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The Hunt (2015): Season 1, Episode 5 - Nowhere to Hide (Plains) - full transcript


Nearly half of the world's land surface

is covered by desert or grassland.

These are the most exposed habitats
on our planet.

Nowhere else is the tension
between predators and prey more obvious.

Out here, the element of surprise
scarcely exists.

A cheetah, superbly adapted
to hunt in the open.

Only from the air
can you truly appreciate

its incredible agility and speed.

But even for the fastest animal on land,

speed is not enough.

To be successful out here
requires more than physical ability.

It requires strategy.

A cheetah's take-off point is critical.

Her top speed can only be maintained
for just a few seconds.

To be successful, she must get
within just 30 metres of her prey...

undetected.

Picking the right target is vital.

Something small enough to handle.

The final stalk begins.

The mothers block her path.

But in a flat out chase,
nothing can outrun a cheetah.

Too lightweight to jump on top,
she must trip her prey.

Missed!

But having timed her run to perfection,

she still has energy to try again.

This cheetah hunt
may have been successful,

but nearly 60% of hunts
end in failure.

Few can hunt by stealth
on the open plains

but where the grass grows
a little longer there is opportunity.

One specialist predator,

is able to use
every centimeter of cover,

to get close to its prey.

Guinea fowl,

always on edge.

Hunting by stealth in open grassland
is a challenge,

but if anything can do it,
a caracal can.

She is the finest bird hunter
on the plains.

Her outsized hind legs can launch her
three metres into the air,

and her magnificent ears

can detect the slightest rustle of prey.

Even in the longest grass,
there is no hiding from a caracal.

A solitary bird should be easier
to creep up on.

A caracal's hit rate
is just one in ten,

but the day is not over yet.

If only she could fly.

Not all predators of the plains
must rely on not being seen.

There is no hiding a honey badger.

Hunting in the open, in broad daylight,
she's anything but subtle.

She doesn't need to be.

Most of her prey live out of sight,
underground.

With long claws and powerful front legs,

she is a digging machine.

She can dig 50 holes in a single day.

It's worth it to get to highly
nutritious rodents.

Following her nose,
she can sniff out almost anything.

Even the most well-armed prey
are not safe from a honey badger.

She's immune to the scorpion's stings,

but it's not
a very enjoyable experience.

And all for quite a small reward.

With an incredibly high metabolism,

the honey badger
needs constant refueling.

An ostrich egg would be a rich reward,

but they are the strongest eggs
on the plains

and very hard to break into.

This will require all her ingenuity.

Finally, she's cracked it.

Honey badgers have over 50 known prey,

their success depends

on their willingness
to take on anything.

It's not just predators

that have strategies
to cope with life in the open.

Their prey have also risen
to the challenge.

On plains across the world,

there is one kind
of soft-bodied prey

that has a dramatic solution
for living in the open.

They build themselves fortresses.

Termites, hard at work.

It can take five years
and several generations

for a mound to grow to its full size.

It's a triumph
of collective engineering.

Safe within their castles of clay,

they're protected
from nature's extremes.

Wildfires can reach temperatures
of 800 centigrade.

But on Brazil's vast Cerrado grasslands,

the mounds provide such good protection

that here, termites are
the most abundant

form of animal life.

Within the thick walls
of their fortress,

they live a complex social life.

At the center is the queen,

over the course of her life
she will produce several million eggs.

Deep inside, the members
of the community

are safe and undisturbed.

But once a year,
some are compelled to leave.

The rainy season triggers
a spectacular event.

A new generation of winged termites,

alates, emerge in their millions.

Their mission, to start a new colony.

But so much abundance
doesn't go unnoticed.

Predators lurk in the fabric
of the mound's outer walls,

Headlight beetle larvae,

they've been waiting all year
for this moment.

As night falls,

they make their way
to the surface of the mound.

There are hundreds of them.

Their lights are lethally attractive.

Like moths to a flame,

the termites cannot
resist their bio luminescent glow.

For just two weeks each year,

the Cerrado is alight
with glowing mounds.

The beetle larvae
must stock their larders

for the leaner months ahead.

With food in such infrequent supply,

it will take two years for each larva
to grow into an adult beetle.

The synchronized emergence
of a million alates

makes these casualties insignificant.

Only a single pair
are needed to start a new colony.

There is safety in numbers.

Flocking is a key defense strategy

for birds that live in the open.

Few sights illustrate this better
than America's snow geese,

on their annual migration.

One and a half million birds,

stopping to refuel
in Squaw Creek, Missouri.

Bald eagles have been gathering,
waiting for this opportunity.

It might look like a lot of food,

but these are a winter prey
of last resort.

Almost as big as an eagle,
a goose is a large and difficult prey.

And the flock takes
on a life of its own.

An impenetrable wall of beating wings.

In the visual confusion,
picking a single target

is almost impossible.

The eagles must wait
for conditions to change.

At this time of year
the lake can freeze overnight.

This is what the eagles
have been waiting for.

As the open water shrinks,

the geese are forced closer
and closer together.

The eagles send the flock into the air.

Diving to the bottom causes panic.

Now being in the flock is a liability.

In the crammed chaos geese collide,

some are injured.

Separated from the safety of the flock,
they're far more easy to catch.

Despite the vast numbers,

the eagles have only managed
a few kills.

For the geese, traveling in a flock
has paid off,

and the vast majority
continue their migration.

Even the toughest rely on the safety
that comes from numbers.

Herding is an important defense
for animals that graze in the open.

Weighing up to 800 kilos,

massive cape buffalo form super-herds,
over a thousand strong.

An impenetrable mass of muscle and horn.

Only Africa's largest predator
can tackle buffalo.

And even they know better
than to attempt a herd.

Highly aggressive, even unprovoked,

buffalo will trample lions,
given the chance.

Usually the relationship
is one of mutual respect.

At the end of Zambia’s dry season,

grasslands can turn to dust.

For the buffalo it's an endless search
for new pasture.

With the temperature rising
to over 50 degrees centigrade,

an adult bull risks leaving the safety
of the herd

to find fresh grazing alone.

Lions will normally avoid hunting
in such heat,

but they're also opportunists.

The lions will need to bring him down
quickly, before they overheat.

Even away from the herd,

a bull is a formidable opponent.

It could gore and kill a lion.

Close to overheating,

they finally succeed
in bringing him to the ground.

But the massive bull is not giving up.

Against the odds
and the full weight of the lions,

he regains his feet.

And it is now that the tables turn.

The lions are exhausted.

After a 20-minute struggle

only the bull has the energy
to finish the fight.

In such exposed and extreme conditions,

the challenge for predators
and their prey

is at its most intense.

On the roof of Africa,

one predator has adapted
its entire hunting strategy

to suit its unusual home and prey.

A wolf that looks like a fox.

The Ethiopian wolf
lives an isolated life,

cut off in a bleak world,
3, 000 metres above sea level.

As with other wolves,
the whole pack must work together

if young are to be reared successfully.

The alpha female must stay
and nurse the pups,

but every morning the rest of the pack
set out together.

Jointly they patrol the perimeter
of their highland territory.

But unlike other wolves,
they split up when it comes to hunting.

These wolves face their prey alone.

A giant mole rat.

It might look like strange prey
for a wolf,

but it's the best food to be had
on these high plains.

Better than the smaller grass rats.

There are rodents everywhere,

but hunting here is no picnic.

There's no hiding an orange-colored
wolf in this open landscape.

And the grass rats are hyper-vigilant.

The mole rats are careful
to never fully leave their burrows.

Every wolf has its own unique strategy

to catch these rodents.

This one plays a waiting game.

This one tackles the challenge head-on.

But they're no honey badgers
when it comes to digging.

This wolf doesn't care
if the prey go underground.

He has a different technique
for grass rats.

He huffs, and puffs.

Blowing down the holes like this,

he hopes to flush his prey
to the surface.

Genius.

But it's only a meager grass rat.

Catching the larger mole rat requires
a bit more craftiness.

Their eyesight is poor,

but the wolf still needs
to tread carefully.

Mole rats are acutely sensitive
to vibrations in the ground.

Grandmother's footsteps
seems to be working.

Oh, dear.

Outwitted by a mole rat.

Luckily for the wolf,
there's always one

that's tempted to go a bit too far.

At last.

The more extreme the habitat,
the more extreme the challenge.

The Namib desert,

one of the most exposed places
on Earth.

As the sun climbs high,

everybody takes cover
from the extreme heat.

Everybody except...

the Hot rod ant.

As others take refuge,

their day is just beginning.

Cleaning out the nest.

The sand can reach
a scorching 70 centigrade.

The ants' long legs raise their bodies
above the surface

where it's 10 degrees cooler.

But if they stand still, they will fry.

They must keep moving
or risk the same fate

as their quarry, the creatures
that have collapsed from heat stroke.

Too deeply buried,
but a good place to cool off.

Foraging decisions must be fast.

Too big.

Perfect.

Back to the nest before they also die.

But they've strayed into a minefield.

Each of these strange cone-shaped pits

is a death trap,

with a brutal predator at its center.

Here lie ant lion larvae,

tiny ambush predators
with venom-filled pincers.

Some ants manage to escape,

but the ant lion has other tricks.

Flinging sand into the air,
it creates an avalanche.

In this cone of death,
the walls are so angled

that the sand slips beneath
the ants' feet.

As boulders rain from the sky,

escape seems almost impossible.

Phew.

Some have been lost,

but the Hot rods are still going.

At last, a decent prize.

But carrying it off is another matter.

The race is on to dismember the prey

without getting heatstroke themselves.

Another trap,

a silken snare.

A spoor spider has spun
a sticky cloak of sand,

and hides in the cool beneath.

Vibrations bring it to the surface.

Reeled in, escape is impossible.

Bound into the sandy web,

the ant is cooked
in the heat of the sun.

Unable to move, death comes fast.

By late afternoon,

the troops face once last problem.

It's now so hot

that convection winds have sprung up
across the dunes.

Finally, home,

and with enough food
for the whole colony.

They have endured the mid-day sun

and reaped the reward.

One habitat is even more exposed
than the Namib.

Two thousand square miles,

the vast salt pan of Etosha,
in southern Africa,

the most extreme open arena.

It's hard to imagine anywhere
with less cover.

Nonetheless, there are animals here.

A meager waterhole
brings everyone close together.

Lions can survive alone,

but in Etosha's dry season,

cooperation is vital.

Living here requires team work.

This extreme landscape
has forced them to up their game.

For now, hunting is impossible.

Eyes are everywhere.

There is absolutely nowhere

for these ambush predators to hide.

The prey know they are safe.

Lions are not good sprinters.

The herds stay easily out of range,

but change is in the air.

This is the lions' time.

A vast storm gathers,
blowing dust into the air.

Unease spreads amongst the herds.

Their senses muffled,
they're suddenly vulnerable,

unable to hear, or smell,
their predator.

Each lioness takes her place,

undetected.

With nowhere to hide,

this pride has learnt to exploit

the fleeting cover nature provides.

All will share the meal.

Only by working together

can they provide for the next generation

and survive
in the most exposed habitat

on the planet.

The Hunt team wanted to film
the plain's two fastest predators

in a totally fresh and immersive way.

Kenya's Masai Mara
is the hunting ground of the cheetah.

Zambia's Liuwa Plain
is home to packs of hunting dogs.

Each animal presented the team
with a unique and different challenge.

Here she comes.

Cheetah are
the fastest predators on land,

and being in the right place
at the right time

to catch their explosive
burst of speed is not easy.

No, can't get round.
Guy was out of space.

I don't know what I got
in and out.

Wild dogs rely
on extraordinary stamina

and keeping up with their marathon hunts
is nearly impossible.

But in Zambia,

the wild dog team have
a revolutionary solution

to keep up with the pack running
at over 40 miles an hour.

On this shoot, got a Cine flex,
which lets you get stable shots

while flying around in a helicopter.

And we've attached it to a stabilizing
arm and a few other clever bits of kit.

Basically, we've got the camera
at dog height.

We're with the dogs as they're hunting
and they're running, um,

and we should be able to show a hunt

as you've never seen it before.

This new rig would also
be vital in Kenya.

It allowed Jamie
to track with the cheetah

as she stalks at the start of the hunt.

But that is only half the story.

There's a critical kind of
five to ten second moment

during a hunt where she, the cheetah
is at absolute top speed.

And this camera slows everything down
20 to 40 times

and it'll hopefully just reveal...

It's almost a hidden world
for the viewer.

Another factor crucial
to the success of this shoot

was choosing the right cheetah
to work with.

I've worked with many cheetahs before,

but Malika is fantastic.

She's a good hunter, good mother,

who always keep her cubs happy.

Sammy
and his team of spotters

had to put both cameras
in the best positions

to catch all the action.

Filming cheetah, you don't follow
the hunter,

you have to second guess
which prey they'll target.

So we've got a group
of wildebeest coming up the hill.

There's two small calves in the group.

We're in the right place.

Sophie was in front of the herd,

locked onto the wildebeest calves.

And Jamie was off to
the side, ready to film the stalk.

Yeah, she's about to go.
She's going, she's going.

McPHERSON: Got some really nice shots
of the mayhem

of her trying to pick a target.

She couldn't lock onto a single calf
and they all made it up the hill.

While the team had made
a promising start,

Malika was yet to hunt successfully.

In Zambia, the wild dog team

was focusing on
a 13 strong pack.

Even though a female was fitted
with a radio collar,

the team kept losing the dogs.

They could have been anywhere
within their home range,

which is the size of Cornwall.

It's been about eight hours
since we've seen them last,

and this is the point we last had them,

so now we have to find them again.

Negative, we are not
with the dogs.

When nothing seems
to be going right,

there's always an old favourite
to lift the spirits.

We can't find the dogs
so we're gonna have a cup of tea.

And have a look for them again
in a minute.

With a helicopter arriving
in the next few days

to capture the dogs hunting
from the air,

they had to find the dogs, and fast.

It's not meant to rain in February,
it's meant to be sunny.

Maybe it'll clear and she'll hunt
straight after. It'd be great.

That's what's going to happen.
I know it.

I'm gonna wait.

When the rains
finally passed,

Sophie was again
positioned in a perfect spot.

There is a couple of calves in the
wildebeest herd coming just behind us.

She's really, really far away,
but I think if she sees them,

there's a good chance
she's going to come straight at us,

which is the shot we want,
it's the impact full shot.

Um, unfortunately,
as I look through my view finder,

I see she's walking
in the opposite direction.

You can only do what you can do, hey.

Come on, cheetah.

Oh, I suspect she's going
to lie down. Yep.

When Malika
did decide to hunt,

she did it when it was too dark to film.

We've been here
for three weeks, and, um,

just for the last couple of days,

she's been hunting before
the lights come up.

And we've only got a limited amount
of time left

to try and really get this
doing justice.

So it's a little bit frustrating.

With the pack
still missing,

the wild dog team chartered
a spotter plane.

And before long
they relocated the pack...

just in time
for the aerial filming.

Okay, we've got the dogs.

Okay, they're on the left hand
side of the vehicle.

Oh, got it, yeah!

That's good. That's a great shot.

This aerial perspective
beautifully revealed

how the wild dogs
work together as a pack.

And although the critical ground shots
were still to be filmed,

this was cause for celebration.

Fabulous.

Cheetah didn't hunt this morning

before dawn which is always
a good thing.

Always feel a little bit insignificant
next to Jamie.

As the day heated up,

migrating wildebeest
moved into Malika's territory

and the team took up their positions.

Okay, she's moving, she's up.

She's up.

Just let us know,
just shout "run", that's it.

Okay, okay, copy.

Come on, girl.

McPHERSON: She's going, she's going,
she's going, she's going, she going.

She's running.

Oh, God, that's nice.

I'm on her.

Um, I have to say I love this job.

Your adrenaline is just like,
you have to keep it,

you have to reign it in
when everything is happening.

But when the moments past,
especially with this camera

'cause it's a one-take wonder,

you just like...

The wild dog team
have been keeping pace with the pack

for over two weeks.

Waiting to capture a hunt
from the ground.

And when it happened,
they were ready.

To be with the dogs from
the moment they start stalking

right through to the full-on chase, um,

it's just amazing.

Just to be alongside them,

as they're trying to work out which
animal they're going to go for,

they're swapping places,

different animals taking the lead
in the hunt.

It's an amazing thing to see.
Yeah, just chuff to bits.

Next time the hunt
is on at the coast.

Where predators must go
to extraordinary lengths to catch prey.

Opportunities never last long here,

so coastal hunters
are always in a race against time.

For a free interactive
Open University poster,

call 0300-303-0552,

or go to bbc.co.uk/the hunt

and follow the links
to the Open University.