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Welcome to my Deadly Top Ten.
A chance to choose the most extreme, mass attacking, defending,
airborne, and super-sensing animals on the planet!
Go, go, go, go!
All deadly in their own world and occasionally deadly to me!
Who do you think will be number one of the Deadly Top Ten?
Here we go!
In this countdown, I'm choosing my top ten defenders,
animals that don't just use their deadly skills in attack,
but also in defence,
fending off predators and stopping themselves from being eaten!
Toxic venom, sharp spines, brute force,
and even chemical warfare
make up an incredible array of defensive tactics.
But who will claw, spit, scrape or stampede their way to number one
as the deadliest defender?
Let's find out, so get your guard up.
It's time to start counting down the top ten deadly defenders!
We're starting big. Up first at number ten,
it's the world's largest eight-legged hairy hunter.
Oh, my life.
It's something really big.
Here it comes.
Absolutely dripping sweat here.
Look at the size of those fangs.
I've never seen anything this big before,
and I've been catching tarantulas for well over a decade.
Now we can get a proper sense of the size of you.
This is the largest tarantula in the world,
the goliath bird-eating spider.
They can have a leg span the size of a Frisbee
and an abdomen as large as a tennis ball.
So they'd make a meaty meal for forest hunters
like coatis or ocelot.
She's got fangs that are about as long as a cheetah's claws,
and a good deal sharper.
She could give me a really, really nasty bite.
But she also has another, more unusual form of defence
that I've got to be really careful of.
That kicking her leg against her abdomen
is sending hairs up into the air.
If those get into your eyes or nose, the back of your throat,
it can be very irritating and itchy
and it's actually the spider's primary method
of getting rid of an attacker
despite the fact that it has gigantic fangs.
The irritating hairs act like pepper spray,
burning the eyes, tickling the throat
and causing coughing fits, sometimes even blindness,
a very effective defence against prying predators
and could leave me itching for weeks!
Look at the size of her!
And I can feel those hairs that she kicked up into the air,
I can feel them in the back of my throat, and I want to cough
but it's not really a good time to cough
with that on your hands.
So, giant fangs and venom aside,
it's the tiny, itchy, scratchy rash-causing hairs
that are this spider's rather effective defence against predators.
Next up, slithering in to the number nine slot is a venomous reptile
that I've got a bit of history with.
Ever since I was a little kid I've been obsessed with snakes,
and I spend a good part of my life travelling round the world
catching some of the most venomous ones.
Touch wood, I've never been bitten while handling one,
although I did get hospitalised when I stood right on top
of a venomous snake and got bitten.
It wasn't a black mamba.
It wasn't a king cobra.
And it wasn't a Gaboon viper.
Although it was in the viper family.
In fact, it was right here in the heaths of southern England,
so I've come back here to try and find one.
Have you guessed it?
That's right, it's the adder, Britain's only venomous snake!
The adder may be small, but it is a viper
and is armed with fully loaded venom glands for hunting
and taking down its prey, such as voles and frogs.
The venom's also used in defence
when the snake feels threatened by its predators -
birds of prey, crows, gulls, foxes or big-footed naturalists like me!
When I was bitten on the ankle, my whole leg swelled up
and turned black! I was kept in hospital for three days,
so learnt the hard way about this snake's defensive skills.
Now, I'd be absolutely heartbroken
if people were to be scared of snakes
because of what happened to me. Truth is, I must have stood
right on top of that adder for it to have bitten me.
Actually, it's incredibly rare for people to even see them.
As soon as anyone gets close, they just disappear off into the bushes
and their camouflage is amazing.
And having cryptic camouflage is really the first part
of their defence.
Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop. Here's an adder.
OK, let's try and get him out into the open, there.
That is Britain's only venomous snake, the adder.
Now I have to say this is absolutely not something
that I would encourage people back home to do.
The adder's bite is painful and has killed people,
so don't ever try to pick one up.
And listen to that hiss.
This is the threat that's used by pretty much all of the reptiles
from the crocodiles through the tiniest to the biggest of snakes.
It's just forcing air out through his lungs
making a sound which you could never mistake for anything
other than a way of telling you to go away.
The adder is an extraordinary predator.
It has really quite toxic venom for a snake of this size.
It has a very, very fast strike,
and as you've seen
from how difficult it's been for us to find one,
amazing camouflage, absolutely extraordinary.
So, the adder's invisibility cloak of camouflage
is its day-to-day means of defence,
but when it's really threatened, a loud hiss and a venomous strike
sends its predators limping.
Now we're taking it to the max for number eight.
It's the largest primate on Earth, the gorilla.
In the high forests of Uganda,
the mountain gorillas are King Kongkering any rivals.
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 shaking, half with excitement
and half with a little bit of trepidation.
Up there, the silverback.
This is the silverback, the dominant male,
and I have to say,
there are very few more impressive animals in the whole world.
He is absolutely massive.
Tipping the scales at over 200 kilos of pure muscle,
the silverback is an advert for why you should always eat your greens!
Strength, power and physical presence
are all key to the gorilla's defence.
Bluff charges are enough to see off most rivals
but a full-on attack will include screaming roars,
chest beating, hefty punches and deep bites.
Not something I'm keen to experience.
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny.
Suddenly, a confident young male moves menacingly towards us.
This is the blackback.
He's the young male and they can be more of a worry than the silverback
cos they have more to prove.
Can you 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 despite his smirk, he obviously thinks I might be a challenge.
'I have to stand my ground as he comes over to teach me a lesson.'
Right, well, that is a blackback gorilla letting us know who's boss.
'But I just got off lightly with a gentle clout,
'more of a warning shot.'
Yeah, that was quite a left hook.
So, three animals in and we've seen itchy hairs,
a painful bite and gorillas packing a punch,
but what other defensive tricks are in store as we count down the list?
Coming in at number seven is a rather prickly customer.
This is Africa's largest rodent, a porcupine.
A nocturnal nibbler that comes out to forage at night.
But the name "porcupine" actually means thorny pig
and this guy's hair-raising funky, punky hairdo
isn't just for show.
His back and tail are studded with sharp spines and quills
that can be raised up in defence,
creating a ferocious, impenetrable force field against attack.
A backwards charge from this guy
would leave you with a face full of spines,
so it's a deadly defender to watch out for.
Yes! Going to be quite cautious.
Just sitting quietly in the corner up here is a porcupine.
He's watching me very closely but what I really don't want
is for him to back up and charge me with those quills.
That's the weapon that he'll use to drive off animals as big as lions.
Usually a rattle of the tail's hollow quills
and a flash of their tightly packed pincushion posterior
is enough to deter lone hunters.
But sometimes the opposition don't quite put up a fair fight.
This poor porcupine finds itself surrounded
by a hungry pride of lions, but despite being seriously outnumbered,
he uses his reinforced rear to keep the lions at bay.
The hollow quills are designed to drop out easily,
embedding themselves deep into any stray paws.
Too prickly a problem for this poor pussycat.
So, lion versus rodent - a real game of cat and mouse
but our porcupine's defence is unbeatable.
Creeping in at number six is an insect with a defence so good,
it's able to thrive where others wouldn't dare to tread.
It's the extraordinary moth butterfly caterpillar!
This is a weaver ant nest, a beautiful construction
of leaves and silk and home to several thousand busy worker ants.
They're very territorial, defending their nests
against anything that gets too close.
But this freaky fiend is the moth butterfly caterpillar.
Armoured with a shell like a cross between a tank and a tortoise,
it brazenly trundles headfirst into the weavers' nest,
right into the ants' lair!
Intruders are normally swarmed over and dismembered by soldier ants
but this is where the caterpillar's defence comes in.
The shield it wears on its back is awesome -
bite-resistant and tough as old boots.
The ants try everything but the tank keeps marching on,
right to the nursery!
The moth butterfly caterpillar has arrived
at the ultimate all-you-can-eat buffet!
Because this is one of the few carnivorous meat-eating
caterpillar species in the world.
Once it gets going, a caterpillar can eat 12 grubs an hour
so within weeks, a few caterpillars could scoff the entire brood!
the caterpillars pupate within their protective armour
then the adult moth butterfly starts to emerge.
The soldier ants mount an immediate attack
but the butterfly has one more devious defence.
Its body is covered in slippery silver scales, like evil candyfloss,
which jam up the ants' jaws as they try to bite.
Try as they might, they just can't get a grip!
So the delicate adult moth butterfly strolls out of the ants' nest
completely unharmed, thanks to its unusual defensive tricks!
So shields up, it's time to review our defences so far.
We've had the spider's hairs, the adder's bite,
the massive mountain gorilla, a porcupine taking on a pride,
and a carnivorous caterpillar that hangs out
where others wouldn't survive a second.
So we're working our way through my deadly defenders
but the creature at number five could surprise you.
It's the cassowary.
Strutting into our line-up is a monster bird that can do more
than ruffle a few feathers.
This dinosaur-like flightless bird
lives deep in Australia's steamy rainforest,
has sharpened talons on its feet, beady eyes
and a temper to rival the Hulk!
And did I mention it's one of the few birds known to attack humans?
So, on foot in the Daintree rainforest I'm not quite sure
who's stalking whom.
The female cassowary is a bird
you definitely don't want to get on the wrong side of.
They're very, very large
and they also have a claw which is almost like a dagger.
I don't believe this.
Right in front of me is a male with a juvenile.
They're no more than about 10, 15 feet in front of me.
The chick's coming to check me out.
I need to be quite careful now
because the male's going to be very protective of the chick...
..and he's getting very, very close.
I could reach out and touch him.
I think he'd probably peck my hand off, though.
Scared him off.
Well, I'm glad I won that game of chicken!
Cassowaries may be flightless,
but as this vet finds out, they're certainly not fightless.
They can leap over a metre and a half in the air,
using their high-flying kicks to defend their chicks.
A formidable defender that will see off crocodiles, dingoes
and anyone or anything that gets too close!
That is a bird in a bad mood!
From two legs to six next,
and in at number four is a feisty ant
that will attack just about anything!
It's the jack jumper and you'd better watch out!
If you ask any naturalist working out in the field
which animal causes them the most strife,
they won't say snakes or spiders or scorpions,
they'll say ants. I know that seems ridiculous.
Back home in the UK, all an ant really does
is perhaps spoil a picnic for you
but there are many places around the world where that isn't the case
and here in Australia is one of them, and I'll show you why.
There's a little hole here.
I'm going to see if I can bring out the ant that lives inside.
Usually just a bit of vibration's enough to bring them out.
Here we go, I've got one coming out.
This is a jumping jack ant.
It's got absolutely huge yellow mandibles.
Very, very aggressive, these little ants.
But the dangerous thing about them isn't their bite. It's their sting.
Ants are in the same insect group as the bees and the wasps
and like them, a lot of their venoms have stuff in them
that people are very, very allergic to.
Here in Australia, people actually die from bites from these ants.
The sting is extremely painful and has been known to kill adults
within 15 minutes
making jack jumpers the most dangerous ant in the world!
I tell you what, they are like little bulldogs.
This one's savaging the front of the camera, look!
Look at that.
They're totally fearless.
And they really have got an attitude way beyond their size.
Apart from anything else, they'll jump after what they see
as being a threat to their colony.
The enormous jaws and potent sting are used primarily in attack.
The insecticidal venom kills a fly in seconds
but the same tools are turned into deadly defensive weapons
when the ants and the colony are under attack.
Look at that, he's stinging the lens, getting right stuck into it.
Look at that. I'm glad that isn't my finger.
I don't think I've ever seen a creature quite so aggressive.
So as well as being armed with a toxic sting
and huge mandibles, the out-and-out aggression of this ant
means it will sting repeatedly, a serious defender.
Jumping jack ants - definitely deadly.
Next up, crashing in at three is a meaty head-to-head
of two tough African defenders - the rhino versus the buffalo.
They both have horns, brawn and attitude,
but who could steal our slot at number three?
The best way of getting a good look at these beasts is from the air.
If we're going to stand a chance of getting close to them in the air,
we need an aircraft that's small, manoeuvrable, perhaps even discreet.
Something like this.
Here we go!
OK, so now we're airborne.
This wonderful little plane offers us so many opportunities.
We can obviously cover a much broader range.
This is a great way to see Africa's giants.
And there are our first contenders, a group of rhino!
Rhino are built like bulldozers.
Their hides are thickened like armour plating
to shield them from jabs from horns during fights.
They weigh up to three tonnes, but despite being big,
they can sprint at 30 miles an hour!
Adults use their horns for fighting
and defending their youngsters from lions, crocodiles and hyena.
They'll tackle anyone who gets in their way at a watering hole
and basically see anything large as a threat!
So, rhino are big, they're armoured, and they look pretty angry.
Surely as defenders go, they must be a deadly cert
for a place on my list?
How will the buffalo's horns match up?
It's back up in our plane over the plains to see if we can spot any.
What are you seeing?
I see them. I see the buffalo!
Wow, it is a massive herd!
Oh, I cannot believe how many there are!
I reckon this herd of buffalo must be 200 animals strong.
Oh, look at that!
So, in this head-to-head,
we've got a whole herd of buff strutting their stuff.
Buffalo are big and beefy.
They have heavy-set bony horns that meet in the middle,
forming a bulletproof boss that protects their skull.
They hang out in herds so have the strength in numbers
to defend their young against Africa's biggest predators - lions!
Working together in a group like an oversized rugby team,
the wingers and flankers hold the space
while the others scrum down, tackling lions head on!
And they have the size, strength, speed
and skewers to do some serious showing off.
As deadly vegetarians go, you don't want to feel the defensive force
of either beast, but I can only choose one for my list.
Well, they may not be as thick-skinned as the rhino,
but with their teamwork in defence, the buffalo has it for me,
and stampedes into the number three spot!
We're nearing the top now, and in at number two is a classic defender
that can see off its predators without even touching them.
It's the rinkhals spitting cobra.
So, eye protectors on, I'm ready to see one in action.
This is a fiery snake. See, he's rearing up towards me.
Oh. And just flicked venom all down my arm.
Certainly not as accurate as you see in some spitting cobras
but if it goes in the eyes, it's going to be just as effective.
Now, look at that.
Perfect. He actually flicked venom straight at me.
Now, actually, a little bit of it went into my mouth.
You can taste it. It has a sort of rusty kind of taste to it.
The venom can't harm me unless it gets into my bloodstream.
That actually did go right into my mouth.
What I'm trying to do is restrain the head
so to actually give an impression of what would happen,
if an animal was to attack it, what it would do.
So I'm just gently hoping that I'll be able to hold the head down.
And he just spat straight at the camera.
I think there are a few flecks of venom
just on the outside of the lens hood here.
This isn't hurting the snake,
but it does allow me to show you how incredible it is.
Now, with the head restrained and the snake really feeling
like it has nowhere to go,
the next thing that the rinkhals does...
is play dead.
Look at that.
From the ferocious, agitated moving snake we had before,
it's gone totally limp.
So, this is the rinkhals's last line of defence.
It's been fast, it's been quick, it's been aggressive,
it's spat venom at me, and now it's just playing dead.
No motion whatsoever and any animal that won't take dead prey,
it's not going to be interested, it's going to leave it alone.
Anything that will and gets too close
is going to get a nasty surprise and probably a bite.
Now that's what I call a clever snake.
With its twin tactics of flicking venom and playing dead,
it definitely deserves a place in at number two.
It's time for the top ten Deadly Defenders countdown.
Irritating hairy ten is the goliath bird-eating spider.
The secretive striking adder lurks at nine.
Ape-solutely fantastic gorillas pack a punch at number eight.
Spiny seven is the lion-taming punky porcupine.
In at six, the kamikaze moth butterfly caterpillar.
The flightless cassowary kicks and scratches its way in at five.
Spoiling for a fight at four,
the jack jumper ants sting into the line-up.
Bullish buffalos rampage in at three.
Playing dead but really deadly at two is the rinkhals spitting cobra.
But now we come to the number one, the ultimate defender.
It's the bombardier beetle!
What? A little beetle?
Now he might not look like much, but this guy has a secret weapon -
he's packing heat!
His archenemies are ants.
They bite, nip and swarm around him, trying to eat him.
But don't worry, our bombardier has a seriously impressive trick
up his sleeve. Well, actually, up his bottom!
Stored within his abdomen are two powerful liquids
that he can mix together, creating a chemical reaction so strong
that it sends a jet of boiling acid out of his rear
all over attacking ants!
The liquid is as hot as boiling water, smells disgusting
and burns anything it touches.
It's so hot that the beetle has to jet it out in pulses
of 500 squirts per second to stop him from burning his own bottom!
The bombardier beetle - a highly toxic,
explosive defender that quite frankly blows me away,
and a worthy winner of number one in my countdown.
So that's my take on the top ten Deadly Defenders!
Don't forget to join me next time for more Deadly Top Tens.
Who's going to be the next deadly number one?
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