Argentina Deadly 60


Argentina

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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Transcript


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My name's Steve Backshall.

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This is my search for the Deadly 60.

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Amazing!

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Not just deadly to me, but deadly in their own world.

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My crew and I are travelling the planet,

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and you're coming every step of the way.

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This time on Deadly 60, we're in the Ibera wetlands of Argentina.

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It's a swamp the size of a small country, and we're looking for predators in these waters.

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Argentina is the second biggest country in South America.

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2,000 miles from north to south,

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there's a massive variety of landscapes.

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We've chosen this marshland because lurking in the swamps

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are some truly ferocious beasts.

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We're based in a cattle ranch right at the water's edge.

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Joining me are my trusty crew.

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Just like me, they were all born in the saddle.

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And that's lucky, because it's the best way to get around.

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Yee-ha!

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Horseback's a fantastic way to look for wildlife for a bunch of reasons.

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Horses move at a natural pace.

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They're unlikely to frighten animals. They're quiet.

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In the marshes, it has an extra advantage - elevation.

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I'm twice as far off the ground as I would be if I was walking.

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I can see beyond the rushes

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and also look down into the water and see what lies beneath.

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'We need all the height we can get.

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'We're looking for the king of camouflage, the yellow anaconda.

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'This stealthy serpent is a swamp specialist.

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'When it's in the water, it can hold its breath for over half an hour.

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'Armed with an awesome turn of speed and strong muscular body,

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'the anaconda is a master of constriction.

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'Its sit-and-wait strategy is perfect for hunting in the marshes.'

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It'll lie in wait for days, weeks, sometimes months on end.

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Its eyes and nostrils are on top of its head,

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so it can leave the minimum exposed.

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Which makes it difficult for its prey to spot,

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but also very difficult for us to spot, too.

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We could be here some time.

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'The plan is to ride around the area

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'hoping the horses' hooves will disturb a snake.

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'With luck, we'll see it move.

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'It's a bit like looking for a camouflaged needle

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'in a haystack the size of a small country.'

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It's quite spooky, what could be lying beneath this stuff.

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'We come across some of the strangest animals in the area.

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'These giant rodents are called capybara.

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'They're a favourite snack for our anaconda,'

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-SNORTS

-'That is a warning call,

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'alerting other capybara that we're around.

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'We'd been riding for three hours when when our patience is rewarded.'

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Something's in here.

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Can you take my reins?

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'It could be what we're looking for. Time to get off and investigate.'

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< I saw something else move.

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'The water's been stirred up by our horses.

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'Everyone has their eyes peeled for the smallest movements.

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'Especially under foot.

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'Just as we're about to give up, my foot hits something hard.'

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Aargh!

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That was a caiman.

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And I've just been given a really nasty bite.

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'With all the knowledge and planning in the world,

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'there's always a risk when working with wild animals.'

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Oh, dear.

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I've just had one of my first nasty bites from an animal.

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Trodden on a caiman and it's whipped round...

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..and taken a chunk out of my leg.

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So, unfortunately, anaconda hunting is off for the rest of the day.

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'I'm a little shaken, but OK.

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'After a crocodile bite, I have to get my cut properly disinfected.

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'So it's off to the doctor, but our snake hunt certainly isn't over.'

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'The next morning, it's time to get a look at the animal that bit me.

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'Nearby is a lagoon that's absolutely loaded with caimans.'

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It's 24 hours since my disagreement with a spectacled caiman.

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I've been all patched up.

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It's a bit sore but I can still walk all right.

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The last thing I want is people thinking that spectacled caiman

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are evil monsters lurking in the mud waiting for a person to walk past

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so they can pounce on them.

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Spectacled caimans are one of the least aggressive crocodilians towards people.

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Unless you step on one like I did!

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'First, we've got to get close to one. And here's how.'

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What I'm hoping is...

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I can make some vibrations in the water...

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..and they'll think that it's a struggling animal, and investigate.

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Keep your eyes open, guys.

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'It doesn't take long for them to sense us.'

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See those eyes above the surface?

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He's definitely got his eyes on me.

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Look at that!

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'They're coming in surprisingly fast.'

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Everything about its profile is perfect for its method of hunting.

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Even in water this shallow,

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the only thing above the surface are the eyes and nostrils.

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So he can breathe

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and get a good look at what he's thinking of hunting.

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'Unusually for spectacled caiman, this one seems unafraid of people.'

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He might even come up out of the water if we give him a bit of space.

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Here he comes.

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'This caiman is about the same size as the one that bit me.

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'We're getting a better look than I dared to hope for.'

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Look at that mouth!

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'75 curved cone-shaped teeth with the muscle behind them

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'for one of the most powerful bites in the animal kingdom.

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'The teeth punch through the upper jaw, a lethal trap for its victim.'

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The reason it's known as the spectacled caiman

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is between the eyes there's a boney ridge that looks like

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the bridge on a pair of glasses.

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Now we've got one that's being friendly,

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what I'd like to do is to show you one hunting.

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To do that, we head back into the water.

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'The idea is to draw a fish right past me.

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'Using a tiny underwater camera, I'll show you a wild caiman

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'snapping at its prey.'

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See how cautious he is because we're here.

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In this situation, spectacled caiman would keep away from people.

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So even though there's that yummy fish reward, he's a bit nervous.

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'Caiman are opportunists, so it doesn't take him long.'

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Look at this. He's getting over his natural nerves.

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Oh, wow!

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This is quite a strange sensation.

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Being this close to a crocodile in the water,

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looking into its mouth.

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When he sinks below the water like that, he completely disappears.

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'With vibration sensors round their mouth

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'spectacled caiman detect tiny movements.

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'A specialised heart means they can hold their breath for over an hour.

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'But when they flick the switch, their speed is sensational.

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'Virtually nothing escapes those jaws.'

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Whoa! It's got the fish!

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I never thought I'd be able to be this close

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to a wild crocodilian feeding.

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Give it a good pull!

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Supper time!

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Yes!

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He's going to lift his head out the water

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and throw that fish back in one gulp.

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'Having seen it hunting, and experienced its weapons first-hand,

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'I know it's not a human-hunter but a super-charged predator.

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The spectacled caiman - fish-munching,

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capybara-crunching,

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absolutely awesome, and on the Deadly 60.

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'One animal down, it's time for some well-earned grub

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'before we head into the night to see what we can find.

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'We decide to explore a small patch of woodland

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'laden with roosting birds.

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'There's a chance that where there's prey, predators are lurking.

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'No sooner have we set foot, than we're causing a stir.'

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Hundreds of birds peacefully sleeping and we're waking them up.

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Sorry.

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'And, try as we might, we can't get them to sit still.'

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WINGS FLAP

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'Surprisingly, the noise works in our favour.'

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There's two foxes just beyond our gaze.

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And I think they'll stay just at that distance away from us.

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'The foxes are prowling around this bird roost, looking for eggs

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'or possibly dead chicks.'

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Chances of a shot? Zero.

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'The director has a trick up his sleeve - imitating the noise of an animal in distress.'

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SQUAWKING

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No way?!

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WHISPERS: Shine the torch.

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Carry on, Giles. Do it again.

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SCREECHING AND SQUAWKING

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WHISPERS: Bingo.

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'And this one seems remarkably relaxed.'

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It's wonderful. These foxes were keeping a very respectable distance from us,

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until Giles, our director, pulled an old trick out the bag.

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He made the noise of a dying rabbit

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and they've both come to within metres of us.

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He's really rather beautiful, isn't he?

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There's a valuable lesson learnt.

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If you can't go to the animals, get them to come to you by making noises and conning them.

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'In no time at all, the new day arrives.

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'It's back on the hunt for deadly animals.

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'With my leg too sore for anaconda hunting on horseback, we're looking for the infamous piranha.

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'The best way to see these feisty fish is with a rod

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'and a chunk of meat.'

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How do I cast this thing?

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'Time to catch ourselves a piranha, and it doesn't take long.'

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Ooh. Have something. I've got piranha already.

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There are several species of piranhas in these waterways.

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This is a smaller one.

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Beautiful yellow colours.

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Black bar down the tail.

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This isn't what we're looking for.

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There's a species of piranha in here that dwarfs this baby.

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That's what we're hoping to catch.

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I want to wash my fingers but I don't want to put them in the water.

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More bait, please.

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Bite, little fishy.

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'Piranhas are virtually throwing themselves into the boat,

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'but not the ones we're after.'

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Is this the same species as before?

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A piranha has bitten through the hook.

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-Really?

-I think that was a monster.

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'Big ones are definitely out there.'

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Er... More bait, please?

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'But even the monsters can't avoid us for ever.'

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Yay! Good catch!

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Now, THAT is a piranha.

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This is the real deal.

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Local people call these "the brave piranha".

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Also, "the yellow", from the wonderful yellow belly.

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I'm now about to show you one of the most awesome sets of gnashers

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you'll see in the animal kingdom.

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Hopefully, without losing one of my fingers.

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-STEVE GASPS

-Look at those!

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The teeth are fiercely sharp.

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They interlock with the teeth on the upper jaw.

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Forming a vicious trap that it uses to munch into other fish

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and animals unlucky enough to be struggling in these waters.

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'To show you how sharp their teeth are, watch this.'

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Did you see that?

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Like a chainsaw through chocolate. That's what I call sharp.

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When the water's murky, I wouldn't think of getting in with these guys.

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But I have a plan for showing you how piranhas feed.

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Yes, it is going to involve me going swimming with some.

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Come on then, fella.

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Wa-hay!

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Love it!

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They don't seem to be biting.

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-You boys got anything?

-Nothing. Not even a nibble.

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We've found ourselves a sheltered lagoon. The water is much clearer.

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I'm hoping that this is piranha paradise, but there's only one way to find out, and that's to jump in.

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Yeah. Good luck, Steve! STEVE LAUGHS

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'The water is clear so piranhas will be able to see what they're biting

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'and, hopefully, give me a wide berth.

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'I've got a wet suit and gloves, to act as a sort of armour,

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'and a big bit of steak for bait.'

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I'm in piranha-infested waters!

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'With a camera under water,

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'we'll see anything that comes to investigate.

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'It took less than five seconds for piranhas to find our steak.'

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Look at the size of that one!

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It's starting to happen!

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Once we get a few of those showing interest,

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all of its fellow piranhas will pick up the signals.

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They'll start feeding and that's when it gets spectacular.

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'The piranha picks up vibrations

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'with tiny hair cells called a lateral line.

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'Vibrations coupled with the scent of blood act like a dinner bell.'

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Look at that!

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They're going absolutely crazy.

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They are tearing the meat to shreds.

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'After 30 seconds, the number of piranhas has trebled,

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'as they race in from hundreds of metres away.'

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They come in at great speed

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and sink those interlocking surgical scalpel-sharp teeth into the meat,

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then wrench away, using all of their bulk,

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taking a great big chunk of meat.

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Then the next one comes in.

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It's like a conveyor belt of frenzied fish. It's just incredible.

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'Piranhas don't hang around

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'because many of their colleagues are cannibals.

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'This constant darting around makes it look like the water's boiling.'

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This is just one of the phenomenal displays of predatory behaviour

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you'll ever see.

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The water is thick with fish.

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'And, only three minutes later...'

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Look at this!

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Look what's left of our meat!

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They've totally destroyed it.

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A few little sad bits of bone left.

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And I'm stood here, hoping that my wet suit's gonna protect me.

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Whose idea was this, anyway?

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'I've just been in amongst

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'one of the most fearsome feeding frenzies in the animal kingdom.'

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I don't think anyone's going to doubt piranhas have got to go on the Deadly 60.

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-Can I get out now, please?

-LAUGHING >

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'Two days after our painful setback, my leg's healed enough

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'to get back on the trail of our yellow anaconda.'

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Ride 'em, cowboy! Yee-ha!

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'We've only got one more afternoon so we're doing everything we can to maximise our chances.'

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We have such a vast area of swampy land to cover.

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We're trying to spread out so we can cover as much ground as we can.

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'It's not long before we find something intriguing.'

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This is really interesting.

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This big area of dry vegetation is an old caiman nest.

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Around here are loads of baby caiman,

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just the kind of food our anaconda would love to get stuck into.

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'There's as many as 40 miniature crocs and I have to show you one.'

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Success.

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Anyone that thinks that crocodiles are nasty evil killing machines,

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have a look at that!

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That has to be one of the prettiest, cutest critters you will ever see.

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No more than just a few days old.

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Isn't that beautiful?

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SQUEAKS

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Do you hear that sound?

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That's the call to all the others to duck below the surface.

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Little splashes going off around me all the time

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from all his brothers and sisters.

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Isn't he wonderful?

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That call is not just going to tell the other hatchlings to stay quiet.

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It's also going to bring Mum in.

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She is a fantastic mother and takes great care of her young.

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The last thing we want to do is upset her so, for this little guy,

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it's back to the pond.

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Absolutely champion.

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'With all these tasty morsels, it seems like the perfect spot

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'to hunt for our anaconda on foot.

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'But our anaconda camo-killers are just too expert at not being seen.

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'Eventually, our time's up. We have to head home.

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'But all is not lost.

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'This wild anaconda was rescued from being squished on the road.

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'It's time to release it.'

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So this isn't a tame snake.

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Which is why I'm not handling it with my bare hands.

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Will it let me just get it out?

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So...

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this beautiful snake is a yellow anaconda.

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It's actually quite a small one.

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This snake can get up to four metres, the big females.

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As it's opening its mouth,

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it's revealing the rows of razor-sharp teeth.

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They're like needles and they all point back towards the throat.

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Once it's got a hold of prey,

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it's almost impossible for them to escape.

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Look how those teeth point backwards, into the mouth.

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Even though this is a non-venomous snake, a bite would be very painful.

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Obviously, yellow anacondas don't eat people.

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What they eat is the water birds and small mammals

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around the swamp where they live.

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'This may not see me as prey,

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'but he's giving me a good example of how they overpower their victim.'

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This little male

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is transmitting an enormous amount of power into my hand.

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Look how it's doing it.

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It's wrapped several coils around

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and then has this extra coil going lengthways across it

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that it's using to anchor itself.

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Just increasing its grip and its squeeze.

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That is like the firmest handshake I've ever had!

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If I was to allow that to continue,

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it would probably start breaking my hand bones.

0:25:420:25:45

Ow!

0:25:450:25:47

I wasn't joking. This will actually start to break my hand pretty soon.

0:25:500:25:55

'I need to get him off as quickly and carefully as I can.'

0:25:550:26:00

Ugh! Wow!

0:26:000:26:03

Can I help? >

0:26:040:26:06

That is a perfect example of how strong

0:26:060:26:11

the yellow anaconda can be.

0:26:110:26:14

Almost brought me to my knees.

0:26:140:26:16

'That strength is backed up by acute senses.'

0:26:160:26:20

Look at that tongue flicking out.

0:26:200:26:23

This is the prime method of sense for snakes.

0:26:230:26:26

Drawing in molecules of taste and smell from the air,

0:26:260:26:30

and processing them in their mouths.

0:26:300:26:33

OK, back to the swamps where he belongs.

0:26:330:26:37

Let's go.

0:26:370:26:39

'100 metres away, we find the perfect spot.

0:26:390:26:42

'Time to do our bit for snake conservation.'

0:26:420:26:47

This is about as perfect a habitat as you will ever see.

0:26:470:26:53

So, back to the swamp for our beautiful yellow anaconda.

0:26:530:26:59

Look how quickly he disappears.

0:27:030:27:06

That's why yellow anacondas have to go on the Deadly 60.

0:27:060:27:11

You would never know he was there.

0:27:110:27:14

'Next time...'

0:27:360:27:37

This is just extraordinary.

0:27:370:27:41

That is an ENORMOUS snake.

0:27:460:27:49

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:050:28:08

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.


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