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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 was that noise?)
Are they truly terrifying or is there a twist in the tail?
SHE SCREAMS AND GIGGLES
Come with me as I shine a light on wildlife's deepest, darkest secrets.
And see if you can guess which will be my worst nightmare.
This time we're in the jungles of northern Australia.
It's an area bursting with life,
packed with animals of all shapes and sizes and that means there
are plenty of nightmares of nature just waiting out there for me.
Great, I can't wait(!)
I'm going to be exploring the rainforest of the Queensland coast
in search of some surprise shock revelations.
There'll be a giant bat and its blood-sucking nemesis.
Ooh, that's horrible.
A karate-kicking killer bird.
And I'll even be uncovering the darker side
of Australia's cuddliest critter. Hoo-hoo-hoo!
Whoever would've thought I'd feel a bit nervous of a koala?
'But my first stop is the jungle town of Kuranda where I've got
'an appointment with one of the most feared animals on the planet.'
I am really not looking forward to today
and that's because the house invader I've come here to see
comes pretty high on my list of all-time nightmares.
I'll give you a clue - it has not two legs,
not four legs, not six legs... No, it has eight legs.
Australia is home to over 3,000 species of spider including
some of the most dangerous in the world and many of them can be
found in the jungles surrounding Kuranda.
'To find out more about them,
'I've come to the home of spider expert, Deanna,
'and her daughter, Teyenne.'
Deanna, it's very clear to see that your back garden backs on to
the jungle so that means you get
a lot of eight-legged visitors here, do you?
We do, we get lots of them. So yeah, it's great.
-Are you frightened of spiders?
You're scared, are you? Are you scared of all spiders,
-or just the scary ones?
-Not little jumpy ones.
-You don't mind the jumpy ones? Which ones don't you like?
-The big ones.
The big ones.
Teyenne is certainly not alone in her fear of big spiders.
I've been scared of them all my life.
In fact, arachnophobia is probably the most common phobia in the world.
Somebody told me you used to be afraid of spiders like me,
-is that true?
-I was terrified.
I could not be in the same room as a spider.
I remember growing up, my dad had to come in
and take any spider out of the room, no matter how small it was.
It was just... It terrified me.
Same here. How did you overcome that fear?
It was just learning about them and learning what they were capable of
and learning that they weren't actually out to get me
because they're are more frightened of us than we are of them.
So there's some spiders around us now that we might be able to find?
Yes, there is, for sure.
Together, we'll be brave, we'll look for some spiders in your garden.
-Ready? You show me the way. Find a spider, Teyenne, and show me.
'I'm encouraged that Deanna has beaten her arachnophobia.
'Maybe there's hope for me yet.'
-Where are the best places to look for them?
'Of course, in Australia,
'there are some species of spider you should always be wary of.
-Oh, I can see some web in here.
-NAOMI GASPS Oh, wow, look at that.
-That one is a redback spider.
-I know they're dangerous, aren't they?
They're one of the few dangerous spiders we have in Australia.
-That is the most dangerous spider ever.
-Could it kill you?
It can but no-one has died from a redback spider bite since 1956.
-So a long time, I have an anti-venom for it.
Redback spiders use their potent venom on prey like ants or lizards.
They build tangled webs with tripwires attached to the ground.
When an unfortunate victim blunders into the sticky trap, it fires,
snaring the prey, allowing the spider to move in and immobilise it.
If they feel threatened, then they are going to bite
so the best thing to do if you see a spider is just to leave it alone.
Most people get bitten when they're trying to get rid of the spider.
-She's really beautiful, isn't she?
I can't believe I'll say it but I actually really like this spider.
Even though it's really dangerous!
Let's put her back and look for some more spiders, shall we?
-There we go.
-You go back into your flower pot. Perfect.
This is a really good place to look for spiders
because there's lots of stuff flying around they like to hide behind.
-Little hidey-holes for them?
Let's just have a look behind here.
-Eeeh, eurgh! That is my ultimate... Oooh!
Oh, my word... Oh, my goodness gracious me.
-This is OK, it's just a huntsman spider.
-It's just a spider.
I'm bigger than the spider.
-It's just a huntsman.
-Are you putting it on your hand?
'For me, even getting near to a spider this size,
'let alone touching it, is a total nightmare.'
How do you just do that, let it just crawl on you?
-Come and have a look.
-NAOMI BREATHES HEAVILY
-Oh, that creeps me out.
-This is a male huntsman.
And he's got a very big leg span.
Good... So could this bite you?
-Yes, it could.
-And would this do you some damage?
Huntsman spiders are relatively harmless.
'In comparison to the tiny redback, the venom of the huntsman is weak
'as they're large and quick enough
'to chase down and grapple their prey.'
'But the question is am I brave enough to hold it?'
NAOMI BREATHES RHYTHMICALLY
-Have I got to try and hold it?
-Would you like to?
No, I wouldn't like to but...
Are you going to be brave? I'll help you.
Yeah. Is it going to run up my arm and on to my face?
Not on to your face.
If it runs up your arm, it'll probably settle on your back.
-But I'm here. I'm here to help you.
-OK, you'll rescue it and take it off?
Oh, what if it runs up my back? Ooh, no.
(Oh, my goodness. Right.)
-It's all right, you move your hand in front of mine so I don't...
Look at me, look at me holding a huntsman spider, I can't believe it!
-You're doing really well.
-You take it, you take it, you take it.
-I held it.
Arachnophobes. If we can do it, anyone can do it.
Well, to be honest I wouldn't want to find
ANY of these in my back garden.
I've met the giant monster huntsman that's actually
completely harmless and the tiny,
beautiful redback but that has the potential to kill me.
So I guess if I have to put one forward that'll be
my worst nightmare, it's going to have to be...
I'm a little bit confused about this next nightmare of nature.
I'm at the wildlife habitat in Port Douglas to meet Australia's
most iconic tree-dweller, the koala.
So what do I know about koalas?
They're cute, they're cuddly, they eat leaves.
How can a koala possibly ever qualify as a nightmare of nature?
Well, if anyone's going to know the answer to that question,
it's keeper Clare who's been working with koalas
for over 10 years.
-Oh, my goodness, Clare. Who have we got here?
-This is Sampson.
-Sampson's a nine-year-old male koala.
-Is he quite heavy?
-Quite heavy, yeah, around nine kilograms.
Koalas are obviously one of the most famous Australian animals.
People all over the world have heard of them. Why do you think
they're so special?
-I think there's no denying the fact they're exceptionally cute.
So they're not a bear, are they?
They're not a bear, they're totally unrelated to bears.
-What do they spend most of their time doing?
-They've got a good lifestyle.
-20 hours a day sleeping.
-20 hours of their day is fast asleep?
The reason for this lazy lifestyle is the koala's diet.
These fussy eaters favour eucalyptus leaves that are very
low in energy so the koala's make up for this by spending
most of their time fast asleep.
Might I be able to have a cuddle?
I've been looking forward to this.
-Right, I've got my hair out the way.
-He's not going to bite me, is he?
-No, he's not going to bite you.
OK. So if you make a nice little seat for him to sit on.
That is absolutely perfect. And just relax.
He's a pro at this.
Ooh, he's gripped straight onto me, oh, he's really heavy.
Oh, I didn't think he was going to be as heavy as this. Oh, my word.
-He's holding on to me.
-Yeah, totally. Is he?
-Cor, he does smell a bit.
-It's called the scent gland.
So I've heard that koalas are nightmares
but I can't figure out why. I mean, is it the smell?
Is he going to shoot laser beams out his eyes or something? What is it?
It's essentially the potential to be quite aggressive towards one another.
So koalas will fight
and generally speaking they'll only fight in the breeding season.
-And what do they fight over?
-They fight over the females.
Male koalas will often indulge in scraps for the right
to breed with a female.
And those bust-ups can be quite brutal.
Those powerful muscles and massive claws,
usually used for hanging out in the trees, can also be utilised
as fearsome weapons.
Although confrontations rarely end in serious injury,
being attacked by an angry koala, fighting for his girl, could well
qualify as a nightmare of nature.
He is gripping on tightly.
I can imagine if this was a grumpy koala
he could do me some serious damage with those.
It's actually quite painful. Those claws are strong and sharp.
Ow, ow, ow.
Oh, he's bitten me. He's just bitten me.
He just bit my arm.
Did you really?
He just bit my arm.
It was an uncommitted.
Yeah. He just gave me a little... I suddenly got all nervous of him.
-Oh, ho, ho.
Whoever would have thought I'd feel a bit nervous of a koala?
He's not used to me.
He's not used to having a camera stuck in his face.
He just gave me a little bite just to say oi,
I don't feel very comfortable.
So, koalas aren't as slow, sweet and gentle as some people think.
They can sometimes be a little bit bad tempered, they're very strong
and equipped with a ferocious set of claws and are a little bit smelly.
So, maybe, the koala could be my worst nightmare.
Oh, are we keeping you up?
Next I'm heading deeper into the jungle on the hunt for an animal
that has featured in many a tale of terror.
The real-life inspiration behind that classic creature of horror,
the vampire, bats have always been a source of frighten fascination.
There are over 1,000 species worldwide from tiny
micro-bats to massive mega bats.
But do they all deserve such an evil reputation?
If the stories are to be believed,
this animal has a terrifying appearance, possesses supernatural
powers to help it see in the dark and likes to feast on blood.
That screeching you can hear is actually a giant
colony of fruit bats, one of the largest species of bat on earth.
They roost up at the top of the trees in huge numbers.
Hence this racket. So we're setting up, we're going to see how close
we can get without spooking them.
Just see if these fruit bats really are the nightmarish,
ghoulish creatures of horror stories.
Awww. No. They're not.
They're really cute. Awww.
Fruit bats certainly don't look like a ghoulish nightmare.
In fact, with their doglike faces, they're often called flying foxes.
Oh, that one's got a little baby with it. Aww.
As their name suggests, they much prefer fruit and nectar to blood.
I can see why they're called flying foxes.
They've got long snouts, pointy ears and big beautiful eyes.
Unlike many bats, they navigate by sight rather than echolocation
so no supernatural powers either.
They do have one thing in common with other species of bat, though.
And that's the ability to fly.
I wonder what it would be like to fly through this dense forest...
Oh, ho, ho, ho.
Naomi, if you want to experience what it's like to
fly like a fruit bat, how about a spot of jungle surfing?
Zooming through the trees on a wire 20 metres above the forest floor?
I need to keep my gob shut.
Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho.
It's too high.
Obviously I can't fly so this is probably about as close as I'm
ever going to come to experiencing life as a fruit bat.
Let's go jungle surfing! Woo hoo.
Ha ha ha. Ah ha ha.
That was fast.
The wingspan of the largest fruit bats can be up to 1.8 metres.
They don't just use their wings for flight,
they also use them as a cloak
wrapping them around their bodies to protect them from the cold.
I'd love to demonstrate that with my arms
but I'm too scared to let go.
Like most bats, they like to hang upside-down when they're resting.
It's a great way to stay out of danger
and also very easy to get airborne because you simply let go.
I'm not going to do that bit.
So they're very cute, they don't drink blood,
they don't have supernatural powers.
I don't really think I can call fruit bats a nightmare of nature
but there is a blood-sucking monster living in this rainforest
and ironically the blood it's after belongs to the bats.
The fruit bats of northern Australia are under attack
from a lethal arachnid.
No bigger than your fingertip, the paralysis tick.
Once this unwelcome parasite has latched on,
it injects a toxin that paralyses its victim.
Not good if you live 20 metres above the ground like a fruit bat.
Once the ticks have found a bat, they feed for several days,
swelling to many times their original size
as they gorge on their unlucky host.
So the true blood-sucking nightmare of the story is not
a bad at all, it's a tiny but terrible tick.
I'm joining Jenny from the Tolga Bat Hospital on a rescue mission.
'We're scouring the forest floor in search of fruit bats
'that have succumbed to the ticks' toxin.'
Jenny, how many bats are affected by these ticks every year?
When we're really busy here, we get 50 adults a day
and 30 babies a day. NAOMI GASPS
'And it's not long before we find our first victim.'
-Ah, look. Here's one.
-Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Poor little thing.
So how long has she been like this, do you think?
Oh, she probably dropped last night. Trying to fly out.
Oh, poor thing.
It's heartbreaking, isn't it?
Yeah. There you go, sweetheart. There we go.
Let's see if we can help you. We're going to remove this tick now then?
-Yeah, we will.
-Let's get it off.
-Yeah. Come on, love.
-Will it only be one tick?
-Not necessarily, no.
-They can have more than one?
-Oooh, that's horrible.
Do you just remove them with your fingers?
Yeah, I keep two of my fingernails a little bit longer
during tick season.
-Tick removal fingernails!
-Tick removal fingernails.
And there it is.
Now it starts off just the little brown bit
and that grey is all engorged with blood.
-So that's what it's been feeding on?
That's right and that's quite a big tick.
Once the ticks have been removed the rescued bats are taken to
the Tolga Bat Hospital where Jenny
and her team of dedicated volunteers care for them around the clock.
And with 60 hungry orphans to feed, I'm more than happy to help out.
-And we're holding them upside-down, cos that's how he feels comfy.
Oh, I am falling in love with you, you're so cute.
It can take months for the bats to fully recover from the toxic attack
of the paralysis tick but once they do,
they'll return to a life in the wild.
There is no way anyone can call this a nightmare of nature
but a tiny tick that can drink its own weight in blood
until it's full to bursting
and injects a toxin completely paralyses you -
that definitely does stand a chance of being my worst nightmare.
HEAVY ROCK MUSIC
There is an animal hiding somewhere in this rainforest
that boasts some truly nightmarish credentials.
It's quite capable of killing a fully grown person,
it is big, it's strong, it's fast and it's heavily armed.
It's not a big cat, it's not a crocodile, it's actually...
Standing almost two metres tall,
the cassowary is one of the world's largest birds.
These giant flightless jungle dwellers rarely come into contact
with people but when they do, the results can be terrifying.
GRUNTS AND KARATE SHRIEKS
Cassowaries are armed with a set of huge clawed feet,
capable of inflicting serious or even fatal blows.
Finding these birds in their dense jungle habitat is tricky,
especially here in Australia where there are only thought to
be about 1,000 left to living in the wild.
But we've received a tip-off that there are several cassowaries
hanging out down as a caravan park of all places so we're
going to find out if the karate-kicking cassowary
really does deserve its nightmare reputation as a big, bad bird.
'To help me hunt down this elusive avian,
'I've enlisted the help of local guide Phil
'who's been tracking and spotting cassowaries for years.'
Right then, Phil,
what do you think our chances of finding a cassowary are today?
-I would say very good.
This is a very well-known spot to see them
so I think you've got the time, a bit of patience,
chances are really excellent.
Do you think they deserve their nightmarish reputation?
They can be dangerous, so you should always treat them with great respect.
It is a wild animal and it is potentially dangerous
but treat it with a bit of common sense,
shouldn't be a drama so hopefully it'll suit.
-I like that. "No drah-mas!"
-Bit Australian, No drah-mas.
'It's not long before we start to see clues
'that the cassowaries are nearby.'
-And this is a footprint?
-Yeah, sure is.
You can see it's got the three toes here.
I'm really surprised at the size of that, it's so big,
-it's like a dinosaur print.
-It certainly is.
A big, scaly, three-toed dinosaur footprint,
that's exactly what they're like.
-How fresh do you think this one is?
-I'd say that's this morning.
-Yeah, very fresh.
-With a bit of luck, yep.
Oh, there's one there!
Goodness me, they're enormous. Look at those feet.
Yeah, have a look at that inner claw when she comes close.
-They are monster feet, aren't they?
-So they've got huge power in those legs?
That 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?
Yes, they can jump maybe three or four feet
and they hit you in the chest and tug down, that's what happens.
Yeah, you can see when she stands up she can get some serious height.
She'd do that if she was feeling nervous, make herself big?
If alarmed, she'll stand upright and fluff out
so gets a third bigger in size.
What would should you do if a cassowary does that near you?
-You don't run away?
-No, don't run, just back off.
It's warning you.
-If you run, what would happen?
-It'll chase you.
Yeah, you don't want that cos it can run faster than you can.
'But as our cassowary heads into the caravan park,
'I'm beginning to suspect that these birds aren't the feathery fiends
'they're portrayed as.'
The people round here
certainly don't seem too worried by the bird's presence.
'With their size and power, they may be an intimidating animal
'but in reality, cassowaries will only resort to attack
'if they're threatened or defending their young.
'When they're simply foraging for food like this,
'they pose very little risk to us humans.'
The cassowary is widely considered to be the most dangerous bird
in the world but look at this one. As bold as brass, strolling along
the beach right next to all these families and nobody seems fazed.
After all, they are intelligent, inquisitive birds,
they make very caring parents and they will only attack
if they're provoked or feeling threatened.
However, having got this close to one
and seeing the size of those claws,
I think I'm always going to be wary of the cassowary.
So our trip to the jungles of northern Australia have
certainly produced some unusual and interesting nightmare contenders
but which jungle critter gave me the jitters the most?
Was it a spider invasion of the back garden?
Ooh hoo hoo hoo!
A surprisingly grumpy koala?
Oh, he's bitten me, he's just bitten me.
Hanging around upside down 20 metres above the forest floor like a bat?
Or the killer kick of the giant cassowary?
But the one that really made my skin crawl
was the toxic terror of the bloodthirsty paralysis tick.
Ooh, that's horrible.
That was definitely my worst jungle nightmare.
We're giving diluted milk initially...
Something just fell on my head which felt like poo.
-Is it probably bat poo? Eurgh!
Is it good luck to have a bat poo on your head, like a bird?
-Yes, yes, yes.
-Well, that's good!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd.