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Welcome to my Nightmares of Nature.
I'm Naomi Wilkinson and I'm coming
face-to-face with the nightmares of the animal world.
The ones that make your spine tingle...
..your heart beat faster...
..and your blood run cold.
What's that noise?
Are they truly terrifying?
Or is there a twist in the tale?
Come with me as I shine a light on wildlife's deepest,
..and see if you can guess which will be my worst nightmare?
Throughout this series I've faced up to a whole host
of nightmares of nature!
I've been in some spine-chilling environments,
risen to some terrifying challenges
and I've met a remarkable range of curious creatures,
from the ghoulish and ghastly,
to the surprisingly gorgeous.
In this special programme, I'm going to be counting down
through my top ten worst nightmares of the series and revealing
which I have chosen to take the top spot, as my very worst nightmare.
Kicking off the countdown at ten, it's a huge, powerful,
armoured bird with a vicious reputation to boot - the Cassowary.
I went out looking for them in the Australian rainforest with
bird expert, Phil.
Goodness me, they're enormous.
Look at those feet. They are monster feet, aren't they?
-So they've got huge power in those legs?
And their inner claw, that's the one that does the damage.
So if they were feeling at all threatened or nervous by us,
they can kick you with those? Yes. What should you do if they do that?
Back off. Don't run, just back off.
-It's kind of warning you.
-What will happen?
-It'll chase you.
You don't want that. It can run faster than you can.
No you definitely wouldn't want to be chased by a cassowary!
These giant flightless birds are not to be messed with.
They're unpredictable, fast and strong, and they're capable
of delivering fatal blows with their lethal legs and dagger-like claws.
They're clearly huge and powerful,
and having had a close up view of those impressive claws,
I think the karate-kicking cassowary is a worthy number ten.
It's a nightmare challenge at nine, which involved me
throwing myself out of a perfectly good aeroplane.
After meeting a peregrine falcon, I was challenged to experience what
it must be like for them to hurtle towards the ground after their prey.
This meant climbing to a height of 4,000 metres.
Then, along with a professional skydiver...
..jumping out of a plane.
Peregrine falcons are the fastest animals on Earth, and they plummet
towards the ground at sensational speeds, when chasing their prey.
Imitating them was a pretty tall order.
I probably travelled about a mile at around 120 miles an hour.
To think a peregrine will go at 200 miles an hour or more,
I mean I just would not want to go any faster than that.
I think my face would have turned inside out! Whoo!
That utterly terrifying nightmare challenge is a perfect,
nail-biting nine on my countdown.
Battling it out for number eight
it's two grisly, flesh-eating nasties,
the plough snail, versus the hagfish.
Both have oodles of nightmare potential,
but which will make my top ten list?
First up, let's consider the plough snail.
They live in the sea, and have some pretty strange skills.
They feed on the flesh of animals that have washed up on the shore.
When they detect a meal, they expand their large fleshy foot,
catch a wave, and ride it up to the shoreline!
# One way or another I'm gonna find ya... #
The minute the wave comes past, they stick out that foot
and just surf in!
Once these strange surfing snails are out of the water,
they follow the faint scent trail of their food on the damp sand,
and almost row up the beach.
We'd put some fish out, in the hope that they would come
'If the gulls didn't get to it first!'
You're spoiling our experiment.
And this is where it gets disgusting.
They use their proboscis to probe into the dead animal
and suck up its flesh!
And as if that wasn't disturbing enough, inside that
proboscis are dagger-like teeth, used for tearing up the meat.
So the plough snail is definitely a nightmare,
but the strange, grotesque-looking hagfish,
have certainly got out-grossing potential.
So, let's have the facts.
They have no stomachs, no jaws,
no eyes and they have teeth on their tongue.
And that's not the worst of it.
They have one of the most horrific defence mechanisms.
Ohhh! I don't want to do it.
Right, get brave, get brave! Oh. Uhh!
Ohh, he's going to try and bite me.
Oh, my gosh, I don't like them.
Uh, almost instantly, it is producing tons and tons
of egg-yolky slime. That's incredible.
It's just like thick bogey, really!
Yes, hagfish are pretty unsavoury,
and a definite top ten contender, but I'm afraid the repulsive
image of a plough snail sucking up rotten fish flesh is
something that's definitely going to stay with me for a long time.
So it's the macabre munching plough snail that's taking eighth place.
Slithering in at seven, it's one of the most dangerous
snakes in North America, the rattlesnake.
I've met snakes in every country I've been to for this series.
A couple of milligrams of his venom is enough to kill an adult.
I helped remove a Western Brown snake from someone's swimming
pool in Australia...
That's it. Beautiful.
..and I met some school kids in South Africa
that deal with snakes as part of everyday life.
It does it to warn you.
But my closest encounter was with a Southern Pacific
rattlesnake in California.
These deadly snakes get their name from their rattling tails
that they use to warn off predators.
They have two centimetre long fangs
that inject lethal venom into their prey,
before swallowing it whole.
The venom is strong enough to kill a human being within 24 hours,
and over 800 Americans are accidentally bitten every year.
I met Sierra, who had been bitten two weeks earlier.
So you were bitten by a rattlesnake two weeks ago?
-Tell me what happened.
The snake was in our porch
and then my dad carried me in our house and then I was screaming
on the floor.
Where did it bite you?
-Did you feel its teeth go in?
-And then what happened to your body?
-It all swell up like that.
It changed colour, like black and red and...
-Your leg went black and red and blue?
I'm really glad you're all right.
What should I do so I don't get bitten by a rattlesnake?
You'd better watch out!
Sierra was right, I had better watch out.
'But luckily I was in safe hands for my rattlesnake liaison.'
Where's the best place for me to stand?
-You're out of the strike range.
'Dr Sean Bush is an all round snake expert.'
He wanted me to meet a captive snake,
but to ensure our safety, and the snake's,
he encouraged it into a plastic tube so I could have a closer look.
-Just make sure he's good and in.
-Yeah, let's do that!
There he is.
Oh! I'm eyeball to eyeball with a rattlesnake.
-I'm going to stay right here.
Aww, you can feel how strong he is, too.
-Long as you don't panic, we're good.
-I am panicking.
-If you get bit, then it's OK to panic.
-Wow, holding something that has the power to kill me.
They're seriously scary snakes and a sizzling number seven.
In at six, it's a tiny,
but terrible, bloodsucking beast - the paralysis tick.
No bigger than your finger tip,
the paralysis tick doesn't look like much, but looks can be deceiving.
These miniature monsters can bring down animals many,
many times their size, with one single bite.
They prey on the bats of Northern Australia's rainforests, and
once they've latched on, they inject a toxin that paralyses their victim.
They can feed on a bat for several weeks, swelling to many
times their original size, as they gorge on their unlucky host.
I went out looking for bats that had been affected by this parasite,
with Jenny from the Tolga Bat Hospital.
And we quickly found our first patient.
-Oh, oh, oh!
Poor little thing.
-Aw, poor thing.
-Here you go.
There you go, sweetheart.
See if we can help you.
-We're going to remove this tick, now, then?
-Yeah we will.
Let's get it off. Ughh!
In peak tick season, the Tolga bat hospital deals with 50 adult and
30 baby bats per day, and they're all victims of these toxic ticks.
-Ooh, that's horrible.
-Now this is...
I tried to help Jenny remove the tick,
but it was pretty stomach churning!
After the ticks are removed, the bats recover in the hospital,
and are eventually returned to the wild.
A tiny, tick that can drink its own weight in blood, and paralyses
its victims, is definitely the stuff that bad dreams are made of!
We're halfway through our countdown,
and we've had a bad-tempered bird,
a terrifying skydive...
..a scavenging snail,
a venomous viper,
and a bloodsucking, paralysing tick -
what could be worse than all of those?
It's going to be those perfect predators that have given me
nightmares for as long as I can remember -
I've always been petrified of sharks.
There are nearly 500 species in the world,
and for most of my life, I've happily avoided them all.
Their rows of razor sharp teeth fill me with fear,
their sleek, menacing appearance gives me the creeps, and their
well-earned position at the top of the food chain has always made me
confident that staying away from them was the sensible option.
But for this series, I decided to confront my fear
and with the help and support of some die-hard shark lovers,
I found myself taking a dip in shark-infested waters.
If Backshall can do it, I can do it.
Blacktip sharks are fast,
fierce pack hunters that work as a team to hunt small fish.
So when I got into the water, it wasn't with one or two,
I came face to face with about 30 of them.
Ohh! Quite simply, the most terrifying
thing I've ever done.
That was unbelievably scary, but brilliant.
I think sharks will always make me nervous,
so they're definitely still a bit of a nightmare to me.
But having shared the sea with all those blacktips,
and seen that they didn't want to harm me,
I don't think I can call them my worst nightmare anymore.
It's another face-off for fourth place,
but this time between two nightmare challenges -
spending the night sleeping out
in the scorpion-infested Australian outback,
versus delving deep underground into a dark, dismal cave.
Two equally unappealing challenges, but which will make my top ten?
First up, my scorpion sleepover.
Not only was I expected to camp out in the middle of the desert,
I had to camp with no tent, and to make matters worse,
before going to bed, some Aussie experts took me out
to see exactly how many nightmare critters I could end up
sharing my sleeping bag with.
There's number three.
Here's number four.
That's number six.
OK, just be on the lookout for death adders as well.
Oh, are you joking?
-Is that eight?
So, as I checked my sleeping bag for invaders,
it looked like it was going to be a long, sleepless night.
What was that?
I somehow made it through the night, but I didn't get much sleep!
So what could be worse than spending a night amongst all those
How about going somewhere that's dark, confined,
and brimming with unsavoury critters?
I'm talking about caves.
-Are you guys behind me?
-Now we get low.
-And this is where you start crawling.
'In South Africa, I headed underground with a particularly
'enthusiastic caving doctor.'
Right, follow me!
Poo! It absolutely pongs.
What's this I'm lying on?
-Is this bat droppings?
-It can be quite dangerous, can't it?
-In large quantities, yes.
Guano harbours a lot of fungi
and that causes my favourite disease...
Acute benign pulmonary histoplasmosis.
And bats and their droppings aren't the only nightmares underground.
Anything that lives in a cave
has to be able to survive in complete darkness.
And caves around the world are renowned for harbouring
some real nightmares.
From hideous giant centipedes, to creepy crustaceans
and bizarre blind salamanders.
Sleeping out with all those scorpions was scary,
but for me, going caving was worse.
Being in the dark with dangerous animals is bad enough,
but add to that large quantities of poo, the fear of deadly diseases,
and getting trapped - caving has got to have the fourth spot
on my nightmare countdown.
So what's going to take third place?
It's those tiny, buzzing,
bothersome, bloodsuckers - mosquitoes.
Oh, go away!
They've accompanied us pretty much everywhere we've been
and I can't bear them!
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Eeeh. I hate that noise, when it's right by your ear. Bzzz. Bzz.
And whilst they're annoying for me,
they can be a real menace to wildlife.
It's only the females that bite
and they need blood to make their eggs.
They track us down by our movement, our smell
and by the carbon dioxide in our breath.
Then they land on their target, stick their sharp proboscis in,
and suck until their abdomen is full with blood!
And they are pretty hard to escape because there are more than
3,000 species, and they're found almost everywhere in the world.
So they're ever present, they bite, they suck our blood
and they definitely deserve a space in the top three.
We're only one nightmare away from the top spot now.
It's time for the runner up,
and it's an animal that's not to be messed with.
Small, feisty and renowned for punching way above its weight,
it's the honey badger.
Honey badgers are fierce, aggressive and utterly unafraid.
In fact they're often referred to as the most fearless
animal on the planet.
Their tough skin is impermeable to the stings of bees,
and they're even immune to the venom of some snakes!
And if all that wasn't enough to make them
a nightmare contender, they're unbelievably clever too.
When I was in South Africa, I met a particularly intelligent
honey badger, with wildlife man, Brian,
who was well aware of their ferocious reputation!
With the help of a stick, we were given a superb
demonstration of their incredible ingenuity.
He's looking to see if he can get out with the stick now.
Watch this, he's going to carry it on his back, then he puts it up.
He's watching me. He knows when he gets up, I'll push him down.
He can't get out.
Oh, I am nervous of him.
He is, he's coming up.
Wow, he's so intelligent. He's coming up.
Don't, you'll buzz yourself!
He's persistent, I'll give him that.
See the back legs?
So now he knows that could
potentially get him out of here.
He knows and he'll make a plan.
There he goes with his stick.
-He's going to put his stick up again.
-You can really see him
-thinking of what to do next.
-Figuring out his strategy.
'Trying to get the stick back, wasn't so simple!'
I want your stick. Come here.
-He's got, he's got it up. There it is.
-He won't let go.
-Be careful. Be careful.
-He's going to get my hand now.
HONEY BADGER SNARLS
We'll never get that stick away from him. No ways!
So if the brave, brainy,
honey badger wasn't my worst nightmare, then what was?
It's time for my nightmare countdown.
It's a tough bird at ten, the karate-kicking cassowary.
Plummeting in at nine, it's diving like a peregrine.
Feeding on the bait at eight, it's the plough snail.
Slithering in at seven, it's the mighty rattlesnake.
In at six, it's paralysis ticks.
There are fins at five, with blacktip sharks.
Crawling on the floor at four, it's caving.
Flying in at three, it's the menacing mosquito.
Tactical two with the high IQ, it's the honey badger.
So who is going to be my number one?
What will take the top spot as my worst nightmare of nature?
It's got to be that ancient,
armoured, cold blooded killer,
- the salt water crocodile.
Growing up to six metres long, these giant predators are the largest
crocodiles in the world, and they have a fearsome reputation.
Their massive jaws can deliver the most powerful bite ever
recorded, and they're masters of the ambush attack.
I went in search of them in the lagoons of Northern Australia.
They're one of Australia's top predators,
and they've been known to attack people,
so I didn't want to get too close.
Wow. Do we need to be quiet?
No, no, he's good.
I never thought I was going to get this close in the boat.
This one is enormous.
Croc expert, Adam, explained how they hunt.
They've got these incredibly powerful jaws, as we all know,
and the reason they've got these, is so they can clamp onto something.
And then what they can do is use the rest of their body, which is
basically pure muscle, to then rip it apart.
What they do is something called the death roll. So they grab onto
something and they start twisting their body. Give me your hand.
-OK, so a crocodile has just grabbed you.
-Then it starts to roll.
You imagine that crocodile keeps rolling and keeps rolling.
-It's all just going to come off.
-Yeah, it's going to come off.
I didn't fancy that happening to me,
so I was happy to stay in the safety of the boat.
But, back at Adam's conservation centre, the crew had arranged
for me to get a close up view of a salty, in his home, at lunchtime.
Oh, I don't like underwater stuff.
He is, he's looking straight up. Can see his teeth from up here.
Right, Naomi, deep breath. One, two, three...
Getting into a tank with a predator the size of a small car
Flippin' 'eck! This is taking every bit of courage I have got.
He's really intimidating.
I wish I could put into words, how small I feel.
'Just as I was getting more confident, Adam served up lunch.'
I didn't realise that was going to happen and all of a sudden,
he just opened his mouth. Ohh!
That was pretty terrifying,
and it certainly sealed the salty's place on my countdown.
Yes, having witnessed the lightning fast strike of this giant
crocodile at close quarters,
there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that this death rolling,
muscle bound monster has got to be my worst nightmare.
Can you go steady?
Oh! I'm trying to put lipstick on back here.
Ah, you're joking!
Ready to film. Right, what animal, what animal am I filming? Ready!
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