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Everyone, it seems, is looking for a mate.
Just like us, animals have developed some intriguing
ways of attracting the perfect partner.
But what really lies at the heart of these behaviours?
Science is making new and surprising discoveries
about how animals attract a partner.
I am Liz Bonnin and I am going on a worldwide journey to discover
the extraordinary lengths animals go to find a mate.
Is it about singing the perfect love song?
The most extraordinary set of events unfolding!
Or developing the most outrageous flirting technique.
"He's not paying me any attention - what if I throw it?"
Or perhaps it's about adopting a more modern approach.
I'm going to meet the scientists who have devoted their lives
to understanding the weird and wonderful world of dating
in the animal kingdom.
I've often thought it's a bit like a primary school disco.
It's very complicated, isn't it?
Yeah, they don't do anything by halves.
And I'll discover just what it takes to find the perfect mate.
For any animal,
the first step to finding a mate is to attract their attention.
I've heard of a South America animal that's taken flirting to
an entirely new level.
It's a behaviour scientists have just discovered
and so far it's only ever been observed in one troop of monkeys -
Capuchins are highly intelligent animals
and are renowned for their remarkable use of tools.
So how does one of cleverest monkeys on planet crack the difficult
world of dating?
To answer that, I've come Southlake Zoo in the UK
to meet Dr Camila Coelho.
Camila has just spent two years in Brazil studying the
love lives of these intriguing little primates.
In capuchin society, it's the females who do the chasing.
And the alpha male is considered the ultimate catch.
How does the female go about getting the attention of, hopefully,
the dominant male?
Well, she starts off by making vocalisations and trying to
get his attention and he'll just ignore her most of the time.
Camila and her colleagues have filmed this behaviour in the wild.
The alpha male on the right has clearly caught
the eye of an eager female.
Flirting starts with a spot of stalking.
# I will follow him
# Follow him wherever he may go
# There isn't an ocean too deep... #
She may have her sights set on him,
but he's more interested in finding food.
Alpha males are surprisingly reluctant to take a hint.
Her intentions are written all over her face but even her most
enthusiastic raising of eyebrows is going completely unnoticed.
Gradually on the second and third day,
she'll take it up a notch and start pulling at his fur,
some hit and run, like slapping him and running away from him.
You kind of feel sorry for her
because by the fourth or fifth day she's hardly eating anything,
she's just following him around all day long.
Is it somewhat unusual
when you compare other species in the animal kingdom?
Yes, it's quite rare that females have to invest so much energy
and be so insistent in getting a male's attention, as it happens.
But why is that? Why do they have to do that?
Well, because they have no other physiological evidence to
show that they're ready for breeding, unlike chimpanzees where they
have swellings that gradually build up and he'll know the moment she's
most fertile, in capuchins, they can only tell by the behaviour.
At any one time, an alpha male may have several females in hot pursuit.
It may sound like a lost cause for the females
but they will stop at nothing to get that alpha male's attention.
In the forests of Brazil, Camila and her colleagues have filmed the
females of one troop behaving in a way that has never been seen before.
Forget Cupid's arrow, these females have resorted to firing
rocks at the alpha male.
And if that doesn't grab his attention,
you can always try a larger stone!
How do you keep a straight face when you're observing this?
You can't really, I just... It's such a funny scene to watch.
And there's no question as to the intent there.
You know, your heart goes out to her.
How common is this then?
Well, this is the only group we've ever seen this happen in.
We studied several other populations in the same national park
and none of them use this as a technique.
So it takes one female to actually go,
"He's not paying me any attention, what if I throw it"?
And it has to be effective for it then to spread in the population.
So how many females in that group are actually doing that now?
Well, when we started looking at them,
there were three females who used it, routinely.
The interesting thing here is that it spread throughout the group
so it's become a tradition.
Since we started studying them, more females have acquired the behaviour.
Do you expect this behaviour to arise in different groups? Or...?
In this case,
we don't expect it to spread because females stay within their group.
All the same, this is extraordinary behaviour in capuchins. And it just
goes to show how hard the females work at getting male attention.
They're very insistent.
# It's oh so quiet...
For these enthusiastic females romance doesn't come easily,
it might look like they're coming on too strong,
but what they're demonstrating is a level of creative intelligence
that surpasses anything that's been seen before.
# ..And so peaceful until
# You fall in love...
The alpha male seems to have it made.
Assuming he can avoid a head injury, all he has to do is sit back
and take his pick of the ladies.
# When you fall in love. #
Female capuchins may have their work cut out
but it's nothing compared to what some males have to go through.
I've travelled to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to see how one of
the most ferocious predators on the planet approaches the mating game.
Hyenas have one of the most complicated love lives
of any mammal.
Finding a mate is a dangerous game, especially if you happen to be male.
This is a society where large, intimidating females call the shots.
Powerful, aggressive and extremely unpredictable,
these females are a force to be reckoned with.
So how does a male hyena go about attracting a mate?
To find out,
I've teamed up with Axel Hunnicutt from Pretoria University.
Axel has spent months earning the trust of a wild clan of hyenas
so he can study their relationships.
His hard work has allowed us
access to a very important member of the group.
I'm about to meet hyena named Ursula.
So below us in those trees is a beautiful female hyena
who has a three-week-old cub, is that right?
Three weeks old.
Who, every evening when it gets cooler, will come out of the den
and suckle. So what do we know about this particular female?
Is she an important female?
Yeah, this is actually what we call the matriarch.
Which means she outranks all the other females
and definitely all the other males.
Adult males within hyena societies are below every other female.
This three-week-old female cub will be more dominant than even
a 20-year-old hyena male that's part of this clan.
I knew male hyenas had it tough,
but I didn't realise it was quite that tough on them.
I kind of feel sorry for them.
It hard to believe a helpless newborn cub outranks even
the oldest male in the clan.
With a ranking system like this,
finding a mate can't be easy for the males.
To try and understand the relationship between males
and females, I'm going to joining Axel on one of his night-time
Wild hyenas are notoriously difficult to observe,
so we're going to draw them in with sound.
So what we are setting up right now is something called a 'call up.'
Using these speakers and a wee laptop we have, we've got
the recordings of lions and hyenas at kill sites.
And we play these at dusk and hopefully that will attract
hyenas to the carcass that we've placed under that tree over there.
We just sit completely still and there's absolutely no chance
of them coming to us because that's where the sound's coming from?
-We'll kill the sounds as soon as we see them.
I trust you, I think. I'm in your hands, so let's do this,
-let's do this.
-Awesome, let's go.
I'm excited and a little bit afraid right now.
The sound of a rival clan calling
will be the first thing to attract their attention.
Combined with their powerful sense of smell,
the call-up could entice hyenas from as far as 10km away.
'After just 20 minutes, the clan begins to close in.'
-Looks like three sets of eyes.
Just straight in front of us.
'The females are the first to arrive on the scene.'
There she is. OK.
I've got her on the infrared.
'And leading the way is Ursula.
'What's unusual about hyenas is that females get to eat before the males.
'Axel suspects that any males in the area will be
'keeping their distance, for now.
'One of the first rules the males have to learn is
'never come between a lady and her lunch.'
I never thought I'd say this but hearing bones crunching underneath
the incredibly powerful jaws of hyenas is a pretty cool sound.
'An hour passes before another solitary hyena emerges.'
-Is this the male here?
Yes, so this individual right here, he was the last one of all
-the hyenas to come in.
You can see he's being very submissive.
Bowing his head every time females come by and laying very low.
Why is it that the males are so incredibly timid
and hesitant around female hyenas? What's that about?
Anatomically, they're much smaller than females.
They tend to be lighter in weight, lighter in build
and females tend to be much more masculine, much more muscular.
They definitely have the weight and the ability to overpower
and dominate males.
Among mammals, this relationship between male and female hyenas
is unique and scientists are still not sure why it evolved like this.
He didn't even get to the carcass yet, did he?
No, and I don't think he will unless the other ones back off.
The quintessential male hyena is always being on the lookout,
always having to look over his back for females
and never really being able to get a bite to eat.
If it's this hard for a male to get a meal, I'm starting to appreciate
just how difficult it must be for him to win over a mate.
Suddenly, one of the females turns her attentions
away from the carcass to us...
Hyenas are often mistaken for scavengers
but these predators can kill up to 95% of what they eat.
It's coming, it's coming, still, still, still.
This is a potentially dangerous situation.
(There is an extremely curious hyena wandering around.)
We're sitting in total darkness.
Without the infrared camera, I can't see a thing.
-Oh, my God.
He's right here, he's right here!
With the whole clan starting to show an interest in us,
it's time to leave.
But I still want to find out
more about the role of males in hyena clans.
What is this male's story?
How is it that he could still hang out in the company of those
four very strong females who are running the show tonight?
Males have their own hierarchy that's separate from the females -
still well below the females.
But they have their own hierarchy among themselves,
and so this individual may be the highest ranking male in this clan
and because of that, he's slightly tolerated.
It might not sound like much,
but being slightly tolerated is actually quite a privilege.
As the top male, he's got the best chance of mating with Ursula.
He would have waited years to attain this position
because unlike the females, male hyenas don't fight for dominance.
Their rank is determined by how long they've been in the clan.
Quite often what happens is, when a new male comes into an area
and he's looking for a new clan to join, he will whoop in that
area and listen to see how long the queue is going to be.
So he'll figure out how many other males are in that clan and he'll
be able to assess, "OK, I've got to wait for five other guys in this
"clan but only three in that one." Which queue are you going wait in?
Having fewer males to outrank is certainly an advantage
but it's the females in any clan that are the real challenge.
When you think about the females being so dominant
and so hyper aggressive, you'd kind of think that when it came to
breeding that they would be the ones to call the shots as well -
because they call the shots with everything else.
But actually, in this hyena society,
they still want the males to woo them.
So it's like, "Good luck to you, I know I give you grief every day
"but you need to woo me, otherwise you're not getting anywhere."
It's a bit of a paradox
because now you have males that don't necessarily want to approach
the females but they have to, of course, to continue the species.
It can take a male months before he plucks up the courage
to finally approach a female.
First date nerves are understandable
when the object of your desire has bone crushing jaws!
His submissive head bow let's her know,
he's interested but she's in charge.
It tends to be the ones that are most submissive
but also the most persistent.
If I would give any animal in the kingdom, as far as being
the most persistent, I'd say it was the male hyena.
It's not his lucky day but hopefully his perseverance will pay off.
Male hyenas get a raw deal when it comes to romance,
but in nature it's often the males who have to work the hardest.
It's astonishing the hoops some of them have to jump through.
# Jump for my love
# Jump in...
When you're smaller than your surroundings,
you need a spring in your step to get noticed.
# ..If you want my kisses in the night...
Sometimes an eye-catching display can do the trick.
# ..I know my heart can make you happy... #
And for others, a great gift always goes down a treat.
From extreme flirting to patience and persistence,
animals use a wide range of techniques to find a mate.
But one story I've heard of almost defies belief.
I've come to the Centre for Great Apes in Florida to meet
a female who chose her partner in a very unusual way.
Patty Ragan opened this rescue sanctuary 20 years ago
to provide a safe place for great apes that couldn't be
released back to the wild.
She's taking me to meet an orang-utan named Mari.
Mari is very special, she is 32 years old.
Her spirit, her character is very strong.
She is a feisty girl, nobody takes advantage of Mari.
Mari has had to be strong.
As an infant she lost both her arms in an accident
but she's adapted well and it's never held her back.
13 years ago, Mari's previous keepers in Atlanta started
looking for a new home for her and a suitable mate to keep her company.
What's remarkable about Mari's story is how she chose her partner.
Which one do you want?
Do you want this one?
Her keepers in Atlanta had asked Patty to send photos of her
two eligible males.
They asked us to send pictures of Pongo and Christopher.
And so we sent some big 8x10 photos of these two orang-utans
and they laminated them and gave them to Mari.
Mari was shown the photographs to see
if either of the males would grab her attention.
..and the yellow long things.
Spoilt for choice, it was a decision Mari wouldn't rush.
But in the end, there was a very clear winner.
Do you want that one?
We can give you that one.
This is the one Mari wanted.
That was a very nice selection, Mari. Good job.
The ape of Mari's dreams was a dashing 240lb male called Pongo.
But had Mari really picked her potential
partner from a selection of photos?
They wouldn't know until Mari and Pongo met in person.
When Mari arrived at the sanctuary,
just to make sure, Patty introduced her to both males.
Pongo on the left and on the right, the younger male, Christopher.
So when she first came in she was in quarantine
across from their night house, in a separate area,
and these boys would watch her all the time.
But she'd already shown she had a preference for mister over here.
Yes, and the whole time he was very aloof, he wouldn't look at her.
He would look away. Whereas Christopher, who was younger,
would take whole pieces of celery and put it all over his head
and shoulders and kind of walk along in front of her,
seeing if she'd notice him being so silly.
-This is just adorable.
-And she was pretty aloof to him.
But Pongo would only sneak peeks at her.
-He was playing hard to get.
-He didn't seem to be very interested
but their relationship really evolved to be stronger.
When they're alone and it's just the care staff, and they're
doing their own thing, he will sit with her a great deal of the day.
Every once in while we'll see him put his hand around the back
of her head, pull her over and he'll kiss her eyes.
I've seen it maybe 15, 20 times.
Whether he's, you know, pulling things, grooming her eyes,
getting little particles out of it or just feeling affectionate
towards her, he does enjoy being next to Mari.
What do you think that tells us
about the about the capacity for emotional intelligence
and for bonds that are incredibly strong in these apes?
I think it's unlimited, I do.
I think that he sees her as his mate, as his companion,
and she prefers him.
13 years later, the bond between Mari and Pongo is undeniable.
And when you think about how she seems to have picked him
out of a photo line-up...
That was a very nice selection, Mari.
..that makes this story all the more extraordinary.
Pongo has proved to be the perfect partner for Mari.
While some animals might employ 21st-century techniques
to find a mate, others take a more traditional approach.
I'm about to meet an animal with 150 million years of experience
to draw on and one of the oldest love songs on the planet.
It may not be a species we would associate with tender
displays of affection but these animals are surprisingly gentle
when it comes to the mating game.
Florida is home to 1.5 million alligators.
To find out how these solitary reptiles seduce their mates,
I've teamed up with Professor Lou Guillette.
I've got to say this is a very special scene to witness.
For me, this is one of most peaceful scenes I've
experienced in the United States of America and yet these
animals have a reputation for being evil, nasty, killing monsters,
which really hasn't done them any service, has it?
It's actually one of these things where we
think of these as ferocious animals - the terrors of the swamp. Right?
The fact is that they're not terrors,
they are perfectly suited for their environment.
They are predators and yet courtship is something that actually appears
to be quite tender, so there's a gentle side to these animals.
Lou and I are here at the perfect time of year to see
the softer side of these impressive predators.
It's May and this is the height
of their two-month long breeding season,
but before a male can win over a female,
he needs to have found himself an impressive territory.
It's one of those things, it's female choice.
It's the female that chooses to go out and see the male
but, of course, she chooses the males that have the nicest territory
with the best view!
Having a prime piece of real estate is one thing,
but they still have to attract the females to it.
And for alligators, the best way to do that is with a song.
Are you all set?
To help get these alligators in the mood
we've invited some musicians along from the Florida Orchestra.
THEY WARM UP
As our brass section warms up
no-one seems at all interested in joining in.
As much as alligators love to sing, when it comes down to it,
there is actually only one note that they'll respond to.
It's not until our tuba players hit B-flat that the concert
finally kicks off.
The most extraordinary set of events is unfolding.
And they're all joining in now.
What you're seeing is the big males doing it, then the younger
males start doing it because the big males are doing it.
It's a virtual...
-..chorus of bellowing.
Bellowing not only advertises your territory,
it also let everyone know how big you are.
It's thought that the alligators are responding
because they think there's another large male in the area.
TUBAS PLAY ALLIGATORS ROAR
In the competitive world of alligator mating, size matters.
The biggest males seem to have it made.
Not only can you see off the competition
but the beefier you are, the more female attention you get.
But the biggest alligators have another remarkable advantage.
Only they can produce what is known as the water dance.
Their bellows are so low and powerful
they cause vibrations that make the water bounce off their backs.
It's another way of getting you noticed.
If you're standing in the water when that happens, your skeleton
turns into a tuning fork, it's the most amazing experience.
Have you been in the water?
I've been in the water when they do it, up to my knees.
You've been in the water when alligators are bellowing like that?
-It's an amazing experience,
and the funny part is - the first thing in your head is,
there's a huge, huge guy in this area and I have to get out.
A large male is exactly what these females are looking for and
if they hear an impressive song, they may bellow back.
Scientists think it's their way of letting the males know
they are ready to mate.
I love the sound!
How did we know that that particular note, the B-flat,
was going to work so well?
The story goes, Leonard Bernstein is practising the Philharmonic.
They can't practice in Carnegie Hall because it's being refurbished
so they go to the Natural History Museum.
They play the symphony,
they hit certain notes and they realise most notes don't do it,
but when they hit B-flat, all of a sudden the gators start bellowing.
So, at the time, they had alligators at the Natural History Museum?
They actually had live animals at the Natural History Museum.
Today, of course, we go
and they're just all stuffed animals or skeletons.
The interesting part today is that we know that you can go out
here and play all different kinds of notes but it's only
when you hit those very low notes, where you send out that
low-frequency vibration, that's the note that these guys respond to.
That's the note!
Bellowing is an extremely effective way of announcing
yourself as a suitable mate.
These impressive individuals can be heard as far as 1.5km away.
But it's once they've attracted a mate
that alligators really show their tender side.
Few people have witnessed a complete courtship and mating in the wild,
but Lou has been lucky enough to see this a handful of times.
Male and females will actually find themselves in the water, usually
they'll actually go and basically see one another from the side.
Then the male will actually come around the back of the female,
and slide up over the back of the female.
He'll actually start to nuzzle the back of her jaw with his.
They literally will sit in that position for a while,
and it'll come, it'll and go, they will rub one another,
it'll come, it'll and go, they'll rub one another,
but eventually the female will give him the appropriate signal.
He will in fact wrap himself around her body
and the courtship ends in mating.
Clearly, this is not an aggressive event,
this is actually an event where the two of them
are coming together to produce the next generation.
Alligator courtship is a much more tender affair than I imagined,
but to find out why they rub their jaws together
Lou is letting me come out on one of his research trips.
The alligators Lou is studying live in the shadow
of NASA's Kennedy Space Centre.
OK, we got one.
OK, we got one.
Can I help with anything? Can I pull?
-You can help pull.
No, I got him, don't pull.
-You want tape?
I want you to grab the head.
Oh, good grief!
It's OK, you can do it.
-He's young but...he's strong.
-They're incredibly strong.
-We have this mouth taped up, so...
-He's so strong.
Let's go, up the hill.
Oh, my God!
And so, how quickly do we need to work before we get him
-back in the water?
-The blood sample we have to take almost immediately.
'Lou has just 15 minutes to get all the data he needs.'
So we go in...
Determining the identity, size, and sex of each alligator he captures
helps builds a comprehensive picture of population.
Lou is also monitoring how well they're breeding in area.
Once he has taken all measurements he needs, we have a brief
opportunity to take a closer look at this alligator's powerful jaw.
OK, so lift him up, and tilt it sideways.
So you see every one of these little dots,
the receptors, they sense pressure.
And how sensitive are they?
Much more sensitive than your fingers.
There's a suggestion, they may be ten times more sensitive.
Others say it's 20, 30 or 40 times more sensitive.
So what do alligators use these for?
For food, so if a fish swims by they know
if it's on the right or the left.
But the other thing is, during courtship and mating,
the male will come up and nuzzle the side gently.
So that's a tactile response.
And what that actually means to the female, we're not exactly sure,
but we know it's central to courtship and mating.
Let's get her back in the water, Lou.
Yes, we need to do that. Everybody good?
Here we go, lovely. Do I pull now?
-Go ahead and pull.
-One, two, three.
She's in the water.
The water sound there, she's back where she belongs.
It's fascinating that these armoured reptiles can also be
so sensitive and hearing their extraordinary bellows drives
home just how important it is to get your message out there.
While alligators rely on song,
for others it's the right smell that can make all the difference.
# I don't know what it is that makes me love you so...
All across the animal kingdom
creatures are following their noses to find a mate.
From tamarins to wolves,
many species use chemical signals or pheromones to attract a mate.
# It happens to be true
# I only want to be with you... #
And the largest land mammal on Earth is no exception.
For the most part,
male and female elephants live completely separate lives.
Mating opportunities tend to be few and far between,
so when the time is right, the females release a seductive scent.
These powerful chemicals lure a potential mate for miles around.
The Alaskan moose uses the pheromones in his urine
to advertise his credential.
And if a female approves, she'll allow him to make a move.
But it's not just the large mammals
who rely on smell to seduce their mates,
even the smallest of creatures use scent to seek them out.
Butterflies may be renowned for their beautiful wings
but when it comes to courtship,
surprisingly for these colourful characters,
it's not all about looks!
The signature colours and patterns on butterfly wings
play an important role in attracting potential mates to each other.
But once they've got close, an entirely different sense
takes over, in the butterfly mating game, scent is paramount.
Male butterflies produce an alluring perfume during courtship.
To attract a potential mate,
he wafts his unique scent towards her with his wings.
# I put a spell on you...
The female will then assess his suitability as a mate
through the scent.
# ..Cos you're mine... #
But some butterflies, like the longwings, take it one step further
and give the females a rather ingenious parting gift.
To find out more, I've come to meet Dr Neil Gale at his
butterfly house in Aberystwyth in Wales.
I want to know how a longwing butterfly
makes sure no other male goes near his female.
So, once they've mated, is that it?
It is essentially. He pretty much flies off, away from her.
But he has left a scent.
His scent, on her, which is going to put off all the other males
that are going to come and try and court with her.
It's an anti-aphrodisiac.
An anti-aphrodisiac? How does the anti-aphrodisiac work then?
By actually smelling of a male longwing.
Which puts off all future males that are going to come.
Putting off other potential mates is a clever tactic
on the male's behalf.
His scent will last for two weeks, it's his insurance that he,
and he alone, will father her offspring during that time.
It might sounds like the male is getting one up on the female,
but surprisingly, there are some advantages for her too.
She can use the male's anti-aphrodisiac to
ward off unwanted advances.
The female stores that chemical in a gland,
and she waits until another male comes along and courts with her,
and what she does is, if she's getting courted or approached
by a male, she lifts up her abdomen and she does a little spray.
And you can see these yellow glands and this scent is coming out.
Containing - the male she's just mated with - his anti-aphrodisiac.
Yep, his smell.
And so to another other male, it's just, "Oh, my God!"
I never for a moment imagined how beautifully complex
the mating game was in these gorgeous little insects.
For many species, scent can be a deal-breaker,
but for others, it's all about showing off your moves.
In the animal kingdom,
an enthusiastic dance is sure to get you noticed.
MUSIC: Crazy In Love by Beyonce
Male wolf spiders certainly don't hold back.
In the mating game, there are no prizes for coming second.
Sea dragons take a more leisurely approach,
waltzing gently in unison to get to know each other.
And there's one bird who's willing to walk on water
to make a good impression.
Grebes try to coordinate their moves to see if they're compatible.
Dancing is something lots of animals do to find a mate
but I'm about to meet a bird that knows exactly what to do
to steal the spotlight.
There are six different species of flamingo
and I've come to Slimbridge Wetland Centre in the UK
to find out more about the greater flamingo.
In their efforts to attract a mate,
they do something no other flamingo species does.
Flirting for these flamboyant birds is all about producing
your best moves and looking fabulous while you're doing them.
Paul Rose from Exeter University has spent the last three years
studying how these birds pick their partners.
Everything about flamingos is about doing stuff with your friends,
and I've often thought it's a bit like a primary school disco
in that there are some kids that really want to go on the dance floor
and get their boogie on and the others are like, hmmm...
-They're like, "Come on, do it with me!"
-"Maybe, I'm not sure."
Eventually, it kind of spreads and you get everyone, going,
"Oh, we can do this as well."
They'll go and do their dance together.
But you don't often get flamingos where one is shuffling
out into the middle going, "Oh, I'm really beautiful."
You have to have every single bird doing it at the same time.
Of course, there is
always that awkward moment where someone has to make the first move.
Fortunately, experience steps in to lend a hand -
typically it's the oldest,
tallest males in the flock who are first to grace the dance floor.
The first display you're likely to see is something called
head flagging, so the bird stands very tall, it extends its head
-and its neck and moves its head from side to side.
And that's normally started by the tallest males in the flock.
-Not to say the females don't get involved.
They're not like the peacock, where you have the boys display
and the females go, "Hmmm, maybe you. Hmmm, I'm not sure."
They all do it at the same time.
But putting yourself out there doesn't always go according
to plan, timing is everything.
I do feel sorry for them sometimes
when they want to do the head flagging and they look really
tall and beautiful and everyone else in on one leg fast asleep.
-It's a bit sad.
Overly eager youngsters are the ones who it wrong most often.
Being ignored by the rest of the flock is never a good look.
Sticking your neck out is only the start.
Scientists have discovered that flamingos have nine signature
moves designed to show off their best assets.
Another display that normally follows the head flagging
which is called wing saluting.
It's to basically give a sudden shock of colour
against their uniform, their pale body colour.
Ohh, what are they all doing, what's going on?
This is this whole, let's all run in that direction.
Are we all fit? Are we all ready?
Let's go and try and see if we can get everyone together
doing the same thing at the same time.
-It's very complicated, isn't it?
-They don't do anything by halves!
It seems this bunch are still warming up.
But when flamingos do get it right, the dancing is contagious.
# If you want my body
# And you think I'm sexy
# Come on, sugar, let me know... #
Andean flamingos have mastered the ultimate strut.
It might look comical but it serves an important purpose,
flamingos only perform when conditions are best for breeding.
Once you've proved you've got the moves,
picking a partner is the next big step.
So what makes one flamingo more attractive than the next?
It seems the pinker you are the better.
But flamingos have been living with a little white lie.
Now flamingos are not naturally pink, is that right?
Yep, a flamingo is actually white.
Apart from their black bits on its feathers,
all of the other pigmentation in its plumage comes from its diet.
OK, so what is it in their diet that gives them this pink colour?
They're carotenoids, the same thing as what makes carrots orange
so they ingest those carotenoids from their food.
When they were first kept in captivity
no-one knew just how important being pink was to these birds.
The flamingos here are given the supplements
they would naturally get in the wild.
It helps turn their feathers into the colour they need to impress.
Looking your best has a major bearing on your love life
but the greater flamingo has an extra trick up its sleeve.
Tucked away beneath their tail feathers is a preen gland
which produces an oily pink dye.
The flamingos apply it liberally during the breeding season,
the more they apply, the pinker they get.
You could call it the flamingo equivalent to make-up.
And it's not just the females who put in the effort,
the males are just as keen to look good.
In the breeding season,
when they need to make themselves look more beautiful, they can
preen the oil preferentially on to the head and neck
and that means the head and neck become a lot brighter in colour.
Are greater flamingos the only flamingos known to do this?
Yes, this is from our knowledge,
the only species that use this cosmetic property of its oil
so that it becomes pink on its head and its neck.
One flamingo might look much like the next, but even subtle
differences in colour can reveal a lot about a potential partner.
Taking good care of yourself lets everyone else know,
you're in the best possible condition to breed.
But it's a truth universally acknowledged that some males
will try their luck no matter what.
This tall pale male, is doing his level best...
..but the object of his desires has other ideas.
She has her eye on the pinkest flamingo in the flock.
Working hard to look this colourful has earned this male
the most female attention.
From dancing flamingos, to stone-throwing capuchins,
singing alligators, to persistent male hyenas,
I've been astonished by the incredible lengths
some animals go to, to find the perfect partner.
But perhaps one of the most heroic efforts to find a mate is made by
a creature that lives in South Africa.
I've travelled to the Kalahari Desert to meet an animal who
puts his life on the line in search of love.
So it's about half an hour after sunrise and we're very much
working to this animal's schedule.
Just waiting for the first one to appear.
And here they are now.
These charismatic characters need little introduction -
they are, of course, meerkats, and the couple I've come to
meet in this clan are called Tigi and McDreamy.
They're the dominant pair in a 19-strong family
and they've been together for three and a half years.
Meerkats are impossibly cute but there's a lot more to these animals
and their social lives have all the makings of a Shakespearian drama.
Four years ago, McDreamy and Tigi would have been members of
rival clans fighting viciously over territory, and to protect their own.
So how did these two get together?
To answer that I've teamed up with Dr Tom Flower.
Tom is one of a number of scientists who have spent years studying
the social lives of these intriguing mammals.
Cambridge University has been following Tigi
and McDreamy's relationship from very start.
They may look tame, but they are still very much a wild clan.
-We've got a pup in there too now.
-We definitely do.
'Recording their weighs on a daily basis,
'is all part of the data Cambridge University is collecting.'
Do you know the name of this fella?
-This one is called Foxy Moron.
'It also has helps scientists like Tom earn the trust
'of each individual.'
I think we might be struggling with these pups, we've got
more than we can handle at one time.
Is there anyone else we need to weigh here?
Well, we've got to weigh all of them. There's 19 of them
and we try to do that every morning, lunch and evening.
-That sounds like a roving call.
They're beginning their foraging for the day.
What I want to know is, how does a male like Tigi find his McDreamy?
Four years ago, Tigi did what every young male meerkat must
do in order to find a mate, he left the safety of his family
and set off in search of a partner.
For any young hopeful,
leaving your clan means taking a big risk.
At just 30cm tall, meerkats are on the menu
for many of the Kalahari's aerial predators.
If you go it alone, you have no-one to watch your back.
It's an opportunity and if you're a young male in a group, there's no
good staying at home, you're going to have to leave home some day.
So roving is a way of getting out of there, perhaps managing to mate
with even with a dominant female if you're lucky - that's very rare
that that happens but it's a big pay off if it does - you hit jackpot.
When he was a roving male, Tigi would have travelled up to
10km a day in search of a mate.
That's the equivalent of us
walking 50km on the off-chance of finding a date.
But once a young male finds another group, the real challenge begins.
What's the best way to approach a rival clan
when you've spotted a nice lady? It's not easy, I presume.
No, that's right. What they do is, they sort of snorkel around the edges
and by that, I mean they go low and they sort of pop their heads up
every now and again and the sort of furtively run along by the ground.
They're trying to combine getting seen by the females
and not getting seen by the males.
So if they do spot an approaching male, what happens?
Well, a meerkat will make a 'meerkat is approaching' alarm call.
And then they'll actually do a little war dance
towards the intruder.
Getting spotted in another clan's territory has serious consequences.
Roving males have to be quick on their feet to avoid being caught.
Being chased away by a clan is a regular occurrence
and not all roving males escape unscathed.
I've been with groups where rovers have been caught.
It's a horrible sight because all the males in the group pile in
and they all grab a limb and tear and tear
and I've seen one killed like that.
I've seen two others who managed to escape.
One of them, it was his first time ever roving,
he looked like he didn't have a hope in hell.
He didn't know what he was doing.
He sort of ran up to the group all buoyant and excited
-and they jumped on him,
-"I'm here, where's the ladies?" Boof!
Absolutely, had no idea what he was doing!
Roving by yourself is a risky business
but there are other tactics a male can adopt.
It may sound counterintuitive but bringing your brothers
along to find a potential mate can actually work to your advantage.
If the males spread out and approach the group from different directions,
it can make it very hard for the resident meerkats
to defend their females.
They, on the other hand, have no objection to gentlemen callers.
This is the only way they'll get a chance to meet a male
they're not related to.
While his brothers cause a distraction,
our young Romeo makes a daring play for his Juliet.
These liaisons are strictly forbidden.
Courtship has to be quick and out of sight of the rest of the family.
She leads him into the long grass.
If a young female is caught with a roving male,
there's a heavy price to pay.
So, say this roving male has successfully bred with
a female from another clan, but then she becomes pregnant.
What happens then?
Well, typically, the dominant female will actually attack her
and kick her out of the group. We call that eviction.
And they do that when the dominant female themselves is pregnant.
When McDreamy was just a teenager
she and several of her sisters were banished from their clan.
In a meerkat family,
breeding is predominantly the privilege of the dominant pair,
it takes the rest of the clan to help raise each litter of pups.
McDreamy's mother had to make sure her new pups came first.
For evicted females, life outside the clan can be extremely hard.
With fewer eyes on the skies,
they are even more vulnerable to predators.
So it's a tough life for these evicted females
but it doesn't always end in tragedy.
Because if they're lucky enough
they can bump into a group of roving males.
How common is it that you have these successful meetings,
pairings, matings, and there you have it,
you have a new, successful clan?
The group we're with today were made just like that.
McDreamy and her sisters met up with dominant male and his brothers.
So Tigi and McDreamy came from the rovers and the evictees
and made a go of it. And they've been together three and a half years
-so they're doing really well.
-They are, that's right.
For any meerkat, the search for a mate is fraught with danger.
It takes courage to leave your clan,
cunning to avoid being killed,
and a little luck to finally find what you're after.
For Tigi and McDreamy, the gamble paid off.
They've claimed the ultimate prize in the meerkat world.
They've become the dominant pair with a family of their own.
What's really struck me about my journey is the sheer
number of different strategies animals use to attract a mate.
No matter what the challenge, they always seem to find a way.
How do you keep a straight face when you're observing them?
You can't really. It's such a funny scene to watch.
I've often thought it's a bit like a primary school disco.
Shuffling out in the middle going, "Oh, I'm really beautiful."
What excites me most about all of this is that by changing
the way we look at animals, science is revealing that they're
capable of relationships we would have thought impossible.
The trench between humans
and animals is not as deep as many people would want it to be.
I would definitely say that they feel the same emotions as we do
and I don't see why we can't allow them that.
We're only beginning to scratch the surface
but I can't wait to see what else we're going to
discover about the emotional lives of animals.
-Can't stop laughing.
Oh, my God!
We lost the boom, that's a naughty bonobo!
He's falling over, look, he's asleep.