South Africa Deadly 60


South Africa

Wildlife series. With his crew in tow, Steve Backshall is on a mission to find all the animals that most Africans spend as much time as possible avoiding.


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Transcript


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My name's Steve Backshall. Wow!

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And this is my mission to find the Deadly 60.

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That's not just animals that are deadly to me,

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but animals that are deadly in their own world.

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My crew and I are exploring the planet.

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And you're coming with me every step of the way.

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This time on Deadly 60 we're in South Africa.

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It's a place that's legendary for its wildlife and its contrasts.

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From searing deserts to mountains, to steamy jungles,

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Africa has it all.

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And we're based at the southern tip.

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It's one of my favourite places for finding deadly animals.

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And we're going to be jumping all over the place to show you the best South Africa has to offer.

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I'm up here in the Drakensberg mountains down to the coasts and the bottom of the sea.

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We've been in South Africa before for the Deadly 60

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and lived to tell the tale.

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Just!

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I got chased by hippos....

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Tried my hand at fishing...

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And I got a bit too friendly with a honey badger.

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But this place is so over flowing with deadly animals we just had to come back.

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First, we're off to the coast.

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We've got to brave those waves to sniff out our first contender.

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This part of South Africa's Indian Ocean Coast

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is legendary for one kind of animal. Sharks.

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There are more different species and in greater numbers here

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than just about anywhere else in the world.

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So this is the perfect place to find us two new contenders for the Deadly 60.

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One hunts in packs and the other is a nocturnal specialist.

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The only thing is to get to the sharks we've got to get out past that.

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I hope your camera is waterproof, Mark. Is it?

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Oh, dear!

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Hoping my crew and I on our quest to find sharks are our guides

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Mark and Marcus.

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The best spot was about two miles off shore.

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And to get the sharks to come to the table,

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we ring the dinner bell

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by pouring a whole bunch of stinky sardines into the sea.

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One thing we have on our side is their incredible sense of smell,

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particularly when they're scenting blood.

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Marcus is going to drop that drum full of fish down to the bottom of the sea

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and hopefully all the sharks around here are going to scent

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the bloody molecules and come round and try and find out if there's anything worth feeding on.

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Sharks can scent blood from a mile away

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and when it's time for tea they rock up in a matter of minutes.

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Shark!

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Two. Wow! Five. Six.

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Whoa, look at this fin coming in!

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Suddenly there are blacktip sharks everywhere.

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Look at the size of those!

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Blacktips hunt together in packs.

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They've smelt blood and now it's shark party time.

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This is fantastic!

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We've been here with bait in the water for no more than three or four minutes and all ready

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we are absolutely surrounded with sharks.

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This is amazing!

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Whoa!

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They're very, very quick.

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Really dynamic hunters.

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I'm not that sure I want to get in there, really!

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Yeah, it may sound bonkers

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but me and the crew are going overboard.

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The only way to understand a shark is to enter their world.

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So it's time to kit up and join the feast.

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I'm ready to go.

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Two, three, go!

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This is Shark Central.

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We feel painfully clumsy and slow by comparison.

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Amazing!

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Wow!

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Sharks are said to snap at anything in so-called feeding frenzies

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but they are smarter and more precise than the myths make out.

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That was too close!

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I know they know what they're doing

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but when they snatch like that in front of your face

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it's really scary!

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So, what makes these sharks so deadly?

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Well, the blacktip's body shape is like a blueprint for an underwater hunter.

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Look at the way the body's designed. Thanks a lot!

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They're like a torpedo. Sharp nose,

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slender sleek lines,

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so perfect for cutting through the water at speed.

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They're highly manoeuvrable and just like wolves,

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they hunt in packs.

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Working as a team, they sniff out their prey with their scintillating sense of smell

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corralling it into a tight shoal.

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And from here on in it's just chaos.

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The sharks corkscrew through the fishy feast snatching with razor-sharp teeth

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making mincemeat of entire shoals of fish.

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Each single shark is a formidable force

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but together as a team they're unstoppable.

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Oh!

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Despite their flashing teeth, the blacktips know exactly what they're doing.

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My crew return to the boat all in one piece.

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But while the crew dry off,

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I can't bring myself to get out the water.

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Oh-ho!

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Look at this!

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That dorsal fin of the shark is one of the things that frightens people more than anything.

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There's no way I could go home without putting these animals on the Deadly 60.

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They're awesome!

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Look at that!

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Blacktip sharks are lethal pack hunters

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using their killer sense of smell to locate their pray

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and a nifty turn of speed to nail their prey.

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They've earned a place on my Deadly 60 list.

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One deadly animal down and with all our fingers and toes still attached,

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we're heading into the Drakensberg mountains to find a group of animals

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that strike fear into the hearts of all but the foolhardy.

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Most of the creatures we go looking for

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they're actually deadly when they're hunting other animals to eat.

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But there are creatures that become dangerous when they're trying to defend themselves.

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These next animals definitely fall into that category.

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There's about 80,000 of them at the bottom of that cliff face just down there.

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When they attack, they attack in hundreds or even thousands...

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..they have a venom that's fierce and capable of killing a human.

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They're African honey bees - sometimes known as killer bees.

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The killer bee is the most aggressive of all bees

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because it has to be.

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Out here in Africa,

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any unarmed hive would be raided in minutes

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because it's rammed full of liquid gold - honey.

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This hidden treasure is crucial to the survival of the colony

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and so it's defended by an army of deadly recruits

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which will attack any potential intruder en masse.

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In theory, African bees could kill a pride of lions in minutes.

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So those with any sense don't hang around.

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But with a few simple precautions,

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I should be able to get within sniffing distance and live to tell the tale.

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This particular swarm have picked a safe spot to build their hive,

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but they're still on guard and just as aggressive.

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With a bit of luck, I'll get to see what makes them so deadly.

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If this all seems like overkill,

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it's worth remembering that one single bee sting can - and has - killed a person.

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A single sting's unlikely to kill an adult human unless they're allergic to their venom.

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With a chance of getting several hundred stings,

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we're leaving nothing to chance.

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With every possible attack point taped up,

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ropes in place, paramedics on standby

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it was time to drop in on the bees.

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Good to go.

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And as ever, you're coming with me.

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I'll go a lot slower than I normally would abseiling down here.

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Fast sharp actions are much more likely to annoy the bees.

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As if 80,000 potential killers wasn't enough to deal with,

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I had a 50 metre void beneath me.

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Hanging off a cliff in a bee-keeper's suit.

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This is madness.

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But it's not long before our efforts paid off.

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I see them. They're just underneath this rocky overhang here.

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They're about as far away as you could possibly get

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from any predators.

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OK... So the hive is right in front of me.

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I'm going to move as carefully and slowly as I can now.

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I really don't want to harm them in any way.

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And obviously if I annoy them, there's more chance I'll get stung.

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For me, African honey bees are one of the wonders of nature.

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The fact all these tiny insects, each one with brains no bigger than a full stop

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can all act together to go out, collect honey, build an amazing hive like that

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it's just extraordinary.

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They work together like one giant super-organism.

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Which is precisely why they're so deadly.

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When a bee stings it releases a chemical into the air.

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And it's this which switches all the other bees into attack mode.

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So, if you upset one killer bee,

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then you'll upset 80,000 others.

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And out here in Africa,

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if you're on the receiving end, that's disastrous

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however big you are!

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There were just three things I had to keep reminding myself.

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Watch my footing,

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avoid sudden movement,

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and never knock the hive.

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Oops!

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OK, so I just slightly knocked the hive there

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and in a second we've got an awful lot more activity.

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The noise has also intensified massively.

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It's quite intimidating being this close. It's a really heavy droning buzz.

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And suddenly it's obvious why killer bees are called killer bees.

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The thing that makes African bees more dangerous than honey bees

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is not because they are any bigger or their venom is stronger than European honey bees.

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it's because they're so much more aggressive.

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They'll sting in much greater numbers

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and they'll chase an attacker for as much as a mile away from their hive.

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And, well, a couple of hundred stings can easily kill a person.

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So, the clock is ticking. It's almost time to evacuate.

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It's very tempting, but you've got to stay calm.

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You mustn't thrash around - that's the absolute worst thing to do.

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OK, they're now trying to sting me through the suit.

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Really heavily around my head.

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I was feeling the force of thousands of killer bees in full attack mode.

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It was only a matter of time.

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Ah! Ow!

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Ow, ow, ow, ow!

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Aw!

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One stung me through the veil.

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Right on the chin! Aw, you forget how much they hurt.

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Oh, ho, huh!

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And that's the final straw. Ow!

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I think it's time to head down.

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When they go on the attack like this all together it doesn't really matter how fast you can run,

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you're in big trouble.

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And that's why African bees are going on the Deadly 60.

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These are some of the world's most aggressive bees.

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Working as a lethal army, they chase down and sting anyone or thing mad enough to raid their hive.

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Now that's deadly!

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Duh? What, Steve?

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They think I look like Desperate Dan!

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-Let's get a side profile.

-Yeah.

-Hang on.

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With the sun setting,

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it's time for me, and my chin, to head back out to the ocean.

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This is the time of day that we have been waiting for.

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It's dusk, the sun's just starting to go down

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and this is when things underwater get really interesting,

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particularly with sharks. A shark that, during the day,

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has been slow moving, passive, almost lazy, can, all of a sudden,

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turn into a fast, fearsome and, perhaps, quite frightening animal,

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with one thing on it's mind - hunting.

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'And the shark I'm hoping to find is a scary-looking monster.

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'Want to know what it looks like?'

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Well, it's your basic swimming horror movie.

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These mugshots show our killer before it's even born.

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These creatures will have eaten up to 20

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of their brothers and sisters, while still inside their mother.

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Not just deadly, but full-on grotesque.

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'To find this monster,

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I head down to the murky depths of the ocean floor.'

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Diver Steve to the surface. This is a comms check.

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'Hearing you loud and clear, Steve.'

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'The currents were so strong, it was like being in a washing machine.'

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Where we are going looking for our sharks

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is in this dark cave.

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The visibility in the water here...

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..isn't very good.

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You really can't see what's coming.

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It's a bit spooky, really.

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As if it wasn't enough diving in the early evening,

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knowing there are sharks around.

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Right, let's go in.

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Now, let's go in quite cautiously.

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There is an incredible amount of life down here.

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Loads and loads of fish.

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Look at that!

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That...

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..is a ragged-tooth shark.

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'It's the exact shark we came here to find.'

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The name "ragged-tooth" shark

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comes from the way

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their teeth almost seem to spill out of their mouths.

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'It's these needle-like teeth

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'that allow the "raggy" to grab and hold fish

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'like no other shark species.

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'There are almost 100 teeth in those huge jaws.

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'With a lethal turn of speed and awesome night vision,

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'this predator can hunt in complete darkness.

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'Luckily for me,

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'raggies don't eat divers!'

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That is as close as you ever want to get...

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..to a ragged-tooth shark.

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'Raggies are really of no danger to humans.

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'This is a lean, mean fish-killing machine.

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'It's a fish-filleting fright-fest of a shark.'

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Oh, wow!

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And he's off.

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'The ragged-tooth shark wouldn't be out of place in a horror movie

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'and it is just one the many reasons I'm glad I'm not a fish!

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'More scary than a bucketload of spiders,

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'the raggy certainly gets my vote.'

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The ragged-tooth shark...

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With daggers for teeth

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and superb night vision.

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With a turbo-twisting turn of speed...

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Definitely deadly!

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Our final contender for the Deadly 60

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is an awesome airborne athlete.

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But to understand how it functions,

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let's first meet what it is having for dinner.

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This animal scratching itself in front of me

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is a dassie, or rock hyrax.

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Now, I'm obviously not suggesting

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that we put dassies on the Deadly 60.

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Let's face it, the only way that you could get hurt by one of these

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is if you tripped over one and fell off a cliff.

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They may be about as frightening as a bunch of daisies,

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but dassies are superbly adapted to surviving in their mountain home.

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Their feet are more gripping than the best climbing shoes

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and live in huge groups, with many eyes looking for danger.

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And one second they are there

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and the next, they've vanished!

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To catch a dassie unawares takes a cunning predator.

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And that is the animal that I am looking for.

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It's a dark, silent, winged assassin

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and these guys have to be on the look-out for them

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every second of the day.

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The name of our hero?

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The black eagle.

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And there is one circling above me right now.

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Oh!

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Look at this!

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He's folding his wings, stooping,

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coming crashing in to land!

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Wow!

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That was extraordinary!

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Keep your face away.

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That's it.

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So, obviously, this isn't a wild eagle.

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This is Rourke. He was rescued as a very young chick

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and has been living, for the last five years,

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in very good human company.

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He is an utterly magnificent predator

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and if you want to see why, you don't have took any further

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than those talons.

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Look at those.

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Each one is like a long, curved kitchen knife of a weapon.

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Owner Doug assures me that,

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if I wasn't wearing this thick leather glove,

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he could actually punch that talon

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right through my hand and out the other side.

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Obviously, if you were a dassie, you wouldn't stand a chance.

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They are magnificent.

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The eyes...the talons...

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the beak...are all very much things

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that any eagle has and can use to hunt,

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but something that is unique about the black eagle

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is the way the male and female, the pair, will hunt together.

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Black eagles are the ultimate tag team.

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They have got their hunting strategy nailed

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and here's how it works.

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One hunter acts as a deadly decoy,

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distracting the dassies...

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..whilst its mate, using every bit of cover it can,

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sneaks around the cliff edge to stoop in for the kill.

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So, the black eagle is doubly deadly.

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The dassies don't stand a chance.

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And with a ravenous chick to feed,

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a breeding pair will need to kill every single day.

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Key to a black eagle's success as a hunter is its skill in the air.

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And eagles are known for their phenomenal ability

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to soar for hours as they search for prey.

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Now, though he is magnificent sat in my hand,

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you can see what he really wants to do.

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He wants to show you what eagles are all about - and that's flying.

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Come on, Rourke. Do your thing.

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And there is only one way to see how difficult this flying lark is.

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I mean, being an aerial assassin can't be that difficult, right?

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'Time to slip into something a bit less comfortable

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'and catch some big air.'

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Seeing that magnificent bird soaring above us is utterly awe-inspiring

0:23:420:23:46

and does make you feel pretty useless down here on the ground,

0:23:460:23:50

which, of course, is not Deadly 60's style, at all.

0:23:500:23:53

As you've probably guessed,

0:23:530:23:55

it's my theory that you can have no idea of how amazing a killer

0:23:550:23:58

the black eagle is without getting up there and joining him.

0:23:580:24:01

OK, Hans? It's good to go.

0:24:010:24:03

One, two, three, let's go.

0:24:040:24:06

Run. Run, run, run, run, run.

0:24:060:24:08

Hay-hay!

0:24:100:24:11

And there he is! Look!

0:24:110:24:13

There he is, right there!

0:24:140:24:16

Just flying under my feet.

0:24:190:24:20

We are sharing the air

0:24:210:24:23

with Rourke, the black eagle. How good is that?!

0:24:230:24:26

He just soared right under our canopy!

0:24:310:24:34

That was unbelievable!

0:24:340:24:36

Just incredible!

0:24:360:24:38

OK, now the real trick...

0:24:420:24:45

to this paragliding lark, is very much the same thing

0:24:450:24:49

that the eagle will be looking for, and that's thermals.

0:24:490:24:52

A thermal is a rising current of warm air,

0:24:520:24:55

which would especially come up off a dark ploughed field,

0:24:550:25:00

a big area of road.

0:25:000:25:01

Just that warm air is enough to get you heading for the heavens

0:25:010:25:05

and that's the weapon the black eagle uses to get high.

0:25:050:25:09

'We're sharing the skies with a true master

0:25:120:25:15

'and Rourke is giving us a proper flying lesson.

0:25:150:25:18

'Using every single air current,

0:25:210:25:23

'Rourke was soon way above us.'

0:25:230:25:25

Where's Rourke? Where's he gone?

0:25:250:25:28

Rourke will be up top, there.

0:25:280:25:29

'His Top-Gun ability

0:25:290:25:31

'allows black eagles to cover hundreds of miles a day,

0:25:310:25:34

'scouring the ground for dassies.

0:25:340:25:36

'And when they spy their quarry from half a mile up,

0:25:370:25:40

'they press the stealth button.'

0:25:400:25:42

When black eagles hunt,

0:25:440:25:45

they use all kinds of methods to disorientate their prey.

0:25:450:25:49

Quite often, they fly right up into the sun,

0:25:490:25:51

so their prey won't be able to see them coming

0:25:510:25:54

and then swoop down with the sun behind them.

0:25:540:25:57

With the sun way up there,

0:25:570:25:58

if he was up there, there's no way I'd see him.

0:25:580:26:01

'A dassie can't run from what it can't see.

0:26:030:26:05

'Eagles can spot the tiniest movement from potential prey

0:26:050:26:08

'while they're still invisible above.

0:26:080:26:11

'Who'd want to be a small mammal with this flying terror around?

0:26:110:26:14

'And Rourke headed towards the heavens.

0:26:150:26:18

'We soared less and less like an eagle with every second,

0:26:180:26:21

'dropping ever earthwards,

0:26:210:26:22

'unlike Rourke.'

0:26:220:26:25

Look at that!

0:26:260:26:27

'And suddenly we were soaring with all the lift and grace...

0:26:290:26:33

'of a brick.'

0:26:330:26:35

Aaaargh!

0:26:360:26:38

-CRASH!

-Ugh! Oh!

0:26:380:26:40

And that was the worst landing one could imagine.

0:26:400:26:45

-STEVE LAUGHS You're OK, are you?

-Yes.

0:26:450:26:48

That's what you call a crash-landing.

0:26:490:26:52

Yes. Absolutely.

0:26:520:26:54

Aw! Guessing that his landing was a little bit more graceful than ours!

0:26:540:27:00

In fact, everything about the black eagle

0:27:000:27:03

is done an awful lot better than we did it

0:27:030:27:05

and there's no way we're leaving here

0:27:050:27:08

without putting the black eagle on the Deadly 60.

0:27:080:27:11

What a bird! Come on!

0:27:110:27:14

The black eagle's eyesight is second to none.

0:27:160:27:18

Its Top-Gun-fighter-pilot skills means you never see him coming.

0:27:180:27:23

They work as a team to outwit their prey.

0:27:230:27:27

Black eagle. Brutal!

0:27:290:27:31

'Join me next time

0:27:350:27:36

'as I continue my search for the Deadly 60.'

0:27:360:27:39

That is brilliant!

0:27:410:27:42

(Oh. Ah! What an absolute melee.)

0:27:420:27:47

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:000:28:03

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:030:28:06

With his crew in tow, Steve is on a mission to find all the animals that most Africans spend as much time as possible avoiding. Steve braves the big waves of the Durban coast to get up close and personal with a pack of 30 hungry blacktip sharks, getting a bit too close for comfort.

After swimming in shark-infested waters, Steve abseils down to a nest of killer bees with a painful outcome. An eerily close encounter with a ragged tooth shark is followed by getting airborne with the awesome black eagle. Unlike Rourke the eagle, Steve comes down to earth with a bump.


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