Naomi Wilkinson continues her global search for nightmares of the natural world. This time she heads deep into the rainforests of Borneo.
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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.
This time, I am really heading off the beaten track,
into the heart of one of the oldest and richest
rainforests in the world, on the tropical island of Borneo.
'Borneo is the third-largest island in the world,
'lying in the heart of the South China Sea, in South East Asia.
'And I'm venturing up north, to the Malaysian state of Sabah.'
If there is one place that really puts the fear into me,
They are full of biting bugs and all sorts of scary beasts.
'In my mind' behind every leaf,
'there lucks a potential eye-popping terror.
Argh. I'm going to have to be brave,
cos I know I'm going to be facing some of my worst-ever nightmares.
'I bump into a brute of a bear with a serious bite...
There, she just ripped that open. That is scarily impressive.
'..the crew give me the creeps with a nocturnal bug bonanza...
'..and I meet an iconic animal facing a nightmare of its own.'
Are you having fun?
'But first of all, I'm meeting up with a man
'with a real head for heights.
'This is Tim.
'And he's a climbing and caving expert,
'who's visited Borneo many times.
'But he's not here to show me the creatures up in the canopy.
'He's going to be my guide on a heart-stopping underground adventure,
'an abseil into one of the biggest caves in the world.'
OK, well, this is, this is it.
Whoa. That is an ominous big black hole.
Down the bottom, there's one of the biggest chambers,
cave chambers, in the world.
-So, this is only a small part of it?
-This is only a small part of it.
I can't see the bottom.
Oh, my word.
'This is Simud Hitam,
'part of the world-famous Gomantong cave system.
'And to abseil safely into this ginormous cavern
'requires all sorts of equipment.
'But in this particular cave, it is not just ropes that we need.'
I was expecting a harness. What is this?
-This is a suit and it's got elasticated...
..elasticated wrists and elasticated ankles.
What do I need this for?
It's a bit of protection.
Are there bugs down there?
'Looks like the nightmares are going to come thick and fast.
'Not only have I got to drop 100m straight down,
'I need a suit to protect me from what's waiting at the bottom.
'But for now, I've got something worse to contend with.
'Going over the edge!'
Good job. Keep your legs straight. That's great.
-Straight legs, straight legs.
-Straight legs. That's lovely.
-Oh, I'm scared.
-OK, hold it there.
'And one look at the hole below me takes my breath away.'
Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.
What do I do now?
Now, we are now...
That is so impressive.
This is crazy. It's like a film set.
That is such an impressive sight.
-I've never seen anything like it.
-It's a long way down, isn't it?
All the light streaming through. That's amazing.
Here, we are about 80m.
Oh, just hanging precariously at the top.
Yeah. Like a spider on a thread.
'And we are dangling alongside
'some of the cave's own high-rise residents.'
And we are right by some little birds' nests.
-What birds are these?
-Yes, these, these are cave swiftlets
and they build these little nests on the wall.
It's to stay away from predators.
'But it isn't just swiftlets that call this place home.'
Over there in that dome,
those are bats
and there are more bats in here than there are swifts.
There's a million swifts and there's two million bats.
-A lot of life here, then?
'But I am about to discover there is a downside to this
'being such an attractive home.'
With all these bats in here,
they do produce a lot of waste
and I'm just going to turn you round a bit
because over there is the biggest pile of bat poo in the world.
That is bat poo?
That is all bat poo and the only way out now is just to keep
going down, so we've got to go down to it.
Into it and the additional thing is, it is seething with insects.
'This thick layer of bat poo has attracted the most unbelievable
'mass of revolting creepy-crawlies and cockroaches
'you could ever imagine.
'An ever-shifting skin of yuk,
'spread right across the cave floor.'
Oh, how nice.
That's why we are wearing the suits.
Thank goodness we are wearing a suit. Oh, dear.
Are you sure we can't go back up?
'I thought I was brave just doing the abseil.
'Now I have to contend with this nightmare, as well.'
'Heart-thumping abseil over.
'Now for the next part of my cavernous nightmare.'
Stupendous, isn't it?
Now, when you get close,
-you start to realise...
-It's all moving!
That whole thing is moving.
Oh! Look at it on there. Look on the side there.
'Utterly revolving and Tim wants me to take an even closer look.'
We are going to cross here.
This is not my favourite place now.
This is stunning.
-It's not the word I'd use!
..seething mass of cockroaches.
What are they all doing?
They are all eating the poo
and eating the stuff that's in it.
They haven't eaten very much.
Ha-ha. I wonder how big it would be if they weren't there.
So, it's all a sort of big web.
The birds go out during the day and catch insects
and then come in and poo.
The bats go out at night and catch insects and come in and poo
and it all falls here,
and then, these insects eat it all
and then there is other things that eat them.
This is a lot of people's worst nightmare, isn't it?
It is, yes!
Argh! I'm on the poo!
That is going to give me nightmares tonight.
I've never seen anything like it.
Wow. It's totally horrible.
Ew! Look at that!
Oh, it's like a horror film.
This is just awful.
They're everywhere. They're crawling all over me.
I did enjoy that abseil, but this is disgusting.
A giant pile of bug-infested bat poo.
This is right up there as one of my worst nightmares ever.
Time to get out of here.
'In the forest of Borneo,
'animals have found a myriad of ways to make a living.
'Some use stealth...
'..but sometimes, what you need is power.'
They might not look it, but this is a type of grass.
A very strong type of grass.
Weight for weight, it is stronger than concrete and steel.
Ooh. I give up. I can't do it.
But there is an animal living in these forests that can smash
it to smithereens.
'This is Wong and he runs a sanctuary for this particular animal.
'By hiding food inside bamboo, he is mimicking what these animals
'would have to do to find food in the wild.'
Treats are set. Let's see if this works.
'Now we all need is the performer.'
I can hear some leaves moving...
There, there, there. See, gleams of black object?
They have smelt the food, for sure.
These are sun bears
and when you think of bears, you probably think of the grizzlies
in North America, but there are many different species across the world.
Here in the rainforests of Borneo, it's this one.
But like any bear, they are built like bulldozers.
'They are not just immensely powerful.
'Equipped with a set of lethal,
'dagger-like claws over 10cm long
'and teeth the size of a tiger's,
'these bears have weapons that would give anyone nightmares.
'But why are they called sun bears?'
Do you see their chest patch?
-The chest patch
come in all different kinds of shapes and patterns,
including the shape that looks like eclipse sun or upside-down sun.
How powerful are they?
They are very powerful.
-They pretty much can chew through everything in the forest.
Here it comes.
Time to see it in action.
He's coming straight for the food.
Look at this.
Yeah, she's going to get it.
Smell that out straight away,
knows there is something inside.
How is she going to get to it?
Ah, starting to use her teeth now.
Look, she just ripped that open.
That is scarily impressive.
She popped it open - pop - like a Christmas cracker.
30 seconds, is it?
You see how strong is the bamboo and yet, for them, it is like nothing.
Yeah, there's your treat.
Why do they need to be able to chew through such thick wood?
Because they are full inside those sticks of wood.
They look for honey.
Bees have honey, so whenever they find a bee hive,
although it is inside a hardwood tree trunk,
they will still rip apart, chew, chew, and get the honey eventually.
-So it's a combination of claws and teeth?
-They stick it in.
Yeah, I wouldn't want to encounter a grumpy one by mistake.
-That would be quite scary.
'Wong decides to up the ante, to demonstrate these bears'
'cracking skills using coconuts.'
If you have ever tried to crack open a coconut,
you'll know just how difficult this is.
So this... Yeah, making light work of that.
Here we go.
-Yeah, she is cracking it now.
-Oh, and the juice has come out.
Could do with a sun bear in my kitchen, to help me open coconuts.
They're powerful, yes. But they are also ever-so endearing.
That is one of the sweetest things I've seen.
Sun bear drinking a coconut.
'Using a combination of claws, jaws and power,
'they can break into pretty much anything in the forest,
'to find a wealth of bugs, bees and larvae.
'But for those really hard to reach spots,
'they rely on an even more astonishing tool.
'And a cylinder lined with honey is all one needs to demonstrate.'
Look what we've got for you?
So from there, they can maybe get to the honey.
It's like a long pink sock.
That is quite astonishing.
'And stretching over 25cm,
'their titanic tongues help them lick
'out all sorts of tasty treats hidden in the depths of a treehole.'
Oh, that is a happy face.
This is so funny, with its comedy tongue as long as a sock,
but this bulldozer of a beast, with its huge claws
and tree-chomping jaws, could
just smash the competition and take the title as my biggest nightmare.
'For some of this jungle adventure,
'we have been lucky enough to stay at the Danau Girang Research Station
'in the heart of one of Borneo's richest rainforests..
We're pretty remote here.
There is no television to keep us entertained,
so I thought, let's go traditional, maybe play a game of cards
or charades, but, no, the crew have got other ideas.
They want to go out on a big bug hunt, to look for giant insects.
'It's at night when the insect world comes alive in the forest.
'And setting a gigantic trap is our researcher, Tom.
'The aim -
'to try and attract as many insects as possible.
'And it looks like it's worked.'
Hi. Look how amazing this is.
What delights do we have here?
We've got all sorts. I mean, this has only been up two hours
and look how much we've got already.
'A white sheet, lit by a powerful light, is simple, but very effective.
'The variety of creatures is astounding,
'but what on Earth are they all?'
This one is a cicada.
So, you know those sounds you hear in the jungle in daytime,
the really loud noises? That's what these guys make.
Heard them on holiday a lot.
The males will call with that really loud sound,
which is a membrane they vibrate.
They are cool, aren't they? I like their eyes.
We've got a dragonfly here.
Wow, that one is beautiful.
So, these are the apex predators around here.
It's been flying around the light, catching lots of little micro moths.
So, other insects are capitalising on all these smaller insects
-being here and eating them?
The mantises definitely are.
It's so busy. Look at it.
It's like wa-wa-wa!
The mantises are like the ninjas of this sheet,
trying to catch all sorts, but I think he's a bit
confused as to what to catch, due to their huge number.
Yeah, he's got a massive all-you-can-eat buffet on offer.
But when they catch something, they'll grab it with those
praying forearms and drag it in
and eat, headfirst, alive, the prey.
That's a nightmare, isn't it?
look at these tiny little tiddlers.
Yeah. The sheet seems to be one of their favourite things.
There's loads and loads of them. Some are tiny.
Have you seen this one? As small as that.
What? That's a moth?
There's an ant next to it. It's not much bigger than the ant.
'But there are some much more impressive specimens.'
This is another moth. As you can see, it is much different
size to some of the smaller ones.
Yeah, and it's got these, sort of, quite tatty-looking wings,
I guess, to look like a leaf.
Yeah, exactly. They are mimicking the dead leaves.
-If you look at something like this, for instance.
You can see exactly how that would blend in.
-Yeah, perfect camouflage. I like that one.
'This huge variety of insects is testament to how rich these
'rainforests are and for a good reason.'
In Borneo, it's some of the oldest rainforests in the world,
which means that it supports some of the most
amount of species in the world.
Some trees have about 1,000 species of insect, just on one tree.
'And it's not just the numbers that are impressive.'
They've got some of the biggest insects in the world here.
One of them is a stick insect, which is about half a metre long.
It's the longest insect in the world.
'The longer we stay, the busier, or should I say, "buzzier", it gets.'
God, they make big buzzes, when they go past your ears, don't they?
-Hold my hand.
-They keep flying into my face.
Sorry. I am listening, I promise.
When you're near the light,
they all just buzz around your head, don't they?
Ooh, ooh, ooh.
Was that a grasshopper?
The mantis is back.
Oh, good. I like him.
Leave us alone.
'I have never quite managed to get an insect to follow instructions.'
I'm having so much fun.
It's on my forehead. What is it? What is it?!
It's a beetle. It's one of those little green...
Thank you. Didn't even flinch.
Meeting one insect at a time, not too much of a problem.
Meeting all of these, all together,
well, that could fly off with the title of my worst nightmare.
Oh, thanks, Tom.
Yeah. Well, I guess we ought to call it a night.
So, you can have your bed sheet back, Naomi.
Nightmares of Nature isn't always about an animal's scary
attributes. Sometimes the nightmares of the natural world are down to us.
We're the problem.
'The staff at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre look after an animal
'that has been struggling to cope with a rapidly-changing world.
'I've teamed up with head vet Laura.'
'She is going to introduce me
'to some special orphans, about to have their daily health check.
This is Goman.
-Yes. Goman is two years old.
Two. Hello, Goman.
OOh! I want to give you a cuddle.
-So, first of all, he gets weighed?
Don't want to get weighed.
'These endearing apes are one of our closest relatives,
'susceptible to the same diseases we are.
'So we all wear masks to protect them - and us.'
So this is just a few health checks you have to do, to make sure
-they're all right?
So, Goman is a male, about two years old.
Two years old.
He was rescued from Gomandu.
Why are they here?
Most them, the baby here because they are orphan.
Most of the case, the mother has died.
'Huge areas of rainforest have been cleared in Borneo in the last
'30 years to make way for agriculture, especially palm oil.
'Many orang-utans have lost their home
'and some have, sadly, been orphaned in the process.
'Without care, these babies wouldn't survive,
'but at the sanctuary, they are in great hands.'
Do they mind these checks?
Ah, I guess they are used to it, as we do it every day.
'With Goman's health check complete,
'time for the next one, who is the youngest of them all.'
Oh, my goodness, so tiny. How old is this one?
-Sepilok is about one years old.
Oh, it's OK, it's OK.
Oh, it must be a bit scary.
Oh, my goodness, these are cute.
May I feed...
-What is this one called?
Sepilok. Ah, there you go.
Just like a little human baby, having milk in a bottle.
I'm guessing they need a lot of care.
Yes, similar to human baby, the feeding now is about every six
hours, but when they are below six months old, it's every two hours.
You have to wake up and feed the babies.
'And with one of the longest childhoods in the animal kingdom,
'Laura and her team will have to care for Sepilok
'for at least the next seven or eight years.'
This is melting my heart. You are so gorgeous.
Oh, it absolutely breaks my heart to think he's lost his home
and his mum.
Thank goodness the staff here are doing such a good job
looking after all his needs.
'And what a baby orang-utan needs is play time.
'One of the most important skills for them to master is climbing.
'Breakfast over, it's time to take Sepilok to the jungle gym.
'But that's easier said than done.'
Don't pull my trousers off, please. That would be a nightmare.
'Like any excited child, Goman is in his element,
'but Sepilok isn't so sure.'
There we go. Wahey.
There we go. Oh, so scared.
Poor little thing.
Scary world, if you're a little baby orang-utan left on your own.
'Sometimes to get the desired results,
'these orphans need a little tough love.'
Because now they are trying to attract out attentions,
to get to help them,
but we have to be strict with them.
We not going to help them.
They have to do it on their own sometimes.
To be kind.
We've got to leave him to figure out how to do this.
'To encourage Sepilok to play with the other orangs,
'we head to the other side of the gym.
'And it works a treat.'
Ah, here he comes. Come on Sepi.
'He soon gets into the swing of things.'
Ah, look at you.
Looking much happier now.
By right, at this age, they will learn from their mother,
but there is no mother around to learn from,
so they learn from the older orang-utans
that they come across.
Sepilok is getting on absolutely fine now, look.
We just ignored him for a bit and he decided,
"I'll go and play with my mates."
'It's another success for Laura
'and the big ambition she has for each and every one of them.'
Ultimately, what are your hopes with this project?
Of course, each of the orang-utans that come to the centre,
we hope that one day, we will be able to return them
back to the wild. All of them. Yeah.
So, if it's possible, every orang-utan that you meet would go
-back to the wild?
It's easy to see that's where they belong.
Are you having fun?
These poor little things have had such a desperate start in life,
but Laura and her team have high hopes for every single one.
'In the last 50 years, the staff here have managed to rehabilitate
'hundreds of orang-utans
'and many have been released into a nearby forest reserve.'
Ah, they're here already. Masks on.
'And I'm about to meet some of the successful graduates.
'At around nine years old,
'these orang-utans are the equivalent of teenagers.
'At this tender age the staff still like to give them a little support.'
So they are still getting a tiny little bit of support
from the staff here, but not a lot because all the rest of the time
they are living an independent life, finding their own food.
'With an easy meal on offer,
'I'm soon being stepmum to a pair of teenager orangs.
'It's a magic meeting for us all.'
Steve's made a new friend.
It's so sad to think about how deforestation is having such
a huge impact on these magnificent apes
and all the other fantastic wildlife that need these forests to survive.
But it is heart-warming to see the valuable results of all
the staff here at Sepilok.
Thank you very much.
And how nice is it to see these tiny orphans now
fending for themselves and living a wild life where they belong.
My jungle adventures here in Borneo are coming to an end,
so it is that time for me to try and decide which
nightmare of nature has been my most frightening forest encounter.
Was it the bamboo smashing brute, the tongue-tastic sun bear?
Look, she just ripped that open. That is scarily impressive.
Was it coming face-to-face with a mass of mini-beasts
and mammoth moths?
There's something on my forehead. What is it? What is it?
Or was it my cave ordeal landing on a mountain of bug-infested bat poo?
Ew. Look, it's all moving.
This is a lot of people's worst nightmare, isn't it?
You're probably thinking, how can anything beat a bat poo-infested
bug bonanza? That was absolutely gross
but I've been moved by a greater nightmare -
the plight of the orang-utans and hearing their very sad story.
Surely, when you lose your home and your mum,
that's the greatest nightmare of all.
-Want to hold this cicada?
They can't, they can't bite, they eat sap.
Bit weird looking, aren't they? Come on, then.
Come and say, "Hi."
It made a noise, as well. Sorry. Sorry.
Naomi Wilkinson continues her global adventure in search of nightmares of the natural world. This time she heads deep into the rainforests of Borneo, where she heads off on a heartstopping abseil into one of the biggest caves in the world, bumps into a brute of a bear with a serious bite, gets the creeps on a nocturnal big bug hunt and becomes mum to a baby orangutan facing a nightmare of its own.