Naturalist Steve Backshall's global search for deadly creatures takes him to meet the saltwater crocodile and search for huge-fanged ghost bats.
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My name's Steve Backshall.
You can call me Steve.
I'm on a mission to find the Deadly 60,
60 deadly creatures.
I'm travelling all over the world.
And you're coming with me every step of the way.
We're in Australia's Northern Territories.
There's so many possible animals here
for the Deadly 60, I don't know where to start!
This freshwater pool is one of the few places around here
where I won't run into our first contender for the Deadly 60.
And it's a good job too, because have a look at this!
The saltwater crocodile.
The locals call them "salties".
Now, I'm going to hold my hand up here
and say that these things genuinely scare me.
They're the world's largest crocodilian,
growing to more than six metres and weighing over a ton.
They live in rivers, lakes, and even the sea.
It's one of the few animals in the world that can, on occasion,
hunt, kill and eat a human being.
And if they attack people, they rarely leave survivors.
This is the skull of an average-sized salty,
not huge by any standards.
It's such a hefty mass of bone
that it takes two hands just to lift it,
and if I raise the upper jaw,
and just rest it on my arm using nothing but gravity alone,
it's thoroughly uncomfortable
and already putting some pretty nasty dents in my arm.
The muscles, though, that drive this jaw are so strong
that they can exert over a ton of pressure
even for a croc of this size.
So if my arm was in here,
it would be as if you had the Deadly 60 truck parked on top of it.
To get close to one, I've come to visit croc guru Dr Adam Britton.
He loves them so much that he's got one in his back garden.
He's been studying them for years and has a specially constructed pool
so you can study and film their behaviour underwater
safely, inside a cage.
And night-time is the time to do it.
Saltwater crocodiles do the majority of their hunting at night
so it should be the absolute worst time
to be going anywhere near them.
Unless, of course, you want to see them feeding.
In which case, it's the perfect time.
'I have to say, I'd rather get in the water with a great white shark
'than a saltwater crocodile,
'so I'm very glad that this wire
'is going to be between me and the croc.'
I really want more than anything to see it having its dinner,
so Adam is going to give it a dead chicken right in front of me.
Oh! That was... That was unbelievable!
That was one of the most awe-inspiring,
terrifying things I've ever seen.
Just out of nowhere,
kind of green murky water,
and then just BAM!
It hit the chicken just like a dinosaur coming out of the dark.
It was like something out of Jaws.
Did you all hear me scream underwater? From up here?
I was just going "Aaaah!"
Just the size and the power
and the strength and the speed that that animal moved,
for a creature that size...
That is quite something.
I think we'd better go and try and find one in the wild, boys. Ha!
So, can wild salties really be deadly?
This isn't a good sign.
Crocodiles today, is it?
In the Northern Territories the rivers are full of big crocodiles.
The people have learned how to deal with it so it's rarely a problem.
Every once in a while, though,
a crocodile starts to associate people with food
and then that is a problem and it needs to be moved.
I'm here with local rangers to help them out and also
to get as close as you can in the wild to a saltwater crocodile.
'Tonight, we're hunting a particular croc
'that the rangers know has been taking a bit too much of an interest
'in some fishermen on the riverbank.
'But first, a quick lesson in how to catch a crocodile.'
OK, the snout rope goes through the top jaw.
Basically, use the end of the...
The pole, just get it on there,
and then just nice and firm over the top of the jaw.
Then we can cut the harpoon line and pull it in with the snout rope.
Sounds simple in theory, doesn't it?
We have to find this crocodile,
because if he's hanging around people for whatever reason,
there can be no second chances. If he goes for someone,
it'll be too late.
Jonathan's going to be in charge of getting hold of the croc
once we get close, using these prongs,
which are going to go into the really hard scales
at the back of the neck of the crocodile.
That might seem a little bit cruel, but to be honest,
these creatures are so strong, so hardy,
that's going to be little more than a pinprick would be to us.
But it should be enough to draw the croc in close to the boat.
So we've got one now about 20m across to our left.
Just there, look.
Not our croc, for sure.
'After several hours of searching,
'one of the rangers thinks he's spotted our croc.'
OK, up here, look. Just go to your right.
-He's mid-stream there.
Can just see him there.
OK, we'll go back up, mid-stream.
I think we've got him! I think the harpoon's in.
He certainly was very close to the boat
and the line's run out. Yeah.
He's been snagged.
-There's line here.
Someone grab me a hook down there - Steve?
Now the prongs are in the croc
it's a case of reeling him in almost like he's a big fish.
Er...try and get him as close as possible.
Unfortunately there's lots of submerged logs and things here,
and it looks like he's wrapped the line round one of them.
So getting him out is going to be tricky.
OK, Charlie, come up with the light?
What I'm thinking is that maybe James, our director, should get in
and unravel the rope from the branch underwater.
OK, left a bit.
'Now, at this point, I have to be honest,
'I didn't really think this was a very big crocodile.
'The eyes that I'd seen seemed to be quite close together.
'But as we brought it in closer,
'we found out we'd caught our monster.'
Whoa, he's a good size!
Bigger than I thought.
OK, you got a snout rope there?
Starting to roll...here he comes!
The croc's rolling.
This is, er... part of the way it feeds.
Using...clamping down those massive jaws
and using its bulk to tear its prey apart,
but it's also using that now to try and escape the noose.
You can feel the power of it, it's lifting the boat up and down.
He's underneath us. He's underneath the boat.
As if to prove a point, he tries to eat the boat!
Watch what you're doing with the camera.
Do you want to get the snout rope on?
OK, Charlie. Yep.
-He's got two on him.
-OK, pull him up.
'Trust me, the croc will be absolutely fine tied up here,
'although he is a bit cross.
'The important thing is that with his mouth taped up,
'he can't bite anyone.'
So this is the problem croc we were hoping to find.
They've actually been calling him Mr Stinky because you can smell him.
He's not in amazingly good condition,
and he has been hanging out in an area with a lot of people
and picking up scraps,
and a croc this size could do an awful lot of damage.
This croc's probably too big to get on to the boat,
so I think they'll drag him back to the ramp and get him on to dry land,
and suss out his condition, then work out a plan
about what we're going to do with this monster.
'A crocodile that's playing dead takes quite some shifting.'
Right. So now that he's out of the water,
even though he has had his major weapon, his jaws,
taken out of the equation with that hard sticky tape,
you can really appreciate what it is
that makes this such an incredibly powerful animal.
Look at the size of the tail down there!
Next to Mark the cameraman.
I mean, that is just packed with muscle,
and all the way up here there's nothing spare,
even though this animal really isn't in the best of condition.
It really is a terrifying-looking creature.
He's absolutely magnificent.
As close to a living dragon as you'll ever get.
When you've got the animal here you can see why it is
that this croc could become a potential danger.
I mean, he's been in a fair few fights
with some other, larger crocs.
Some of his feet are a bit mangled, he's got some nasty scarring,
and he's looking a bit thin.
Obviously not a croc in absolute peak condition,
and that's why he's turned from his usual prey,
fish which swim quite fast,
to picking up scraps and getting too close to people.
And it's not that much of a leap from where he is now
to actually taking a person.
So he's going to be taken now
and probably live out the rest of his days very happy in captivity.
But...the size, the strength of this animal here
is just the tip of the iceberg
and that's why the saltwater croc has to go on the Deadly 60.
It does pong as well.
You might debate some of my choices for the list
but NOT this one - the salty!
It has power, speed
and a bite like a dinosaur.
An awesome predator and one that can hunt humans.
Say no more.
Australia is a HUGE place so to find the wildlife I'll hit the road.
My next encounter took me completely by surprise.
I just... I cannot see where I'm going at all.
You may not expect to find birds of prey attracted to a bushfire
but that's exactly what was happening in front of our eyes.
I was going to have to take a closer look at this.
Check out all these birds!
That is full on!
Now don't try this at home.
One of the most lethal forces in nature is fire.
Here in the Northern Territories
where the ground is so dry and all the trees are so dry,
a wildfire can sweep through an area
and kill just about everything in its path.
The air though around here is thick with birds of prey.
Wow, look at this going up.
There's... kites and other birds of prey
swooping around here hoping to find small mammals,
lizards and insects that have been flushed out by the flames.
Bushfires have two sides to them, they destroy
but they also provide an opportunity to daredevil predators -
in this case whistling kites.
Insects fleeing the inferno
were flying straight into the sights
of these magnificent birds right in front of us.
There's an even stranger predator that can benefit from bushfires.
These are frilled lizards -
dragon-like reptiles that are actually attracted to the aftermath
of a fire front.
As the fire cuts through the plants,
it also cuts through hiding places for the insects.
And that's what the frilled lizards are here for.
Right, enough playing with fire - it's time to get back on the road.
Before my night-time appointment with my next deadly animal
there's something I want to show you.
This part of Northern Australia
has some of the most extraordinary scenery of anywhere in the world.
And in some places
it's a bit like wandering through a natural cemetery.
All these tombstones are not actually rock...
they have been created by a very remarkable insect.
This is the work of the magnetic termite.
There's hundreds of thousands, possible even millions of them
inside this structure
and it's been created basically as a way of keeping their colony
at constant temperatures.
And if you look this way, along the lines of the termites,
they're all aligned north to south.
I'll prove that to you because I've got a compass on my watch.
if you look at that -
that's the line of the termite mound...
and that is perfectly north to south.
And what that means is that
this face of the termite mound is east facing.
When the sun comes up in the morning
and when it comes down in the afternoon
there's not much heat here - it's warming up the mound.
But when it's directly overhead,
it's looking straight down on the top of the blade of the mound
which means that none of the searing heat of midday
gets into the colony
and all the insects inside are kept at a nice warm, constant temperature
throughout the day.
And all of that is done by an insect
with a brain the size of a pinprick.
The sun's just gone down
and the creatures of the night are out to hunt.
And I'm sat outside an old abandoned gold mine
cos tonight we're on a ghost hunt.
The ghost I've come here to find
makes calls and sounds that are way too high for the human ear to hear.
This piece of ghost-busting technology
can actually hear the ultrasonic frequencies they make.
So, hopefully, I should be able to hear them before I can see them.
That's their noise. The first ones are just about to come out now.
GRATING SQUEAKING CLICKS
That was our first ghost.
They're ghost bats...
one of the most astounding bat predators in the whole world.
They're starting to come out in larger numbers now.
Oh, here they go. Oh... Woah!
I'm not just here because...
ghost bats look like little spirits in the torchlight -
these are truly terrifying hunters.
These are some of the largest carnivorous bats in the world
but they don't just eat insects.
Using their fearsome incisor teeth
they'll bite down through the head and the neck
of birds, other bats, reptiles, frogs.
This really is one of the most awesome predators of all bats
but to see them at their best
I'm going to have to come back here tomorrow when they're fast asleep.
Ghost bats hunt at night. It's hard to get close when they're flying.
Your best chance is during the day when they are resting.
And Damian here...
..has assured me there's a colony of ghost bats inside this disused mine.
I have got a camera which is going to be following me all the way.
Where the big camera can't go, you will be able to see what I'm doing.
-Shall we head in, Damian?
I am a little bit scared of the dark. Sssh!
This is an abandoned goldmine
and as if the bats themselves weren't spooky enough.
This place is just...well, freaky.
Oh, this is hideous and it smells horrendous.
Oh, I hate cockroaches.
They are here because of the bats.
They will be feeding on bat droppings
which already is starting to make up a good proportion of the floor.
Steve, you can hear the bats down the mine shaft they are flying around.
So from this point on, we'll have absolute quiet.
If we must speak, we'll just have an absolute whisper.
OK, fine but Mark is a bit loud!
(He's got very big feet!)
We have just turned our lights out for a second.
Let the bats settle down so they're not freaked out.
I'm a bit less worried about them being freaked out than me.
This place is "Spook Central"!
When you are ready, shine your light up there.
We have just come into a small chamber and
the smell of bat is very strong in here.
Now, we really don't want to disturb this colony too much.
So we are just going to turn the lights on for a short time
-and get our first proper glimpse of the ghost bat. Are you ready?
Whoa! Through there.
Here they come.
'It's impossible to keep your nerve
'when you're being dive-bombed by bats.'
(They are absolutely huge!)
When they hit the torchlight, you can see where they get their name.
The membrane of the wings is really thin. It's almost transparent.
The body is very light - almost white on the underside.
They really do look like your idea of a vampire bat.
'I really want to get a close look at one.
'Damian, takes us to a spot in the cave where the tunnel narrows
'and I may have a chance to net one.
'The crew aren't so keen though.'
(Out of all the places Steve has brought us to, this is the scariest
(I have ever been. I don't like bats!)
SHOUTING AND GROANING
-What happened there?
-A bat flew straight into us.
Down this way here is a huge hole in the floor beneath us,
so we have to be careful walking over this bit here.
It's really dangerous.
Here they come!
-Got it! Got one.
-Yeah, I got one.
That is THE most remarkable-looking bat I have ever seen.
We are going to get bombarded by his cousins while we are doing this.
I just need to unpick him from the net very carefully.
The membranes of the wings can be quite fragile.
I mean, quite a lot of bats
of this size, I'd expect to be trying to eat through my arm.
The first thing I have to say is that I have a unique opportunity to
get this close to a ghost bat.
This isn't something anyone should go around doing.
When you are up close to it, you can see where it gets its name from.
He does look like a little phantom.
That abnormally pale grey, almost white fur there on the body is
what makes him appear so ghost-like.
Look at that, it's incredibly thin, isn't it?
Almost like some kind of weird skin kite.
That is another thing which lends to his ghostly image is
the fact that that membrane just looks like a ghostly cloak.
And these - the struts in between the membrane,
those are fingers and hand bones.
I want to show you these teeth because they are really mean.
Look at those incisors there!
If I can show you the bottom jaw as well, look at those.
-I can't believe you're not getting bitten when you do that.
That is a set of gnashers!
Teeth like that are what allow this remarkable creature to feed
not only on insects but on lizards, frogs, other bats,
birds, small mammals.
He really is a flying nightmare.
And that is why the ghost bat is going on my Deadly 60.
Ghost bats - they hunt with the stealth of ghosts
and kill like storybook vampires.
If you are a mouse, a frog or a lizard or another bat,
they are a living nightmare.
-There he goes.
-Can we get out of here now, please?
-I'm glad I'm not in there.
'Join me next time, as I continue my search for the Deadly 60.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Wildlife expert Steve Backshall meets one of the planet's ultimate killers, the saltwater crocodile, as the Deadly 60 team land in Australia's Northern Territories. A rogue croc is terrorising local fisherman, so it is time to lend the park rangers a hand in catching and relocating this prehistoric monster. Steve heads deep into an abandoned mine on a ghost hunt. He is on the search for ghost bats, awesome creatures with huge fangs, that drop on to their prey out of the night sky. Scary stuff, and a first for the Deadly team as these bats have never been filmed in the wild before.