Naomi Wilkinson's quest to find nature's worst nightmares takes her to Thailand, where she meets the king of the jungle swingers, the gibbon.
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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.
Are they truly terrifying?
Or is there a twist in the tale?
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.
We love visiting the wildest corners of the world in this
series and they don't come much wilder that this.
This time, I'm on a jungle adventure in the spectacular
rainforests of Thailand.
6,000 miles from the UK, Thailand is a tropical paradise,
blessed with beautiful beaches and fantastically rich rainforests.
But have I come here to immerse myself in all things beautiful?
No! Of course, I haven't.
As ever, I've got to come face to face with some seriously scary
nightmares of nature that are sure to make me jump...
Getting too scary now.
..and scream. Ahhhh!
In this episode, I'll come face to face with a seriously
This snake is enormous.
I'll also experience the creepily claustrophobic
life of a female hornbill.
It's so hot in here.
And I'll have a close encounter with a rainforest giant.
You are incredible.
But first of all, time to get into the swing of things.
It's dawn, in Khao Yai National Park,
one of the richest remnants of rainforest in Thailand.
I'm heading out with biologist, Chanpen.
We're on the hunt for the king of the jungle swingers.
And it wasn't long before we heard their characteristic calls
ringing out over the forest.
-Yeah, we have to go this way.
All we had to do now, was follow them.
ANIMAL CRIES OUT
Those calls are so loud now. We must be really close.
Finally, we were.
It's here. It's here. It's here. I can see it.
I can see it. There is no mistaking that animal.
That is the king of the swingers, the gibbon.
They just look like soft cuddly toys up in the tree.
What could be a nightmare about these gorgeous animals?
These are all one species?
Yeah, only one species.
What species is that?
'White-handed gibbons come in all sorts of colours.
'And in this particular family, the baby has a black coat,
'like it's mum above,
'but its dad is dressed in white.'
They are so high up. They look so comfortable, don't they?
Just relaxed on a very thin little branch.
Just having a scratch.
'They've certainly got the right kit to hang on with.'
They are just all arms, aren't they?
Such long arms. They're ridiculous.
'Now the sun's up, the gibbons are starting to become a lot more active.
'But getting about up here requires some special skills.'
-Look at it swinging. He's swinging.
The little baby just did a swing. Ah.
They look at us.
Like a gymnast. That was amazing.
Doing the parallel bars.
'Gibbons are THE ground-defying gymnasts of the rainforest.
'Their long arms give them all the swing they need.
'Their wrists work like our shoulders, containing a ball
'and socket joint that can pivot at almost any angle,
'enabling them to twist and turn with astonishing speed.
'In fact, they can swing at speeds faster than we can run,
Whoa, check them out. They're swinging.
Cor. That makes me worried for them, watching them down here.
They are taking some serious risks. So how do they do that?
They have to do a lot of practice when they're young,
like, after two years old.
I mean, it looks terrifying.
Every time they leap, you think they could miss the branch.
Maybe exhilarating, but rather them than me.
"It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing, Naomi.
"You've got to live life like a gibbon
"and take to the canopy for an aerial challenge of the ape kind."
Well, monkey bars on the ground might be all right,
but 15 metres up?
That's a whole different ball game.
'For this challenge, I'd need all the help I could get.
'Just getting me into the tree safely required all sorts of
'kit and caboodle.
'But the one thing the team couldn't supply was courage.'
Good grief, this is high.
'That was down to me.'
Oh, don't look down, don't look down.
'The crew had rigged a line between two trees over 15 metres high.
'That's taller than a five story building.'
So you promise me that if I can't hold on like a gibbon
I can let go and I will be held?
You can just let go and you'll be held. Yep, absolutely.
See, the only reason I can do this
is because I have all this equipment on.
The gibbons don't have any of this
and then they just throw themselves at the next branch.
-I don't want to do it.
-Reach up to the rope.
-Yeah, up, up...
-Oh, I'm scared.
-Up to the green rope.
Pull yourself together.
-So, Naomi are you ready to have a try?
OK, let's give it a try.
'Whatever a gibbon can do, I can do, too.
'Well, maybe not.'
-Come on. One more.
Oh, if only I had wrists like gibbons. Ah!
'After a great start, my arms we're just burning.'
-Fantastic. Go on.
-Cannot look down.
Come on. Brilliant.
The tree is in sight.
'I was so close, but I just couldn't hang on any more.'
Aaah! I've got to let go.
-OK, let go.
-Sorry, sorry, sorry.
I was so nearly there.
'That was seriously tough. I just don't have the gibbon's skills.
'And after all that, there was only one place I wanted to be.'
Oh, am I glad to be back down on solid ground.
That was a nerve-shattering nightmare.
And that is why the gravity-defying life of a gibbon could well
swing into the lead as my worst nightmare.
I'm not even putting that on.
'Thailand's forests are some of the most wildlife-rich on earth,
'home to thousands of species of animal.
'And one of the most visible are its colourful birds.
'In the UK, we have 215 species of breeding bird,
'But in Thailand there are nearly 1,000.
'from the small and dainty
'to some real giants.
'And I'm off to meet one of the most impressive of all.'
This is a rhinoceros hornbill.
Isn't she magnificent?
They are one of Thailand's biggest birds,
and there's no doubting where they get their name.
Look at the size of that bill.
So what's this oversized beak all about?
Well, firstly, the obvious. They use it for feeding.
But it does have other roles, too.
The males use them in courtship, to entice the females
and it's also thought that that enlarged lump on the top,
called the casque, acts like a speaker, amplifying their calls,
so that helps them to communicate in the dense forest.
'Hornbills rely on rainforest,
'but the rainforest is just as reliant on these birds.
'They feed on the fruit of many of the forest trees,
'and being such a big and mobile bird
'helps to disperse the trees' seeds.
'They might be big and bold,
'but they have the most delicate features.'
You know you are.
So what could possibly be a nightmare about such an impressive,
beautifully coloured, fruit eating, seed planting, forest-friendly bird?
"They might be beautiful but their breeding behaviour is bizarre.
"So, it's time for you to experience the nesting behaviour
"of a female hornbill, stuck in her little tree hole."
Well, that shouldn't be a problem.
I'm quite good at getting in small spaces.
I've got to get in there?
'Hornbills spend a lot of time looking for a tree hole
'that is just the right size,
'and that's small.
'The female will then squeeze herself in
'and that's the start of a long and lonely vigil for her.'
Amazingly, the males and females then both start to block up
the entrance with mud and fruit pulp
and even poo, eugh,
until there is only a tiny gap left.
Now this is to stop predators like snakes entering
their nest and taking their eggs or chicks.
But, now that means the female is completely trapped
and she's utterly reliant on her mate to provide for her.
As am I!
Is it time for breakfast, guys?
Ooh, what have you got for me?
Gosh, she can't be fussy can she?
She's just got to eat whatever she's given.
That's quite nice. Thanks, male hornbill.
It's so hot in here.
Anything else for me?
Thank you. Thank you.
I really need a long, pointy beak
instead of a long, pointy nose that I've got.
This is gross. The poor female hornbill.
Hello, husband. What have you brought for me?
I can't eat that. It's going everywhere.
Is this what hornbills eat?
Oh, it's going everywhere. I missed.
It's going up my nose.
This is stupid.
I've only been in here a few minutes. I'm boiling.
I've got pins and needles in my feet. I'm covered in food.
Some female hornbills do this, can you believe it,
for up to five months!
No, thank you very much.
As much as I admire these magnificent birds
for their looks and their resilience,
their claustrophobically challenging nesting behaviour
could well squeeze onto that top spot of my worst nightmare list.
Is there anything else?
There's one more thing.
As they spend so long imprisoned,
it's not just food that has to be passed through the hole.
Ah! You are joking. That is disgusting.
I am not doing that. I've had enough. Get me out.
Let me out of here!
Keep your toilet roll.
Let me out! Arghhh! Please, somebody.
I don't want to be a female hornbill any more.
'Right. Having escaped from the box,
'it's time to head onto the highway to meet my next nightmare.
'I'm travelling west,
'on the trail of one of the most feared creatures in all Thailand,
'the largest venomous snake in the world,
'the king cobra.
'Growing as long as a giraffe is tall,
'king cobras are gigantic
'and potentially lethal.
'It's a fanged fiend with a deadly bite
'that specialises in hunting snakes.
'This is one seriously super-sized and scary serpent.
'I've met up with a man who's been studying cobras for many years.
'This is Colin...
'..and he just loves snakes.
'To study the movements of these animals and help protect them,
'Colin has implanted radio transmitters
'in a number of king cobras.
'He also catches them to make sure they're fit and healthy.
'And today he wants me to help give one of these giants a health check.'
So, this is a king cobra in the box and we're going to get it out?
Yeah, but it's sedated so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
All right. Sleepy snake coming out of a box.
Sleepy dangerous snake.
It's still awake.
Got decent head turn there.
-Are you ready?
'For everyone's safety,
'Colin must put a plastic hood over
'the cobra's head, whilst the staff give it more sedatives
'to make absolutely certain it's asleep before they start their work.'
Look. It's still awake. Its tongue's poking out.
It's still awake but it'll go down.
This snake is enormous.
Which end shall I...? I don't want to go up the head end.
-I'll stay down here.
-Shall I? If he's asleep.
-He's nearly asleep.
He's not dangerous at this point.
'With the snake finally asleep,
'Colin and his team can give him a full check over.
'First thing to do, find out exactly how long he is.'
What's the length?
So he's grown a little bit but not too much.
That's huge. Is that as big as they get?
No. Not at all. They can get up to 5.8 metres.
'And when disturbed,
'these giant snakes can put on an intimidating show.
'Capable of lifting one third of their body off the ground,
'they can go eye-ball to eye-ball with a man.
'They are one of the most feared animals in Thailand,
'for an obvious reason.'
You can go unconscious from the king cobra's
neurotoxin in about ten to 15 minutes.
And if you're not taken to a hospital
after that then you will surely die.
An adult male of five metres or so
maybe could inject enough to kill an elephant.
However they probably wouldn't.
They might run away.
'These snakes might be deadly,
'but they're just as afraid of us, as we are of them.
'It seems, to most, they are very misunderstood.'
Do you think their bad reputation is undeserved?
Definitely here in Thailand.
-Well, there are no records of king cobra here
in this area for the last five years.
And would you say they've got any redeeming qualities?
Do they have a softer side at all?
-We've seen males sheltering in the same shelter site together.
Females are the only snakes in the world to build a nest,
which is really amazing.
-That's really rare for a snake, isn't it?
Ah. I never knew they had a softer side.
'With the ticks removed and all the measurements taken,
'its health check is complete.'
-Shall we wake him up?
-Yep. The box is ready.
-You're going to wake it up?
-Would you like to try?
-I'm going to wake it up?
-Yeah. Well I'll cover the head if you just...
-What do I do?
-All you need to do is take a very, very deep breath.
We're going to put this in the glottis,
and you'll actually be able to see the fangs if you wish.
I'm going to breathe into a king cobra's mouth?
I'm looking right into his mouth. Wow.
OK, those are the fangs.
And you're putting that tube right into its mouth.
It's in its glottis, so where it breathes.
OK, and then you're just going to...
-I'm going to breathe into its mouth.
-Are we ready?
'You're never quite ready to give mouth-to-mouth to a snake
'with venom strong enough to kill an elephant.'
Excellent. OK, that's enough.
OK, push the iso out.
-Do I do it again?
And this time, try to push more
because you actually didn't fill up the whole lung.
More, more, more, more, more.
There you go.
See, you're starting to wake him up.
-Got a half tongue flick.
-I'm so nervous.
Look at his tongue. His tongue's nearly touching your chin.
OK. Definitely getting tone back.
-Guys, is the box ready?
-Yes, it's behind us.
OK. All right.
This could be one of the scariest things I've ever done.
Breathing into a king cobra's mouth?
What are we going to do when it's awake?
-Put it in the box?
-Put it in the box and send it back home.
Send it back home. That sounds nice, doesn't it?
OK, I've got movement.
'With the cobra waking up,
'the team waste no time getting it safely back in the box.'
-Yeah, I'm ready.
OK and one, two, three, go.
-Good, well done.
-Well done. Thank you so much for that.
'Time to let him come round, ready for his release back home.'
Right, then. Opha 015 has been given a perfect bill of health,
so it's time to let him go.
And Colin assures me this is often when they put on their best show.
'Colin releases all his snakes where he found them
'and this time, it's on some nearby farmland.
'This is typical cobra habitat,
'but even with all this activity,
'an irrigation ditch provides a perfect highway
'for them to move about.'
-Are you ready?
OK, keep him there.
So it's reared up with a hood.
Is that showing a sign of aggression?
That's a defensive response.
He's saying, "I'm not really happy that you're here,
"but I'm not about to attack you."
This is what you'd expect
if you'd just stumbled across one in the forest basking.
It would either do this or it would run off.
'And true to Colin's word, this timid giant didn't put up
'a fight, but raced off as fast as it could.'
Look how fast it moves. Check out it disappearing.
Look at the water.
Ah, look at it just snaking away.
Oh, that is wicked.
King cobra swimming off.
We can't even keep up with it.
-Still got visual?
-Yes, still going to...
The whole team want to see this,
because this is such a treat for them.
-There it is.
-Oh, man. That is amazing.
I forgive you for all your sins.
-That is great.
Oh, it's giving us a real treat today.
We should count ourselves very fortunate to be able to see this.
Well, the king cobra's credential really are the stuff of nightmares,
but on the other hand, they're devoted parents,
they don't want to be anywhere near us,
they are not necessarily as nasty as I first thought.
So, will it slither to the number one spot on the nightmares
of nature leader board?
'There is one very familiar animal in these Asian rainforests
'that when it's in the mood, can be the biggest nightmare of all.
'In Khao Yai National Park
'there's a population of about 100 wild elephants.
'They've been caught on camera causing absolute chaos.
'During the breeding season they enter a hormonal state called musth
'and in this sort of mood, they are truly terrifying.
So, I'm off to meet one now.
'On the edge of Khao Yai National Park
'is the Thai Elephant Centre of Conservation.
'And in charge of this place is Alongkot.
'And he wants to introduce me
'to someone who he says will have a big impression on me.
And here is an absolute beast.
She's enormous. My goodness.
Am I safe to approach her?
Come over here.
They are very safe. Don't worry.
-Come over here.
-Are you sure?
-Touch the elephant's trunk.
-This is not dangerous?
-I'm going to tell you lot about the elephants.
Touch them like this.
They are very calm, and very gentle female elephant.
It's such an imposing creature, isn't it?
It's so huge and yet so gentle.
This is a female, so I don't need to worry about this one being in musth?
Yes, don't worry. Only male in musth are very dangerous.
And we couldn't get this close?
You are beautiful. Hello.
-Her name is Kahmoon.
Kahmoon. She's around 50 years old.
-50 years old.
Wow. You are incredible.
How much does she weigh?
She's got 3,500 kilograms, approximately.
So she could really hurt me if she chose to?
Yes, of course. Especially her trunk.
They can push you and, you know, jump to be somewhere else.
But she's very calm.
I'm a bit overwhelmed standing next to such a large creature.
This is absolutely amazing.
-She's so content with us being here.
Now you're probably familiar with people using
elephants as working animals because they can carry massive things
and do a lot of hard work. They're like an animal version
of a bulldozer.
But Alongkot has started something remarkable here using not
an elephant's strength, but their incredible powers of empathy,
helping some very special children overcome their own nightmares.
'Most of these children have, sadly, lost their sight,
'and with that, their confidence.
'But Alongkot had this fantastic idea that meeting an elephant
'could transform their lives.
'They need to be brave,
'but it's the start of an encounter that these children
'will never forget.'
This takes real guts when you can't see.
At first you do feel quite scared, in awe of her.
But very soon, just like the children,
you realise that she is sensitive, an intelligent, a trusting creature.
These children might not be able to see how big she is
but they can certainly feel it
and get a sense that she isn't any threat at all.
'And it gives some of the children the confidence
'to do the extraordinary.'
I think she's going on its back.
She's having the time of her life.
'We all were.
'Meeting an elephant just makes you feel good.
'And from the looks on their faces,
'these children have overcome any fears that they might have had.'
Look at the smile.
Smiling so widely.
This elephant has got no reason to let us pet, stroke or hug her
and yet she does and it is having a profound effect.
What an amazing animal.
What an amazing project.
They might be a nightmare when the males are in musth,
but right now I couldn't feel more relaxed.
The Asian elephant is definitely NOT my worst nightmare.
My humid adventures in the tropical paradise of Thailand
are drawing to a close.
But which nightmare has left me sweating the most?
Was it my extremely close encounter with that super-sized snake,
the king cobra?
This could be one of the scariest things I've ever done,
breathing into a king cobra's mouth.
Or perhaps, the suffocatingly cramped life of a female hornbill
will squeeze into top spot.
It's so hot in here. Let me out.
No, it was none of those.
My worst nightmare, without a shadow of a doubt,
was my high-rise, gravity-defying gibbon swing
that had me clinging on for dear life.
Good grief, this is high.
So while we're out searching for gibbons,
we keep coming across this little nightmare of nature, the leech.
They are everywhere.
We keep finding them on our shoes and trousers
and if you don't find them quick enough,
this is the result.
Naomi Wilkinson's quest to find nature's worst nightmares takes her to the tropical paradise of Thailand. She meets the king of the jungle swingers, the gibbon, before trying her own swinging skills on a death-defying rainforest assault course, has a close encounter with a real forest giant, the Asian elephant, gives mouth-to-mouth to a king cobra, the largest venomous snake in the world, and experiences the creepily claustrophobic life of a female hornbill, imprisoned in a tiny nest hole for months at a time.