Baja Naomi's Nightmares of Nature


Baja

Naomi Wilkinson travels across Mexico's Baja California peninsula, where she has a stand-off with a blood-spurting reptile and takes a dip with a shark.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Welcome to my Nightmares of Nature.

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I'm Naomi Wilkinson.

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Woo-hoo!

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And I'm coming face to face with the nightmares of the animal world.

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The ones that make your spine tingle,

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your heart beat faster

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and your blood run cold.

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Are they truly terrifying?

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Or is there a twist in the tail?

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Come with me as I shine a light on wildlife's deepest, darkest secrets

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and see if you can guess which will be my worst nightmare.

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Howdy, partners!

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This time Nightmares of Nature has come to the Wild West -

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the deserts of western Mexico to be precise!

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But not just the deserts - around this sea of sand is some of the

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richest coastline in the world.

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Rich with monsters and brigands.

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So between sea-faring swashbucklers and outlaws of the outback,

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there's plenty of villainous vermin in these here parts

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to add to my most wanted list!

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The sands and seas we'll be traversing

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form Mexico's Baja peninsula.

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I'll be standing off against a diminutive desert sharp-shooter...

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..paddling my way into a den of local pirates...

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Har-har!

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..and digging up some cuties, trapped in a nightmare of their own.

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What a privilege to hold a brand new baby animal.

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But first, I'm setting sail in search of a sea monster

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of truly epic proportions.

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There is a creature here, in the waters off Baja

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that dwarfs every other animal we have ever featured

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on Nightmares of Nature. It's bigger than any big cat,

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larger even than an elephant!

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Oh yeah...and it's a shark.

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The whale shark is named after

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those massive marine wanderers, the whales,

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and it's easy to see why.

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At 12 metres long, they're the size of a double-decker bus.

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Weighing in at over 12,000kilos,

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they're heavier than a bus, too.

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Oh yes -

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and their mouth is nearly as wide

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as I am tall.

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Any animal built on this sheer scale is bound to be intimidating,

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but when you throw into the mix that it's a shark,

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a species which doesn't have the best of reputations,

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I reckon it is a 100% guaranteed nightmare.

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I'm reliably informed that, at this time of year,

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the Sea of Cortez here is one of the best places on earth

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to see whale sharks.

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This said, finding anything at sea,

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even the world's biggest shark, can be tricky.

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So to help me with the search is marine biologist Claudia.

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The size of a bus! A shark the size of a bus.

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SHE GASPS

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So Claudia, why do the whale sharks come to this area of the world?

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They come here to eat.

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They feed on very tiny creatures called plankton

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and we have a lot of that in here.

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That's a real surprise, isn't it, because it's such massive creature,

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but they're eating something you can't even see.

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They have to eat millions and millions of them

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to be able to make out for a big meal.

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They just swim through the water, filtering everything that's in it

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and they have to take huge amounts of water

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so they need that huge mouth.

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Does it have teeth?

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They do have teeth, like 300 of them, but very tiny.

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Now how know we're not going to go into that mouth and get sucked in?

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Don't worry about it. They are not after humans.

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There's never been a record of an attack.

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Good to know! Good to know!

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Now we just have to find one.

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There are a couple of ways to, erm, "spot" them -

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one is the white spots all over their body.

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The pattern can be used to tell individual sharks apart,

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like a fingerprint.

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The other clue to their presence is...less appealing.

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Also, the dorsal fin.

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You'll see the big fin come out of the water?

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It's rounded. So it's not like their normal...

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Jaws...shark...shape.

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-No. It's round.

-A round fin.

-Yeah.

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'Our eyes are peeled,

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'but I can't resist trying out my whale-shark whispering technique.'

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That's how you call them, you know. People that know.

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Come on! Come on, whale shark!

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'But it's Claudia who comes up with the goods.'

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Oh, no, here. 2 o'clock, here - Naomi.

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Oh, my gosh, I can see the shape! SHE GASPS

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That's enormous!

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Whoa!

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I can see the white spots...

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There's its, there's its fin!

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Oh, REALLY round, then!

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It's still the shape of a shark though, isn't it?

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It's still a big, shark-looking fish.

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Oh, gosh!

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'At "only" seven metres long, this one's just a juvenile,

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'but it's still MASSIVE!'

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'Oh, yeah and if you haven't already guessed from the wetsuit,

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'I'm going to swim with it.'

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Oh, my legs have gone like jelly.

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I'm going to hold your hand so tightly!

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Don't worry about it, we'll be holding hands.

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Yeah, I'm going to grip onto you for dear life!

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'It's time to grab our masks and snorkels

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'and join the behemoth in its watery world.'

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It's such a mental battle -

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I know this shark is going to do me no harm whatsoever

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but my gut is screaming, "It's a shark, it's a shark, you're scared!"

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but my head's going, "No, it's fine, you'll be safe, stop worrying."

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And I want to grab this opportunity with both hands so...

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Come on!

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One... two...

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three!

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'The water is dark and murky.

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'It's impossible to tell what's around us.

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'Where is the shark?'

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'Then suddenly, out of the gloom...

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'It is, in fact, beautiful.

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'An elegant giant.'

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'Then, as gracefully as it appeared, it glides away.

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'What an absolute privilege.'

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I got in the water and it was there!

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Its head was there,

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and then the whole creature just swam past me, about a metre away,

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and I saw all along its body.

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That was amazing!

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OK, so despite its epic size,

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it seems that the whale shark is really a gentle giant

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just cruising through the currents, looking for microscopic morsels.

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So, I never thought I'd ever say this,

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but I don't think I can call a bus-sized shark

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with a gigantic mouth and over 300 teeth, my worst nightmare!

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It's time to head inland now...

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to the dusty desert...

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..where I can have myself a little Wild West adventure!

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If you're heading off road around here,

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there really is only one way to travel. It's time to...

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(IN AMERICAN ACCENT) Saddle up, partners!

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Right.

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Vamos!

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HORSE GRUNTS

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SHE CHUCKLES

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Go.

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How do you say 'giddy up' in Spanish?

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SOUND OF HORSE SNORTING

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'Horses are one of the most enduring images of the Wild West.

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'They're more versatile than any four-wheel drive vehicle,

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'and a lot prettier, too!'

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Come on, boys. keep up!

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But this beautiful, hardy beast is not the animal

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I've come here to see.

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I'm on the trail of a sharp shooting, cold blooded. culprit.

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SOUND OF PISTOL BEING COCKED

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SOUND OF GUNSHOTS

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This place isn't called the Wild West for nothing.

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It is hostile out here. There are venomous predators,

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extreme temperatures... Even the plants are prickly!

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'Any animal that can survive the Mexican desert has to have a

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'few secret survival skills up its sleeve.'

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So, what nightmare ability does this little guy have to stop him

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from becoming a tasty snack for a bird or a snake?

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'For starters,

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'this tiny, pencil-sized reptile has camouflage.'

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'It's colour makes it extremely hard to pick out

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'in a dusty, rocky landscape.'

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As you may have guessed, because I'm happy to do this,

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the horned lizard doesn't have razor sharp teeth or a venomous bite.

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What it does have are these rather impressive horns

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at the rear of its head, hence its name.

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It also has these bumpy, spiky spines all along its body and tail.

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As well as acting like a suit of armour, this also makes

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the lizard very difficult to swallow,

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a bit like trying to eat a cactus.

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'And if that's not enough to keep it off the menu, it can also

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'puff up its body to make itself look larger, twice it's usual size!'

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Now, these are all very clever survival skills,

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but they're not really nightmare material.

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However, it does have one more,

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quite frankly disgusting trick up its sleeve, that propels this

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little desert dweller straight into the big league

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of natural nightmares, because, believe it or not,

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the horned lizard's last line of defence is to fire blood...

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from its eye!

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'Yes, you heard that right!'

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'It might sound like the stuff of horror films,

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'but these reptilian sharpshooters

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'can fend off persistent predators...'

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SQUISHING SOUND

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'..by showering them in a stream of red, sticky terror.'

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SQUISHING SOUND

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SOUND OF DOG GROWLING

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SOUND OF DOG WHINING

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'A stand off with a horned lizard must be a bit like getting

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'a face full of hot tomato sauce!'

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Hm!

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HARP GLISSANDO

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MUSIC: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly by Ennio Morricone

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SHE GASPS

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Oh!

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That's quite nice, actually!

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HARP GLISSANDO IN REVERSE

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'All right for me, but the horned lizard's victims

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'face blood, not ketchup.'

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Usually, the sheer shock will see an attacker fleeing for the hills,

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but that blood is also foul tasting and irritating

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if gets into the nose or mouth. Vile!

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'To achieve this remarkable defence, the lizard increases

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'the amount of blood in its head...'

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'..until the pressure ruptures vessels in the corner of its eye,

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'sending out the high-speed jet.'

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'One species can even fire half of all the blood in its body

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'in a single shot!'

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SOUND OF DOG GROWLING

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'Obviously, a rather desperate act,

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'but you have to admit, it's a pretty good one!'

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Well, I think it's fair to say that here in the Wild West,

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it doesn't get much wilder than an animal that can aim

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and fire a jet of blood out of its eye,

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which means that these sharp-shooting, gory gunslingers

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could certainly be in with a chance of being my worst nightmare.

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SPIRITED ORCHESTRAL MUSIC

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'Time to flee the nightmares of the Baja desert

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'and head offshore again, this time for an adventure on the high seas!'

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The waters up ahead have a reputation

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of being pirate territory.

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Rumours abound that somewhere along this stretch of coastline,

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there is actually an entire colony of brutal brigands.

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But to spot this particular bunch seafaring swashbucklers,

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we're not scanning the horizon, we're scanning the skies.

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Frigatebirds are often referred to as the pirates of the sky.

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They're even named after the speedy,

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manoeuvrable warships used by 17th century pirates.

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But why is this?

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I'm off to investigate.

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Har-har!

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Just spotting our first frigatebirds up in the air now.

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Don't they look striking?

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Long, jagged, angular wings, big, long deeply forked tail

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just cruising in the air.

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'The wingspan of the males can be over two metres.'

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'That's about as wide as your average sofa!

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'It soon becomes clear that we're heading

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straight into the pirates' lair!'

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These mangrove swamps are an ideal place for nesting birds.

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They're remote and they're inaccessible, so it gives them

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a safe and secure spot, ideal for laying low

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while you raise your young.

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'Stowed away in this nesting site are 1,200 adult pirates

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'and their chicks.'

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I really want to get in for a closer look, but just like the pirates

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of old, I'm going to need a smaller, more manoeuvrable vessel.

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FRIGATEBIRDS CLUCK

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'Keeping me safe in these dangerous waters is local guide Jose.'

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Well, this is giving us a pretty good view of the activity.

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There's a lot going on here.

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So, some of them have got bright red markings. What are they?

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Those are the males, and that is the gular pouch.

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And what do they use those pouches for?

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These pouches to attract the female.

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They inflate them, and then they clap their bills onto it,

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and it sounds like a drum.

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And then they show it off by lifting their head back?

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Yeah, they put their wings up and then they just go...

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HE PURRS RAPIDLY

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FRIGATEBIRD CALLS

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-Check me out!

-Yeah, yeah.

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FRIGATEBIRDS CLUCK

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-And the ladies think that's cool?

-Yeah, it's all about the beat.

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(LAUGHING) All about the beat!

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SHE LAUGHS

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I like it.

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That one has one chick.

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You can see the little white fluff.

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-Is that a new chick?

-Yeah, that's a new chick.

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-That's a very early chick for the season.

-Ahhh!

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So, how old do you think that one is?

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That one has to be a few days old.

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Oh! Hello!

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Hello, little frigatebird!

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And the one that is sitting on the nest is a male.

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Ah! So, the male's looking after it.

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The male and the females will feed the chicks from hatching

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for three months, and then the male takes off, and the female

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will keep on feeding that chick for another eight or nine months.

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-That's a long time.

-That's a long time.

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-They make good parents.

-Yeah.

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'So, if they're such soft,

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'sentimental birds, how have they got such a bad reputation?'

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Frigatebirds are often associated with pirates, aren't they?

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-Yes, they are.

-Why is that?

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I think it's because they steal fish from other birds,

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just like pirates. They chase the bird until the bird

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either lets go or regurgitates, vomits, the fish

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that is inside the stomach.

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They'll make another bird puke up the fish,

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-and then they'll eat it mid-air?

-Yep.

-Oh!

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'Yep, those pesky pirates grab their victims in mid flight

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'and torment them...'

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'..until they can no longer hang onto the contents of their bellies.'

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'Disgusting!'

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'But there's a very simple reason why frigatebirds

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'can't dive for their own fish.'

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'If they did. they would die.

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'Although they're seabirds, their feathers don't have

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'the protective, oily coating that other seafaring species do.'

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-They're not waterproof?

-No.

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-They just get all waterlogged?

-Yep.

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I bet they're really fed up about that.

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SHE CHUCKLES

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They're like, "We're birds, we live out at sea,

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"and we're not waterproof."

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'So instead, they have to cruise the surface of the water,

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'snatching unsuspecting floating fish with their pirate's hook.'

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'I mean, beak.'

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'And if that's all too much like hard work...'

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'..then they'll resort to their mischievous marauding methods.'

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-They only do it 10% of the time, though.

-OK.

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Yeah. So, they have bad reputation.

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Well, it's a pretty nasty characteristic.

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-Yeah!

-To be fair.

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'And they don't just raid other seabirds for treasure.

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'They'll even swipe food and nesting material off each other!'

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I think if I was a frigatebird, I'd go live over there,

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away from the others!

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SHE LAUGHS

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FRIGATEBIRDS SQUEAL

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So, the frigatebirds may seem very regal with their beautiful red

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markings and that majestic wingspan,

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but those good looks hide a much darker side,

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one that involves intimidation, violence and theft,

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just like the pirates of old.

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So, I'd say these buccaneering birds have got a very good chance

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of stealing my worst nightmare booty!

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Har-har!

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SOUND OF FRIGATEBIRD CHIRPING

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'I'm back on dry Baja land.'

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But only just...

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..because my final nightmare lives between land and sea.

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A good excuse for me to have a bit of beach time.

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My next animal is slow moving, it doesn't have sharp teeth

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or claws, and it's known throughout the world for its gentle

0:19:540:19:57

and placid behaviour. Not your typical nightmare of nature!

0:19:570:20:01

But there is something mysterious happening to this creature,

0:20:010:20:04

that is very scary indeed.

0:20:040:20:06

Sea turtles are among the most ancient animals on the planet.

0:20:080:20:13

They've been around for over 200 million years,

0:20:130:20:16

and have outlived the dinosaurs!

0:20:160:20:18

But numbers of these sea-dwelling survivors

0:20:210:20:24

are dropping all over the world...

0:20:240:20:26

..placing them at risk of extinction.

0:20:270:20:30

So, what is going on?

0:20:300:20:32

'To find out more, I'm joining a group of children

0:20:390:20:42

'from a local wildlife conservation group.'

0:20:420:20:44

'This greenhouse is full of thousands

0:20:460:20:48

'of olive ridley sea turtle eggs.'

0:20:480:20:50

Hi!

0:20:520:20:53

Hi!

0:20:530:20:55

What is going here?

0:20:550:20:57

Where did these turtles come from?

0:20:570:20:59

From the mum of turtles.

0:20:590:21:01

SHE CHUCKLES

0:21:010:21:02

Ask a silly question!

0:21:020:21:04

'The "mum of turtles" laid her eggs on a nearby beach,

0:21:050:21:09

'then the conservation group collected them

0:21:090:21:12

and moved them into this greenhouse.'

0:21:120:21:14

So, why do you do that?

0:21:140:21:16

Because it's really cold right now, so we're trying to save them,

0:21:160:21:19

for they have more chance to live.

0:21:190:21:23

So, they need it to be hot to be able to hatch?

0:21:230:21:27

Yes.

0:21:270:21:28

'Sea turtles can't breathe underwater,

0:21:310:21:34

'so lay their eggs on land, hundreds at a time.'

0:21:340:21:37

'The eggs stay under the sand for up to two months,

0:21:400:21:44

'then the hatchlings break out and dig their way

0:21:440:21:47

'up to the surface.

0:21:470:21:49

'But if the sand is too cold,

0:21:490:21:51

'the turtles die before even making it out of their eggs.'

0:21:510:21:55

'This greenhouse has been keeping over 7,000 eggs warm,

0:22:040:22:08

'and today, they're ready to hatch.

0:22:080:22:11

'So, it's time to dig them up and help them

0:22:110:22:14

'get to the sea, where they belong.'

0:22:140:22:16

So, are you telling me there are baby turtles under here right now?

0:22:160:22:20

Yeah.

0:22:200:22:22

You've got one! You've got one! Let me see that tiny little...

0:22:220:22:25

SHE GASPS

0:22:250:22:27

Oh, my goodness me. That is the cutest thing I think I've ever seen.

0:22:270:22:31

Aw! Hello, brand-new turtle!

0:22:310:22:34

What can I call you? Shall I call you Leonardo?

0:22:340:22:37

SHE CHUCKLES

0:22:370:22:38

Michelangelo?

0:22:380:22:39

You look like a Donatello to me. Ah!

0:22:390:22:42

What a privilege to hold a brand-new baby animal.

0:22:430:22:46

-How big will this turtle get?

-About this big.

0:22:470:22:51

-Wow!

-Yeah.

0:22:510:22:53

That's even smaller!

0:22:530:22:55

-Yeah...

-Ahhh! Look at you, cutie!

0:22:550:22:57

'This tiny turtle is fresh out of its egg,

0:22:590:23:02

'and hasn't even had a chance to roll around in the sand yet.'

0:23:020:23:05

How long does it take each turtle to hatch?

0:23:070:23:09

-A couple hours.

-Couple of hours.

0:23:090:23:11

They start biting the shell, and then they do it with the flippers.

0:23:110:23:16

'The toasty greenhouse means these hatchlings have avoided

0:23:180:23:22

'nightmare number one, the cold.

0:23:220:23:24

'So, are their nightmares over?

0:23:240:23:27

Faith, I'm supposed to be looking for nightmares of nature.

0:23:270:23:31

What is the problem for these turtles?

0:23:310:23:33

They're having a nightmare.

0:23:330:23:35

They face predators like birds, fish, dogs...

0:23:350:23:39

-So, they're having a real battle...

-Yeah.

0:23:390:23:41

..trying to get out of their nest and then trying to get to the sea.

0:23:410:23:45

Mm-hm.

0:23:450:23:47

'Newly hatched sea turtles, once out of their sandy nest,

0:23:470:23:50

'must head for the sea.

0:23:500:23:52

'But they have to get to it first, via a perilous journey

0:23:520:23:57

'across the beach.'

0:23:570:23:59

'Birds, foxes, crabs, fish, they are all waiting in the wings

0:24:060:24:10

'to snap up one of these little guys.'

0:24:100:24:12

'The trouble is, once in the water, their nightmare still doesn't end.'

0:24:180:24:23

'And that's partly...

0:24:250:24:27

'because of us.'

0:24:270:24:28

'Many sea turtles accidentally get tangled up in fishermen's nets.'

0:24:320:24:36

'Some get eaten by people with a taste for turtle or their eggs.'

0:24:380:24:43

'Others die from eating our floating rubbish,

0:24:450:24:48

'or are poisoned by our chemicals.'

0:24:480:24:50

'Thankfully, though, these humans are making up for it.

0:24:530:24:57

'In the last year, the conservation group has seen over 5,000 turtles

0:24:570:25:02

'safely into the waves, and now it's time to release

0:25:020:25:05

'our little olive ridleys back into the wild.'

0:25:050:25:09

-Do you think they're excited?

-Yeah!

0:25:090:25:11

They're like, "Yes! I'm going to be fine!"

0:25:110:25:13

'Sea turtles make their beach getaway at dusk,

0:25:150:25:18

'as it's harder for predators to spot them.

0:25:180:25:21

'But we'll be looking out for this turtle team tonight.'

0:25:210:25:25

Good luck, little guys!

0:25:250:25:26

Off you go!

0:25:280:25:29

Go, go, go!

0:25:310:25:32

Hee-hee-hee!

0:25:340:25:35

Be free!

0:25:360:25:37

Swim for your life!

0:25:370:25:39

Go on, go on!

0:25:420:25:43

Look how much he's trying.

0:25:430:25:45

How long will it be until these turtles return to a beach

0:25:470:25:50

-to lay their own eggs?

-In about ten years they'll come back

0:25:500:25:53

-and lay some eggs.

-So, we won't see these for ages!

0:25:530:25:56

Don't the females come back to the beach where they were born?

0:25:580:26:01

-Yes.

-That's a cool fact, isn't it?

-Mm-hm.

-I love that.

0:26:010:26:04

Do you find it sad to see them go?

0:26:110:26:13

A little bit, but we know they're going to be safe in the water.

0:26:130:26:17

They're going to be in their home.

0:26:170:26:19

So, it's a sad but a happy feeling,

0:26:190:26:21

-cos you'll know they'll have a better life out there.

-Yeah.

0:26:210:26:25

-And you've done a great job today!

-Yeah!

0:26:250:26:28

Bye, little turtles!

0:26:290:26:31

Good luck! Have a fantastic life!

0:26:310:26:34

Just keep swimming!

0:26:350:26:37

It'll come as no surprise that sea turtles are not going to be my

0:26:440:26:48

worst nightmare. Us human beings on the other hand, with our pollution

0:26:480:26:52

and over-fishing, definitely do qualify as a bit of a nightmare.

0:26:520:26:55

But it is great to know that so much hard work is going on to save

0:26:550:26:59

these gentle and placid creatures,

0:26:590:27:01

so hopefully they'll be around for another few million years.

0:27:010:27:05

Sadly, it's time to bid farewell to beautiful Baja,

0:27:100:27:14

but before we go, which animal going to be my worst Wild West nightmare?

0:27:140:27:18

Was it the whopper-sized whale shark with its mega mouth?

0:27:180:27:21

I saw all along its body.

0:27:220:27:25

That was amazing!

0:27:250:27:27

Or the pirates of the sky, the feisty frigatebird?

0:27:270:27:31

-They'll make another bird puke up the fish?

-Yep.

0:27:310:27:34

Oh!

0:27:340:27:36

Well, this time, there really is no contest,

0:27:360:27:38

because my worst Mexican nightmare just has to be the blood spurting,

0:27:380:27:43

eye popping, desert desperado, the horned lizard.

0:27:430:27:47

Yuck!

0:27:470:27:48

SQUIRTING SOUND

0:27:480:27:49

Or the pirates of the sky, the feisty frigatebirds.

0:27:530:27:57

What are you doing?

0:27:570:27:59

What every...

0:27:590:28:00

SHE LAUGHS

0:28:000:28:02

(LAUGHING) Oh, no!

0:28:070:28:09

Naomi Wilkinson travels across the sands and seas of Mexico's Baja California peninsula in search of her worst Nightmares of Nature. She has a Wild West stand-off with a blood-spurting reptile, takes a dreaded dip with a shark the size of a bus, and an adventure on the high seas leads to an encounter with some pesky pirates of the sky and their truly terrible table manners.


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