Steve Backshall looks at animals that are both deadly and endangered, including the chimpanzee, mountain gorilla and harpy eagle, as well as the bizarre aye-aye.
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My name's Steve Backshall.
And this is my search for the Deadly 60.
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.
My search for the Deadly 60 has taken me all over
this wondrous planet we call home.
I've met the jewelled miracles of the rainforests,
soared with the birds of prey that rule our skies,
and dabbled with the denizens of the ocean deeps.
Look at all the ink it's squirted into the water. Whoa!
In this programme, I've chosen some of the deadly animals
that are also on the endangered list, which means
they're threatened through loss of habitat and at risk
of disappearing from the wild forever.
Endangered animals are few in number
and can be incredibly difficult to find and film.
One mysterious bird of prey
chooses to live as far from human beings as it possibly can.
So to find one, we had to journey deep into the rainforests of Panama.
This is where our adventure really starts.
When this plane goes,
we're stranded out here in the forest.
No going back now, Nick.
All aboard the big pink fun bus.
Then on foot with horses to share the load.
A magical mystery tour in search of probably the most powerful
bird of prey on earth.
The harpy eagle hunts the rainforest tree tops,
armed with talons longer than a grizzly bear's claws.
It uses these fearsome daggers to pierce clean through
the skulls of monkeys and sloths.
The world's heaviest eagle needs vast areas
of untouched forests in order to get enough of its chosen prey.
As human beings cut down the forests and move into the harpies' hunting
grounds, there's simply nowhere left for the harpies to go.
It took us three days to penetrate into untouched forests
and the realm of the eagle king.
He's pointing at something. Pointing up that way.
I think that's where the nest must be.
'The eagles build their nests in the oldest, tallest rainforest trees,
'just the kind that human loggers value most.'
This is her tree.
That is beautiful.
She knows we're here.
Our job now is to try and find another tree around here somewhere
that we can climb, so we can film it.
Stealth mode from here on in.
Very, very quiet.
'The eagles above may well have chicks.
'For such a rare bird they're incredibly precious.
'We have to move carefully so as not to disturb them.'
This is actually really exciting.
We're about, for the first time,
to get right up above the forest canopy.
This is a magnificent tree.
It's probably as high as a 16-storey building. From up there,
I'll get an eagle's eye-view of what this forest really looks like.
Here we go.
Higher and higher, into the treetops, where eagles dare.
This is utterly spectacular.
I'm just coming into the part of the canopy where the harpy eagle hunts.
It's so thick, so dense up here.
It's incredible to think a bird of that size can just swoop in
and out of all of this vegetation and snatch a monkey off a branch.
Now, that's something I'd like to see.
Right. Let's get the bins out. Let's see what we can see.
Well, there's our eagle tree.
You can just see the top of it, off in the distance that way.
You can just make out the top of the tree, but she's too well-hidden.
I can't really see her.
This is proving to be incredibly tough,
but that's why the harpy eagle is just so rarely seen.
You know, they're very canny birds.
They choose spots where they can see their prey,
they've got a good view over all the area that the monkeys
and sloths and the things that they like to eat are moving,
but they themselves are still quite well hidden.
We're probably 60 metres up, here.
And that is a very long way down.
I think...maybe our best shot,
actually, is going to be from over that direction.
But we haven't got time to rig another tree.
I think, believe it or not,
we're going to have to try and film this from the ground.
It's not ideal but I think it's the only option we have left to us.
'So with no joy from our 60-metre tree top, it's time for plan B.'
None of us ever thought we'd stand a chance of seeing
a harpy eagle from the ground.
But with Johnny's super-powerful lens, miracles can happen.
We're throwing everything we have at this.
We can't come all this way and not see them. That would be a tragedy.
Finally, with a line of sight cleared, and the camera focused,
we can see the untidy tangle of the nest.
And then, with a swoop of a mighty wing, the most powerful eagle
on earth lands above us, standing guard over her eggs or chicks.
That's better than I thought we'd get from here, I have to say.
That's pretty good. It's nice to see a bird, you know.
What we're looking at is probably the biggest eagle in the world.
Wing span - 2.1 metres.
That's like if I was to stand up and hold my hand up in the air,
it would be about that long.
She is magnificent.
Well, that's cost us several bucket-loads of sweat each,
but finally we've got our view of the harpy eagle.
This is something I honestly never thought I'd get the chance to see.
The most powerful, one of the largest birds in the whole world,
and also one of the rarest.
People spend their whole lives in this forest
and never get a glimpse like we're seeing now.
There she is, stood up there in the nest
with possibly chicks, possibly eggs.
But whatever, hope for the future of harpy eagles.
Harpy eagles would once have ruled the skies
over much of Latin America.
But these forests, that once rung to the piercing sounds
of eagle calls are now dominated by the sounds of chainsaws.
We're cutting down a football field-sized patch of rainforest
Our insatiable demand for wood, for furniture, building,
paper, cardboard is bringing these ancient forests to the ground.
When my parents were young,
there were half as many people on the planet as there are now,
and our numbers are still increasing.
As we spread out, spaces for wildlife get more and more squished.
There's perhaps nowhere on earth where this is happening as fast
as in Madagascar.
It's a unique island with bizarre wildlife.
Almost all of the island of Madagascar was once covered
in lush green forests, rammed full of unique wildlife.
Over recent years though,
the human population of Madagascar has been soaring.
In order to make way for all those people and their crops,
those forests are being systemically cut and burnt down.
If it continues at this rate, then in my lifetime
there will be simply nowhere for the wildlife to go.
For a wildlife lover, this is one of the most exciting places imaginable.
Almost everything you see is new, weird, colourful, crazy,
but the island's uniqueness is also its curse.
90% of Madagascar's reptiles only occur here.
Nearly all of the world's chameleons are found here and nowhere else.
And it's the only place in the world
you can see lemurs in the wild.
So once an animal is gone from Madagascar, it's gone forever.
To try and prevent the loss of the weirdest of all the lemurs,
a captive breeding programme has been set up
in the island's capital city.
I went along to meet the oddest animal in all the world.
As the forests where it lives disappear, so this ghostly
ghoul of the Madagascan night
could soon go extinct and become no more than a creepy memory.
As a tropical storm beats down on the roof overhead,
we quietly set up an infra-red camera that can film
in complete darkness to try and get our first glimpse
of this unusual predator.
Here he comes.
Oh, my goodness!
That is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen,
and I've seen some real animal oddballs in my time.
This is an aye-aye.
It's one of the weirdest creatures in the world.
Look at those great big, long, weird fingers.
Right, I think we'll give him a little while just to settle down.
Then we'll go in and get better acquainted.
How weird was that?
This gremlin-like creature is totally unique, possessing
one of the most specialised weapons in the natural world.
Take a look at this.
That's not a dagger it's carrying around with it,
that's actually one of its fingers.
This skinny twig-like finger drums against the tree trunk,
whilst super-sensitive ears
are tuned into the rustlings of any potential prey hiding inside.
If there's a meal to be had, the aye-aye will find it.
Once locked-on, it unleashes its awesome chisel-like teeth
and they make short work of the bark,
before poking in that deadly digit and hooking out that juicy meal.
'These aye-aye will hopefully be returned to the wild
'and are not used to people.
'They're bound to be nervous as I enter the cage.'
This is such a spooky experience.
You could almost totally forget that you're in a zoo
with this crazy goblin.
I think she thought my finger was something edible for a second there.
When it comes down to it, they are pretty fierce.
Though it looks like someone has sellotaped together a squirrel,
a bat and a beaver,
the aye-aye is actually a primate and distantly related to us humans.
Just using that finger to dig out
little grubs that are beneath the bark.
That is crazy!
'As Madagascar's forests dwindle,
'aye-ayes in the wild are becoming more and more rare.'
Perhaps, their only hope lies in places like this,
where males and females can be brought together
in a safe environment and encouraged to breed.
Bizarre though they are,
I really think the aye-aye has a certain charm.
You can really understand why local people have such a fear of them.
I mean, they do look like they could be devils or ghouls.
That is one of the reasons why local people will kill an aye-aye
as soon as they see it,
because they consider them to be taboo or bad luck.
My only opportunity of seeing an aye-aye
was to come here to this zoo.
Firstly, because of all of the human pressures that are making them
much, much rarer in the wild.
Secondly because they are shy, elusive nocturnal animals, but also
because the forests they live in are decreasing in size day by day.
If we're not careful, the only place you'll ever
be able to see an aye-aye in the future will be in a zoo like this.
That would be a terrible tragedy.
'Lemurs big and small are all under threat.
'When I say small, they do get really small.
'This is the Madame Berthe's mouse lemur,
'the smallest primate on earth.'
Now you can see how delicate, how fragile an animal like this is.
Really, it's horrifying that these creatures are at risk because of us.
These forests around us now here in Madagascar
are disappearing at a terrifying rate.
Unfortunately, us humans are having the same effect all over the planet.
That has a knock-on effect for all the primates,
from the smallest to the largest.
Over 2,000 times heavier than the tiny mouse lemur,
the chimpanzee is another primate in danger.
Uganda is one of the best places left to have breakfast
with our closest relative.
We teamed up with expert local trackers who are taking us
deep into the forest.
One of our guides reckons there's a tree down here, a fig tree,
that's in fruit right now...
We already have the signs.
Those are some really, really clear prints and very fresh as well.
Those are this morning,
So they're close.
What I was saying before was that there's a fig tree down here
and it's in fruit at the moment.
So this would be a really good place to try and find the chimps.
'As we get closer, we find another clue.'
It's part of a fig,
which has been left behind by a chimp.
Another good sign. All the signs are pointing this way.
Then we hear haunting calls,
and spot dark shapes up in the branches.
That is the chimpanzee long call.
It's this excited wail that builds and builds.
We are utterly surrounded and being pelted from above with figs.
Chimpanzees are found in the forests of central and west Africa.
They live in family groups of around 30 animals,
interacting with a variety of calls and facial expressions.
They have big brains and are famously intelligent,
even learning to use tools.
Honest, they really do!
Tough forest nuts are cracked open
with specially-selected rocks and logs.
This chimp team is a well-oiled machine,
strutting mean and menacing when they're on the prowl.
Being able to solve complex problems is a valuable asset.
In the depths of the forest, where humans rarely roam, it puts chimps
at the top of the tree, in a manner of speaking.
-This is what we expect in the forest.
-Was that fig or was that poo?
-No, it's fig.
-No, it wasn't.
I'm sorry but that is not fig.
That is chimp poo and that just clouted me right in the face.
I have a feeling this is how our day is going to go.
What I can tell you from looking at this dropping is that at the moment
these chimps are feeding almost exclusively on fig.
But that isn't always the case.
In fact, here, less than half of the chimps' diet is made up from fruit.
What they actually feed on an awful lot of the time is monkeys
and even small antelope.
Chimps are well-drilled hunters.
Their favourite prey are colobus monkeys.
These leaf eaters are smaller and more agile than the chimps.
But they can be cornered and caught when chimps use their team tactics
to round them up in the trees.
Several males will chase their prey into an ambush.
Then the hunters gather around to share in the meal.
Meat eating may look gruesome,
but the protein in the meat is a vital part of the chimps' diet
and helps to fuel those big brains.
That's not a chimp either, those are monkeys.
The chimps are going after them.
There's a couple of monkeys
just came into the corner of the tree here.
The chimps didn't like it and just went straight for them.
The monkeys have got away though. They're heading off this side.
The branches are coming down, figs coming down, poo coming down.
It's a good job he's got the umbrella.
Unfortunately, us humans can't resist our cute cousins.
Young chimps are sometimes taken from the wild
for use as pets or for tourists to have their photos taken with them.
As the cute youngsters turn into strong, aggressive adults,
they're then abandoned or mistreated.
Chimps really should be left alone to live in the wild.
(Look over there.)
There's something weirdly prehistoric
about this whole experience.
I just feel like I've been transported back in time.
Humans and chimps share a common ancestor.
They're our closest living relatives.
When you're this close to them,
there's so much about their appearance,
about their gestures, their facial size that's very, very human.
It's not just chimps that are endangered.
Of the 630 species of known primates,
more than 300 are threatened with extinction.
Loss of habitat is the main threat to their existence.
It's important that whatever little forest does remain remains safe.
Anti-poaching patrols try to do exactly that.
They remove illegal traps and snares
to try to protect the animals of the forest.
That includes one of its largest
and, unfortunately, rarest inhabitants.
The mountain gorilla.
Found in the forests of Rwanda, Congo and Uganda,
these majestic animals are around ten times stronger than I am.
But gorillas are peaceful vegetarians,
and only aggressive when protecting their families.
Nowadays though, the mighty male silverback gorillas
are not merely putting their lives on the line
to fight off leopards or other natural predators,
instead they're facing human foes
and even the power of the silverback can't fight off a poacher's bullet.
High in the Ugandan cloud forests,
I creep towards a group of gorillas with my heart thumping in my chest.
As we start to get closer,
you'll hear the guides making little reassuring noises,
so the gorillas know what's coming and know that it's not a threat.
I can see the bushes moving just ahead of us.
I'm kind of shaking, half with excitement
and half with a little bit of trepidation.
(Our first sight.)
'The dense vegetation provides food and shelter.'
Even the biggest animals are well hidden in the undergrowth.
This is the silverback, the dominant male,
and, I have to say,
there are very few more impressive animals in the whole world.
Just walking across now. You can see that silver saddleback as he goes.
Just the strength to just brush bushes aside.
Look at that incredible bulk.
They are majestic animals.
This is the absolute typical habitat that you'll find gorillas in.
Very, very thick, very, very dense.
They spend a great deal of time feeding on just about everything
we can see around us now.
They're actually surprisingly difficult to spot,
even though they are very large animals.
We try and keep a respectful distance, so we don't disturb
'the gorillas as they feed.'
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny!
'But suddenly a cheeky, confident male moves menacingly towards us.'
(This is the blackback.)
(He's the young male.)
They can be more of a worry than the silverback,
because they have more to prove.
You can see how easily he just pulled that tree down
to cover himself.
People that actually work with gorillas a lot reckon
they're probably ten times stronger than people.
They've seen them bend iron bars.
He's looking at me at the moment, sussing me out.
But the blackback easily has the measure of me.
'We stand our ground as he struts towards us.'
Right. Well, that...
is a blackback gorilla
letting us know who's boss.
Yeah, that was quite a left hook.
I'm quite glad it didn't go a couple of inches to the right.
So gorillas can be aggressive when defending their families
or showing off to a film crew, but like us humans,
they also have a soft side and even share some of our worst habits.
He just picked a bogey out of his eye and ate it.
Eating all of those greens gives them appalling table manners.
Did you hear that?
They're bold, beautiful, brave
and there may only be 680 left in the wild.
They look like an incredibly tough animal,
but actually here in these forests they're surprisingly fragile.
They're actually endangered because of us and our actions.
Mountain gorillas could easily go extinct within my lifetime,
along with thousands of other sublime species of animal.
Once they're gone, they will never return.
These animals are disappearing because of us, humans -
truly the deadliest animal on earth.
'But there is hope -
'armies of people who will risk everything to save these beasts
'and dedicate their lives to protecting them.'
'Perhaps one day, you could join them...'
'..come face-to-face to rare and weird beasties like the aye-aye.
'There are so many wild wonders out there and if you love them as much
'as I do, it's down to you to protect them.
'Whether they're swinging from the trees or munching mini-beasts,
'whether they're cute and cuddly,
'have boundless bounciness,
'or are just plain deadly...'
'..wild animals in all their guises and shapes and sizes,
'their future is in our hands.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Steve Backshall looks at animals that are both deadly and endangered.
Steve explores why mighty animals like the chimpanzee, mountain gorilla and harpy eagle are threatened with habitat loss and few in number, while in Madagascar he meets the most bizarre animal he's ever seen, the aye-aye.