulf
This current of warm water
in the Atlantic Ocean heats the air
that then flows over the land.
And every year, Europe's unique
helps trigger an extraordinary
The Tisza River, in Hungary.
For a few days in June,
when day length and water
temperature are just right...
..the largest of all mayflies
After three years of feeding
and growing on the riverbed,
the males appear first.
With new wings,
they can fly to the river bank
and there undergo a final moult.
Now sexually mature,
they have just one purpose in life -
to find a female.
Each male has only three hours to
And now the females begin to emerge
on the surface of the river.
The males scour the water surface,
searching for them...
..each desperate to be the one
that fertilises her eggs.
Every female is pounced
on as soon as she appears.
With only minutes left
for each male to live,
the competition becomes
And all too soon, the males' time is
All of them die.
But the females' journey
has only just begun.
Now that they've mated,
they start to fly upstream
and continue for as much as three
At the height of the hatch,
there may be as many
as ten million insects on the wing.
the females now collapse and rain
down onto the water's surface.
And as they hit it,
each releases thousands of eggs.
As the eggs slowly sink,
they drift downstream,
so that by the time
each reaches the riverbed,
it will be in exactly the same spot
that its parents emerged.
after the first mayflies appeared,
this great eruption of life is over.
Europe's extensive waterways
are a haven for wildlife.
One of the richest of its wetlands
lies on the edge of the Black Sea,
The delta of the Danube River.
Migrating birds are drawn here
from as far away as central Africa
Great white pelicans.
Every summer, three quarters
of the world's population
flock to the delta.
They've flown thousands of miles
to get here,
and they will spend the summer
feasting on the delta's riches.
To find the best fishing,
they take to the air.
From half a mile up,
they search the entire delta,
200 miles across.
They can't see individual fish
from this height,
so instead they look for others
below that have already done so.
They are diving deep
to reach the biggest shoals,
flushing them to the surface.
A couple of pelicans land...
..and others soon home in on them.
The pelicans don't join the feast
They mug the diners.
This brutal tactic enables each
pelican to catch many more fish,
more quickly than it would do
if it worked by itself.
Once the shoals of fish
have been plundered and dispersed,
the cormorants make their escape.
And the pelican pirates fly off
in search of their next meal.
Water has shaped Europe's landscape
in another way.
There is a vast wilderness lying
within the rocks of the continent.
Over 12,000 have been discovered
in Slovenia's Karst region alone.
Each has been eroded by water
over millions of years...
..and shaped drip... by drip.
The largest cavern is over 15 miles
and there are certainly many more
still to be discovered.
Down here live some of the most
specialised animals on the planet.
New species of them are discovered
in Europe's caves every year.
This is a world
that still holds many secrets.
In the deepest pools
lurk animals that were once believed
to be baby dragons.
They have feathery gills which
enable them to breathe underwater,
as well as on land.
They are olms.
They're completely blind,
but sensory pits around the mouth
enable them to detect
the faint electrical currents
emitted by their prey.
Food of any kind down here
is hard to come by.
But an olm can go without a meal
for a decade...
..and live for a century.
The olms' world has remained
virtually unchanged for millennia.
Above, however, Europe has altered
Its landscape has been transformed
Protected wilderness now covers
less than 4% of its surface.
The disappearance of wilderness
has had catastrophic consequences
One fifth of Europe's animals
are now under threat.
Some teeter right on the brink
The Iberian lynx.
One of the world's most endangered
In less than two decades,
the lynx population decreased
by nearly 90%.
At one point,
there were fewer than 100
Today, their last stronghold
is in the mountains of the Sierra de
Andujar, in southern Spain.
Here, a natural park was created
to help protect the lynx.
Only 25 miles across, it is small.
But for this male, it's just enough.
He's lived here all his life.
At ten years old, he's reached
a remarkable age for a wild lynx.
Once persecuted, he's now protected.
For this old male,
and Europe's entire lynx population,
this could be the beginning
of a new chapter.
In this year alone,
nearly 200 kittens have been born,
and the population has risen to over
But the fate of the Iberian lynx,
and indeed of all Europe's wildlife,
is far from certain.
The continent has now been so
changed by humanity
that many of its animal species
are under threat.
Only by protecting
the few wildernesses that remain
and creating new wild spaces
can we ensure a future
for Europe's precious wildlife.
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Europe's
predators are rare and elusive...
..and none more so
than the Iberian lynx...
..and the grey wolf.
Just finding them can be
It's completely pitch-black now.
..let alone filming them.
We are packing up the kit... again,
cos it's raining... again.
Two crews set off
to different countries...
..armed with different technology,
but united by a single mission.
One team travelled to the heart
of the Apennine Mountains in Italy,
where wolf sightings had been
Using the latest thermal camera,
the team will be able to film the
wolves in the darkness,
when they're most active.
This is quite a beast of a camera,
but it can see way into the
So if anything warm-blooded appears
on the landscape, I'll see it for
We just need
that little stroke of luck now.
But luck is not on their side.
Hold on to your horses,
it's blowing an absolute hoolie out
I think this hide is just going to
literally blow off the mountain.
In Spain, the lynx team
are taking a different approach.
Camera traps, and lots of them.
So we've got one camera here,
one camera hidden in the olive
and one camera,
which you might just be able to see,
hidden in the olive groves there.
The crew rigs remote cameras
wherever the lynx are known to
some surprisingly busy locations.
We've been told
that they use these underpasses
to get underneath this massive
so we're going to work out
where to put our cameras
and hopefully capture them moving
around this urban environment.
To record enough footage,
the cameras will need to be left
in the field for six months.
With the last one set,
the long wait begins.
In the mountains of Italy,
the weather has improved,
but that is all.
So we're about halfway
through the shoot now,
and we don't know where the wolves
I'm pretty gutted.
Going to have to just stay here
through the night, scanning
with the thermal camera
and hoping that some wolves
appear on the landscape.
It's really difficult
when nothing's happening.
But finally, a promising lead
in an unexpected location.
We got a report last night that
there was a wolf kill on the road,
so, you know,
we've been going into the wilderness
to try and find wolves,
when actually they've just been
on our doorstep in the village.
The wolf must have chased the deer
from there, and it tried to jump.
But it... it got stuck here
because of all the... all the fur.
You see, also there is some...
..also some... some wolf fur here.
KIRI: I mean, it's the best signs
of wolf activity
we've seen since we've been here.
I just wouldn't have thought
it would have been in the village
when there's so many miles
of wilderness, the mountains.
Yeah, we're changing strategy.
Um, I've moved the camera teams
to a car park above the village
where we're staying,
which... I can't even quite believe
I'm saying that, but, uh,
hopefully it will pay off.
Time to move the operation
to the edge of the village.
We're just a stone's throw
from that village full of people.
I can... I can hear a wolf howling
just over there,
so I'm hurrying to set the camera
cos I'm pretty sure we're going to
see some wolves quite soon.
We have got nine European
howling down there in the valley.
Who'd have thought that you'd have
that many wolves so close to the
There's cars passing just beneath
It's just beautiful.
For the lynx team in Spain,
things are taking a turn for the
We've just come down to discover our
camera traps are not weatherproof.
All the electronics and the circuit
boards are starting to act up,
so we're having to rip everything
and we'll have to see what's going
The weather's been so bad,
there's so much rain coming down
from the mountain.
The only option is to bring
all the cameras back to base.
I'm hooking it up, drying it out,
finding out where water's getting in
and sealing it.
With ten camera traps to fix,
the crew work around the clock
until the last one is ready.
It looks like we're good to go.
But the team can't re-rig the
cameras while it's still raining.
And the weather shows no sign
We really want to find these lynx,
..without a couple of dry days
to set the kit up,
we're... we're up against it now.
All we can do is wait, I guess.
Eventually, the rains pass
and the crew set up the camera
This is the last one.
I'm going to close it up, and then
we're going to leave it for a month.
It feels really fitting to be ending
on a really lovely sunny day
with everything working perfectly.
So I'm feeling quite confident
this will get us some lynx shots.
In Italy, the thermal camera
is allowing the team
to reveal, for the first time,
the secret lives of Europe's wolves.
And it appears that they live much
closer to home than anyone thought.
They're just so close to the road.
You've got the village
up in the background,
and I can see the houses.
There's people sleeping all around,
and yet they're so confident,
so confident, they're undisturbed
by, uh, all the humanity that's
It's just amazing to me that they
know how to stay out of sight
but be so close to humanity.
They just have this night shift.
and then they just meld away
into the shadows.
And it's not just the wolf team
making surprising discoveries.
Camera trap footage reveals
how confident the Iberian lynx is,
living alongside people.
And towards the end of the trip,
the team have a memorable encounter.
We've just woken up
from staying in the house,
and we've had a visitor overnight.
To see a wild lynx up this close
is, yeah, completely amazing.
It was a surprising revelation
for both teams
to find the continent's
most elusive predators
living right alongside us.
..a land of constant change...
..where pioneering animals
make the most of every opportunity.