Wildlife series. Steve Backshall tracks down 60 of the world's deadliest animals. In Hoedspruit, South Africa, Steve encounters an angry hippo and a venomous scorpion.
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My name's Steve Backshall!
You can call me Steve.
I'm on a mission to find the Deadly 60 -
that's 60 deadly creatures.
I'm travelling all over the world.
And you're coming with me every step of the way.
So, where are we this week?
Well, we're about...
there, in South Africa.
This place is absolutely crawling with deadly creatures,
and it's the perfect place to start my journey.
Right, that's enough of all that pretty stuff.
There are countless animals on the planet
but only 60 can make my list,
and the first is one of the deadliest in South Africa.
And to get close to them, I'm taking to the kayak.
The first animal on my list lives just downstream from here.
The animals that make it onto my deadly list
may be deadly in their own world, or could be deadly to humans.
Like these - hippos.
While I try and find them, have a look at this.
More people die from hippo attacks in South Africa
than from any other mammal.
But someone who lived to tell the tale is Robert.
So, Robert was saying he was out...
-It was at night-time, yes?
-It was ten past seven.
-Ten past seven?
-Ten past seven at night.
Robert was out here in the fruit plantation -
these are lemon trees behind us -
and a hippo just came charging out of the trees,
-and you...climbed up here?
As you were climbing up the tree,
-the hippo caught you with its tooth...
And then it fixed my leg and the tree.
That was my leg.
-So, the bite went through your leg and then through the tree?
-That's where you see this cut here.
That is amazing! Sorry, do you mind if I look?
'If you're having your tea, you may want to look away now.'
If any of you out there
have any doubt whatsoever that the hippo can be a lethal creature,
you don't need to see anything more than this.
Having told you everything I just have about wild hippos,
you probably think I'm out of my mind
to be getting this close to one, and you'd be right.
But Jessica here is a very special hippo indeed.
She's the only one in the world you could ever get this close to.
Oh, my life! She's coming out the water! Look at this!
You would probably instantly assume that we're in a zoo or safari park,
but this is a totally wild river
and wild hippos pass through here every single day
and socialise with Jessica here.
Give us a nice big smile, Jess.
You see those two huge, gargantuan incisor teeth
at the side of her mouth there.
They actually slot in to these two lumps on the top of her head here,
and they really don't serve any purpose for feeding at all.
They're purely for fighting and for defence.
And on a male, these can grow to an enormous size.
I've actually got a couple here.
If you can imagine those inside Jessica's mouth.
THAT is a weapon to be truly frightened of.
Jessica was just two days old
when she was rescued by Tony and Sheila...and their various dogs.
The river flooded and Jessica was separated from her mother
and washed up on a bank.
She's been part of the family ever since.
Now this is one of the most extraordinary animal encounters
I've ever had in my life.
The thing that's surprising...
Obviously, I've never touched a hippo before,
but it's the sensation of the skin.
It's really very soft, almost slimy,
and hippos have a whole range of substances
that they almost sweat out onto their skin
which serve all kinds of purposes.
It's thought that some of this stuff that they sweat out
acts almost like sun block.
She keeps snorting at me,
and because the diet is so heavy in greens,
believe me, it's a bit pongy!
Here's one for your mates -
"hippopotamus" actually translates as "water horse".
You may have a cat or dog which sits on your lap.
But imagine dealing with this.
TONY: OK, don't come too close.
Don't worry, don't worry.
SHE SPEAKS IN DIALECT
SHE SPEAKS REASSURINGLY IN DIALECT
I have to say, in a whole lifetime working with animals,
this is the weirdest thing that I've ever seen.
You are sitting with a hippo on your lap
in your front room!
Tell me some of the fun things about having a hippo round the house.
Well, having a hippo round the house...
she breaks the base of your mattress and...
She breaks...?! You have her in your bed?
Yeah, well, if you leave the door open or with the key in the door,
she unlocks it herself.
-She unlocks the doors?!
She goes into the room, she gets on the bed,
and, well, there goes another...bed, the base.
You can hear it cracking.
Just when I thought this story couldn't get any stranger!
-You share your bed with a hippo!
Meanwhile, back to my mission. I'm on the hunt for wild hippos -
some of the most dangerous and unpredictable animals in Africa.
We've had a report that there are two downstream.
Our first hippo... just around this corner.
He's a big 'un. He's spotted us as well.
Don't know if you head that sound
but that was a very audible threat to us.
He's gone under the water.
This is where we've got to be careful
because we don't know where he's gonna come up again.
There he is. He's surfaced right in the middle.
Huge exhalation of air and water there.
He's come back up again.
He's looking straight at me.
Don't really want to get any closer than this.
The thing is, despite him being such an enormous bulk,
he could be pretty much anywhere here.
He could pop up right next to me.
I'd actually rather keep this shallow bit of water
between the two of us.
This is quite nerve-wracking.
It may seem that he's the one that's nervous,
but actually, there's no doubt who's more at home in this environment.
It's definitely him.
That huge breath of air, that's not just him emptying his lungs.
That was meant to scare me.
It's starting to get dark now, they'll be getting more active,
and pretty soon, looking to come out of the water.
This is THE most dangerous time,
and I'm certainly not hanging around
with an animal that could bite my boat in half
that could be right underneath me.
'Well, we found our wild hippo, so I'm heading back upstream
'to where I can get out.'
Look, he's just there!
He's come past us!
I don't believe it!
He's just sat in the river...
-That's the other one?
-MAN: That's another one.
'Another hippo's appeared, blocking my exit.
'When he dives, I can't see anything.
'I'll need the eyes of the crew.'
-He's just about 20 metres in front of you.
He's just in line with my arm here.
PEOPLE SHOUT OUT
'This is a serious situation.
'I can't go upstream, I can't go downstream.
'I'll have to try and find a way out.'
He's coming right at you!
Steve, go back the way you came.
See the reeds in front of you?
-Follow my arm - he's just in the water...
-..just here. Just here.
-So, you cannot come down here, OK?
-There he is.
-'It's as though he knows he's blocking my exit.
'I can't do anything but sit and wait.'
They are SO unpredictable.
You have no idea what they're gonna do next.
-'I can't wait any longer.
'He's turned and he's coming for me.
'Now I've seen a possible exit.
'It's a shallow stream and not somewhere I want to get stuck.'
Just be quick.
Go! Go, go, go!
He's coming towards you, mate.
I tell you what...
That just shows you, you can never be complacent with wild animals.
And it also shows why hippos have to be on the Deadly 60.
That was too close for comfort.
The hippo has to be on my Deadly 60 list
because of its huge size,
its awesome speed
those lethal teeth and its unpredictable nature.
Just as well I had the team to help me out of a really tight spot.
-Reg, that inflatable hippo worked a treat!
I don't know what he was worried about. Just...
Deadly 60 might not just be about
the animals that are dangerous to people,
but you couldn't come to South Africa and not do snakes.
Some of the most exciting snakes in the world are found in this area.
So, to show you as much about them as possible,
I've come to Khamai Reptile Park
to meet an old friend and a great hero of mine,
and if you think that I'm a bit obsessed with snakes,
trust me, you haven't seen anything yet.
Where is he?! He's gone!
-Don! How are you?
-Oh, my goodness! Deadly dog!
We've been checking out some of the snakes here in the park
and we've narrowed it down to three contenders
for the Deadly 60 list.
Even people that are passionate about snakes, like Donald and I,
can never really agree
on what the most dangerous snakes in South Africa are,
so we're gonna have a good look at these snakes in detail.
-What better place than the snake pit?
I have to say, Don, this is a genius idea of yours
to have this chat surrounded by deadly venomous snakes.
The sound man doesn't look too happy about it!
We're talking about a lot of snakes that potentially could harm humans,
but there's only one in the whole of Africa
that could actually eat a person. All these other ones,
if they strike you, if they get venom into you,
they're only doing it from defence,
but a rock python, potentially, could kill and eat a person.
You stink! You smell terrible!
You smell like perfumes, you smell like soaps, you smell like clothing.
Pythons don't eat that.
If you don't go bath for a month or two, maybe.
You're talking about a snake that can be as long as a limousine,
as fat around as my waist is,
it's got that strength, that ability,
to choke the life out of a creature.
And then, you know, once it's done that,
it can pretty much dislocate its entire jaw,
walk its mouth over prey that's phenomenally big.
Not a big lad like you, no.
You're not gonna be eaten by an African python.
When they strike and you see all of those massive rows
of recurved, needle-sharp teeth, that can be really scary.
Scary, yes, but appearance doesn't portray aggression.
Here's a python.
That's not fair!
You can't bring a little cuddly one like that into the equation!
You're totally blowing my argument, Don!
OK, fair enough, I'm gonna give you rock python.
What's your next argument?
The black mamba's got to be the most dangerous of the snakes.
This really is an awesome creature.
It's the largest venomous snake in Africa,
growing up to four-and-a-half metres,
and if you were trying to run away from it, it could overtake you.
The name black mamba refers to the black lining of its mouth.
It actively hunts its prey and there's enough venom in one bite
to kill as many as 20 or 30 men.
It's quite a nasty way to go,
I would imagine, being bitten by a black mamba.
Black mamba's got a neurotoxin, nerve-affecting venom.
It's gonna kill you within 15 minutes to maybe two hours.
When you speak about other snake venoms, it takes hours
or days to kill.
But, it paralyses, so stops breathing, stops heart,
and you are then clinically dead.
OK, I tell you what I'll go for. It's the rinkhals.
To show you a rinkhals in action, we've taken one
to the bush outside the sanctuary.
This is a fiery snake!
You can see he's rearing up towards me, ooh!
And just flicked venom all down my arm!
Certainly not as accurate as you see in some spitting cobras,
but if it goes in the eyes, it's gonna be just as effective.
Now... Look at that!
He actually flicked venom straight at me.
Actually, a little bit went into my mouth.
You can taste is has a kind of rusty taste to it.
'The venom can't harm me unless it gets into my bloodstream.'
That actually did go right into my mouth.
What I'm trying to do is restrain the head.
To actually give it an impression of what would happen
if an animal was to attack it, what it would do.
So, I'm just gently hoping that I'll be able to hold the head down...
And he just spat straight at the camera.
I think there are a few flecks of venom just on the outside
of the lens hood.
'This isn't hurting the snake but it does allow me to show you
'how incredible it is.'
Now... With the head restrained,
and the snake really feeling like it has nowhere to go,
the next thing that the rinkhals does...
..is play dead.
Look at that!
From the ferocious, agitated, moving snake we had before,
it's gone totally limp, so this
is the rinkhals last line of defence.
It's been fast, quick, and aggressive. It spat venom at me.
Now, it's just playing dead.
No motion whatsoever and any animal that won't take dead prey
is not gonna be interested, it's gonna leave it alone.
Anything that will and gets up too close is gonna get a nasty surprise,
and probably a bite.
Now that's what I call a clever snake.
That's brains! People think of snakes
as being creatures with tiny, insignificant brains,
that are stupid, and only think about eating and sleeping and getting warm.
The rinkhals proves it is absolutely not true.
So, is it the rock python, with its incredible strength and size?
Fast, furious and highly venomous, the black mamba is a true contender
for the deadly title.
Or is it the rinkhals, with its venom-flicking ability
and deadly tactics?
I think the black mamba gets my Deadly 60 stamp,
but I mean, I throw it open to you lot. What do you think?
Yeah, black mamba. We agree with you, Steve. I agree with you.
Whatever you say, Steve. You're the expert.
Black mamba - sorted.
I don't want you to think this series is only about animals
that are dangerous to people.
After all, you've as much chance of being hurt by a wild animal
as you have of being struck by lightning...
whilst wearing a gorilla suit.
What it is about is animals that are dangerous in their world.
If you're an insect, a chameleon
is the most dangerous animal in the world.
My team here in South Africa's nearly up but before we leave,
we're headed out into the bush to check out some possible contenders
for the Deadly 60 list.
Oh, wow! OK... Move very carefully now,
because...there's something below our feet
that's gonna be able to sense our movements.
If you come here... just looking down there.
This hole in front of me...
..might look pretty innocuous...
..but it's actually the burrow of a very beautiful spider.
See if we can get her out to say hello.
Ground round here's pretty hard, so in heavy rains,
these burrows could flood.
The spider may well come running out so let's see if we can replicate that
using our water.
-..Extreme close-up so it doesn't matter...
OK, so, as you can see,
I've just slipped my knife in underneath her, so she can't retreat.
Ground's good and soft, so it shouldn't damage her burrow,
Let's see if we can get her out.
Come on, beautiful...
Here she comes.
Look at that!
Isn't she gorgeous?
This is a baboon spider.
In many parts of the world, spiders in this group are known as tarantulas
but not here in Africa.
You can see these are the creatures of many people's nightmares
but she's actually such a gentle creature.
Moves so slowly, so carefully, and absolutely beautiful.
One of the most remarkable things about spiders like this
is that they can live to a ripe old age.
This one here, I wouldn't like to hazard a guess
but they're certainly known to live to 35 years...
which is just extraordinary.
Curiously, the venom glands on spiders of this size
are actually held at the top of the fangs, here,
and they're much smaller for their size
than you find on even the spiders in the back of your garden.
If I was to get bitten by this,
the venom is not actually gonna do me much harm.
What would, would be the fangs.
They're about the size of the claws on a domestic cat,
they're very sharp, if they were to puncture your skin,
it would really, really hurt.
Most people perceive big spiders
as being terrifying, dangerous, evil monsters
but can you actually think of anything
which is less threatening to humans?
I mean, she is just behaving better than a pussy cat.
And therefore, definitely not in my Deadly 60.
Aw, lovely smell of wild herbs...
This is gonna be the only... Ow!
..is a flat rock scorpion.
And...it's got quite a pinch on it!
But it's actually really the pussycat of the scorpion world,
as far as the sting goes.
The rule of thumb is to look at a scorpion
and look at the size of its pincers.
If those are big, like this one here
- he's trying to get hold of me with those -
those are gonna be its primary weapon.
The great thing about this flat rock scorpion is that even though
his sting really isn't very potent,
because he has these massive powerful pincers,
he'll flatten himself inside a crevice and if other scorpions
which might have much more potent venom come near by,
he can literally tear them apart.
So, although he's not very harmful to us,
he is quite potentially harmful to other scorpions
and that's gotta make him a candidate for the Deadly 60.
'With so much more to see, we decide to keep going on into the night.'
Ray Mears, eat your heart out.
The bush really comes alive at night so I'm gonna go out
and find out what we're sharing the camp with.
Ooh, on my shoe...
That is a very pretty, tiny little gecko.
We've only been out for a couple of minutes and already, we're seeing
a whole host of animals that we haven't seen around during the day.
This stick insect is just one of them.
You may have noticed that I have two different colours of torches -
the white bulb on my head and this purple light.
Hopefully you'll see quite soon why I've got this.
He's coming right towards me!
With a little luck, I might not even have to wrangle him!
It's exactly the species we're hoping to find as well.
Gotta hold my nerve here...
Cos I'm getting pinched but the pinch is not the problem.
I can hold him down.
This is the scorpion I was really hoping to find round here.
Now I'll show you why I've been carrying this torch around.
I get rid of my normal light...
Look at that.
This is one of the most curious things about scorpions -
their exoskeleton, their skeleton on the outside of their body,
has this amazing glow when it's put under ultraviolet light.
The reason for this, probably, is that because all invertebrates
see really well in this kind of light,
that a scorpion that's hiding in a crevice can see another one
by seeing that ghostly green glow.
Now, you'll notice that I haven't got this one on my hand,
like I did the other one,
and nor am I trying to get it to sting me, for the very simple reason
that if it did, erm...my trip would certainly be over.
This is probably one of the most venomous scorpions in Africa,
and if you look at the size of the pincers and the size of the tail,
you'll see that it's exactly reversed from the scorpion I had earlier.
The tail's big and fat, the pincers, small and thin.
This one here has a really nasty punch.
One of the most extraordinary things about this particular species
is that it doesn't stop there.
It can actually flick its venom as an attacker,
and it can be really, really accurate,
so I've gotta say, this extraordinary creature is going into my Deadly 60.
This scorpion is one of the very few in the world that could kill me,
and if it didn't, it would almost certainly put me out of action
for a long time.
More importantly, its large tail and sting,
laden with powerful neurotoxic venom,
combine to make this scorpion extremely deadly in its own world.
Join me next time when I continue my quest to find the Deadly 60.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Wildlife presenter Steve Backshall is on a quest to meet 60 of the deadliest animals on the planet. Steve and his team are on a fun-filled, adrenalin-fuelled journey to find those animals most people spend their lifetime avoiding.
The action kicks off in Hoedspruit, South Africa. The adventure is nearly over before it's even begun as an angry hippo surprises Steve in a tense encounter on the river. Unscathed and undaunted by the first deadly animal on his list, Steve gets up close and personal with some of South Africa's deadliest snakes and spends the night under the stars in order to find a particularly venomous scorpion.