Naturalist Steve Backshall's search for deadly creatures takes him to Borneo's Gomantong caves where thousands of cockroaches and the scutigera centipede await.
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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.
There's nowhere in the world better to go looking for wildlife
than the tropical rainforests. And we're in one of the best on earth...
And I'll give you three guesses why they call it the rainforest.
It may well be wet but it's also hot.
And that's what makes Borneo's tropical rainforest
so amazing for wildlife.
And I'm here with my crew. James, Johnny, Rosie, Nick
and our guide Eric.
And we're on the search for animals to add to our Deadly 60 list.
Inland from here are some of the planet's creepiest creatures.
And to find them we're headed deep into the forest using the rivers -
the forest's natural highways.
So, for us, taking a boat down these little rivers
is the absolute best way to come into contact with animals.
'Along the way we're hoping to see other contenders for the list.
'We've not been journeying long when we see not a deadly,
'but an iconic animal.'
The old man of the forest -
Despite the orang-utan being the most famous animal in Borneo,
to actually see one like this totally genuinely in the wild
is really very unusual.
And particularly a big fully grown male like this.
You can tell he's a male because the face is very broad and flattened.
Looks almost like he's run full speed into a milk truck.
And apparently females find that very attractive.
Great stuff but things are about to get tougher
as we leave the relative comfort of the boat
and head into the forest on foot.
My rucksack is so heavy, hey?
We're travelling to a cave system we've been told is the home
to some truly deadly predators.
On the way we pick up some friends that want to have us for dinner.
Only we're on the menu.
It's a very common creature round here,
which sucks the blood of just about anything it can get a hold of.
And I absolutely hate them.
'It's a tiger leach.
'They'll wait in positions just like this
'for something warm blooded to wander past.
'And then they'll drop off and get stuck in to a nice blood meal.'
They sense the warmth of our bodies
and also the carbon dioxide we breathe out.
You can see him start to move towards the source
of the carbon dioxide, which is me.
And the blood meal I've got inside of me.
They are absolutely hideous.
Look, see him start to walk?
Yup, there you go.
Now, I want to do a little bit of a scientific experiment here.
There's six of us here.
We're going to wander through the forest for about ten minutes
and see how many of these little beauties we can pick up.
Come on, guys. I mean, at least...
at least do a little bit. Roll your trousers up or something. Come on.
Pale English legs here.
-Come on, Nick.
-What about you?
-Right, let's go get them.
'This is going to be a real test for the crew.
'Are they tough enough for the jungle trek
'and for what lies ahead?'
I hate them. They're horrible.
-Does it hurt?
-Ah, Steve's got one on his leg.
I'm a little concerned about how far this one's going up.
It's prowling around your neck at the moment.
This one's pretty impressive.
I'm getting quite attached to it.
-That is just disgusting.
-This is a health warning.
The following scene could seriously put you off your tea.
I've got two on my nipple.
Oh, they're horrible.
He's drinking, man. He's properly drinking.
I can hear it looking.
So, me and the crew have all got a good covering
of these disgusting leeches.
But there's one question I know you're dying to ask.
How do you get rid of them?
The best way to get rid of them is to take a finger nail or a knife.
And just scrape beneath the head.
And they should just come off like that
without leaving any of their mouth parts behind.
The other alternative
is just to leave them until they're full and they fall off.
But not many people have got the guts to do that.
OK, my crew have proved that they're tough enough.
And they're going to need to be for what's coming next.
'This is Gomantong Cave,
'one of the world's largest cave systems.
'In the daytime the skies around the caves are full of birds
'called swifts. By night the birds give way
'to a truly awesome predator.'
The next animal we're looking for is one that people all over the world
are absolutely terrified of,
which is crazy because they don't do us any harm whatsoever.
But they are one of the world's greatest predators of insects.
In this cave there's around two million of them.
I'm going to go see if I can get a closer look.
'Bats are nocturnal hunters, so right now they're roosting,
'which means that I have to wait for nightfall.'
Living in this part of the world, you would not want to be an insect.
Every one of these bats is equipped with an echo location system.
It's very much like a sonar on a submarine.
You've probably seen it in movies.
You hear a sound - bop!
Which disappears off into the distance.
And it bounces back off objects that are in front of it.
In a bat that click can reverberate off the smallest of insects.
Even something as small as a midge.
And the sound pattern that comes back tells the bat
exactly where it is and then bam!
The bat catches the insect.
Every one of the bats that lives in this cave
can catch its entire bodyweight in insects in one night.
'Now, that's so incredible I'm going to have to say that again.'
Every one of the bats that lives in this cave
can catch its entire bodyweight in insects in one night.
Eating your own bodyweight in insects?
That's like you eating thousands of burgers every night.
So bats are fantastic insect predators
but there's something else that's remarkable
about the way bats are put together.
'You see it all around you in this cave.
'When they're not flying,
'bats generally rest high up and hanging down.
'When they want to fly again they simply let go and accelerate
'quickly, allowing them to get into their flying position easily.'
Now, I'm a mammal just like a bat.
So, let's see how long I can hang on for.
I can't quite believe I'm doing this.
So I'm hanging on using muscle power.
And beneath me at the moment...
well, it's about 90 metres down to the floor of the cave,
which is a long way.
I've been hanging on for not long,
probably 15, 20 seconds
this steel wire's cutting into my fingers.
by quite how far down it is at the moment.
Now, bats can do this
for a very, very long time.
They don't use their muscles like I'm doing.
Instead they switch on their talons
or their claws.
'Bats' ligaments and muscles work differently to ours.
'If you relax your hand, it will fall open.
'When a bat relaxes its claws it does the opposite, and clenches up.
'So even when asleep they're in no danger of letting go
'and they can hang on for hours.
'Whilst, me, on the other hand...'
I think I'm about to go... ah!
That is a very long way down.
Being as we proved that I can't hang out for hours on end,
I've got myself this contraption.
It's called a port-a-ledge.
So I'm just going to clamber into this and wait for the show to start.
Ah! Now all I need to do is sit here and wait for the bats.
As the sun goes down, the night shift is about to start.
Look at this.
It's just bat crazy.
They're mostly wrinkle-lipped bats,
which are a very peculiar-looking creature up close.
There's absolutely thousands of them.
And the noise in here is just raising by the second.
You can probably hear it roaring behind us.
Usually this time of the early evening is when you start to slap on
the mozzy repellent because there are so many bugs around.
But up here we haven't been bitten once.
We are just surrounded by insect-eating machines.
All these bats now are starting to gather in these caverns
and pretty soon they're going to head out
in great long spiralling flocks
to go and feast on the insects around here.
This is incredible!
I have never seen so many bats in my entire life.
'With well over two million ravenous bats,
'it takes them a full hour to leave the cave.
'Once in the open they make a defensive formation,
'creating a huge black pulsating cloud.
'And when they reach a critical size,
'they head to the rain forest
'to gorge themselves on billions and billions of insects.'
Every flying insect for miles around here
is going to be in big trouble tonight.
And that's why wrinkle-lipped bats are going on the Deadly 60.
Lightning fast and agile, as well as having incredible echo location,
bats are some of the most fearsome aerial predators on the planet.
Definitely on my Deadly 60.
'So we know Gomantong Cave is home to millions and millions of bats
'and swifts. But the cave floor is also teaming with wildlife.
'The only problem is it's 100 metres below me.
'I' d better get my climbing gear on.
'Oh, and if you don't like heights
'and creepy crawlies, you'd better look away...now.'
'Good to go, Steve.
'We're good to go. Over?'
Wow, what a place!
Look at that.
The air is just thick with swifts.
This would have to be one of the most beautiful places
I've ever seen.
This is incredible.
They're tiny little swifts, just flying up into their nests.
They seem totally unafraid of me.
They're no more than a metre away from where I'm hanging.
Yet they're just dropping into their nests
right in front of me.
Now, some of these nests have got eggs in them.
Little eggs, about the size of a peanut.
Look at that one there.
'It's truly extraordinary seeing the bats
'and swifts 100 metres up on a rope.
'But I can't wait to see the cave floor.'
Up in the roof of the cave
with the bats and the birds circling around you,
it's kind of like paradise.
But all those birds and two million bats create an awful lot of poo.
And that falls down here, on the cave floor.
So, if up there's heaven then down is a kind of hell.
But there are some deadly creatures that absolutely love it.
It smells incredibly strong. And in fact anyone that
works in this cave for too long has to wear protective clothing.
Which explains why my crew
are all dressed like weird Oompa-loompas.
'The crew have been working down here much longer than me.
'That's why they're wearing the suits and I'm not.'
And this big hill
that I'm walking up here isn't actually a hill at all.
See, all those creatures up there
obviously have to go to the toilet sometime.
And over hundreds of years, it's built up into this gigantic
pile of what's called guano.
'Yup, if you haven't already guessed it,
'I'm standing on the world's largest pile of poo.
'And it stinks!'
If you look over the other side,
you can see the ground seems to be moving.
It's almost like there's thousands of little jewels.
The reason the floor appears to be moving
is that it's absolutely covered with cockroaches.
I have never seen anything so disgusting in my entire life.
Every single square inch of ground is covered in these creatures.
Now, cockroaches are absolutely amazing animals.
They are some of the world's greatest survivors.
Cockroaches it's said can live for over a week without their heads.
They really are some of the greatest developed insects in the world.
But at the same time they're also absolutely hideous.
Here in this cave
all of this wonderful dung is perfect food for them.
And there's something else here
that's even better food for cockroaches.
Occasionally some of the bats and birds don't make it.
And they fall down to the cave floor and become food for the cockroaches.
These here are actually flesh eating bugs.
This possibly is one of the nastiest places on the planet.
But there's another creature here
which actually eats these cockroaches for breakfast.
And it's them that we're here to find.
'But to find this cockroach killer,
'I'm going to have to descend even further into the darkness
'of the cave system below.
'This place is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
'And it looks like my next critter has already had its breakfast.'
Of all of the horrors that live
in this absolutely nightmarish place,
down here is perhaps the most frightening.
And it's the animal that I'm suggesting for the Deadly 60.
Oh, crumbs! I have to say I absolutely hate them.
There you go. Ah! Ha! Ha!
That one just ran over my hand.
-OK, right. I'm going to be more gutsy this time.
There's one other side of that rock.
This is scutigera or the long-legged centipede.
I think there's another one on the other side of the rock as well.
So I'm being very careful about how I handle this.
It is quite venomous.
One of the guys living in the area was bitten
by one of these centipedes not so long ago
and spent a week in hospital
so I'm taking care not to get bitten.
They actually have like most centipedes...
Ah! It just ran over my arm.
Sounds obvious but one of the main challenges, of living in a cave,
is the dark. And the fact that you can't actually see anything.
Scutigera still manages to be an incredible hunter
by using its long legs.
You can see as it moves, it'll just stop
and tap some of those legs over the rock's surface.
What it's doing is using each and every one of those feet
to feel everything about the surface it's moving on.
Building up a real mental picture of its environment.
And if there's anything there that it might be able to eat.
'It can grow as long as my forearm, has a mightily venomous bite,
'and with those long legs, there's nothing down here
'that can escape it.'
And nothing that's more guaranteed to give you nightmares.
So scutigera is going on the Deadly 60.
And I'm going somewhere else.
A truly terrifying cave predator.
Venomous, creepily quick and one of the most frightening creatures
I've seen on the Deadly 60.
'It's an unbelievable relief
'for the team to be back in the fresh forest air
'and searching for the next animal on my list.
'I'm after a reticulated python, the world's longest snake,
'and one that could probably kill me and then swallow me whole.'
The reticulated python is an ambush predator.
So it lies in wait for its prey to get too close and bang!
Like a flying lasso, it ensnares its victim
in enough coils to constrict it,
stopping it breathing before it smothers them with its huge jaws
and devours it whole.
It's a common misconception that in the jungle every single branch
of every single tree is dripping with snakes.
Much as I wish that was true, unfortunately it isn't.
The particular snake we're looking for here is the largest
in the world. But that doesn't mean it's any easier to find.
In fact, its whole hunting strategy revolves around it staying hidden.
We could be in for quite a tough time.
'We've spotted our first snake. It's not a reticulated python
'but it's an absolute beauty.
'So I'll try and give you a closer look.
'But that might not be as easy as it sounds.'
And... Yeah, good catch, James.
Look at the speed of that!
'If at first you don't succeed, try...'
I'm going to get this...
Yes! Well done.
That is what I call a team effort.
Good job, James.
Just keep him down in the... See if I can pin the head.
Ah, this is the mangrove cat snake and it gets its name from the eyes.
There's a slit which runs right down the middle of the eye,
just exactly like you'd see on a cat.
Look at the tongue going absolutely berserk.
It's because in this situation there's so much going on
this snake wants to find out.
And it's primary method of doing that is its tongue.
It's tasting, smelling everything that's going on around us.
Probably smelling Johnny, smelling my sweat.
The snake's tongue is definitely its primary method of finding out
what's going on in the world around it.
And I think it should go back in its tree.
The mangrove cat snake is a truly beautiful snake,
but not in the same league as the reticulated python.
So it's back to the search and back in the boat.
'We search and we search.
'And in the end we ask the locals for some help.'
Excuse me, I was wondering if you could tell me
where I could find a big snake? Whoa!
Hello there, mate.
I think that means go away.
'So we head off again.
'And we look and we look. But we start to run out of time.
'And realise that maybe we're not going to see
'one of these incredible snakes in the wild.
'But we do have a trick up our sleeve.'
Right. Well, I know Deadly 60 is about wild animals.
But you cannot say we didn't try and find our big snake in the wild.
It just didn't happen. Luckily though, Eric, our guide,
knows someone who does have exactly the snake we've been looking for.
And I've heard that it's quite a big one. So let's have a look.
-Hi, hi, how you doing?
Hello, hello. Hey, Eric.
Can I, can I take it out?
OK, let's have a look.
Ah, yeah, that is a big snake.
That is a very big snake.
Is it OK for me to take out?
So, this is a big reticulated python
and he really is big.
Crumbs, that's heavy!
That's really heavy.
Reticulated python is the longest snake in the world.
Believe it or not, the anaconda
from South America can get larger and heavier...
A heavier body than this.
But in terms of pure length, the reticulated python has it.
I have to say,
this is the thickest heaviest-bodied retic' I've ever seen.
'So what does "reticulated" actually mean?
'Well, reticulated means netted
'and it refers to the snake's blocky diamond-shaped pattern.
'Which is part of its camouflage.'
I tell you what, it's a good job it's quite tame, isn't it?
If this was snappy, I wouldn't be quite so keen
to be handling it like this. Do I need to worry
-when its head starts heading towards me like that.
-He's getting used to you.
So this snake's been held in captivity for about 15 years.
So it's not very aggressive. Believe me,
I would not be handling it like this if this was wild snake.
This is a reticulated python
I found a few years ago, living under a bridge in a village.
The locals asked me to take it back to the forest,
as it had been eating their chickens.
This one was only about eight feet long, but was incredibly aggressive.
Normally they eat wild boar, pigs and birds.
But they are confirmed people killers. So, naturally,
the locals were worried that it could eat their children.
This one was killed several years ago by villagers
who thought it had done exactly that.
But when they looked inside it was fortunately a wild boar.
The reticulated python can get to be actually much bigger than this.
The longest recorded specimen was about 28 feet. This one's about 20.
So it would be an extra me plus a bit more.
And I have to say this isn't even constricting me.
But just the pure weight and power of it. Look at that on my leg.
This is how the reticulated python kills its prey,
by wrapping some coils around the animal
and as it breathes out the retic' just clenches a little bit more.
And every time the animal breathes out it clenches more and more
until eventually there is just no lung space left
and the animal suffocates.
Looking at this wondrous, monstrous snake,
the longest snake in the world, there is absolutely no doubt
that the reticulated python has got to go on the Deadly 60.
Huge they may be but it's the super fast lasso attack
and its lethal squeeze that gets it on the Deadly 60.
Now, that's a big snake.
Join me next time when I continue my quest
to find the Deadly 60.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Steve Backshall abseils into the darkness of the incredible Gomantong cave system.
Here, he encounters thousands of cockroaches and one of the scariest creepy-crawlies to go on the Deadly 60 list, the scutigera centipede. Thousands of wrinkle-lipped bats call this cave their home. In order to show how amazing they are, Steve hangs like a bat from the cave ceiling. It is a truly awesome sight as the bats leave the cave in their thousands to hunt for bugs in the night sky.
Steve also scours the waterways of the Borneo jungle for a reticulated python, and the team get munched on by tiger leeches. Not an episode for the faint-hearted.