Wildlife series. In Thailand, Steve comes face-to-face with the longest venomous snake in the world, the king cobra, whose bite could kill an elephant.
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My name's Steve Backshall. Wow!
This is my mission to find the Deadly 60.
That's not just animals that are deadly to me,
but animals that are deadly in their own world.
My crew and I are exploring the planet...
and you're coming with me every step of the way!
This time on Deadly 60, we're in Thailand.
It's half a world away from my home in England,
kind of hot and sticky, and from the urban towns like here,
the big cities, right out to the forest wildernesses,
it's PACKED with awesome wildlife!
Thailand is in South East Asia.
If you look up the word "exotic" in the dictionary,
it says, "See Thailand".
This place has weird and wonderful...well,
everything, really. But I'm here for the wildlife.
Thailand has more than its fair share
of venomous and potentially lethal snakes.
Not everyone round here shares my enthusiasm for these magnificent creatures,
and unfortunately, if villagers see them, they'll often take a maschete to them and kill them.
There is, however, one village that has a unique relationship with snakes,
and it's here that you have the best opportunity in the world
to get up close to the king of snakes.
I first came to this village about four years ago,
got to know some of the characters that live here and became friends with them as well.
I'll warn you now, some of the stuff you'll see here
might seem a little bit odd.
It kind of IS odd, there's nowhere else in the world that I've seen
that is quite like this village, but also, there's nowhere
where the relationship with snakes is as strong. Let's meet the guys.
Hey, hello, hello, hello!
'The people living here are surrounded by snakes.
'They've grown up with them,
'and as such, know all about the dangers, and more importantly,
'how to handle them.
'There are hundreds of snakes here,
'like this baby Burmese python, which these kids look after.
'Over the years, this village has become well-known as a snake hotspot
'and tourists come here to catch a glimpse of snakes -
'constrictors like this one and highly venomous ones.
'But before we meet the king of those snakes,
'I'm getting introduced to one of his close cousins.'
Now, this is a whole different ball game.
-Yeah, this is a monocled cobra.
This is potentially one of the most dangerous snakes
you will see anywhere in the world.
You can see it's big, it's a heavy-bodied snake,
and it has a very, very potent venom. Right, I'm going to try...
That was close!
You can see how well the man knows the snake, though.
He has absolute, complete confidence
about how far it can strike...
Look what he's doing with his knee.
..is catching the cobra's eye,
and that's what's making it get up and look big and aggressive.
Look at him - I'm actually sweating a fair bit.
Now, that might seem like total insanity,
but the truth is, this cobra's fangs are on the upper jaw,
pointed down like this and fixed.
This snake can only strike coming downwards,
so coming down on top of its head like that,
it's physically impossible for the cobra to bite you.
Even so, that's some serious confidence.
As he turns round to focus on the man,
you'll see the back of that hood spread wide,
and that round centre looks like a big eye spot.
That is the monocle which gives it its name.
It seems ridiculous, when you've got a snake as awe-inspiring as the monocled cobra in front of you,
that there could be something more deadly here,
but there is.
There is a snake in this village
that could literally eat all these other snakes for breakfast.
That's the one that we're trying to find.
-And it's also the reason why this man...
..has lost some of his fingers.
We've met a multitude of snakes on Deadly 60,
but this next snake is truly The Daddy.
The people in this village have been snake charming for generations,
and there's one snake they favour more than any other.
It's the largest, most venomous snake in the world.
Its venomous bite is so strong that it could potentially
bring down an elephant and kill an adult human in a minute and a half.
Handling this snake demands total respect and attention,
so I've brought it out here into the paddy field so we can keep a close eye on it.
Meet the king cobra -
the longest of all venomous snakes.
They can reach a length of 5.5 metres - as long as a lorry.
With possibly the best vision of any snake
and a combination super-sense that combines smell and taste,
they scan the forest floors for their favourite food -
This man here has been working with snakes since he was ten years old,
for 53 years, so there's probably no-one in the world better equipped
to show me how to deal with all these incredible creatures. Please.
This...is the king cobra.
At this size,
you kind of expect it to be a python,
but it's not.
It is...the largest venomous snake in the world.
Even though this is a snake with incredible...
..capabilities, you can see that all it really wants to do
is escape from danger.
Its first instinct is to flee, to get away.
But when it realises that the man here doesn't want to let it go,
it's putting on a big display to make itself seem larger,
make it seem more threatening.
And it is absolutely, unimaginably vast.
This snake is getting on for four metres long,
and as it stands up and spreads its ribs into a hood,
like the monocled cobra before it,
it just looks huge.
His head is the size of my hand,
and the fangs are long, thin needles
that can inject huge amounts of venom even deep into the muscle.
That's what allows it to work so quickly
and why it is so potentially dangerous to people.
He really is just figuring me out...
I'm just making sure that I keep my distance -
as long as I'm exactly where I am now, I'm safe.
If I got even a few inches closer...
he'd be able to bite me.
OK, what I'd really like to do
is to show you a prey's eye view
of the king cobra up close. Thanks, Giles.
Is that running?
A snake this big can almost stand up and look me in the eye.
They can hold a third of their body length off the ground,
which means an 18 ft-long snake can stand up six feet, as tall as me.
You see that tongue flicking out,
tasting the air...
He's looking a bit at his reflection in the camera,
and a bit at me -
see the intelligence of this snake.
He's not looking at the camera,
cos that's an inanimate object...
He's more focused looking down the camera, down my arm, and at me,
cos he knows that that's the thing
he might have to bite.
Though this is one of the most frightening animals in the world,
and nothing gives you quite the same degree of fear and tension as a king cobra,
it is also an animal that is
so regal, so majestic,
and you can see why they call it the king.
The king cobra,
the most magnificent, regal snake in the world.
It's going on my list because it's the ultimate killer of other snakes.
Fangs like long, impossibly sharp, hypodermic needles,
and venom that's theoretically strong enough to kill an elephant!
The king cobra - supreme snake-killer, no doubt.
Thailand is home to two fierce felines - that means cats -
with a unique set of skills and abilities.
Either one could end up on the list, but before I decide,
I need to see them in action. Time for a deadly cat face-off.
On Deadly 60, we do everything we can to see our deadly animals
out in their natural environment. But with the two cats next,
that just isn't an option.
I spent six weeks in the jungle trying to film our first cat.
We knew they were there, saw their pawprints, but did we see them?
Not a chance.
However, today I have a special opportunity to get close to one.
Possibly too close.
Our first top cat contender is the clouded leopard -
a flamboyant feline with a taste for the treetops.
Being nocturnal, they hunt in little or no light,
but their eyes have an inbuilt turbo-charger to give them
scintillating night vision.
They have the largest teeth compared to skull size of any carnivore.
It's like having a set of daggers in your mouth.
The clouded leopards kept here at Khao Kheow Zoo
are part of a vital breeding program,
so this is a rare opportunity to see a young cub up close.
Keeper Andy is leading the way.
Meet your first clouded leopard.
She's about a year-and-a-half old.
We'll go into the big play area. Come here, baby.
Great! There you go.
This is very, very surreal. I've waited years to see
my first clouded leopard, and the first I see is almost acting
like a rather big tabby cat!
You see these incredible markings that they have.
Some people say that's how they got the name "clouded leopard",
cos it looks like clouds. Really, they were called that because
they live high in the canopy, but they do have an incredible coat.
She is the most beautiful cat I've ever seen.
Go ahead, give her some pats.
She's just happy to be back outside.
OK. Because I don't actually know this cat yet,
I'm still quite cautious, because I've done quite a lot of work
with cats before, and first thing you learn is that despite
their small size, they're extremely powerful.
Even a cat this size could make a right mess of me,
although she doesn't look like she's going to. Fingers crossed.
The reason clouded leopards are such awesome predators
is mostly down to their mastery of both the forest floor
and also the treetops. They are sublime climbers.
There are very few cats that can act
quite as well in the treetops as they can.
Now she's settled down a bit,
maybe I can show you those remarkable paws.
Look at the size of that
in comparison to the rest of her body. There's also a hidden weapon.
Look at those.
Those sharp claws that she can retract or release -
depending on whether she needs them or not - are a wonderful help
in getting her up almost vertical tree trunks.
These paws here can also turn almost right around so she can run down
a tree trunk, almost like a squirrel.
-I can't really describe
what that feels like. The tongue is like the coarsest sandpaper
you can possibly imagine. Clouded leopards use that tongue
to wear away the feathers or the fur of their prey.
Actually, it feels like she's taken off a layer of skin!
I mean, it might have looked affectionate,
but it felt anything but.
The clouded leopard hunts mostly in the treetops,
and those paws are the perfect climbing accessory.
His favourite foods are monkeys and birds, which will simply fly away
if the first pounce isn't perfect.
Accuracy and timing is everything when hunting up high.
OK, I'm hoping that she'll follow Andy
and show us a bit of climbing.
That was awesome!
She must have sprung from a standing start to about here,
-and then scampered up...
Then used me on the way down! That's cheating!
Up she goes!
Watch your head.
She's going to maybe invert her ankles here.
-If you step away...
A little bit.
So agile. You can see why monkeys and birds
are just totally at the mercy of this cat. She's extraordinary!
This agile carnivore of the canopy is going to take some beating.
But our next contender could not hunt more differently.
GROWLING AND PANTING
The next cat we're looking at couldn't be more different.
It's slightly smaller, but in terms of attitude, way bigger.
There's one in this cage behind me now.
Listen to that sound. It's a hiss almost like a snake,
-and then a deep growling roar.
The truth is, if I got in a cage with one of these,
it would probably shred me. So the only way we can film them
is using these. Come on in.
So this is where our cats usually live. As a clue
to how they're specialised, look at this.
Great big pond full of fish.
These are fishing cats. They kind of defy every law there is
about how cats should behave. They love water,
and catch their food in it. That's what we're hoping to see.
What you're about to see will dispel any myth surrounding cats and water.
Whilst your pet moggy may not like getting its feet wet,
the fishing cat loves it.
Even though they're not much bigger than a house cat,
he could still do me an awful lot of damage.
So the only way we have of seeing him at work is to rig up cameras
all round this enclosure. We're turning this into
the Big Brother household, except for fishing cats.
-Does that look all right to you?
MUSIC: "Big Brother" theme tune
Cameras are set and rolling.
It's going to take a while for our fishing cats to get used to
the cameras being in there.
Also to see that the fish are there and think about hunting.
There's one just come into frame up the top here.
Cat's come down to the edge of the pool,
and it's looking quite intently into the water.
She definitely knows there's a fish supper ready to be had.
There's several different ways the fishing cat will actually hunt,
from just whacking a paw into the water and catching a fish
to actually diving in and swimming after them, catching underwater.
It's a common misconception that all cats hate water.
I've seen tigers and jaguars all swimming very strongly indeed,
but this cat's probably more happy
in and around water than any other.
If we just switch to our underwater camera...
It may look a little bit murky and grotty, but our fishing cat
would actually be happy hunting in water even worse than this.
Just dipped her paw in. Not sure if she's actually going for a fish
or if that was just tapping on the surface to simulate,
make it seem like an insect landed on the surface. Not caught anything.
Oh no, something's spooked her. She's moving round.
If ever you need reminding that filming animal behaviour
is not as easy as hitting record and shouting "action", then this is it.
Patience and time is the key,
but we were rapidly running out of both.
I was so confident this was going to work.
Our batteries and tape are about to run out on our cameras,
and, unfortunately, our cat hasn't played ball.
But this is what they are capable of.
Fishing cats are powerfully built with short limbs, a stocky body,
and webbed feet - attributes perfect
for trudging through water and for scooping up fish.
They've even been known to dive in head first and swim under water
to grab fish in their mouths.
A scuba-diving carp-crunching cat?
That's crazy talk!
So, there we have it. On the one hand, there's this -
our canopy-conquering monkey-munching clouded leopard.
And on the other, our fish-filleting feline, the fishing cat.
Both with a deadly set of skills and abilities
but who gets a place on the Deadly 60?
Well, it's my list, so I'm going for my favourite -
the clouded leopard.
A master hunter of the forest floor
and the tree tops.
With incredible canine teeth,
the clouded leopard's got to go on the Deadly 60.
Can twist its ankles the wrong way to climb up and down trees,
the longest teeth compared to skull size of any carnivore,
using its retractable claws to climb and to kill.
The clouded leopard - deadly.
Seconds out, round three, and my next contender
is a cosmopolitan lizard.
As much at home in the city as the jungle,
both happy hunting grounds for the Tokay gecko.
There are hundreds of species of gecko around the world,
but this, to my mind, is the king.
This is a Tokay gecko. It was hunting in my hotel.
The name Tokay comes from its call, which is the voice
of this part of the world. It goes something like...
To-kay! To-kay! To-kay!
You hear it almost everywhere,
especially coming into dusk and early evening.
That means this fellow is hunting for armoured insects like beetles,
which it crunches up with a powerful jaw and very sharp teeth.
They are very sharp teeth, I can tell you for sure,
because I've been bitten by one and it really hurt.
I thought it was going to take my finger off.
They're gloriously coloured with bright orange spots.
Pretty much as big and as stocky as geckos ever get,
but it's their climbing ability that I think makes them worthy
of a place on the Deadly 60.
Let's get a closer look at those feet
which are clamping down on my thumb.
On the end of every toe is a sharp claw,
almost like the talon on a bird of prey.
And that will cling to tiny imperfections in bark or in bricks.
But, even better than that, every one of those toes is lined
with something even more miraculous.
Each toe is covered with fine hairs you can only see under a microscope.
It's those that allow it to cling to vertical surfaces
or even overhanging ones.
They're so effective that this gecko can even jump and instantly grip
to the wall it lands on.
The tiny hairs on the toes catch hold of a climbing surface
almost like Velcro.
Whether it's out in the wilderness or here in the urban jungle,
the Tokay gecko is, to my mind,
the finest climbing insect-killer in the world.
That on its own ought to make it enough to make it onto my list,
but, on the Deadly 60,
we don't just tell about how cool animals are.
We like to show you. Our Tokay gecko is somewhere munching his way
through the local moth population, up there.
So I'm going to go and join him.
But not munching moths because that would be just wrong.
So, while I may be getting a slice of life gecko-style,
it's not really a fair fight.
The gecko doesn't just climb up here. It hunts at the same time.
The gecko zeroes in on dinner with eyes and ears in focused harmony.
One lightning lunge later,
and jaws lined with pointy teeth munch through moths.
OK, let's see how the best of British - that's me - compares
to the wizard of the wall, the Tokay gecko.
My first problem is balance. That's something the gecko solves easily
with its tail.
And then, the next thing is, I can't get my fingers into the cracks
between these bricks. They're just too small.
The finger nails on the end of every toe for the gecko
are just perfect for hooking into imperfections in bricks.
I'm never going to make it!
Already, my respect for the gecko is certainly growing.
If this was a proper race, I'd be eating that gecko's dust.
I bet you anything he'd be at the top by now,
licking his lips and yawning.
That's one small victory, at least!
Yay! Thank you very much.
My next problem is sweat.
I've got sweat getting into my fingers, stopping me gripping.
The gecko doesn't have to deal with that at all.
In fact, no lizard does.
They have a waterproof skin which means they don't sweat,
they don't lose any water to the outside environment,
which is great when you're climbing.
I'm guessing Tokay geckos don't get vertigo either.
OK, this is a really hard bit.
Up, over the top.
Geckos cling effortlessly to overhangs.
For me, it's near impossible.
Oh, look! There's a little gecko climbing right beside me.
'Oh, that's just showing off!'
That was one of the sweatiest, silliest, craziest things I've done.
I might have got up here but I certainly didn't...
But I certainly didn't do it with the grace of a Tokay gecko.
There's no way I'm going catching insects while I'm here.
What time did I do it in?
The gecko does it in about 30 seconds.
I think he wins. I think you've got to say,
Tokay gecko is on the Deadly 60. Oh!
With advanced eye-sight and hearing, they zero in on prey.
Its Velcro feet make it one of the world's best climbers.
And jaws lined with pointy teeth to munch through moths.
The Tokay gecko is a worthy addition to the Deadly 60.
Certainly beat me.
Next time on Deadly 60...
He's tasting my face. He just stuck his tongue in my eye!
Perfectly adapted to life hunting in the dark.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
In Thailand, Steve comes face-to-face with the longest venomous snake in the world, the king cobra, whose bite could kill an elephant. He meets two of Thailand's killer cats for a deadly cat face-off, but which one will make it onto his list? Finally he dons his climbing gear to scale a building in Bangkok to illustrate the abilities of one of the world's best climbers, who is deadly with it.