Steve Backshall's quest for deadly species sees him come face to face with a huge lace monitor lizard and encounter a venomous redback spider.
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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.
This time I'm about here,
in Queensland in Eastern Australia.
And to show you some more of the amazing landscapes around here,
I'm taking to the skies.
This aircraft's called a microlight. It's like someone's taken
a hang-glider and stuck an enormous fan on the back of it.
It's a wonderful way of getting up high
for a good view of the landscape
to see what it is that makes this part of Queensland so special.
Behind us we've got the mountains of the Great Dividing Range
and below, a huge forest of Eucalyptus trees.
It's a wonderful place to look for wildlife,
there's bound to be some animals here that make my Deadly 60.
So many that it's gonna be seriously tough to choose my top three.
Really getting up some speed now!
You really can't avoid seeing the works of man.
Particularly, here in Queensland, these fields.
This is sugar cane.
It's the second largest industry in Queensland
and these fields are everywhere.
There's one animal which will always be linked with the sugar cane
and has made its way across Australia
eating everything in its path.
It's poisonous, has a gigantic mouth,
it'll eat pretty much everything. Worst of all, it's an alien!
And it lurks somewhere in these sugar cane fields.
Well, that is our alien.
It's a cane toad and these don't belong here in Australia at all,
they were introduced by people in the 1930's
from Central and South America.
We call any animals that's brought into a country that's not its own,
an alien species.
The cane toad has caused more havoc in Australia than you can imagine.
They were brought in to prey on the cane beetles
which were devastating the sugar cane crops.
But things didn't go quite to plan.
One of the genius things with bringing the cane toad to Australia
is they were brought here to eat beetles. The cane toad lives
down on the ground and the beetles live way up there.
One thing cane toads can't do is climb.
Though they can jump.
Sugar cane beetles might be off the menu,
but they'll eat just about anything else.
Honey bees as a starter.
And native creatures make the perfect main course.
Everything from insects to small, furry mammals.
And then how about a spot of dog food for pudding?
The dog had better watch out though, if he fancies cane toad for tea
he'll be off to the vets, cos cane toads are also poisonous.
Because they poison what eats them and eat everything else,
cane toads have rampaged across all of Australia.
From the original 102 there are now over 200 million!
They even live in the rainforest,
which is why I'm here on a dark and rainy night.
This one here, it looks a pretty good size but I've seen cane toads
that are about the size of a cycle helmet.
The reason these are so deadly to so many animals around here
is these two big lumps here.
They're called parotoid glands and they...oh, did you see that?!
Did you see that great...
..firing of white goo, there?
I know that looks like squeezing a rather large, unsightly zit,
but that's the reason the cane toad is so dangerous.
That goo, coming out of these glands here,
is the poison the cane toad uses to defend itself.
Unfortunately, if any of the native creatures around here,
just about anything, snakes, small mammals, birds,
get a hold of the cane toad,
they eat this poison and that's all bad for the animals around here.
Certainly ugly, certainly a total menace,
but it's only here they're doing incredible damage,
and that's our fault.
So he's not going on my Deadly 60.
My next Deadly 60 animal is a blood sucking vampire.
Which strikes even in towns and cities.
It puts more children in hospital and kills more pets
than venomous spiders and snakes combined.
We've just had a call from a local vet that an animal has been attacked
by our lethal blood sucking parasite.
The parasite is still attached to the prey. We've got to get there
quickly as all the time it's attached it pours toxins
into the blood stream of the animal.
If we don't get there soon, it'll be in big trouble.
Hello! You've got a patient's just come in?
-Yes, in the surgery, through there.
-Magic, thank you very much.
I hear you've got an animal suffering from a paralysis tick?
Yes we do, this gentlemen, Lindsay.
Yeah, I'm the paralysis tick!
Ah, sorry! I was expecting a dog or something.
'After all, this is a vets!'
That is absolutely tiny.
It is actually about the size of a pinhead.
There's no way you'll see it on the big camera, have we got...
This is what we call a lipstick camera
which magnifies anything really small.
Lindsay, do you mind if I just poke around behind your ear?
Knock yourself out.
It's just there.
The head of the tick is buried...
into the flesh.
And it's just pumping Lindsay's blood into it.
But they have, in their saliva, their spit, almost like a venom,
which can totally paralyse the creature that they're feeding on.
It's not just people
and it's not just people's pets that are affected,
there's a lot of wild animals that suffer from paralysis ticks too.
The tick lurks in the undergrowth and lies in wait
for a fresh blood meal.
It senses the vibrations and tastes the carbon dioxide
from its victim's breath.
As the animal or person brushes past,
the tick jumps on and clings to the fur or the clothes.
Finally it's guided by heat down to the skin and begins to feed.
Large fruit bats, also known as flying foxes,
are very badly affected.
As the tick bites it injects its deadly saliva.
The flying fox starts to become paralysed.
Finally it falls out the tree and dies slowly on the ground.
But not always. Sometimes help is at hand.
This gorgeous, cute little baby is, in an indirect way,
a victim of the paralysis tick because its mother was infected
and, obviously when the mum became paralysed,
couldn't take care of the baby
and so that's why it's ended up here at the orphanage.
Volunteers here rescue and raise up to 500 baby orphans every year.
But not every adult flying fox that's bitten dies.
If they're brought into the sanctuary early enough,
they're given tick anti-venom and looked after till they recover.
Bats are incredibly important to forests, they poo out seeds of fruit
and keep the forest going, so if they're wiped out
it's very bad news.
Don't feel any closer, do you?!
This is interesting!
This one's getting on great with Rich the sound man.
But don't worry, Mark, your camera's gonna be fine.
This one was found in time
and is now nearly strong enough to be released back into the wild.
You've gotta say an animal the size of a pinhead
that can bring down a human, a dog, even a flying fox.
Paralysis tick has got to be on my Deadly 60.
These blood sucking vampires are silent but deadly
and they have a paralysing venom
which means they have to go on my Deadly 60 list.
I don't want you to think these forests are filled with things
that are out to get you, I want people to enjoy wild places,
not be scared of them.
But in these jungles there's one thing you have to look out for.
It can be such a problem that to even get close to it,
I have to dress like this. What do you reckon, guys?
Great, Steve, great(!)
What an idiot!
I think you look good, Steve.
How about we actually shoot the sequence?
How about we keep you dressed like that for the rest of the day?!
Oh, I feel like a prize fool dressed up like this.
Watch where you're walking through here, cos they're everywhere.
Joking aside, I really do need to wear this suit
cos I'm the one who'll get close enough to get stung.
Ah! Here's one.
Put your mask on.
This is it. What all the fuss is about. Can you see it?
Well, it's not something living on the tree, it IS the tree.
This here is known as the Stinging Tree and for very good reason.
If you look at all these stems here,
and the leaves as well, they're covered with incredibly fine hairs.
I'm wearing this mask cos those hairs can get up in the air
and you can breathe them in, also go into your eyes as well.
Basically those hairs are like incredibly fine glass.
So any animals that gets too close and tries to munch on this
will get those in its lips, tongue
and is gonna leave the plant and its leaves alone.
Unfortunately this does have the side effect
that if you brush against it,
those hairs break off, get into your skin and can work down
underneath the surface of the skin.
I've been stung by this once before and three or four months later
I could still feel this horrible itching, burning sensation
under the skin.
Luckily, there is one way of treating it, if you're very quick.
I'm gonna move away from the tree and deliberately sting myself.
So I can show you how to fix it.
..all in the name of science.
Ow! That stung right through the suit, there.
I tell you this, it's so powerful
it makes a sting nettle look like absolutely nothing.
There's one way of getting these hairs out your body,
have you got the protective measure, Mark?
You might recognise this, it's a wax strip used for getting rid of hair.
Then hopefully you can rip those hairs out.
Unfortunately it's gonna mean ripping
a fair bit of my own hair off too.
Right. Here we go.
One, two, three.
This better work.
Takes a few goes to pull the spines out.
I felt that, Steve.
So did I! That really hurt.
Look at that, I've completely got all the hair off my arm.
I tell you what, I absolutely hate you lot.
I completely hate you! You made me dress up like a complete moron
in this ridiculous kit, get stung by the worst plant in the forest
and now you're making me rip my own hair off!
Wanna do your legs as well?
We've got some more here, if you need more wax!
So, while I'm busy ripping all of the hair out of my own body,
the Stinging Tree might not make it onto my Deadly 60 but, as plants go,
it's a total pain!
But I get the last laugh when Mark, our cameraman,
gets stung just afterwards.
-Mark, you shouldn't have laughed at my suit!
For the next animals on my Deadly 60 list,
I'm looking for Australia's reptiles.
You'd think forests would be the best place to look.
Working on this series, it's not all about glamorous locations.
I was just in the little boys room
and I spotted a few coils of a snake up here somewhere.
No idea yet what it is.
But I'll see if I can get up there and bring it down.
Right out on the end here.
Unfortunately...oh, it's bigger than I first thought!
The body stretches all the way back up here.
Hey! Look at that.
This beautiful little Cat Snake
Ah, that is absolutely gorgeous!
I'll just bring it outside into the light.
I love Cat Snakes.
I think even someone who doesn't like snakes at all
would have to say that, with those gigantic catlike eyes,
all of those movements that are so slinky, so catlike,
it's not just the eyes.
I think they really are one of the prettiest snakes in the world
and this one, with that bronzy colour to it, beautiful!
Quite feisty in the way...look at that, stretching up
almost half its body held in the air.
Just tasting the cameraman with his tongue.
Absolutely wonderful. Look at that, he's really interested in you, Mark.
Obviously he likes your aftershave!
Well it's a contender. Let's see what else we can find.
One of the next animals I've been looking for
spends the majority of its time up in trees.
There's actually one in the spindly little tree
at the end of this veranda down here.
My only chance of catching it is to sneak up on it nice and quiet.
But to do that, you have to get up on the roof.
So, as not to risk spooking him,
he's just on this tree in front of me now.
He's just within my reach.
Oh, he's an absolute beauty!
You have to excuse my undignified climbing.
There he is!
He is a Boyd's Forest Dragon.
This is a good size male and he really doesn't seem too bothered
about the fact that I've just taken him out of his tree.
Look at that, he's got a huge extendable pouch there,
underneath the jaw.
That's used for signalling to females
and he really will spend most of his day just sitting, chilled out,
not doing much, like he's doing now.
Clinging to that tree using these fearsome claws, look at that one,
it's really extended, the digit on that. Look! That's awesome.
What I really like about this dragon is we've got a lot of animals
in the Deadly 60 that are quick, always moving, full of energy.
The Boyd's Forest Dragon takes things easier than that.
He just sits around, very quiet, very still
and waits for his prey to come to him.
When something wanders underneath him,
perhaps an insect, frog or lizard,
he'll drop down at lightning speed onto his prey, gobble it up
then scamper back up the tree and sit there for the rest of the day.
Even being snatched out of a tree by a tele-naturalist,
he doesn't really seem to care much. It's all above him. Isn't it, fella?
Look at that, he's not even giving me a threat,
not even gaping his mouth at me.
That is just ridiculously lazy!
'Sorry, Mr Dragon, you're way too chilled to make it on the list.'
Two extraordinary reptiles, but my next Deadly 60 animal
comes from a very special group of lizards.
I guess this is just about as close as we get nowadays
to a genuine dinosaur.
The reason I'm considering him for my Deadly 60,
is the amount of weapons that he has at his disposal.
You find monitors all over the world
and they're the reptile equivalent of a Terminator.
They have hardcore body armour, razor sharp claws for close combat,
a sixth sense, tasting the air with their tongue.
They can even sniff out crocodile eggs buried in the sand.
With all terrain capability
and, unbelievably, they can hold their breath for an hour!
Nowhere is too steep or too high.
No prey is too fast.
They'll even take on the king of beasts.
And that tail could whip your eye out.
It's recently been discovered that monitor lizards have venom.
It was thought, until very recently,
that there was only a couple of lizards in the world
that were truly venomous,
but it turns out this guy here has truly venomous spit.
And, uh, if I got bitten,
it would not be a good day for me.
But, as he's just wandering around, checking me out,
it's a VERY good day for me.
It's not often you get that close to a wild monitor lizard of this size.
I'm not gonna move at all,
see what he does.
Look at that.
Nose to nose with a lace monitor.
I can almost smell your breath from here, mate.
He can smell yours as well, Steve!
He's just snuffling around with his tongue, in the leaf litter.
His tongue just flicked all up my arm.
Around here the reptiles really are the top predators.
The crocodiles and monitor lizards,
they kind of take the place of the lions of the African plains.
He's a living dinosaur.
With a venomous bite, a whip for a tail and tearing talons.
The lace monitor is definitely going on my Deadly 60.
These living dinosaurs are kitted out with truly lethal weapons.
Protective armour, razor sharp claws and a whipping tail.
If that wasn't enough, they're also venomous.
These guys have to be on the Deadly 60.
Although, I personally much prefer looking for wildlife in the wild,
in the forest and jungle, there's no getting away from the fact
that some of the best places to find animals
can be right in our back yards.
This is the ideal place to look for spiders.
Australia's well known for having some of THE most venomous,
THE most potentially dangerous spiders on the planet
and it's obviously those that I'm looking for.
Actually I'm looking for one in particular,
Australia's best known and most feared.
Watch your head, Steve.
-Mind your head, Steve.
-Not doing very well at the moment.
Really not found very much, well, apart from cane toads.
Just under this one piece of black plastic there's one, two, three,
four, five, six, se...
But there is a place down the road
where I know we can find some spiders.
When I say down the road,
I actually mean South Australia, in a garage in Adelaide.
Come and get a load of this!
Um, OK, I'm not entirely sure how we're going to film this.
Yeah, that's gonna work.
Tucked in here is one of the most feared spiders in the world.
In some other parts of the world this is known as the Black Widow,
here in Australia it's called a Redback.
Let's see if I can get her out.
Just coax her out onto the web.
Here she comes.
There she is.
Probably, to Mark at the moment,
that's just a tiny little black blob,
let's see if I can light it up with my torch.
Isn't she wonderful?!
It probably looks like this is just an untidy mess of a web,
certainly in comparison to the beautiful dew drop covered ones
you'll find in your back garden,
but actually this is an absolutely brilliantly designed
way of catching flying insects.
The real genius of this three dimensional web is found below.
These threads here are placed under high tension,
it's like someone's got an elastic rope
and stuck it down using a big patch of glue.
They're all over the place, a maze of trap lines.
So when an insect, like this ant here, wanders up,
it snags one of those trap lines and fires it up into the air.
So it's just dangling there, suspended, they mostly ensnare ants
but the lines are strong enough to catch large trapdoor spiders
and even lizards.
The victim's struggle causes the line above to vibrate,
alerting the ever ready female Redback.
Then she heads down to haul it up, bite it and paralyse it.
That venom, designed to immobilise its prey,
has the unfortunate side effect of being extremely painful
and toxic to us too.
About 600 people a year get bitten.
Right, to get a closer look at her
we're going to have to bring her out the web.
As this is one of the most venomous spiders in the world,
one of the only ones that has a bite dangerous to humans,
I'm gonna do that carefully.
'I use my rope knife to coax her out.'
Come on, lady.
Here she comes.
There she is.
The way people usually get bitten is if they put on a pair of shoes
or something that has a Redback inside of it
and she'll get squashed and bite in defence.
This is a very, very careful, cautious process.
As long as she doesn't feel restrain and restricted,
then really she's very unlikely to bite.
You can see that wonderful red flash down the abdomen
that gives her her name.
With her amazing elastic web
and a bite which could even do me some damage.
The Redback spider is definitely on the Deadly 60.
Go on, girl.
Small but deadly, Redbacks employ genius tactics to catch their prey
and there's enough venom in a bite from one of these guys
to stop me in my tracks.
That's why they have to be on the Deadly 60 list.
I don't think I've ever seen a creature quite so aggressive.
Join me next time when I'll be choosing another three critters
for my Deadly 60.
I've lost my trunks!
It's just a question of waiting.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Wildlife guru Steve Backshall is in Australia, searching for animals to add to his Deadly 60 list.
Out in the forest, Steve has to have his wits about him when he comes face to face with a huge lace monitor lizard.
Australian schoolchildren are taught to respect the continent's deadliest arachnid, the redback spider. Hidden deep in a barn, Steve has an encounter with a redback that has the crew holding their breath.