Wildlife series. Steve heads for the marshlands of Argentina, where he searches for an anaconda and swims in piranha-infested waters.
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My name's Steve Backshall.
This is my search for the Deadly 60.
Not just deadly to me, but deadly in their own world.
My crew and I are travelling the planet,
and you're coming every step of the way.
This time on Deadly 60, we're in the Ibera wetlands of Argentina.
It's a swamp the size of a small country, and we're looking for predators in these waters.
Argentina is the second biggest country in South America.
2,000 miles from north to south,
there's a massive variety of landscapes.
We've chosen this marshland because lurking in the swamps
are some truly ferocious beasts.
We're based in a cattle ranch right at the water's edge.
Joining me are my trusty crew.
Just like me, they were all born in the saddle.
And that's lucky, because it's the best way to get around.
Horseback's a fantastic way to look for wildlife for a bunch of reasons.
Horses move at a natural pace.
They're unlikely to frighten animals. They're quiet.
In the marshes, it has an extra advantage - elevation.
I'm twice as far off the ground as I would be if I was walking.
I can see beyond the rushes
and also look down into the water and see what lies beneath.
'We need all the height we can get.
'We're looking for the king of camouflage, the yellow anaconda.
'This stealthy serpent is a swamp specialist.
'When it's in the water, it can hold its breath for over half an hour.
'Armed with an awesome turn of speed and strong muscular body,
'the anaconda is a master of constriction.
'Its sit-and-wait strategy is perfect for hunting in the marshes.'
It'll lie in wait for days, weeks, sometimes months on end.
Its eyes and nostrils are on top of its head,
so it can leave the minimum exposed.
Which makes it difficult for its prey to spot,
but also very difficult for us to spot, too.
We could be here some time.
'The plan is to ride around the area
'hoping the horses' hooves will disturb a snake.
'With luck, we'll see it move.
'It's a bit like looking for a camouflaged needle
'in a haystack the size of a small country.'
It's quite spooky, what could be lying beneath this stuff.
'We come across some of the strangest animals in the area.
'These giant rodents are called capybara.
'They're a favourite snack for our anaconda,'
-'That is a warning call,
'alerting other capybara that we're around.
'We'd been riding for three hours when when our patience is rewarded.'
Something's in here.
Can you take my reins?
'It could be what we're looking for. Time to get off and investigate.'
< I saw something else move.
'The water's been stirred up by our horses.
'Everyone has their eyes peeled for the smallest movements.
'Especially under foot.
'Just as we're about to give up, my foot hits something hard.'
That was a caiman.
And I've just been given a really nasty bite.
'With all the knowledge and planning in the world,
'there's always a risk when working with wild animals.'
I've just had one of my first nasty bites from an animal.
Trodden on a caiman and it's whipped round...
..and taken a chunk out of my leg.
So, unfortunately, anaconda hunting is off for the rest of the day.
'I'm a little shaken, but OK.
'After a crocodile bite, I have to get my cut properly disinfected.
'So it's off to the doctor, but our snake hunt certainly isn't over.'
'The next morning, it's time to get a look at the animal that bit me.
'Nearby is a lagoon that's absolutely loaded with caimans.'
It's 24 hours since my disagreement with a spectacled caiman.
I've been all patched up.
It's a bit sore but I can still walk all right.
The last thing I want is people thinking that spectacled caiman
are evil monsters lurking in the mud waiting for a person to walk past
so they can pounce on them.
Spectacled caimans are one of the least aggressive crocodilians towards people.
Unless you step on one like I did!
'First, we've got to get close to one. And here's how.'
What I'm hoping is...
I can make some vibrations in the water...
..and they'll think that it's a struggling animal, and investigate.
Keep your eyes open, guys.
'It doesn't take long for them to sense us.'
See those eyes above the surface?
He's definitely got his eyes on me.
Look at that!
'They're coming in surprisingly fast.'
Everything about its profile is perfect for its method of hunting.
Even in water this shallow,
the only thing above the surface are the eyes and nostrils.
So he can breathe
and get a good look at what he's thinking of hunting.
'Unusually for spectacled caiman, this one seems unafraid of people.'
He might even come up out of the water if we give him a bit of space.
Here he comes.
'This caiman is about the same size as the one that bit me.
'We're getting a better look than I dared to hope for.'
Look at that mouth!
'75 curved cone-shaped teeth with the muscle behind them
'for one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom.
'The teeth punch through the upper jaw, a lethal trap for its victim.'
The reason it's known as the spectacled caiman
is between the eyes there's a boney ridge that looks like
the bridge on a pair of glasses.
Now we've got one that's being friendly,
what I'd like to do is to show you one hunting.
To do that, we head back into the water.
'The idea is to draw a fish right past me.
'Using a tiny underwater camera, I'll show you a wild caiman
'snapping at its prey.'
See how cautious he is because we're here.
In this situation, spectacled caiman would keep away from people.
So even though there's that yummy fish reward, he's a bit nervous.
'Caiman are opportunists, so it doesn't take him long.'
Look at this. He's getting over his natural nerves.
This is quite a strange sensation.
Being this close to a crocodile in the water,
looking into its mouth.
When he sinks below the water like that, he completely disappears.
'With vibration sensors round their mouth
'spectacled caiman detect tiny movements.
'A specialised heart means they can hold their breath for over an hour.
'But when they flick the switch, their speed is sensational.
'Virtually nothing escapes those jaws.'
Whoa! It's got the fish!
I never thought I'd be able to be this close
to a wild crocodilian feeding.
Give it a good pull!
He's going to lift his head out the water
and throw that fish back in one gulp.
'Having seen it hunting, and experienced its weapons first-hand,
'I know it's not a human-hunter but a super-charged predator.
The spectacled caiman - fish-munching,
absolutely awesome, and on the Deadly 60.
'One animal down, it's time for some well-earned grub
'before we head into the night to see what we can find.
'We decide to explore a small patch of woodland
'laden with roosting birds.
'There's a chance that where there's prey, predators are lurking.
'No sooner have we set foot, than we're causing a stir.'
Hundreds of birds peacefully sleeping and we're waking them up.
'And, try as we might, we can't get them to sit still.'
'Surprisingly, the noise works in our favour.'
There's two foxes just beyond our gaze.
And I think they'll stay just at that distance away from us.
'The foxes are prowling around this bird roost, looking for eggs
'or possibly dead chicks.'
Chances of a shot? Zero.
'The director has a trick up his sleeve - imitating the noise of an animal in distress.'
WHISPERS: Shine the torch.
Carry on, Giles. Do it again.
SCREECHING AND SQUAWKING
'And this one seems remarkably relaxed.'
It's wonderful. These foxes were keeping a very respectable distance from us,
until Giles, our director, pulled an old trick out the bag.
He made the noise of a dying rabbit
and they've both come to within metres of us.
He's really rather beautiful, isn't he?
There's a valuable lesson learnt.
If you can't go to the animals, get them to come to you by making noises and conning them.
'In no time at all, the new day arrives.
'It's back on the hunt for deadly animals.
'With my leg too sore for anaconda hunting on horseback, we're looking for the infamous piranha.
'The best way to see these feisty fish is with a rod
'and a chunk of meat.'
How do I cast this thing?
'Time to catch ourselves a piranha, and it doesn't take long.'
Ooh. Have something. I've got piranha already.
There are several species of piranhas in these waterways.
This is a smaller one.
Beautiful yellow colours.
Black bar down the tail.
This isn't what we're looking for.
There's a species of piranha in here that dwarfs this baby.
That's what we're hoping to catch.
I want to wash my fingers but I don't want to put them in the water.
More bait, please.
Bite, little fishy.
'Piranhas are virtually throwing themselves into the boat,
'but not the ones we're after.'
Is this the same species as before?
A piranha has bitten through the hook.
-I think that was a monster.
'Big ones are definitely out there.'
Er... More bait, please?
'But even the monsters can't avoid us for ever.'
Yay! Good catch!
Now, THAT is a piranha.
This is the real deal.
Local people call these "the brave piranha".
Also, "the yellow", from the wonderful yellow belly.
I'm now about to show you one of the most awesome sets of gnashers
you'll see in the animal kingdom.
Hopefully, without losing one of my fingers.
-Look at those!
The teeth are fiercely sharp.
They interlock with the teeth on the upper jaw.
Forming a vicious trap that it uses to munch into other fish
and animals unlucky enough to be struggling in these waters.
'To show you how sharp their teeth are, watch this.'
Did you see that?
Like a chainsaw through chocolate. That's what I call sharp.
When the water's murky, I wouldn't think of getting in with these guys.
But I have a plan for showing you how piranhas feed.
Yes, it is going to involve me going swimming with some.
Come on then, fella.
They don't seem to be biting.
-You boys got anything?
-Nothing. Not even a nibble.
We've found ourselves a sheltered lagoon. The water is much clearer.
I'm hoping that this is piranha paradise, but there's only one way to find out, and that's to jump in.
Yeah. Good luck, Steve! STEVE LAUGHS
'The water is clear so piranhas will be able to see what they're biting
'and, hopefully, give me a wide berth.
'I've got a wet suit and gloves, to act as a sort of armour,
'and a big bit of steak for bait.'
I'm in piranha-infested waters!
'With a camera under water,
'we'll see anything that comes to investigate.
'It took less than five seconds for piranhas to find our steak.'
Look at the size of that one!
It's starting to happen!
Once we get a few of those showing interest,
all of its fellow piranhas will pick up the signals.
They'll start feeding and that's when it gets spectacular.
'The piranha picks up vibrations
'with tiny hair cells called a lateral line.
'Vibrations coupled with the scent of blood act like a dinner bell.'
Look at that!
They're going absolutely crazy.
They are tearing the meat to shreds.
'After 30 seconds, the number of piranhas has trebled,
'as they race in from hundreds of metres away.'
They come in at great speed
and sink those interlocking surgical scalpel-sharp teeth into the meat,
then wrench away, using all of their bulk,
taking a great big chunk of meat.
Then the next one comes in.
It's like a conveyor belt of frenzied fish. It's just incredible.
'Piranhas don't hang around
'because many of their colleagues are cannibals.
'This constant darting around makes it look like the water's boiling.'
This is just one of the phenomenal displays of predatory behaviour
you'll ever see.
The water is thick with fish.
'And, only three minutes later...'
Look at this!
Look what's left of our meat!
They've totally destroyed it.
A few little sad bits of bone left.
And I'm stood here, hoping that my wet suit's gonna protect me.
Whose idea was this, anyway?
'I've just been in amongst
'one of the most fearsome feeding frenzies in the animal kingdom.'
I don't think anyone's going to doubt piranhas have got to go on the Deadly 60.
-Can I get out now, please?
'Two days after our painful setback, my leg's healed enough
'to get back on the trail of our yellow anaconda.'
Ride 'em, cowboy! Yee-ha!
'We've only got one more afternoon so we're doing everything we can to maximise our chances.'
We have such a vast area of swampy land to cover.
We're trying to spread out so we can cover as much ground as we can.
'It's not long before we find something intriguing.'
This is really interesting.
This big area of dry vegetation is an old caiman nest.
Around here are loads of baby caiman,
just the kind of food our anaconda would love to get stuck into.
'There's as many as 40 miniature crocs and I have to show you one.'
Anyone that thinks that crocodiles are nasty evil killing machines,
have a look at that!
That has to be one of the prettiest, cutest critters you will ever see.
No more than just a few days old.
Isn't that beautiful?
Do you hear that sound?
That's the call to all the others to duck below the surface.
Little splashes going off around me all the time
from all his brothers and sisters.
Isn't he wonderful?
That call is not just going to tell the other hatchlings to stay quiet.
It's also going to bring Mum in.
She is a fantastic mother and takes great care of her young.
The last thing we want to do is upset her so, for this little guy,
it's back to the pond.
'With all these tasty morsels, it seems like the perfect spot
'to hunt for our anaconda on foot.
'But our anaconda camo-killers are just too expert at not being seen.
'Eventually, our time's up. We have to head home.
'But all is not lost.
'This wild anaconda was rescued from being squished on the road.
'It's time to release it.'
So this isn't a tame snake.
Which is why I'm not handling it with my bare hands.
Will it let me just get it out?
this beautiful snake is a yellow anaconda.
It's actually quite a small one.
This snake can get up to four metres, the big females.
As it's opening its mouth,
it's revealing the rows of razor-sharp teeth.
They're like needles and they all point back towards the throat.
Once it's got a hold of prey,
it's almost impossible for them to escape.
Look how those teeth point backwards, into the mouth.
Even though this is a non-venomous snake, a bite would be very painful.
Obviously, yellow anacondas don't eat people.
What they eat is the water birds and small mammals
around the swamp where they live.
'This may not see me as prey,
'but he's giving me a good example of how they overpower their victim.'
This little male
is transmitting an enormous amount of power into my hand.
Look how it's doing it.
It's wrapped several coils around
and then has this extra coil going lengthways across it
that it's using to anchor itself.
Just increasing its grip and its squeeze.
That is like the firmest handshake I've ever had!
If I was to allow that to continue,
it would probably start breaking my hand bones.
I wasn't joking. This will actually start to break my hand pretty soon.
'I need to get him off as quickly and carefully as I can.'
Can I help? >
That is a perfect example of how strong
the yellow anaconda can be.
Almost brought me to my knees.
'That strength is backed up by acute senses.'
Look at that tongue flicking out.
This is the prime method of sense for snakes.
Drawing in molecules of taste and smell from the air,
and processing them in their mouths.
OK, back to the swamps where he belongs.
'100 metres away, we find the perfect spot.
'Time to do our bit for snake conservation.'
This is about as perfect a habitat as you will ever see.
So, back to the swamp for our beautiful yellow anaconda.
Look how quickly he disappears.
That's why yellow anacondas have to go on the Deadly 60.
You would never know he was there.
This is just extraordinary.
That is an ENORMOUS snake.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Steve and the crew turn cowboy as they head for the marshlands of Argentina. There's a nasty surprise in store for Steve as he searches for an anaconda. Undeterred, he swims in piranha-infested waters to find out more about these iconic killers.