Steve Backshall and the Deadly crew head into the flooded forests of Brazil. Steve takes a swim in a piranha-infested river in order to find out more about these killer fish.
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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 from around the world.
And you're coming with me every step of the way.
Ouch! Ha-ha! Whoa!
This time on Deadly 60...
we're here, in Brazil in South America.
And this is the Amazon Rainforest, the largest jungle in the world.
So what are we doing on a boat? Well, round here, this time of year,
an awful lot of that forest is underwater.
This will be our base for the next week.
From it, the team and I will explore an area called the flooded forest.
And it's exactly that - a gigantic jungle
that for half the year is under millions of tons of water
with just the tops of the trees showing.
Everything that lives here has adapted to the water.
For the local people,
boats are used for everything from doing the school run
to picking up the shopping.
The wildlife is very distinctive
with amazing birds, mammals,
reptiles, bugs and the odd fish or two.
Quite a lot of them...are deadly.
Usually on Deadly 60, we try to get back to basics
and keep things as simple and basic as possible,
but not this time.
Our Amazon river boat is absolutely beautiful.
This is where we have all our quarters.
That's one of the cabins in there. Very plush.
This is the dining room -
also doubling up as an edit suite at the moment.
And if you come on down, try and make sure you don't hurt yourself...
Someone fixing an engine, that isn't the engine that drives this boat.
And this is going to be the important bit
and he's a very important man.
That's Dudu, he's going to be our guide.
Dudu is an expert in the local wildlife,
And he suggested we start looking for one particular suspect
at one of the nearby floating villages.
The fish we've come here to see is called the arapaima.
It's a total legend in this part of the Amazon
and it is a Leviathan, Goliath, gargantuan, that means big, fish.
Only problem is that it's become endangered due to over fishing.
So local people have decided the best way to save it,
is to farm them in ponds like this.
Somewhere in there is one of the biggest fish in the world.
So to bring one of these big fish to the surface,
apparently I need to use a little fish tied to a stick!
It's technical stuff.
I think they're over there is what's happening.
Whoa, look at that!
That is a strong fish.
I think we've had enough of a tease.
-I think we should try and catch one, yes?
One, two, three...
This is a bit nerve-racking, actually.
To actually catch one, the fishermen's usual method
is to walk a net across the pen.
So, I'm going to join them.
So there's probably about 30 fish in here.
Erm...they're all of them huge.
And we're just trying to corral them in this end of the pen.
There is a danger that they might leap out over the top of the net
so we've got to watch what we're doing cos they're very big
and, er, it could get interesting.
We only need one, we only need one!
Oh! I just got head-butted by an arapaima!
Look at that!
Absolutely extraordinary, prehistoric looking creature.
The scientific name means bony-tongued
and actually, the whole thing is pretty bony.
The head is solid as a rock
which I could attest to cos I just got slammed by it.
It nearly knocked me out!
That is magnificent.
Look at those red tints to the scales. It's beautiful!
25 kilos, 25 kilos.
This is about a tenth of the size that this fish can grow to.
Yeah. I don't think I want to be handling anything bigger than that.
Oh... Obligado, obligado.
Stevie, you've actually got a cut right above your right eye, mate.
I'm getting out of here.
These are the biggest predatory fish in the Amazon,
but that's not enough for my list.
There's much deadlier stuff lurking in the flooded forest,
so the team and I are going exploring in the smaller canoes.
We had the strange sensation that we were being watched.
And then, from nowhere...
..mysterious missiles came out of the tree tops,
plummeting into the water around us.
The animals threatening to sink the canoes were the huge iguanas
watching us from the tree tops.
They're quite canny, these iguanas.
If they think they can get away with it, they'll just dive
and it's like a fighter-bomber coming out of the sky
and hitting the water.
Bizarre, yes. But mostly, plant eaters are not deadly.
So we keep searching and I have one animal in mind.
Deadly 60's taken us all over the world looking for snakes.
And one of the first things I try and say about snakes
is that they're amazing predators and fascinating animals,
but very rarely, if ever, dangerous to people.
There is one snake that lives here in the flooded forest
which is an exception to that rule.
They're called the lanceheads.
And I have to say it's one of the only snakes in the world
that I'm genuinely frightened of.
So we're going to move slowly and carefully and keep our eyes peeled.
The lancehead, or fer-de-lance as they're sometimes known,
are responsible for more human deaths in the Americas
than any other snake, so we have every reason to go carefully.
-Right here, man.
Right here as in where?
-Here on this little branch.
-I see it, I see it.
-You see it?
-Everyone move really, really carefully.
-It's poisonous, man.
It's definitely a lancehead.
Let's not knock...knock this tree.
OK, back me up just a little bit. Dudu, is it possible?
I'm going to do everything very carefully and cautiously
cos it would be a nightmare if someone got bitten out here.
Erm, Dudu, would you just edge me forward?
No more than a couple of feet please, mate.
This is...the velvety lancehead.
All right, fella. It's all right.
He's tasting it on the...
Ooh, and just having a little nibble at the snake hook.
Probably looks like I'm squashing him here,
especially when he's thrashing like that,
but these snakes are sturdy and strong
and I'm well away from his vital organs.
This is easily the best way to comfortably handle the snake.
I've been calling him a lancehead, you see he has a very thin neck.
And the head is shaped like a spearhead
and lance is an old word for a spear.
It's without doubt the most dangerous snake to humans
in all of Central and South America. It's bite is extremely powerful
and it's all really down to the way that the fer-de-lance hunts.
They stay very, very still for long periods of time,
waiting for prey to wander close by.
If by accident a person happens to step close to or on the lancehead,
then they get bitten.
The venom works almost instantaneously.
and is not only extremely painful, but can very, very quickly cause...
well, serious injury or even death. Phew!
But it's a magic moment nonetheless.
I'm almost certain that what he'll do is just drop into the water
when he's released.
This is the venomous snake that poses the most threat
to every other creature in the flooded forest,
a scintillating strike
and vicious venom -
We just found our first Deadly 60 animal
and we're on our way back to the big boat,
when we stumble on something.
Stop steering, stop. Stop.
Sat in front of me...
is just a whole host of deadly stuff going on.
This big patch of kind of weird furriness
is not a whole bunch of vegetation.
It isn't even one animal.
In fact, it's probably about 40 or 50 caterpillars.
They're called processionary caterpillars.
At night-time, they'll head out in a single line,
up and down these trees and branches cos it makes them look like a snake.
Therefore, other animals are less likely to attack them.
They're covered in hairs.
And those hairs, if they get onto your skin, leave you with a burn
which in some cases can last for three or four months.
I've had them myself and it's absolutely hideous.
Honestly, three or four months later you get sweaty and you wipe them
and you start itching all over again.
But there's something else deadly here.
Some of the caterpillars are covered in little white lumps.
What's happened there, is that a special kind of parasitic wasp
has laid its egg on these caterpillars,
eggs on these caterpillars. And the larvae have hatched
and started eating the caterpillars from the inside out.
The really clever bit is that they leave all of the essential organs
so that the caterpillar stays alive and therefore the meat stays fresh
for the wasp larvae. It's all pretty hideous.
With an environment like this that's so totally dominated by water,
some of the most important animals are always going to be fish.
And this part of the world has one of the most famous
and the most savage on the planet.
I give you the piranha.
There are more than 30 species in the Amazon.
Most can eat seeds and fruit, but let's be honest,
we're not interested in them.
We're after the ones that like eating flesh.
They use their razor-sharp teeth to snap and tear
at dead or living prey.
Usually it's fish, but anything that falls into the water is fair game.
Lizards, insects, birds, even mammals.
Different species can shoal together in large numbers.
And if they all decide to hunt together,
that's an awful lot of teeth.
So if these dark waters are absolutely infested with piranha,
and trust me they are, you'd have to be insane to go swimming here.
Or would you? Let me show you something.
I'm going to pop on this strange underwater camera
so you can see what I'm seeing and hop in.
As you can see from the camera, the piranhas are staying well away.
Do you reckon he's going to come back up, guys?
-Looks like he's all right. Let's get him back out.
You worried us for a minute there, you disappeared.
There's nothing to worry about here. It's... Argh!
There is a serious side to this experiment.
There are piranha here, I just couldn't see them.
When the water levels are high like this,
they aren't a threat to people.
OK, so if you have no cuts on yourself
and the water's full and high and there's lots of food around,
you're pretty safe in the water. But that's not always the case.
-Is it, Dudu?
When it's dry season, all the rivers get very, very low and shallow.
They all concentrate there. At this time...
-The piranhas are in much higher concentration.
Sometimes you cannot wash your hands.
If you were to wash your hands in the river?
-They can bite you, for sure.
-And then what happens?
-Bite and take a finger off.
-It would actually take a finger off?
But we still want to see one.
To do that, we're going fishing.
It's got away.
OK, so I'm rubbish at fishing,
but Dudu's the master.
His special trick is vibrating the tip of his rod
to mimic a panicky, struggling animal.
The piranha's go mad for it.
-Ooh, right. There we go.
Wherever we put the boat, Dudu got a bite.
Yeah, that's one.
Oh, for goodness sake.
This is ridiculous!
Oh, honestly. I am the worst fisherman in the world.
15 piranhas to Dudu, none to me.
I'm just useless.
What have you caught, Steve?
We, or rather Dudu, were catching all different kinds of piranha.
Copying Dudu's technique, I hooked the most aggressive of the lot.
-Oh, ha-ha! Wow.
Finally I get one.
Oh, that's a good one as well.
This is the red-bellied piranha.
Come on. It's very slippery.
Yay. There we go.
This is the famous red-bellied piranha.
And this is quite a savage little fish. Isn't it, Dudu?
-Look at those teeth.
Look at that.
That, obviously, is the bottom jaw
and those interlock perfectly with the teeth on the upper jaw.
You know, people say
the word razor-sharp too often.
This genuinely is a set of teeth that are razor-sharp.
There's no doubt that piranha have
the most ferocious reputation in the Amazon,
but I hadn't actually seen for myself
one of their famous feeding frenzies.
So I wasn't sure they deserved to be on the Deadly 60.
We all headed back to the boat and fished off the side for our dinner.
Then, we spotted movement in the water.
It was something infinitely more scary than a piranha.
Oh, my goodness. Look at that!
Oh, that is grotesque!
The strange ghostly shapes were a kind of catfish
called giant candiru.
Normal candiru are about the size of my little finger,
so these ones are relative monsters.
Oh, look at that! It's got right into the belly cavity.
That is one single bite.
It just looks like he's bored a hole
straight into the gut of that fish.
That is horrible.
That is absolutely horrid.
-You going to go swimming now?
-Eh, no. No. Or possibly never again.
This calls for a Deadly 60 experiment.
I'm going to time how long it takes them to devour this piece of steak.
Just imagine if you fell into the water.
How long would it take before the candiru started attacking you?
They are possibly the most grotesque,
the most frightening fish I think I've ever seen.
And no sooner have I put this bit of meat into the water,
then all of a sudden it's... Ouch!
Ha-ha! Suddenly surrounded by seething, white grotesque catfish.
Look at... They're shredding it! They are absolutely shredding it.
They just get a grip with those teeth and then spin their body
round and round and round and bore into it,
like some insane living drill bit.
Dudu reckons that they'll actually do this to a living animal
swimming these waters at night.
That is grim.
Can I take piranhas off the Deadly 60 and put candiru on instead?
-I wasn't planning on it,
but I have to say that's one of the scariest fish I've ever seen.
Look at that.
From steak to nothing... in 48 seconds.
I'm certainly not going swimming in there.
They are evil.
One of the most gruesome animals on the list
they drill a hole through their prey
and can strip fish or meat
right down to the bone
in a matter of minutes.
They're absolutely horrifying.
They're the giant candiru.
Night time is by far the best time to explore the flooded forest.
You're absolutely guaranteed to run into something interesting.
Flooded forests like this
are one of my favourite habitats in the whole world
to go out searching for wildlife.
Particularly at night, like now.
I mean, first off, it really is
one of the spookiest environments you'll ever see.
If you were going to make a monster movie,
you'd set it here.
But secondly, and more importantly,
it's absolutely crawling with wildlife.
Oh, look at this!
Look at that.
How's about that?
This is a spectacled caiman.
In between the eyes, you can see the bridge there
which looks like a pair of spectacles. See that there?
That's what gives it its name.
OK then, fella.
Time to set you free.
Great stuff. I LOVE it here!
Let's see what else we can find.
Steve, Steve! Right there.
Oh, my goodness!
Look at the size of that!
Another snake. Not venomous, this time.
This is an Amazon tree boa.
He's a good sized one.
Look at that!
I absolutely love these snakes.
Look at that.
Look how strong it is
at holding its body while anchored on my hand.
That's perfect when you're in an environment like this
where you can move around between branches
doing exactly what he's doing now. Look at that.
You can just use that incredible muscular form
to really hold him. He's holding about half of his body length now
while he's stretching out to try to find a tree to move to.
This is one of the best climbing snakes you'll ever see.
And absolutely perfect for hunting in the flooded forest.
-I think he likes you, Marky.
-Yeah, I think he does, doesn't he?
Our time on the Amazon was nearing its end
and I still needed one more animal.
Dudu knew a place where we could get closer than I'd ever been
to one of the weirdest creatures on the planet.
They look like a prehistoric river dinosaur,
but they're actually a dolphin and they're bright, luminous pink.
Oh, look at that! Look!
I don't believe it. Look-look, look-look!
They're so close.
This is actually one of the hardest animals in the world to film
in a completely natural setting.
I've spent months on the Amazon
and you see pink river dolphins popping up every now and again
and it's no more than a fin and then it's gone.
Already... We've been here for two minutes
and I've had better sightings of pink river dolphins
than I have in all the months on the Amazon put together.
This is going to be very, very special indeed.
That was quick.
Look at that!
Well, I think it's probably worth just slipping straight in.
Just at the edge, it's shallow enough that I can stand up.
The water's like sort of, warm cola, here.
I should say straight off that these are totally wild dolphins. Whoa!
Ha-ha! Totally wild.
But the reason they're here is actually...
exactly the same reason why they're deadly.
These animals have huge brains, they're really intelligent.
And if there's a free meal on offer,
why waste time and energy on going out and hunting?
But as soon as I've finished feeding them they're going to be off
catching fish for themselves.
They're not biting me despite the fact
that there's loads of them down here, there are loads.
And they're quarrelling over the fish,
but I haven't yet had any of those teeth... Oh, crikey!
You tell him.
Little fight there over the fish.
I haven't yet been nibbled. Touch wood.
OK, so we've seen that they eat fish,
but why am I considering putting
a bright pink dolphin on the Deadly 60?
Well, look at this.
When pink river dolphins hunt,
they take on a whole different personality.
Their first deadly ability is sonar,
just like a hunter-killer submarine.
By emitting clicks, they can form a picture underwater
and find fish trying to hide from them in the murky depths.
One on one, they have the power and speed to kill a single fish,
but when they club together, they can herd large schools of fish
using a riverbank to corner them.
If you're a fish being hunted by these guys,
there is nowhere to hide.
It's one thing feeding them from the boat,
but to really appreciate their power
I wanted to swim with them in the open river.
Like most Deadly 60 animals they're no threat to me,
but they are very, very powerful and very fast
and they don't seem to mind shoving us out of the way
to get at the fish.
They're very strong. When they thrash against you,
you can feel that they are just one packed muscle
and... Whoa! When they want the fish, they take it.
Amazing! He just decided he wanted Richard's boom pole, the sound man.
Look at it, he's going for it again.
I think he's decided that Richard's boom pole's food.
Drop it down a bit again. Again, Rich?
-I don't want to lose my boom!
-You won't lose it.
Ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha!
They're acrobatic, they're brainy and they're beautiful.
River dolphins are on the Deadly 60.
Yes, you are.
In many ways these pink predators
are the ultimate hunters
of the flooded forest.
Big brained, team trained,
sonar hunting machines.
And that's precisely why
they're going on the Deadly 60.
Join us next time on Deadly 60.
Look at that.
-Never seen anything this big before.
-Watch out, Rich!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Steve Backshall and the Deadly crew find themselves in deep water as they head into the flooded forests of Brazil. The water is teeming with life and Steve takes a swim in a piranha-infested river in order to find out more about these killer fish. They are assured of a place on the Deadly 60 list until other mysterious fish lurking in the depths make Steve think again.
Determined to see one of the strangest animals that inhabit the waters of the flooded forest, Steve and the team go in search of pink river dolphins, and an encounter with one of the most venomous snakes on the planet rounds off this flooded forest adventure.