Wildlife series. Steve and the crew are in Peru, searching for elusive giant river otters, when Steve has a chance encounter with the largest reptile in South America.
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My name's Steve Backshall!
And this is my search for the Deadly 60.
Amazing! That's not just animals that are deadly to me,
but that are deadly in their own world.
My crew and I are travelling the planet,
and you're coming with me every step of the way!
This time on Deadly 60, we are truly in a land that time forgot.
This is Peru, and the Amazon rainforest.
If we can't find deadly predators here, we might as well give up.
The Amazon rainforest is almost the size of Europe,
and we're based in the southwestern corner,
on the hunt for the best that it has to offer.
This awesome jungle contains around ten percent
of all known species on Planet Earth,
from the weird and wonderful to the downright deadly.
So we're ending on a high
in the best place in the world to find deadly animals -
the flooded forest, a perfect home whatever your appetite.
'After a half-hour paddle, it's a short trek to our jungle home.'
'But we don't even get a chance to unpack before everything kicks off!'
Richard spotted some giant otters.
I'm going to go and try and join them.
'We'd expected to work all week to find our first deadly animal,
'but they've just swum straight past us!
'They're hunting and already on the other side of the lake,
'so we're going to need to mobilise.'
Just over the other side of this lake
is one of the most elusive but one of the most fascinating creatures
found in the whole of the Amazon - the giant river otter.
'This is no ordinary otter.
'At two metres long, they're longer than I am tall.
'They spend most of the day hidden in the flooded forest,
'and any second could disappear before we can film them.'
The only thing on our mind is getting to these animals
before they disappear.
'It's a long hard slog, and finally we can hear them
'on the edge of the lake, but it seems hearing them
-'is far easier than seeing them!'
-GROWLING AND WHISTLING
So we follow their calls in the hope they'll emerge.
'Giant otters are incredibly rare.
'It would be quite an achievement and a real privilege
'to see them up close.'
Steve, Steve! Slow up. Stay there.
'So when they finally emerge, we are beside ourselves.'
The whole family out of the water, feeding together!
This is just extraordinary!
There's a group of about seven animals in front of us,
and one of them has just made a kill.
-And... Look, this branch here.
And I can hear him crunching from here!
I'm sweating like crazy. I'm all hot and bothered,
and I couldn't care less! This is awesome!
'But no sooner have we seen them than they're gone,
-'vanishing into the flooded forest.'
'And by the sound of it, something's kicking off.'
This prolonged vocal thing that's going on behind us here
is, probably, the otters have found an anaconda, a very big snake,
-or a caiman, a crocodile.
-WHISTLING AND HISSING
I hope we're going to be able to see this.
'By day, giant otters rule this lake.
'There's nothing that would mess with them.'
Oh, look! Caiman coming out towards us now!
Just ducked under the water.
Could be what all the fuss is about.
It was just there.
Keep your eyes open, guys.
At two metres long, giant otters are a force to be reckoned with.
They're highly territorial, ganging together to kill a caiman
twice their size by cutting it open with their long canine teeth.
And if that's not enough, check out their menu.
Five-metre anacondas, giant catfish,
even piranhas. This animal dominates the flooded forest
with speed, aggression and teamwork.
'And, as we've just heard, they'll happily take on a crocodile
'and come out on top.'
Look at that! Wow!
The water's just parting in front of him. He's coming right up to us!
You can see the power of them as they swim.
'Inside their territory, everything makes way for the otters.'
Local people call these animals river wolves,
and it's a really apt name.
Firstly you look in their mouths,
and they've got canine teeth that wouldn't look out of place
on a wolf.
Secondly, they're the longest of the weasel family,
and in weight - about 35 kilos -
actually not that dissimilar to a wolf.
And thirdly, they hunt in packs.
This group moving along this riverbank
are moving in unison, frightening and disorientating the fish
and catching them down there in the dark,
using their tactile whiskers to feel them.
Giant otters are perfectly evolved for hunting in the murky waters
of the Amazon basin.
Their broad, wing-like tail is the perfect engine,
allowing them to fly through the water,
with webbed feet for fine control.
And their eyesight is pin-sharp,
but fishing blind is no problem. These awesome anglers
use their whiskers to follow the wake of a fish long after it's gone,
meaning prey can swim but it can't hide.
By working together, a group of giant otters confuse their prey,
giving it almost no chance.
They're a deadly team both above and below the water.
One, two, three heads come to the surface. Five heads to the surface.
Three of them have got fish.
That is incredible.
You'd be hard-pressed to find any other predator in the world
that has that kind of success ratio when they're hunting.
-OTTER GRUNTS AND CRUNCHES
-Listen to that!
Just hear those fearsome teeth just crunching straight through fishbone!
I may be a battle-hardened naturalist.
I've seen lions hunting, orca, great white,
but none of them come even close to being as efficient as these guys.
And that's why they're going on the Deadly 60.
How good was that?!
Giant otters use super-sensitive whiskers to detect dinner,
and teamwork to swim it down.
But their size and aggression sets them apart from other otters,
and that's why they're on my list.
'So, with giant otters in the bag already, we're off to a great start,
'and it's the perfect time to see what else we can find.'
It's quite a weird sight, seeing these freshwater turtles stacked up
one on top of the other like a pack of playing cards,
just basking in the sun.
'This is truly a land that time forgot,
'and rammed with awesome animals - some harder to see than others.'
-How weird was that?!
'But all these critters pale into insignificance
'when we spot a true giant.
'It has to be the next contender for my Deadly 60 list.'
This prehistoric, chilling silhouette
is a black caiman.
It's the largest of the crocodiles found in Latin America.
And it's incredibly difficult to judge the scale of it, the size,
just from what we see now, which is little more than the head
and the scute, the back of the neck, above the water.
It could be three metres long, it could be two metres long -
I don't know. What I do know
is that this is definitely a very powerful animal.
So what is it about the black caiman
that makes it worthy of a place on my list?
At up to five metres long, they're the kings of the Amazon -
fast, furious fishing machines.
And, unlike most other species on the Deadly 60,
this one can, very occasionally, be a man-eater.
These cunning crocs can work together as a team,
corralling fish into a ball before taking turns to dive in for dinner.
To give you a sense of the scale of a large black caiman,
I want to entice one up out of the water.
'Our plan is to use special surveillance cameras
'to see one at night when they're really active,
'and then head out on the lake to catch a more manageable youngster.
'But to put this plan in action, we've got serious work to do.'
This is perfect. Yeah, I reckon this is our spot.
So, these here are camera traps.
What we're going to do is probably tie these to some trees,
put them all around this area here, and then put some bait,
some nice smelly meat, down the centre there.
And I think the idea is to set a trip-line up around here,
and anything big that comes in here to check out that meat
will trip the cameras,
and hopefully we should get some shots of them on these.
'So despite the downpour, it's time to get to work.
'With infrared lights in place, camera traps at the ready
'and tripwires armed, we just need some smelly bait.
'This slightly stinky steak is perfect.
'I love it when a plan comes together!
'Caiman are most active at night, but they won't come to the bait
'if we're here. So we're leaving the trap till dawn, when we'll return
'to see whether we've been successful.'
As the sun starts to set, this is a real changeover time in this lake.
The otters will have headed into their holts, their dens,
and they'll be laid up quietly for the night,
and now it's the turn of the caimans.
They become top dog - or top croc - on this lake.
'And now it's dark, it's time to show you some young caiman.
'These will hopefully be a much more handle-able size.'
A lot of nocturnal hunters have a shiny, reflective layer
at the back of their eyes, and when the light hits it, it shines.
In crocodiles, it shines bright, fiery red,
which gives a much better chance of finding them.
'So my hope is to catch one, to give you a proper look.'
There it is.
OK. If the guys just send me straight in there...
Just moved a fraction!
And he's gone. You can see how quick their reactions are.
This place is absolutely crawling with caiman.
'At only ten metres away...'
There it is.
Keep it dead on him. Don't move it.
Now, the black caiman is the largest crocodile found in South America.
Not, obviously, this one. This would probably be about a year old.
The black caiman goes through several distinct stages
in its development, from a hatchling to ones this size,
which are still quite vulnerable. Plenty of animals would like to eat
caimans of this size, so they tend to hang out around about the sides
in these reeds and rushes where they're protected
and feed on much smaller prey, insects and frogs and lizards,
anything they can get into that mouth, which at the moment
is lined with needle-sharp, tiny teeth.
You can just see them spilling out the side of the snout there.
However, as they get bigger, all of a sudden things change,
and they start to really rule. When that happens,
they're much more confident hunting out in the open of the lake.
I think we'll let our little fella here
go about his night's hunting in peace.
Such beautiful creatures!
Mind you, I certainly wouldn't be doing that with his mum.
And certainly not his dad.
'That is the job of our camera traps.
'Tomorrow cannot come soon enough.'
It's a beautiful, still, windless morning,
and we're just heading back to the camera traps.
They're in the bushes ahead of us.
There's quite a heightened sense of anticipation among the team
as to what's going to be on the cameras.
I can still see the cameras. They've not been eaten by anything.
The tripwire's gone.
OK! Let's have a look at what we got.
This is really exciting. We've got something on here.
Been triggered by something, but I can't see anything.
'But as the tape goes on, it seems as if the traps have malfunctioned.'
Is that the end of the tape?
Almost, and there's nothing there.
'We're all gutted.'
HE SHOUTS IN DELIGHT
Look at that!
Right at the end of the tape!
Look at that! It's a huge black caiman! Look at the size of it!
-You got to see this, guys. You got to see it.
'At over four metres long, this giant must weigh
'more than all of us put together.'
-You wouldn't want to go swimming in there.
No, you really wouldn't.
Black caiman are the largest members of the alligator family.
A really broad, flattened snout, very, very powerful around here,
which allows it to use those jaws with great strength,
wrenching its prey around. At the moment it's just slinking off
back into the water with our meat.
That is an absolute triumph.
On this lake we've seen all different sizes of black caiman,
from tiny little hatchlings right up to the absolute monster.
And, looking at this, black caimans have got to go on the Deadly 60.
The black caiman is a true giant of the Amazon rainforest.
It uses intelligent teamwork to confuse its prey
before diving in with crushing jaws -
a clever killer that's armed to the hilt.
'So, after an action-packed morning, we're 59 animals down,
'but with only one day left, and our last spot on the Deadly 60
'is still up for grabs. Come on, Giles - we've got work to do!
'The Amazon jungle is legendary for huge snakes,
'and I'm really hoping to end on a high by finding one,
'on land or in the water.
'But planning is pointless on Deadly 60.
'We'll take any opportunity we get.'
Just had a shout from one of the guys working at the place
we're staying at, that there's a big lizard
trapped in one of their septic tanks.
Going to go and have a little look and see what it is.
Can I say for the record, we were told it was just down the track.
These big ditches here have kind of acted...
..like natural pit traps.
And the water inside there seems to have caught a very large lizard.
So I'll climb down this ladder and see if I can help it escape.
'I have to be very careful. A trapped lizard will probably bite.
'And besides, it might not be the only thing down here.'
Well, he's big, whatever he is.
It's an absolute beauty!
Oh, I'm so glad that we managed to get it,
because already he feels very, very tired to me.
Pretty soon this glorious lizard - it's called a golden tegu -
would have become totally exhausted and drowned.
The tegus are kind of like the South American version of a monitor.
They move about actively searching for prey,
using the tongue, which flicks out of this mouth here,
to pick up scents and smells and help it to home in on its prey,
which is often things like eggs, small birds, small mammals...
In fact, they will take almost anything, and unlike most lizards,
they've got enough energy to be able to run down their prey.
'But this one looks like he's on his last legs.'
He's really tired. His eyes are shut and he's hanging almost lifeless
in my hands, but I'm pretty certain that when he's released,
he'll move off.
'And he doesn't take much persuasion.'
You can hear him charging off into the distance.
Quite often reptiles will do that.
When they feel they've reached a point of no return,
they'll feign death, pretend that they're dead, as he was doing there.
But they've still got plenty of life left in them.
Deadly 60 team - wildlife saviours.
'But the tegu didn't really show us his deadly side,
'so I can't put him on the list.
'But luckily we soon spot our next candidate.'
This is a regular wildlife-rescue day!
Our next little wonder is much, much smaller,
but in its way,
even more deadly.
'This poison dart frog has toxins on its skin
'that could kill me several times over.
'But these frogs are already on the Deadly 60,
'so I'm just going to release him.
'So, after washing my hands very carefully indeed,
'it's back on with our snake hunt.
'We still haven't found our final contender, and time is running out.
'Unbelievably, only minutes later, we spot the tail of a snake
'disappearing down a hole.'
Great stuff! 'Could this be the one?'
-I really want to kneel down here,
but there's loads of nasty stinging ants.
is an enormous snake!
Torch, someone? Torch?
'This is not what I had in mind, but it's perhaps even better.'
It just keeps on coming and coming and coming.
Look at the size of it!
'This isn't a venomous snake,
'but it does have one of the most powerful bites of all snakes,
'with jaws bristling with teeth. I must handle it with extreme care.'
This...is a yellow-tailed cribo,
and it is absolutely enormous, by far the biggest one I've ever seen.
The tail is a glorious golden-yellow colour.
The scales are so shiny, it's almost like handling a snake made of silk.
It's almost impossible to keep a hold of him.
He just keeps shifting through my hands. Look at that!
You just can't grip him.
People think of snakes as being slimy creatures,
but it couldn't be further from the truth. The skin is totally dry,
and in this animal, it's like silk or crushed velvet.
'And it's this smooth, muscular body that helps the cribo
'move through the undergrowth and down holes in search of its prey.'
Now, this is a snake that will feed on all sorts of other things.
It'll feed on lizards, frogs, birds' eggs,
and also on other snakes, and a big one like this
could take on some of the most dangerous, the most venomous snakes
found in Latin America.
'Lanceheads, coral snakes, rattlesnakes, bushmasters -
'the most venomous snakes in the Amazon are all hunted by the cribo.
'It restrains prey with its bulk and overpowering bite,
'and swallows it whole and often alive.
'Cribos will eat huge boas, even hard-shelled tortoises.
'This cribo can hopefully sense I mean him no harm.
'With gentle handling, he's showing no signs of biting.'
Well, I got absolutely covered in ant bites and stings,
but it is absolutely worth it.
This is one of the most magnificent snakes found around here,
and by far the biggest yellow-tailed cribo I've ever seen.
I reckon this awesome animal that eats other snakes,
birds, lizards, frogs, anything that is unlucky enough
to come into its path -
yellow-tailed cribo is on the Deadly 60.
The yellow-tailed cribo is a super-sized snake
with attitude to match.
And it kills them with one of the most powerful bites of all snakes.
We were supposed to be filming wildlife out on the lake today,
but it's just one of those Deadly 60 days where so much happens,
you just never get a chance to. This has been totally crazy.
'And it's a fitting end to our Deadly 60 search -
'for now, at least.
'So there you have it - another 60 awe-inspiring predators
'from all corners of Planet Earth.'
'From the tiny spoor spider...'
'..to the giant Humboldt squid.'
'From a king cobra...
'..to King Kong!
'They come in all shapes,
'sizes and speeds.'
'It's been the expedition of a lifetime.
'But it hasn't always gone to plan.' Argh!
'But as ever, we've made the most of it.'
'And, do you know what? We're not done yet.
'Because there are so many more of the planet's predators to find.
'And as ever, you'll be coming with me every step of the way.'
What kind of fool would bring a suitcase to the rainforest?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Steve and the crew have almost come to the end of their journey to find the Deadly 60. They are in Peru, searching for elusive giant river otters. Steve has a chance encounter with the largest reptile in South America, and nothing prepares him for the animal that takes the last place on the Deadly 60 list!