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The Hunt (2015): Season 1, Episode 3 - Hide and Seek (Forests) - full transcript

In this episode, the focus is on forest predators such as tigers, army ants, and chimpanzees.

one third of the lands of the Earth.

Hiding within them

are half of all the animals species
on the planet.

But forests are complex places
in which to hunt.

There is never a clean line of sight.

No room for the chase...

To get to its prey
in this labyrinthine world...


without being discovered.

The forest hunter must master
the art of the ambush.

The tiger is the largest
of all forest predators.

Yet its life depends
on being able to hide itself.

No simple task for a cat
weighing up to two hundred kilos.

The vanishing act
takes years to perfect.

Beginning when tigers are just cubs.

Like domestic kittens,

tiger cubs can't resist
the compulsion to stalk.


At first, it's a game.


But the cubs
are learning the skills needed

to move silently
over the crunchy forest floor.

It takes practice.

And perseverance.

A cub will fail many times.


But, ultimately, its life will depend
on getting it right.

By the time it's a young adult

a tiger can move without making a sound.

But to get close to its prey
it must also be out of sight.

Herds have many eyes,

and they never let down their guard.

As long as they can see the tiger,
there can be no ambush.

As long as they can see...

the tiger.


Not close enough.

To stand a good chance
of catching a deer,

a tiger must stalk to within 10 metres
before launching an attack.

And to do that, it must take advantage

of any cover its forest provides.



With experience a tiger becomes expert

at exploiting any opportunity.

The noises and darkness of a storm

can be used to conceal its approach.

It moves in, downwind of the herd...


Once within striking distance,
it freezes.

The final trick for a hunting tiger

is to get closer without moving at all.

Let the stag come as close as it will.

Then wait for it to turn

and take one step away.

The perfect strike

and brave, this stag weighs
almost as much as the tiger.

It instinctively moves
its prize out of sight

before starting its meal.

An accomplished ambusher.

Years in the making

with the skills to turn
the challenges of its forest

to its advantage.

But not all forests are the same.

They begin, where the trees begin,
in the far north.

This is the largest forest of all.

An unbroken band of coniferous trees
that wraps around the globe,

the boreal forest.

In winter, it can appear empty

but this endless maze is the arena

for a unique game of hide and seek.

Snow falls in this forest
for months on end.

As it collects on the fallen branches
and trunks that litter the forest floor

a hidden labyrinth of snow tunnels
is created beneath.

Here, out of the icy air,

is where the forest's rodents
spend their winter.

Prey exists even
in this seemingly empty forest.

If you know where to find it.

The American marten.

It only lives where in winter

the snow is deep enough
to create this maze.

Its slim body is ideally shaped
for searching snow tunnels.

But that shape means
it also loses heat quickly.

To stay alive,
it must continually search for food.


The marten picks up a scent.

It listens for any movement.

Found you!


One mouse is not enough.

To keep warm in this frozen forest

the marten must find
three mice every day.

But with thousands of tunnels
under the snow,

which one do you check?

You check them all.

A frantic game of hide and seek!

Only one in 10 tunnels
is home to a mouse.

And even then,
finding the mouse is not guaranteed.

For hunters in the boreal forest

just finding food
is the biggest challenge of all.

In the forest further south,
prey is more abundant,

the deciduous forest, we know so well.

In the summer,
it's busy with small birds.


The trees are thick with foliage.

It's a complex world
in which to navigate.

A problem for the female sparrowhawk.

Since she has to produce and lay eggs,

her body must be of a certain size,

and she's too big to sneak up
on her prey in this crowded habitat.

At this time of year,
she relies on another,

a smaller, more agile hunter.

Able to travel at speed
through the tangled woodland...


the male sparrowhawk.

He is well suited to hunting
in the dense summer forest.

But he must give
almost everything he catches

to his boss.

She's twice his size!

In the summer, she and their young

depend on his hunting expertise.

He never rests,

surprising small birds on the wing.

Ambushing from lofty hiding places.

He is a specialist summer hunter.

Each day, he provides
up to 10 small birds.

Until the rules of the game change

with Autumn.

The deciduous trees shed their delicate,
frost prone leaves.

The cover the male relied on all summer

is blown.


The hunt must change from hide and seek

to open chase.

The greater size of the female
sparrowhawk is now an advantage.

She has the strength of the weight
to catch bigger prey.

Jays are too large
for the tiny male to tackle.

But they are the perfect target practice

for the fledgling females.



They can't resist the challenge.

It may look like a bit of fun.

But buzzing jays helps
the fledglings learn

how to hunt in a place
where there is no leaf cover.

In the coming winter,
they will rely on the sudden stall.

The tail chase.

The interception.


By taking larger prey,

the females increase their chances
of surviving in the winter forest.

Whereas they can last for a week
on just one kill,

the male, limited to smaller meals,

must hunt almost twice as frequently.

It's the price the sparrowhawk must pay
for hunting in a forest

that changes so radically
with the seasons.

There is a forest
where the game of hide and seek

is even more complex.

The rainforest.

A place in which the perfect conditions
for plant life never end

and the forest runs rampant.

Forming the most confusing arena of all.

But there has to be prey
hidden somewhere.

In fact, it's hidden everywhere.

The great problem
of the rainforest is one of scale,

most of the prey animals here are tiny.

How can a predator
hope to survive on such small prey?

One answer is to be a small predator.

This is a Portia spider.

Rather than use a web,

Portia ventures out in search of prey.

Playing hide and seek in this...

the mother of all mazes.

To help her in her quest,
she's equipped with three super-powers.

First, an amazing approach
to getting about.

Portia is a jumping spider.

Able to leap up to 50 times
her own body length.

Nowhere seems beyond her reach.

Next, her second super power,
superb eyesight.

Essential if she is to distinguish
her prey in all this clutter.

Because her prey doesn't stray.

Portia is a spider-eating spider.

This raises a few problems.

Her lunch is three times her size,

packed with venom

and surrounded by a sticky trap.

Mission impossible?

Not at all,
because of her third super-power,

Portia is a genius.

She can map her world
in three dimensions

and formulate a plan of attack.

She can have an idea!

The web-builder is blind.

It won't have a clue that she's coming.

Right on target

and safely behind those fangs.

But a mind as active as Portia's

can always do with more brain food.

Here, there's no anchor point
for the abseil.

But Portia has another idea.

Instead of going to the spider...

she will bring the spider to her.


She plucks the strands
to imitate struggling prey.

Drawing the spider in...

to its death.

But Portia does have her equal,

the spitting spider.

A rival stalker
with its own secret weapon.

A bloated head armed with glue guns,

that trap with sticky threads.

One spit in the eye would blind Portia.

But she knows how to avoid that.

Only hunt a female with an egg sac.

Follow at a safe distance.

Track it to its lair.

A dangerous place for Portia.

But the spitter is distracted,

she's tending to her eggs.

Portia waits for just the right moment.

It can't spit if its mouth is full.

Mission possible.

For predators larger than Portia

there is one way
to find lots of small prey

in a short space of time,

wait until nightfall.

Under cover of darkness,

the forest comes alive
with small animals

trusting that night will hide them.

It won't.

Some hunters ambush by moonlight.

The tarsier.

No bigger than a human hand.

With the largest eyes

of any mammal relative to body size.

And huge, bat-like ears

to pick out a tell-tale scratch
amongst the hubbub.

The darkness can't hide
an insect from a tarsier.

But it can hide
a tarsier from an insect.

Because tarsiers compete for food,

they keep their distance while hunting.

Each sweeping its own patch of jungle.

But while they hunt,

they too are hunted.

They have their own night stalker.

A reticulated python.

It uses scent

and heat-sensing organs
to find its prey in the dark.

If the tarsiers spot it,
they know what to do.

- Call in the troops!

All the tarsiers in the neighbourhood
abandon their hunts,

and rally together.

Screaming at the python
with high-pitched calls.


The game is up,

and the snake is driven away.

There is safety in numbers.

But when the commotion is over,

it's back to every tarsier for itself.

By day, a different game
of hide and seek

takes place high above,
in the jungle canopy.


A far more open arena,
hanging 30 metres up in the air,

and home to larger prey.

Troops of monkeys

feasting on the flowers and fruits
of the giant trees.

Because monkeys
are always at risk of falling,

they need forward-facing eyes

to judge the distance
to the next branch.

Which means they have a blind spot.

The harpy eagle

with talons as long as a bear's claws,
and a two-meter wingspan,

it's the master of the aerial ambush.

If a monkey is under the canopy,
it's out of the harpy's reach.

It's only when one breaks cover

that it becomes available.


The harpy's way of hunting
comes at a price.


To fly with prey as heavy as a monkey,

it must build enough muscle to become

the most powerful eagle on Earth.

Raising a harpy chick therefore

takes an extraordinary commitment.

Harpies have the longest period
of parental care of any bird of prey.

They feed their chick
for up to two years.

In that time, the parents will bring it

over 200 monkeys and sloths.

And the end of a year,
it's fully-grown,

but it's far from the finished article.

It must spend many more months
building up its flight muscles

for the heavy lifting ahead

by working out at the jungle gym.

And more demanding still,

it must learn the art of the ambush
in this aerial world.

Trying to hide from monkeys is not easy.

There are more straightforward options
for the chick's first encounter.

The three-toed sloth.

The slowest prey in the jungle.

With no way of escaping an eagle.


It should be a formality,

but even sloths fight back.

It's a valuable lesson.

Hunting the jungle’s larger animals
is never simple.

The chick must raise its game soon.

After all,
this is its parents' territory.

If it doesn't start hunting for itself,

even after all their efforts,
they may kill it

to make way for another that will.

While most forest predators hunt alone,

some work as a team.

Chimpanzees hunt monkeys
by using the most complex

and intelligent ambush of all.

When they decide to do so,
the whole troop sets out

on an extended trek in search of prey.


Once they hear monkey calls,

all the chimps switch to silent mode.


Carefully, they move in beneath.

Colobus monkeys,

thirty metres up in the dense canopy.

It's almost impossible
for a single chimp

to catch a monkey in this forest.

The colobus are less
than half their weight,

and can escape using small branches
that cannot support a chimp.

The chimps must work together
to set a trap.

The most accomplished hunter

judges the possible escape route
of the colobus,

and moves silently ahead in the forest.

He takes up an advanced,
"ambusher" position,

hidden in the branches
just below the canopy.

Other chimps, the "blockers",
take his lead,

climbing up either side of the colobus,
making themselves obvious

to close off other escape routes.


The last chimp is the "driver".

His job will be to chase
the colobus into the trap.

When all are in position,
he launches the attack.

While the driver keeps up the momentum,

the blockers move to close any gaps.

The monkeys flee towards the trap.

When they reach the ambush tree,


the trap is sprung.


A colobus is brought to the ground.


Everyone is desperate for a share,

but the meat
is divided up in a specific way.

The hunters take the choice cuts.

High-ranking females
and their offspring get their share.


Males who played no part
in the hunt feel hard done by,

and become frustrated and sulky.


Meat is a precious treat in the troops'
largely vegetarian diet.

But it plays a vital role
in chimp society.

In sharing their catch,
the chimps reinforce the bonds

that enable them to succeed as a group.

But for all the chimps'
intelligence and teamwork,

their hunts only succeed

about half the time.

In fact, there's only one animal

that has mastered the forest hunt
enough to win every time.

There is nowhere to hide from it.

It is the most successful player
of hide and seek on Earth.

The army ant.

This may look like a ball
of a million individuals,

but make no mistake,

the colony acts as one,

a super-organism

with a sensory system
of two million antennae.

A skeleton made
from the living bodies of workers.

A defense system of soldier ants

ready to act at any sign of danger,

a digestive system
processing piles of food deep inside.

Even a coordinated system
for dealing with all the waste.

These are insects that,
by working together,

transcend individual size.

The colony can search the entire jungle

and flush out its wildlife.

Each day, it sends out
a silent probe into the forest,

on the quest for food.

It doesn't use scouts like other ants.

Instead a vast search party
pushes into virgin territory.

Seeking out the signs of anything alive.

They spread out along a 10-meter front.

Sweeping across the forest floor.

To find prey,
the ants must first touch it.

The irony is that this,
the most successful hide and seek player

in the forest
is almost completely blind.

It distinguishes the living
only by their movement.

As long as an animal
remains still, it is safe.

But the slightest twitch
will give it away.

Within seconds the prey is pinned down.

Within minutes,
it's torn apart at its joints.

The more the prey struggles,
the more the ants engage.

Right across the raid front,

prey of all sizes are driven
from their hiding places.


Even wasps must abandon their homes
when the ants arrive.

Everything alive
in the path of the raiders

overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

All this prey is just an appetizer.

The army has found
one of its chief targets.

A colony of a different kind of ant.

The nest is at the top of this tree,

the defending black ants
swarm down the tree trunk,

and take up positions on the branches.

But the army ants send in a legion.

They lock jaws with the black ants

and leap from the tree,
to take them out of the battle.

Casualties on both sides
rain down from the canopy.

But the army ants don't want the adults.

They are seeking
the soft skinned juicy larvae.

A whole generation
of white grubs is plundered.

The spoils of the ant war

are carried along trails
leading back to the main colony.

Other lines are fresh
from other victories.

The army ant raid
is an unequaled phenomenon.

Over a million hunters

chasing hundreds of species
of prey animals.

By the time the super-organism
returns to its nest each day,

30, 000 animals will have been caught.

It's the largest hunt on Earth,

executed by one
of its smallest hunters.

Hide and seek?

Game over.

How do you film
a tiger hunting in the forest?

That's the challenge
the crew faced in India.

Only a handful of tiger hunts
have ever been filmed.

So to film the world expert
at hide and seek within the forest,

the crew needed a
revolutionary new approach.

They put a stabilized
"cineflex" camera

on a crane, on a jeep.

McPHERSON: So this lets us
put the camera right down on the deck

to get a really nice low angle
through the forest.

If we have to look over
the foliage, then we can lift it up,

um, basically try and keep the tigers
in view for as long as possible.

ATTENBOROUGH: They concentrated
their efforts on the territory

of a female with four grown-up cubs.

Mother and four cubs coming this side,

going through this trail
you can see behind.

Right, I'm just going
to show you something

because it shocked me a little bit.

That's leopard footprints.

And then right behind them,

that's a tiger footprint.

Biggest forest predator on Earth.

ATTENBOROUGH: With the last location
of the mother and her cubs identified,

the next step is to wait.

In time, the forest will give away
the tigers' location.


Just heard,
the spotters giving an alarm call.

We go to check, check there.

ATTENBOROUGH: These animal alarms
signal where the tigers are,

and where they are going.


Alarm calls, getting nearer and nearer.

It's like listening
to approaching thunder.

McPHERSON: Finally!

ATTENBOROUGH: After a few precious
moments, the tiger disappears again.

HUGHES: It's very thick forest here,
we can't see in, let alone film in.

So we gotta have some way
of getting in there safely

so we can be near the tigers.

Luckily we got just the thing.

ATTENBOROUGH: Months before the shoot,
in England,

work was underway
to come up with a new answer

to the problem
of filming tigers in the forest.


The best way of filming tigers
is actually to be on an elephant

because tigers don't care
about elephants.

They're habituated to them.
They don't mind.

ATTENBOROUGH: The idea was to move
the cineflex camera

from the jeep to an elephant.

Using a bespoke device

nicknamed the "Eleflex".

That's brilliant!

lightweight aluminium,

the eleflex weighs less than a man,

no burden to an animal
as large and strong as an elephant.

- I'll be sat on top of the elephant.
- Why?

Well, so I don't get eaten by a tiger.

HUGHES: So what's our chief problems?

We haven't got an elephant.


ATTENBOROUGH: After a series of tests,

the eleflex is ready
for its field trials in India.

HUGHES: Like your new tripod, Jamie?

ATTENBOROUGH: Indian tiger parks
routinely use domesticated elephants

to patrol the forest for poachers.

Gotham, a 65-year-old male,

has worked with the park rangers
all his life.

Now, he's an integral member
of a wildlife film crew.

The device was designed
to fit to the howdah,

the huge saddle that elephants carry.

Yeah, we definitely need a howdah
that starts at a much higher angle.

ATTENBOROUGH: The field trials reveal

that the eleflex needs
a few structural adjustments.

We're going to the next town here,

um, just to find a metal worker
who can help us strengthen it

and a tailor to help us build
some counter weight bags.

HUGHES: So some new improvements,
we've got a metal work brace

that we got made yesterday.

On the other side we've got
some new weights made by the tailor.

So all in all,
I think we've got the howdah

to balance perfectly straight now.

Yeah, power up.

ATTENBOROUGH: It's time for Jamie
to take the eleflex for a test drive.


So I'm up on Gotham, it works a treat
with the "Eleflex" as we call it.

That means we can actually
get off road and get into the forest

and um, stick with the tigers.

It's tricky, but it works.

It really does
and I'm going to get some great stuff.

all eventualities,

the only thing left to do each day,
is find the tigers.

Most days, however,

the crew lose the game
of hide and seek.

I've never known
a shoot quite like this.

Never spent so little time
with the animals we're trying to film.

ATTENBOROUGH: But every now
and again, their luck changes.

Found you.

Just as slow as you can, Diggy.

The game goes on for eight weeks.

The crew throw everything at it.

Sure like being close right now.

ATTENBOROUGH: Gradually, bit by bit,
the sequence comes together

until the only thing that evades them
is a successful hunt.

McPHERSON: We were tracking her,

and then we picked up
two stags walking together,

we couldn't see her at all, we followed
the two stags, then back towards her.

We got a tiger kill.

Yeah, amazing. Very exciting.

ATTENBOROUGH: The tiger hurriedly drags
her kill out of the sight of rivals.

But tigers don't regard
elephants as rivals.

The eleflex meant that we could get
onto the elephant

and we could go in with her
and finish the sequence off.

ATTENBOROUGH: Grabbing a filming first
is prize enough for the crew,

but Gotham deserves his reward.

HUGHES: So that's what you need
to play hide and seek with tigers!

A lot of patience, jeep,
a fancy stabilized camera,

an elephant and the luck of the gods.

But, uh, came together,
we managed to do it.

Bye, Gotham.

the hunt is on out in the open ocean

where prey is so scarce

that predators are locked
in a constant search for food.

Yet this is home
to the most remarkable hunters,

including the mighty blue whale.

For a free, interactive
Open University poster

call 0300-303-0552,

or go to hunt

and follow the links
to the Open University.