Wildlife series. Steve Backshall is in India in search of tigers, and also comes face to face with another animal that is on the endangered list, the gharial crocodile.
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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.
Deadly 60's taking us to every corner of the world,
which I never really understood,
cos the world doesn't have any corners.
But of all of the sort of round bits of the world,
this is probably the most magical.
I'm in India.
India is so huge, Great Britain would fit into it over 13 times.
We're travelling from north to south,
looking at some of the deadliest animals in the country.
The next animal we're looking for in the Deadly 60 is a true dinosaur.
They've been on the planet, almost unchanged,
for over 100 million years.
And it's one of the largest reptiles on Earth.
They've got a frightening face full of teeth...
..and they're also master fishermen.
These aren't just your common or garden crocodiles.
These crocs have adapted to become lethal fish killers,
and they're called gharials.
They have an elongated jaw with rows of razor-sharp, interlocking teeth,
and a lighter skull than other crocs, allowing them to move quicker
in the water. And this weird bulbous growth
is found on the mature male individuals.
In Indian, it's called a ghara, meaning pot.
It's used to create a humming noise to attract females.
Gharials have different muscles in their legs which allow them
to be the fastest crocs in the water.
So, of all the different species of crocodiles in the world,
gharial are the master fishermen. I'm here to find out how hard that is
and also to catch some breakfast for a few friends we'll meet later on.
All over the world, people use cast nets to catch small fish.
I've tried it quite a few times before
and I've never caught anything.
But I've a really good feeling about this. How can I possibly fail?
I'm sorry, Johnny!
Come to Papa.
Now that's what I'm talking about!
So, I've got this huge bucket of fish that I managed to catch this morning.
-And I'm going to see how close I can get
to those fearsome gharial teeth.
In order to do that, I've come to a captive breeding centre in the south.
These amazing creatures are almost extinct in the wild.
But this place is doing all it can to save them.
There's a couple down there.
Wow, they're quick!
'Well, as they obviously aren't going to come to me,
'I'm going to have to get my feet wet.'
Oh, there was one.
That is the cutest sound in the world.
'But these aren't the full-size version.
'These babies are part of the breeding programme.'
Look at that. I have to say,
it's not often that I get an animal in my hand
and I'm just speechless.
But that's got to be one of the weirdest, one of the most beautiful,
one of the most...touching, I guess, animals I've ever been close to.
'There's only around 200 breeding pairs left in the wild.
'Fewer than even giant pandas.
'Hunting and pollution of the rivers where they live
'are thought to be the causes.'
It's just terrifying to think that an animal that's been around
since before the dinosaurs
can be coming to the brink of extinction because of us.
But they're not going on the Deadly 60 because they're rare.
These are fish-catching specialist.
Look at the snout widthways on.
It's very, very thin,
which means it'll carve through the water a lot quicker
than the fatter, broader snouts of an alligator or a crocodile.
Even at this size, the gharial really is a swimming fish trap.
'But they get much bigger.
'And to see just how huge they CAN get, I'm going to meet the parents.
'And it's feeding time.'
Now, this is more like it.
MUSIC: Theme from "Jaws"
is a big male gharial.
Probably not completely fully grown -
they get as big as six metres.
But this one is going to be absolutely huge.
Look at that face full of teeth.
That is amazing.
Could someone stop that music?!
I know these crocs are enormous,
but they're no danger to me.
Gharials are fish specialists. That's what they feed on.
And he's not going to try and take a bite of me
cos he doesn't want to eat me - I'm hoping. Fingers crossed.
Let's see if we can get to see those amazing jaws at work.
Wow, did you see him catch that?!
# If the fish swam out of the ocean
# And grew legs and they started walking
# And the apes climbed down from the trees
# And grew tall and they started talking
# And the stars fell out of the sky... #
I know it looks ridiculous, the way they throw back their heads
and just chug the fish back in one go,
but it's all down to the fact that crocodiles can only open their mouths
open and shut, they can't go side to side -
their jaw just won't allow it.
So, they throw their head back and let gravity drop the fish
back into their gullet. It looks crazy,
but it's worked for 100 million years, so it must be pretty good.
To us, the gharial's totally harmless
but an utterly unique marvel of nature.
To a fish, though,
it's an absolute swimming nightmare.
And that's why the gharial's going on my Deadly 60.
Unchanged for over 100 million years,
gharials can grow up to six metres in length.
They're streamlined, lightning-fast snouts
whip through the water after their pray.
If you're a fish and unlucky enough to meet one of them on the prowl,
then it's game over.
I couldn't come to India
without searching for the next animal on my list.
I've come to Corbett National Park to try and track down a big cat.
The animal we're looking for? There's only about 164 of them here.
And they're so well camouflaged,
they could be hiding about 20 metres off to the side of this road,
and we wouldn't ever see them. Talk about needles in haystacks!
And that animal is the biggest of all big cats - the tiger.
An animal which can grow over three metres in length,
they can take down prey which weighs twice as much as they do,
and are undeniably one of the deadliest predators on the planet.
Finding a tiger is one of the hardest tasks I've set myself on Deadly 60.
But, of course, I can't manage this mammoth task on my own.
Let me introduce you to the tiger-hunting crew.
Johnny the camera man.
Look at the lens on that! Aaargh!
MIMICS TARZAN Nick, on sound. No sound too small.
And Menoj, tiger-tracking guide
and all-round Indian wildlife expert.
Me and this motley crew
are going to be spending a huge amount of time on this tiger search,
and you're coming with us.
When you see the sunlight cutting down through the trees like this,
making shafts of light, you can see why the tiger's camouflage
would work so well in here. It's actually creating
stripes of dark and light on the forest floor,
in amongst all the dry leaves.
The tiger's orange, black and white colouration
might seem to be really bright and vibrant,
but put it amongst this and the tiger would just disappear.
It's like something out of a fairytale.
I've heard of zebra crossings, but this is something else.
We might be on the search for tigers,
but I can't ignore India's largest mammal.
Definitely worth a look.
This is a huge herd.
They're noticeably smaller than African elephants.
Even so, it's a big, big animal,
and certainly need to be treated with respect.
Just because of their size, they're contenders for the Deadly 60,
but at the moment they couldn't look more peaceful.
There's a tiny little calf in here.
Just nestled in between these two females.
They're obviously guarding it.
It's just absolutely remarkable!
How old do you reckon it is, Menoj?
This calf would probably a week, or a couple of weeks.
-Couple of weeks?!
-Yeah, not much. It's a very young calf.
This is by far the best view I've ever had
of Indian elephants in the wild.
Oh, crumbs! Here we go.
Getting a little bit of a mock charge from this female.
ENGINE STARTS, ELEPHANT TRUMPETS
This is a jumbo-sized protective mother.
Not an animal you want to get in the way of.
I've heard of elephants flipping Jeeps while protecting their young.
So, I think we'd better get out of here.
But elephants are also going to play a really important role
in our tiger hunt.
Using both Jeeps and elephants
will maximise our chances of getting close to a tiger.
But despite their enormous size,
elephants can move almost silently through the forest.
Here in India,
they have the best kind of four-wheel drive on the planet.
This is Sonakhali.
She's about 55 and she, I think,
is going to become a very good friend over the next few days.
What do you reckon? Are you going to help me find a tiger? Yeah?
Wow. She is absolutely fantastic.
Right, now, there's only one way to get onto an elephant like this.
And it involves grabbing a hold of the ears.
It's going to look like this is painful to her.
But believe me, it isn't. She's so strong.
OK, where's the other one?
Right, are you going to give me your trunk to stand on? Yeah?
Oh, my life! How about that?
It's like an elevator.
Fantastic. Thank you.
People here in India have used elephants
to go out looking for tigers for hundreds of years.
I mean, we are almost totally silent as we're moving.
If there's any way we're going to find one, I think this is it.
Corbett National Park is full of animals
which would make perfect prey for tigers.
They really will take almost anything that they can find.
But these sambar deer would be their idea of a perfect meal.
Actually, it looks like this one here at the back
may have a wound on its back leg
that could actually...
possibly have come from a tiger.
She's done very well to get away with her life.
This is the great thing about doing a safari on the back of an elephant,
which is native to this area -
the rest of the animals don't really seem to mind you being here.
'A report's come in of a tiger on the road a couple of miles away,
'so we're back into the Jeeps to see if we catch up with him.'
This is classic tiger sign.
Those four claw marks there are the scratches of a tiger
stood up on its hind legs and sharpening its claws on the trunk.
That's pretty high.
I mean, up there, that's got to be eight feet off the ground, I guess.
But our driver says that he's seen them 12 feet off the ground,
so way higher than I can reach.
And there's another clue.
This is tiger dung.
Some more here, look.
all round here
Look at that one there.
That's a tiger print.
This has certainly been made since the last rains,
otherwise it would have filled with water and blurred out.
So, these are all very fresh.
A tiger has been here, probably within the last couple of hours.
Good stuff. We're on the trail.
'That's real evidence that they're here,
'and I feel like we're getting really close.'
THUNDER CRACKS, RAIN POURS
Oh, come on, you've got to be joking!
Our first strong lead,
and it looks like we're going to be scuppered by the weather.
Over there! Tiger, tiger!
We were just driving in the rain
and our cameraman Johnny shouted, "Tiger, tiger, tiger!"
We thought he was joking. But there is a tiger in these bushes here,
no more than 50 or 60 metres away. We're just crawling along here
hoping that he's going to break out onto the road just ahead of us.
I can't believe it.
This kind of weather they're supposed to be holed up doing nothing at all.
But it was strolling away, absolutely stunning in these bushes.
Slowly, slowly, slow.
BIRDS SQUAWK Those birds are not happy.
Johnny...! (Look at that!)
'OK, blink and you'd miss it,
'but that was our first video evidence that's there's tigers here.
'We keep looking, but it's starting to get dark.
'The tiger hunt is over for today.
'It's disappointing, but we have to head for camp.'
Next morning, we're raring to get out on the search again.
But first, I've got some business down at the river.
Being as our elephants have done so much hard work for us,
I figured it's time we gave a little back.
You're loving that, aren't you, girl?
Oh, yeah, that's good. Yeah, just there. That's it, that's it!
Just behind the ears!
Look at her wonderful eyelashes.
Any supermodel would kill for eyes like that.
You're beautiful, aren't you?
Right, now we're good friends, are you going to help me find a tiger?
Our ellies took us into the furthest reaches of the park.
We searched and we searched.
We looked in forests, on the plains.
High and low, come rain or shine.
This place is jam packed with animals,
but the tigers are proving so elusive.
Sometimes all this tiger searching - well, it just gets a bit...
MUSIC: "It's Oh So Quiet" by Bjork
# It's oh, so quiet... #
We've just found ourselves a likely spot...
to sit and wait, and listen for alarm calls
and anything else that might signify the presence of a tiger.
# And so peaceful until... #
ELEPHANT TRUMPETS Go, go, go, go!
Keep rolling. Keep rolling.
Go, go, go!
'There was real aggression behind that charge.
'One swipe of their huge trunk could easily kill a person.
'We got off really lightly.
'Elephants are highly defensive animals.
'Family is everything, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.'
That was a bit close for comfort!
I tell you, we didn't think for a second
we were going to put Asian elephants on the Deadly 60,
but that's probably the closest call we've had so far!
That extraordinary call is an alarm from the spotted deer
over in that direction.
It's possible that it's making that call
in response to the presence of a large predator,
which could be our tiger.
It's an incredible sound.
A lot of agitation. Shall we move?
I've got a good feeling about this.
We're heading down towards the river, where the calls are coming from.
(There she is.)
It's probably a good 500 metres away, I'm guessing.
But with Johnny's big lens it can just about make her out.
Tigers are really quite unusual among the big cats,
in how much they love the water, how much time they spend in the water.
'Water's key to tigers,
'in that it helps them keep cool and comfortable in the heat of the day.'
Oh, this is an interesting development.
We've got one, two, three...
elephants come down to the water,
right alongside where our tiger's taking a bath.
And they don't usually get on too well.
It looks from here like...
And she's thrashing around with some grass, in the direction of the tiger.
Definitely a bit of a threat display.
I think the elephants have decided that Tiger doesn't mean them any harm
and they're going to head down and have a nice bath.
They're by-passing our tiger.
This is awesome.
Two of India's most spectacular wild animals...
..just enjoying the river,
within metres of each other.
Just doesn't get any better than this.
But I reckon we can get closer.
Tigers obviously love water,
but they don't just use it to cool down.
Water is actually another deadly tool for them,
slowing their prey's escape before they go in for the kill.
But we didn't come all this way to see a tiger as a dot in the distance.
We need to get closer.
Menoj thinks that our tiger might cross the road back in the forest.
Well, that sounds good.
We've just passed some people who've said that down here,
somebody is actually watching a tiger.
So, we've hit the gas.
Try and get down there as quickly as possible, and hope it hasn't gone.
Fingers crossed, everyone.
There, three cars up ahead.
Oh, yes. I see it.
It's difficult, but he's lying still, Johnny.
This isn't quite how I'd hoped to see her,
surrounded by trucks. But, in some ways, this is even more special.
I mean, the tiger is really very, very important to the Indian people.
And there's one sitting right there.
It's just so beautiful.
It's getting up now and moving further away into the forest.
You'd think that bright orange, black and white
would be a lousy colour scheme, would show up anywhere.
But in amongst these leaves, the brown leaves, with the dappled light,
I can barely see her. Absolutely amazing.
It's about to come out and cross the round in front of us.
Look at that.
Just sauntering across the road in front of us.
She's gone. Just like that.
That an animal that size
can just disappear into the undergrowth in the blink of an eye.
We got one!
Over the next few days, our tiger count just went through the roof.
In five days, searching everywhere and finding nothing,
it seems like tigers are everywhere.
There's one just lying in a puddle up ahead of us,
breathing heavily, in the shade.
This would have to be the best wildlife encounter in India.
Just right there in front of us.
Incredibly, there's another tiger unseen in the bushes.
And Johnny our cameraman has moved in for a closer look.
But you can't get complacent
when you're dealing with one of the world's deadliest predators.
That just shows how fast things can change with wild animals.
We were all just congratulating ourselves
about what a wonderful sighting of a tiger... And drove too close
on the left-hand side, and it turned.
And I could see Johnny, the cameraman,
nearly jumping out of his skin.
And you're sweating a fair bit there.
I thought I was a goner. I thought it was going to jump into the truck.
I swear, even though it was quite a distance away from me,
I could feel it reverberating up through the ground,
up through the Jeep, and it gets you right in the pit of the stomach.
You really wouldn't want to be on the receiving end
of an animal like that at a bad time.
And that's why the tiger has to make it on to the Deadly 60.
The Bengal tiger - the largest big cat in the world.
With claws like kitchen knives over 10cm long.
One of the top predators on the planet, the Bengal tiger
is definitely going on my Deadly 60.
'Join me next time, as I continue my search for the Deadly 60.'
Wildlife presenter Steve Backshall is in India on the search for the biggest of all the big cats, the truly awesome tiger.
With limited time in which to find such a rare and endangered animal, the Deadly 60 team are taking a huge risk. Steve needs the help of the locals, but who can help him sniff out these elusive felines? Enter the elephants. After several days of searching, the crew eventually get a sighting and the cameraman has a much closer encounter than anyone expected.
Steve also comes face to face with another animal that is on the endangered list, the gharial crocodile. With its long snout and bulbous nose, it has to be one of the strangest crocodiles in the world.