Namibia Deadly 60


Namibia

Wildlife series. A clever camera brings Steve close to a tiny but mighty spider, while persistence pays off as the team track down an elusive and deadly reptile.


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Transcript


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My name is Steve Backshall. Wow!

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And this is my mission - to find the Deadly 60!

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It'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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We're in Namibia, and this is the mighty Namib Desert.

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As far as the eye can see in every direction,

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it's just rolling dunes and sand.

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Namibia is in south-western Africa.

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It's an extreme environment with deadly animals to match.

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Deserts have a reputation as being dead places.

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That couldn't be further from the truth.

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There's loads of life here. Tough, hardy creatures

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that can withstand the wind, the sun and the sand.

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And that's my first challenge - getting around in this stuff.

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# I like the way you move! #

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Getting around on this tricky terrain is

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just one obstacle facing these animals.

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But they've achieved it in some remarkable ways,

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'from speeding on four legs, cart wheeling on eight,

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'to slithering on no legs at all.'

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Oh-ah! 'It's quite a challenge.'

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To show you how much of a challenge that really is,

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I'm going to give this a go. It's going to be very interesting.

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Oh-argh!

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'I've got sand up my nose, in my ears, in my eyes,

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'I'm practically choking on the stuff!'

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How on earth do these animals manage to live out here

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is totally beyond me.

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So, you've got to be hard as nails to live here.

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The sand can get so hot, you can cook your breakfast on it.

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So, getting through the day without burning alive

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is challenge number one. But any animal that

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can use the heat to their advantage is a step ahead of the game.

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As always, I'm going to need the help of my crew.

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Charlie, our researcher...

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Giles, our director...

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Mark, our eyes...

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and Rich, our ears.

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The sun here in the Namib is utterly scorching.

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It can be a bit like wandering around in a sauna.

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And the sun's rays are soaked up by the surface of the sand,

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which is unbearably hot.

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Mind you, if you dig down just a short way...

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the sand's still cool.

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There's lots of animals that use these things to their advantage.

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They'll bury down beneath the sand to stay cool during the daytime

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and they can use the heat on the surface of the sand as a weapon.

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'The creature we're looking for does exactly that.

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'But finding it is easier said than done.

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'Like all animals that dig under the sand to escape the heat,

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'finding them is all about detective work, and a little bit of luck.

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'You have to spot tiny footprints

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'and track them back to their source.'

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Paul, our fixer and guide, has just found

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exactly the creature that we're hoping to find up here somewhere.

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So I'm going to follow his footsteps and hope I can see it.

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-'Our next animal doesn't pose any threat to me.'

-Wait for us.

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'But the same definitely can't be said for the local ant population.'

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We've been looking a lot at tracks and signs of animals.

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And under here is the hiding place of a very special hunter.

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Let's see if we can get it out.

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Wow! I think I might have him.

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There he is.

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This is a spoor spider.

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He's only very tiny, but he's a very ferocious

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and really quite clever little hunter.

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The spider uses the heat of the sand to kill its ant prey.

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And these are no ordinary ants.

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These are dune ants, and they're tough.

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They live on small islands of vegetation, dashing between them

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on long legs that keep them up off the scorching sand.

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As this heat-sensitive camera shows us, these islands stay cooler than

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the surrounding desert and are so valuable that ant groups

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will wage war on each other to get control of them.

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So how do you catch a feisty ant that's twice your size?

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You lay a clever trap.

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Unlike most spiders, the spoor spider spins their web

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on the ground, carefully weaving together fine grains of sand.

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They flip themselves under this and, protected from the sun,

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begin to construct a burrow in the cool layers beneath.

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It's here that the spoor spider waits patiently

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until an unsuspecting dune ant wanders past.

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And...bang!

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It rockets up its burrow and grabs the ant with one super-strong leg,

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clamping it down against the baking hot sand

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until it actually cooks the ant alive.

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It then drags the body back into its burrow to be devoured.

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One of the coolest things about this little spider is seeing how quickly

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he can create that camouflage blanket.

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I've got a tiny little camera here,

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so I can shoot him close-up,

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see him at work.

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Thanks, Giles.

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So, he's spinning silk from his spinnerets.

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Around and around in a circle.

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Any second now, he'll grab it and flip it over his head.

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-Like that.

-STEVE LAUGHS

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That's amazing!

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They're only tiny, but they're very, very cool.

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They take on ants many times their own size,

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and they do it through brains.

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Spoor spider is on the Deadly 60.

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Spinning an invisibility cloak to rival any wizard,

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spoor spiders take down dune ants over twice their size,

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barbecuing them alive on the searing sand.

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Tiny, but mighty.

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With night approaching and temperatures falling,

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it's time for us to set up our camp.

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-Dib-dib-dib, dob-dob-dob and all that.

-The plan

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is to head out once it's completely dark

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to find more creatures for my Deadly 60 list.

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Once it's got properly dark, it can be the most rewarding time

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to go looking for animals in the desert.

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Totally new animals come out and quite often animals

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that can't withstand heat during the day will come out now to play.

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Let's go see what we can find.

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'As day cools to night,

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'creatures who've hidden from the ferocious heat emerge

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'and the night shift begins.' There are so many scampery little things.

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'They come out to explore, but, more importantly, to hunt.'

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Look at that.

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Oh! It's a beauty.

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You're a bit fiery, aren't you?

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'This desert scorpion can go months without eating.'

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They're actually snapping right at all these moths.

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'This one's hunting right in front of us.'

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Oh, look, he just caught a moth, did you see that?

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'Scorpions have already got their place on the list,

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'so the search goes on.'

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That is a barking gecko.

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It kind of looks like a normal gecko that's run into the end of a bus.

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'But this wasn't the only lizard we'd find.'

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Yes!

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Just see that lizard there out in the middle of that patch of sand.

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-Just there, look.

-OK.

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It's a dune gecko, sometimes called a web-footed gecko.

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And the reason for that - look at those feet.

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It almost looks like someone's taken a couple of duck's feet

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and Sellotaped them on to a gecko.

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That webbing just gives him amazing purchase

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to stay up above the sands, stops him sinking in.

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He is beautiful. But don't let that prettiness fool you.

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He's also a superb hunter.

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'Which makes him a possible contender for my list.

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'But the night's not over yet.'

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Oh! Come here, Mark, come here, quick, quick, quick!

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Yes!

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I'm quite surprised to find this chap out at night.

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They're much more active usually during the daytime.

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It's a shovel-snouted lizard.

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They're actually quite famous for a remarkable little dance they do,

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lifting their feet alternately off the hot sand to keep them cool.

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Absolutely fantastic.

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That's an impressive list of lizards for one night's wondering.

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Each one's a formidable hunter and therefore a contender for my list.

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'But there's another cold-blooded killer out there

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'that could eat these guys for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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'What I'm looking for is the deadliest animal in these dunes

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'and it likes nothing more than munching on tasty lizard.

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'It's a snake called a sidewinder

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'and it's exactly what I want to show you next.

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'But our best chance to find one is at the crack of dawn.

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'So we head back to camp to get our heads down and to dream

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'of that sandy serpent.'

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It's first light, and the crew and I are raring to go.

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Well, some of us are.

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We need to get cracking to maximise our chances of finding a sidewinder.

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They're unbelievably well camouflaged

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and, like our spoor spider,

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our best way of finding one is identifying tracks in the sand.

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Although, not everyone seems to be taking it seriously.

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Look, Steve, Steve.

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Here's some sidewinder tracks.

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I think my crew might need a quick lesson in sidewinder tracking.

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We're out looking for the absolute master hunter of the desert.

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Now, they're only very, very small, but they are very, very deadly.

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And we've got an enormous amount of dunes to cover.

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So what I suggest is that we all spread out in a line.

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And we're looking for a sign...

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..that looks something like this.

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That's the general idea.

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-Up for it, guys?

-ALL: Yep. Raring to go.

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Yep? Let's go find one.

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This is a bit like searching for a deadly needle in a sandy haystack.

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You could easily step right over one and never know it was there.

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So we keep our eyes glued to the sand and trudge on over the dunes.

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'Then cameraman Mark lets out a shout.'

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-Over here!

-What have you got?

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Sidewinder tracks.

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Whoo!

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-Did you spot them, Mark?

-I have, mate, I have got...

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I have got the tracks.

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Did I hear right? Did someone shout "sidewinder"?

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-Tracks.

-Awesome.

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Oh, ho-ho!

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-Just running up the face of that dune?

-Yeah.

-Yes! You beauty!

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They start down here.

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And look at that!

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That is just perfect.

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-Which way's it going?

-Actually, he's going this way!

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-I don't know, mate.

-Yeah!

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'So we've got some tracks, but where's our snake?'

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You look that way, I'm just going to follow them this way.

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I've got him, I've got him. Yes!

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I can see his head.

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Just down there.

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And you probably can't even see him. But if I take my snake hook...

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and you follow a line directly down from the end of that...

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See him?

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Sidewinder, or Peringuey's adder, is a viper,

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and it does have a venom that could do me harm. But because it's small,

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it shouldn't be able to bite through these thick leather gloves.

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Oh, ha-ha! Oh, look at that!

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What an utterly beautiful little snake.

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-IT HISSES

-Now, I know he's only tiny,

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but this is the master of the dunes. Wow.

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He's striking there and hissing. He might well try...

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Yes, look at that. Trying to bite into the leather of my glove.

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Thankfully, it's too tough for him to get his fangs into.

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Just alongside these chunks of grass,

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you get a lot of very soft sand accumulating. The wind blows in

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and all this soft sand accumulates here. This is exactly where...

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-HISSING

-..those little lizards like to dive.

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And it's also where this wonderful snake

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hides and lies in wait for them.

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Every part of the sidewinder is camouflaged, even its eyeballs.

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The sidewinder's eyes are on top of its head,

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poking above the sand while the rest of the body lies hidden.

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They can lie perfectly still for hours, even days,

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just waiting for a tasty lizard to get in range.

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But to speed things up a bit, they do have a rather special trick.

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They can poke the tips of their tails up through the sand,

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and wiggle them around like a struggling worm. Any curious lizard

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hoping to get a juicy meal on the cheap will soon wish it hadn't.

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With a super-fast strike, the sidewinder grasps the lizard tightly

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while a cocktail of toxic venom is injected through needle-like fangs.

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That shovel-snouted lizard didn't stand a chance.

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HISSING

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Wow! He's got an attitude for a little snake, whoa!

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Very, very fast strike as well. I'll keep my fingers well away,

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because, although he's only little, the venom is sufficiently nasty

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that it would certainly give me a very bad day. Wow!

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HISSING CONTINUES

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But the thing that makes this snake so special

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is what left that track over there - sidewinding.

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It's its method of moving on these soft, shifting sands.

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We're hopefully about to see one of the most remarkable ways

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of getting around in the animal kingdom.

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Look at that!

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This is such an efficient way of moving across sand,

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it just throws one coil of the body forward,

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anchors it, then throws the next one forward.

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And he's moving across very soft sand here. That is brilliant.

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Using this method, he can go up the steepest dunes,

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and look at the track he's leaving behind.

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Hopefully, when he gets to some soft sand, he'll bury himself.

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Here he goes.

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Just gently worming the body in.

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Easing himself down into the sand and then those camouflage colours

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are going to come into play... and he will disappear.

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HE LAUGHS

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That is utterly remarkable.

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Sidewinder, on the Deadly 60.

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THE CREW LAUGHS

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Brilliantly camouflaged, the sidewinding, sand-surfing viper

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is almost impossible to see.

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With a scintillating strike, and a cocktail of deadly venom,

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the sidewinder really rules the dunes.

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So, success at the very last minute. Well, hopefully,

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the next contender for my list should be a little easier.

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In fact, my plan should have them coming straight to us.

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It's another animal

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that uses Namibia's extreme environment to deadly effect.

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we're moving on from the dusty dunes and heading inland

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to visit a special place.

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On Deadly 60, most of the animals we look for are predators.

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But there's one group we've been a little bit remiss in dealing with.

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That's scavengers. After all, scavengers really are

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just predators that are getting their meals the easy way.

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One of the most impressive, I think, is the vulture.

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We've got a very special one in here

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who, hopefully, is going to come out and say hello.

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Oh, ho-ho! I don't know if you saw that, but, um...

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Hey. OK.

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This is Gnasher.

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He's a five-year-old Cape Griffin vulture.

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Let's see if we can get him out into the open a bit. Come on this way.

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This is a little bit surreal,

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leading a vulture for a walk.

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Let's see if we can show you

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what's particularly remarkable about the vulture.

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Really, it's all about that beak.

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It's a fabulous tearing tool.

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I'm glad I'm wearing these heavy leather gloves,

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although, if he chose to, I'm pretty sure he'd go through them.

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This is an animal that's perfectly capable of killing prey.

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But why go to all that effort when he can get it for free?

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Now, I guess, from being this close to a vulture,

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you can already see why I'm thinking of putting him on the Deadly 60.

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They're a mightily impressive animal.

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But really, I think we need to see one out in the wild,

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and that's our next step.

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But to find vultures in the wild is going to take a bit more ingenuity.

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'The plan is for Mark the cameraman and I to set up cameras...

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'..and hide in the back of our crew vehicle.

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'To get the vultures' attention, we'll need some bait.'

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OK, so I think we're pretty much ready to go. We've got our meat.

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This is an antelope unfortunately killed on the roads a few days ago.

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It's started to get a bit stinky. Perfect vulture food.

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Over here, Rich the soundie

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has put a microphone inside this pile of bones, so we can hear

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all of the nasty noises coming as they try to rip into the carcass.

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And this is my personal favourite.

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This is skull cam.

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'So, with cameras covering every angle,

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'we're ready for our vulture stakeout.'

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As well as their brutal beak,

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vultures have other formidable weapons at their disposal.

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Their food won't come to them, and spotting a dead or dying animal

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in this infinite wilderness takes some doing.

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But vultures have incredible vision.

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Soaring at over 1,000 metres above the ground,

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they can easily detect and lock on to a food source way below.

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They actually work as a huge aerial network,

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with each vulture able to scan up to 200 miles in a single day.

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When food is spotted, a vulture will dive to earth at breakneck speeds

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of up to 80 miles an hour. This acts as a signal

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for hundreds of others to come to the dinner table.

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Within minutes, these ugly undertakers of the bush

0:22:160:22:20

can completely strip a carcass of every scrap, including

0:22:200:22:24

the grotty, rotten bits of meat no other animal on Earth could stomach.

0:22:240:22:29

Right, OK, so I'm starting my watch now.

0:22:360:22:39

Let's see how long it takes before something turns up.

0:22:390:22:42

Good luck, everyone.

0:22:440:22:46

OK, so we've just started our stakeout.

0:22:490:22:53

There's no sign of anything yet.

0:22:530:22:56

What we're really waiting for is for just really a single bird

0:22:560:23:01

circling overhead to spot the carcass down below.

0:23:010:23:04

This kind of feels like watching wildlife from a burger van.

0:23:080:23:13

Do you want sauce with that, mate?

0:23:130:23:15

Vultures have sensational eyesight.

0:23:200:23:22

They can easily spot a dead animal from a mile up.

0:23:220:23:26

Oh, ah, we've got our first circling vultures already.

0:23:260:23:31

Two, two up there.

0:23:310:23:34

They look like... Three, three vultures.

0:23:340:23:39

I don't believe it.

0:23:400:23:42

We've been in here for three minutes.

0:23:420:23:46

Three minutes, and already our carcass has been spotted.

0:23:460:23:50

'With the carcass spotted, hopefully it's only a matter of time

0:23:520:23:56

'until those first vultures give their signal to the others.'

0:23:560:23:59

The sky is thick with vultures.

0:23:590:24:04

There must be 20 or 30 over us already.

0:24:070:24:10

And a couple of them are dropping down lower to take a look,

0:24:100:24:14

they're going to land in a tree nearby to suss the situation out.

0:24:140:24:18

This is all, so far, very, very good.

0:24:180:24:22

Oh, you beauty.

0:24:230:24:25

I can't even begin to estimate how many birds we've got coming in now.

0:24:270:24:32

Come on, fellas, be brave.

0:24:370:24:39

There's a vulture coming in, Markie.

0:24:390:24:42

When this actually kicks off, it's going to be mayhem.

0:24:440:24:48

Oh, ho-ho-ho! Wow!

0:24:520:24:56

That is incredible.

0:25:010:25:04

It's like suddenly someone rang the dinner bell.

0:25:040:25:08

Wow, what an absolute melee.

0:25:080:25:11

Oh, the skull cam has got an awesome shot.

0:25:130:25:16

Oh, my goodness. I couldn't even begin to count

0:25:240:25:28

how many animals we've got here at the moment.

0:25:280:25:32

And there are more birds arriving every second.

0:25:320:25:35

That carcass isn't going to be there for long.

0:25:350:25:38

Those beaks are a powerful tool for ripping into flesh.

0:25:390:25:43

I mean, they're going to take this rotting carcass

0:25:480:25:51

and turn it into a pile of bones, probably in a matter of minutes.

0:25:510:25:56

They have really strong stomach acids

0:26:000:26:03

to break down not only the meat and stuff,

0:26:030:26:05

but also all of the diseases that could be held in that carcass.

0:26:050:26:09

If that wasn't enough, if you get too close to one of these birds,

0:26:100:26:14

they can actually vomit back up at you

0:26:140:26:17

all of the contents of their stomach, along with that nasty acid.

0:26:170:26:21

It's a very effective way of getting rid of predators.

0:26:210:26:24

This is just chaos! There's birds standing on each other,

0:26:260:26:32

standing on the carcass, tearing it to shreds.

0:26:320:26:35

Vultures are birds of prey. They will occasionally kill animals

0:26:400:26:45

and are perfectly capable of catching things if they wanted to.

0:26:450:26:48

But really, isn't a scavenger just a predator

0:26:480:26:52

with the brains to figure out

0:26:520:26:54

there are easier ways of getting a meal than hunting for it?

0:26:540:26:57

They've got that powerful bill, and that sublime soaring ability,

0:26:570:27:01

amazing eyesight, they can actually pick up a meal from miles away.

0:27:010:27:06

For that reason, I reckon vultures have got to go on the Deadly 60.

0:27:060:27:10

Vultures have formidable bone-shredding beaks.

0:27:130:27:16

Their high-powered eyesight can spot food from miles away.

0:27:160:27:20

And their team tactics and vast numbers

0:27:200:27:23

can turn a body to bones in a matter of minutes.

0:27:230:27:27

Join me next time as I continue my search for the Deadly 60.

0:27:300:27:33

There's a lion. There's a lion calling in the distance.

0:27:330:27:36

-Aargh!

-LAUGHTER

0:27:360:27:40

If she gets any closer, guys, don't move a muscle.

0:27:400:27:44

GROWLING

0:27:440:27:47

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:550:27:58

Steve turns up the heat in Namibia, searching for deadly animals in one of the hottest places on the planet! A clever camera brings him right up close to a tiny but mighty spider, while sheer sweat and persistence pay off as the team tracks down one of the most elusive and deadly reptiles in the dunes.

Barely stopping for breath, Steve has a close encounter with a vulture, which leads the team to try a wacky experiment with gruesome results.


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