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Millions of us love watching the world's wildlife
behaving in strange and wonderful ways.
But what lies at the heart of these extraordinary behaviours?
Can science explain what's really going on?
The latest research from all around the world is increasing our
understanding of animal emotions, relationships,
intelligence and communication faster than ever before.
I'm Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and I've teamed up with wildlife experts
to travel the globe in search of the most surprising animal stories.
There, there, there.
Look at them.
Using the very latest camera technology,
we'll reveal how and why animals do such remarkable things.
And we'll meet the scientists...
Let's go through here.
..who dedicate their lives to understanding
these extraordinary discoveries.
Tonight we're exploring the incredible world
of animal intelligence.
'I'll be in Florida to investigate a very unexpected relationship
'between a dangerous predator and a gentle giant...'
Oh, my goodness.
'..which is overturning conventional views of these
Zoologist Lucy Cooke is in North America to find out
how we may be making one smart city dweller even smarter.
And biologist Patrick Aryee is in Cambodia to meet what could be
one of the cleverest animals in the world.
He's got it.
But first, conservationist Giles Clarke is in Kenya
with an animal whose intelligence we've long respected.
Just like us, animals can display
different types of emotional intelligence.
But can the largest animal on land
feel one of the most sophisticated forms - empathy -
the ability to understand another animal's feelings.
To find out, I've come to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
just outside Nairobi.
For nearly 40 years, they've reared orphan elephants as herds
so they can be released back into the wild.
I'm here to see if a group of these orphans can show the empathy needed
to save a very special baby.
This is Ndotto, one of the latest arrivals at the orphanage.
He's just a year old and has a special bond
with head keeper Edwin Lusichi.
So cute. Here he comes.
He knows he wants to get some feed.
Oh, my God.
You can try. I can try?
OK. He is such a good boy.
That is a serious bottle of milk.
How much milk do they get?
He gets four pints every three hours.
I think you're finished, sweetheart. Finished.
Just look how tiny that trunk is.
You can blow the trunk and that's
how you get to make friends with them.
How do you make friends with them?
When you blow down the trunk, they get to identify your scent.
Really? You blow down their trunk?
If they give it to you. OK.
I can't just take it? No.
Sometimes if it's itchy we assist them.
They feel comfortable sometimes.
Does that feel good? Is that like having a scratch?
Yes, like having a scratch inside.
Ndotto has been looked after at the orphanage for 12 months.
His blanket is designed to recreate the warmth he would get if he still
had his mum at his side.
Just moments after his birth, Ndotto was found alone,
confused and barely alive by local villagers
who called in the team from the orphanage.
Ndotto was the smallest baby they've ever taken in
and they didn't think he'd survive.
But he was a fighter and with their specialist care, he pulled through.
A year later, Ndotto is fighting fit,
but if he's ever going to make it back into the wild, it's crucial he
starts spending quality time with the other orphans.
Scientists now know that elephants live in sophisticated social groups.
It's thanks to their emotional intelligence
that they have such a strong sense of community,
a strict hierarchy and intricate ways of communicating.
In the herd, it's the adult elephants that teach the babies
this code of conduct.
But there's a problem.
Ndotto thinks he's already in a herd,
but that herd is made up of the humans that saved his life.
This means he now prefers the company of people
rather than his own kind.
What is he doing, Edwin? He's just playing and enjoying being with us.
Just having the contact.
Baby elephants, when you go down, you are a toy to them.
So they want to play? They want to play.
They want to push you around. By pushing around, yes.
Him coming to push is just sort of fun or play.
OK. He's not charging you.
No, no, he's not being naughty.
Oh, here we go.
Pushing now? Yeah, he's going to...
He's seriously strong.
I'm trying not to push back.
OK, OK, enough. Yeah, thank you!
They are too strong for us.
We give up for you.
'Play is an important part of growing up, but Ndotto has no idea
'that if he doesn't learn the rules of how to behave as an elephant,
'he risks being shunned by the herd, which could be disastrous.'
If an elephant is left alone that elephant can easily be stressed
to death by loneliness.
Do you really think an elephant can die of loneliness?
Yes. I have seen it happen.
They almost, like, give up the will to live?
Give up the will to live because they think
they're all by themselves. They don't have anyone with them
and they just die from a heart broken.
Ndotto cannot survive by himself.
He needs the company of all the others.
'Edwin and the team are hoping that a group of older orphans will come
'to Ndotto's rescue and thanks to their extraordinary emotional intelligence,
'they'll be able to understand what he's been through and teach him
'what he needs to know.'
'Tomorrow, I'm really hoping that Ndotto will have the courage to bond
'with the herd.
'He'll face that challenge alone
'but tonight, keeper Julia Shevega will sleep here too.'
I'm going to say goodnight.
Yeah. Very sweet baby.
You can blow. You can blow his trunk.
He says goodbye.
Nice keeper, nice friend of ours.
Thank you so much. Thank you again, Giles.
He loves you because you have got a feeling for him.
That's good. Don't make me cry. Thank you, man. See you.
Thank you, bye-bye.
Giles will be back later in the programme
to see if the other elephants will show Ndotto
the empathy and encouragement he needs to become part of their herd.
7,000 miles away in Canada, zoologist Lucy Cooke is
investigating if we could be making a smart animal even smarter.
In their natural habitat, racoons are opportunistic omnivores.
These guys can and will eat anything.
Many have ditched the countryside and followed their stomachs
to come to our cities and get at our food.
Experts believe these urban raccoons are becoming more intelligent than
their country cousins.
So what's making these city dwellers smarter?
Raccoons may look adorable but these cheeky masked bandits are
wreaking havoc in our towns and cities, raiding dustbins,
digging up gardens and even setting up home inside our houses.
In Toronto, the raccoon population is flourishing
thanks to easy access to our leftovers.
Residents are resorting to the bungee cord in an attempt
to make their bins raccoon proof.
Yet many are still waking up to find them trashed.
For the last three years, Dr Suzanne MacDonald has been
using night-vision cameras to study just how these raccoons
are breaking into bins.
Fantastic to see how they're all just figuring it out.
They are really smart, aren't they?
These urban raccoons are working as a team.
The bungee cord doesn't defeat them.
They flip the bin and then stretch it to open the lid
just wide enough for one lucky raccoon to get inside.
The rural animals never did this.
Not one animal ever got into the garbage can ever,
whereas about 80% of the urban animals figured it out.
Suzanne devised other tests and the results were the same.
The city dwellers always came out top of the class.
I think they are street-smart.
They know how to approach new things
and to spend some time to figure them out,
whereas the rural ones don't do that.
Why would they do that?
They don't have to spend time figuring out human objects.
Fundamentally, us creating these cities and these new environments
is sort of putting a wedge in the species
and sort of causing a divide.
That's what we think, yes.
So the raccoons that don't figure it out, they're not eating so much,
they probably die, their genes don't get passed on
to the next generation.
Unlike the smart raccoons,
which are having lots of babies and their genes are being passed on.
And that's how the raccoons here are evolving to be smarter.
We keep one-upping each other and the end result
is a smart little raccoon.
In an attempt to outwit these resourceful raccoons,
experts and the Toronto council have devised a new impenetrable bin,
complete with lockable lid to foil these masked raiders.
It may be stumping the nocturnal thieves for now,
but if Suzanne is right, all it's doing is ensuring there will be even
smarter raccoons in the future.
But 1,000 miles away in Nassau in the Bahamas,
I've heard of a seriously clever raccoon
who's been making the headlines.
Beneath these sheets is a wild raccoon
that's taken its relationship with humans
to a whole new level of intelligence.
This is Pumpkin. She's 13 months old and lives with Laura Young.
Laura's family found Pumpkin with a broken leg and nursed her back to
health and although Pumpkin can return to the wild
whenever she wants, she clearly prefers domesticated life with Laura
and her dog.
But why? Is this an example of a wild animal manipulating us
to get what it wants?
Do we shake hands?
Yes, just let her smell you.
Hello. I'm shaking hands with a raccoon!
Come on, Pumpkin.
She loves eggs.
Any style, any way.
But sunny side up is her favourite
because of the yolk. Yeah.
'It's becoming very clear why Pumpkin prefers living here
'to the wild.'
Raccoons are famously intelligent.
What's it like sharing your home with such an intelligent animal?
Every single day, it's a new adventure.
She's always up to something.
She's always trying to get into different things.
She's always trying to open our doors.
Our entire house has to be baby proofed because of her.
She's so intelligent and she's always figuring out
new little things. Every day, there's something new.
What's she doing now? She's so clever she's decided she wants
to do some reading. Yeah.
One of the things that she's taught herself to do
is actually pee in the toilet. So she knows how to go up to it, pees,
but she hasn't learnt how to flush it yet.
So we'll see if that ever happens.
She's definitely not boring.
Not at all. Every day, we're running after her. Yeah.
It's like having a two-year-old permanently.
'Just watching Pumpkin for a couple of hours and it's easy to see how
'stimulated she is in Laura's house.
'She wants to touch and sniff everything,
'which can be a little bit scary.
'Although Pumpkin has adapted superbly to this human world,
'she still exhibits classic wild raccoon habits.'
It is incredible to see close up how she uses those paws because they
really are like human hands.
She doesn't have opposable thumbs but she's got huge flexibility
and extreme sensitivity.
They've got an enormous amount of sensory receptors,
more so than almost any other mammal and the part of their brain that's
devoted to reading that information is hugely enlarged in a raccoon,
so, effectively, they see through their hands
and that's why you see them doing this extraordinary behaviour
where, look, she looks away and feels.
Apparently, she's very possessive about her food.
She makes these little... SHE GROWLS
..noises and that means, "Back off, these are my beans."
When you see Pumpkin's phenomenal dexterity combined with her ability to climb,
it's understandable why Laura has had to tie up or completely remove
all of the handles in her kitchen.
You wouldn't want this lady around your best crockery.
Most of the time, Laura's raccoon-proof cupboards seem to be working.
But why should this bother Pumpkin?
Thanks to her intelligence, she's assured that
Laura will provide all her catering needs.
Only a super-smart animal has the ability
to manipulate a human in this way.
And just when you thought they couldn't get any cleverer,
there's another one across the water in Florida.
With three million hits on the internet,
Roxy the raccoon has become a bit of a social media sensation.
What are you doing?
Although this behaviour may simply look cute,
what's truly remarkable is it could be evidence of tool use in a raccoon,
which is normally associated with the most intelligent animals of all - primates.
She gets a rock and knocks on my door.
Roxy using a stone to call for her dinner suggests just how clever and
manipulative this wild animal has become.
The behaviour of Toronto's raccoons and the antics of Pumpkin and Roxy
help to prove that wild animals become more intelligent
when they master human environments.
Next, we're staying in Florida, where I'm up early and out on the water.
Today, I'm hoping to catch up with a creature that I've wanted to meet
ever since I read about it as a small boy.
I'm in Blue Spring on the St Johns River.
What a beautiful place. It's just astonishing.
Here, researchers have captured on film some extraordinary animal
behaviour that's astounding the scientific community.
This is the home of the manatee, or sea cow,
a gentle, docile vegetarian.
These graceful marine mammals have relatively small brains
compared to their massive bodies.
Which is why they've never been considered to be
the brightest of sparks.
But now that's changing.
This is just magical.
Manatees' eyesight is poor,
so they rely on their other senses to perceive the world.
They not only have incredibly sensitive whiskers,
but scientists have discovered that the hairs which cover their whole
bodies make them super-sensitive to their surroundings.
The manatee's closest relative is actually the elephant,
a famously intelligent and maternal animal.
And like elephants, female manatees share nursing duties with each other.
In winter, hundreds of manatees come to keep warm in this creek,
which is fed by a thermal spring.
Today, that annual trek is well underway.
This is amazing. I am completely surrounded by manatees left, right,
underneath us. They're just beautiful.
But it's their extraordinary behaviour towards a dangerous predator that
also visits the creek which is amazing scientists and making us
change our opinion on just how smart manatees could be.
You'd think that going head-to-head with a dangerous predator like this
could end up getting messy.
But this footage appears to show a manatee deliberately nuzzling an alligator.
Perhaps this seemingly reckless act isn't quite as foolhardy as it looks.
So what could be behind this bizarre behaviour?
Manatee expert Dr Roger Reep has a theory.
I think what it's telling us is that manatees are very interested in
exploring their environment and finding out what's in it.
That they have curiosity
and they are not threatened by novelty,
very much like we like to think of ourselves.
We're very impressed by quick moving creatures like a hawk
or something like that, or a predator.
We're less impressed, in terms of what we think
cleverness or intelligence entails, by a mammal,
in this case a manatee, that's slow-moving.
Those are the animals we kind of consider boring or stupid.
'Roger thinks the water temperature of the creek may hold the key
'to these remarkable encounters.
'It's warm for the manatees but relatively cold for the alligator.'
We tend to think of alligators as vicious predators,
but one of the things about this environment is that because it's spring fed,
the water's colder than alligators usually prefer, so they rest a lot.
'Because the alligators are colder, they're less active than usual.
'It's almost as if the manatees know that the chilled out alligator isn't
'a threat. And instead of ignoring or avoiding them,
'the manatee seems to be playing with them.'
So there's lots of manatees and this alligator doesn't seem to bother any of them.
And there's one right beside it.
I mean, you know, this is a very peaceful coexistence.
No sense of any problem between the two.
Not at all.
Look, here we've got a baby.
He's got his flipper around the alligator.
He's cuddling him with a flipper.
And the alligator doesn't care a bit.
And that's a size that he could almost munch. Maybe.
'All the most intelligent animals on the planet, like great apes
'and dolphins, demonstrate curiosity and playfulness.
'And if that's what's happening here,
'then clearly we need to rethink our view of the manatee.'
Here it comes again. Here it comes.
It's almost like it's deliberately turning round to
offer its tail to the alligator. They're coming very close again.
Very close. Just teasing it with his tail.
That must have created a great swoosh of water over the alligator's nose.
It does. It does. That's very deliberate behaviour, isn't it?
It certainly looks that way.
There's further evidence of the manatee's intelligence in this new footage
in which one appears to be using a piece of wood to scratch itself.
This manatee is clearly manipulating the wood with his flippers,
suggesting these creatures could be capable of using tools.
A behaviour associated with indisputably smart mammals
like primates and dolphins.
The fact that the manatee is a really big animal with a tiny brain doesn't make it stupid.
Not at all.
'Roger thinks that the best way to appreciate the manatee's true character
'is to get in the water with them, as he's been doing for over 30 years.'
'He's brought me to Crystal River, and I'm relieved to hear that the
'manatee's alligator playmate isn't expected to make an appearance.
'I'm hoping they'll play with me instead.'
Look who we have here.
We've just anchored the boat and this fellow's come to say hello.
'Once we're in the water, the manatee's super-sensitive body hairs
'sense our presence and their curiosity kicks in.
'They approach and begin to play.'
I've got two of them right underneath me now and they're both nuzzling my legs.
Just bumping me now.
Very playful, just nudging.
It's just the most fantastic feeling.
'Being in the water with them gives me a real feeling that manatees
'are far smarter than they look.'
I've just had my toes tickled by a manatee.
And it keeps turning round and round and again and again.
And there's absolutely no doubt that he wants to play.
We are playing. There's no other word for it.
'It's been a privilege to join Roger in the manatees' world as science is
'revealing just how intelligent this gentle underwater giant really is.'
We shouldn't underestimate any of the animals that we share this planet with.
But I certainly won't be thinking about manatees again
without heaps of respect and admiration.
From the warm springs of Florida, we're heading 10,000 miles to Cambodia
where Patrick Aryee is discovering that there may be a new brainbox on the block.
When it comes to understanding animal behaviour,
intelligence is one of the areas that fascinates us.
And scientists are constantly looking at new species.
This adorable creature is a sun bear cub.
And she's appropriately named Sunbeam.
Sun bears are native to south east Asia and they are the smallest of all bear species.
But what makes them really special is that they have the largest brain
relative to their body size of any carnivore on land.
So I want to find out just how smart they are.
I'm in the far south of Cambodia, at the Free The Bears sanctuary.
Over the last 18 years, the team have rescued nearly 200 bears
from the illegal wildlife trade.
Experts here believe the sun bear needs to be smarter than
the average bear to survive in the Asian rainforest.
I want to put this theory to the test and see how bright they really are.
I can hear one of the sun bears growling.
It's not a good sign, is it?
'Sanctuary director Nev Broadis is going to give me an insight into this amazing species...'
'..and help test their intelligence.'
Alfie. This is Alfie.
Hi, Alfie. He's a little over a year old.
The one thing that I immediately notice is
that magical looking golden bib.
That's where he gets his name, the sun bear, from.
It looks like the sun when he stands up.
He absolutely adores honey.
Is that something he'd eat naturally in the wild?
Yeah. This is a once in a blue moon opportunity to come across
a nice big bees' nest full of honey.
A 25 centimetre long tongue and massive claws for climbing are
a few of the adaptations the sun bear has to help it find food in the rainforest.
But above all, they need to be very resourceful.
And researchers believe this is why they're so good at solving problems.
To test the sun bears' intelligence, we're going to set them three classic
If they pass all three, they could be in the same league as primates.
First up, simple problem-solving.
Put some honey in there.
'We fill the tube of tough bamboo with honey.
'It's too far down for a sun bear to reach with its tongue and hidden by vegetation.'
Let me just chuck that in there.
'If Rani can work out where the honey is first, and then figure out how to get to it...'
Come on, Rani.
'..she'll show that she can think ahead to imagine the outcome of her actions.
'It's a mental process that so far has only been seen in apes and some birds.'
She should be able to smell the honey in there, right?
She'll leave her greens till last.
She'll probably pull those out.
Honey's what she's after.
Yeah, too deep for her tongue. Whoa!
Literally one bite.
'Rani has cracked our first problem-solving test.
'She's worked out that the smell of honey came from inside the bamboo...
'..and by using her jaws and claws, she could break it open and reach her tasty prize.
'But do sun bears have the brains to match their brawn?
'To find out if they could be in the same league as
'better-known brainboxes, like the great apes,
'we need to up the stakes with some more taxing tests that baffle most animals.'
'The second intelligence test centres on something called object permanence,
'which is the ability to understand that an object still exists
'even though it can't be seen.'
So what we're going to do is let the bears into this viewing area,
and once we've got their attention with some tasty bananas,
we're going to hide them,
just like this, underneath one of these buckets.
We're going to show them that the other two buckets are empty.
..they get the right one.
It might sound easy, but scientists have shown that it's only the cleverest
animals that would consistently identify the correct bucket.
So can five-year-old Fortnam rise to the challenge?
Ah, see, he's really interested now.
So he can't simply sniff out his reward,
all the buckets have been scented with banana.
To pass, Fortnam must keep his eyes peeled to see which bucket the banana is hidden under.
He's definitely seen it going in bucket one.
Once they lose sight of it, most animals will behave as if
the banana no longer exists.
Out he comes.
It looks like he's going directly to bucket number one.
Do you think that he's actually remembering where it is?
Yeah, sure, because he's not sniffing each of the buckets.
He clocked which one had the bananas in it, went straight to it.
Fortnam gets it right time after time.
He's done it.
We, as humans, don't have this ability until we're over a year old,
and experts believe that this skill has developed in some bears
because of the challenges they face in the forest.
I think it's got a lot to do with the environment.
Their territory is very large, they have to remember where fruiting trees are.
They have to remember the seasons the trees will fruit,
they have to remember where water sources are.
So it does require a level of intelligence that
perhaps you wouldn't find in a different landscape.
My final and most demanding test is one that only the most intelligent
animals, including great apes and dogs, can pass.
This piece of tubing might look completely hollow from here,
but actually there's a piece of Perspex that divides it into two halves.
Now, I'm going to put some food on this end,
and this would stump most animals.
It looks like you can reach the food, but actually, you can't.
When they go in this end, they will continue to reach for the food
despite the fact they can't actually get to it.
It takes a brain with higher function, more intelligence,
to realise that you can't get to the food on this end and, in fact,
you have to go over to this side.
It's a problem-solving task.
To really make it difficult, I'm going to test it on little Alfie.
This is our most challenging test, and at just 12 months of age,
Alfie's clearly a long way from being a fully developed sun bear.
At this point, most animals will continue to reach uselessly
for the fruit before giving up entirely.
Perfect. Look at that. Getting his head well in there.
He's got it.
Well done. It's taken this clever one-year-old just a few minutes to
solve a puzzle that baffles nearly every other species that's tried it.
We're only now beginning to learn just how intelligent
these bears are, and the results are extraordinary.
If you were to think about the real top animal Einsteins,
you'd probably list chimps, dolphins and dogs.
But for me, at least, before coming here and meeting Sunbeam and Alfie,
sun bears wouldn't have even come close.
They have a level of intelligence which maybe we're yet to understand ourselves.
But it seems like the key to being quick-witted might come down
to where you live. To survive here, find food,
avoid predators and actually even to complete the challenges that we set,
it takes brains as well as brawn.
New research isn't just revealing the intelligence of mammals like the
sun bear, it's also leading us to question long held beliefs about the
intelligence of a whole different group of animals, the reptiles.
The idea that reptiles aren't particularly smart
comes from research carried out in the 1960s.
But new studies at Lincoln University by Dr Anna Wilkinson
suggests the earlier experiments had overlooked a simple factor.
She concluded that the reptiles were failing the intelligence tests
because they were too cold to think.
Reptiles are cold-blooded, which means that they have to use
the environment to regulate their temperature.
They can't regulate it themselves.
If they're from the tropics, they need to be in a tropical environment
in order to be able to respond, to move about, to do anything.
Anna decided to give reptiles a chance to redeem themselves.
Using her pet red-footed tortoise, Moses,
she heated the room to a balmy 28 degrees and she found that he could
solve a food-finding test as well as a rat.
To check that Moses wasn't a one-off animal mastermind, Anna tested more
tortoises and they all passed with flying colours.
But Anna isn't just raising the intellectual profile of tortoises.
Recently, she turned her attention to a lizard known as the bearded dragon.
What we wanted to do is test whether a totally different species had
similar levels of intelligence to the tortoises, because if they did,
then it might suggest that it's something which is general to many reptiles.
Anna wanted to see if bearded dragons could demonstrate a gold standard of intelligence,
learning by imitation rather than trial and error.
If we're learning by trial and error, what we have to do is
we have to try and do it, we have to fail,
we then have to refine what we're doing and then we need to do that
in a manner that then allows us to succeed.
However, if we're able to imitate another animal,
if we can see that animal doing it successfully and we can replicate
that behaviour, then it's a much, much more efficient way of solving the problem.
So Anna set up a simple challenge.
She put tantalising mealworms on the other side of a gate that could only
be opened by sliding it across.
Using trial and error to work out how to open the gate can take the dragons hours.
But Anna wanted to see if showing them a video of
another bearded dragon solving the problem would help them.
Would they be smart enough to copy what they saw?
The experiment needs a controlled subject, who's going to get
a different version of the video.
What Tom is seeing is the gate sliding open,
but he doesn't get to see another bearded dragon doing that.
So he knows the gate opens and that there's food behind, but he doesn't
get information about how to do it.
Anna then places Tom in the same set-up he's seen in the video.
To open the gate, Tom will have to use trial and error.
He's certainly fixated on his dinner,
but it's on the other side of the sliding gate.
For Tom, the task is too much.
Although desperate to get to the mealworms, he just can't work out
that he needs to stop pushing and start sliding.
This could go on for hours.
Anna then brings in Oscar,
who's shown a video that does reveal the secret of success.
What Oscar sees is,
he sees another bearded dragon opening that gate
and then the question is,
can he use that information to open the gate himself?
Oscar settles in to watch the movie where the hero dragon opens the gate.
But will it help him solve the problem and get to the snack?
An initial bout of head-banging suggests he's forgotten what he's seen in the video.
But suddenly, Oscar makes a breakthrough and he's gulping down his grubby reward.
He's copied the dragon in the video almost perfectly,
using his front foot to slide the gate to the left.
For the eight bearded dragons tested in this way, the results were the same -
the dragons that didn't see the solution in the video couldn't
do it, but the dragons that did were munching mealworms within seconds.
Anna has clear evidence that they are solving problems by imitation.
And now science is rethinking the extent of reptile intelligence.
For a long time, we thought humans were the only species that were able to imitate.
Now we know that you can see it in other great apes and some primates.
But to actually demonstrate this ability in a reptile was
something which people thought could never be done.
Anna's exciting research overturns the view that reptiles
are slow thinkers with limited intelligence.
And these delightful dragons are changing the way we perceive the reptile world.
As we learn more about animal intelligence, we're able to harness it and use it to our advantage.
Patrick Aryee is still in south east Asia and now he's investigating
how a surprisingly smart animal is helping to save lives.
I'm in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
It's a beautiful country, but unfortunately it has another side.
A history of conflict has left this region devastated by land mines.
Finding these land mines has relied on experts in body armour
painstakingly sweeping with metal detectors.
But it's estimated that five million deadly devices still litter the countryside.
Removing mines is dangerous and expensive,
but that's about to change.
I'm here to meet a crack detection squad flown in specially from Tanzania.
And these guys are totally unique.
They're rats, which are known for their high intelligence
and for having a sharper sense of smell than dogs.
From a few weeks old, these rats have been trained to sniff out TNT,
the explosive found in land mines.
They're not your common urban rat but African giant pouched rats.
They've already successfully detected thousands of mines in Africa
and now Cambodia is hoping to deploy 16 of these extraordinary animals.
Theap Bunthourn, also known as Beatty, is the team leader.
Who do we have here, and why is she playing in this giant sandpit?
Her name is Leila.
We put her in this to train to find the land mines.
'The team have buried three dummy land mines in the sandbox.
'Each mine contains a minuscule trace of TNT.
'That nose is always sniffing, smelling the area,
'smelling the ground, sniffing the air.
'Leila's handler, Mark Shukuru,
'is using a wire attached to her harness to guide her systematically over the entire area.
'And because of the tape measure from the guide wire,
'Mark knows when she's above one of the deactivated land mines.
'Mark's eyes are fixed on Leila as he waits for her to give him a signal.
'But, of course, he doesn't speak rat.'
When they sense the smell of TNT, she starts putting her nose into the air. Mm-hm.
And then she starts to scratch.
'When Leila scratches the ground like this, she's indicating she's found explosives.'
You can hear the sound. So scratching on the ground, and we heard that click.
'When she hears a click from Mark, she knows that she'll be rewarded with a banana or peanut.'
'It's thanks to their intelligence that these rats can simply be
'trained with food and a click so easily from a young age.
'Over time, the handlers reduce the TNT concentrations that the rats are
'exposed to until they can detect a mine buried 30 centimetres under the ground.'
Isn't it unfair on these rats to be putting them in such danger?
It is not because they are lighter,
they cannot detonate any mine.
It takes 5kg to detonate a land mine,
but these rodents typically weigh in at just 1kg.
'This is one of the key reasons why using Leila is considered to be
'better than using a dog for this task.
'But I still can't believe she's found one.'
Can we actually see if she's getting this right? Yes.
You're telling me this, but I want to actually see if it's true.
I don't believe it just yet. You haven't got me just yet.
So let's see if Leila got it right.
'When a rat indicates a mine in the field,
'disposal experts step in to carefully probe for the device.
'This may be a dummy mine, but Beatty is showing me exactly how it's done in the field.'
Where is this mystery item?, Beatty?
No, I think she might have got it wrong.
Ah, OK, right, so we've got something.
Wow, look at that.
OK, now you see.
This is the land mine. Gosh. Yeah.
And that took her, what, five, maximum ten minutes.
I think that's a job well done.
'Leila's proved that she's more than happy and able to pinpoint TNT in an isolated pit,
'but out in the field, there'll be other smells that can confuse these rats.'
'I've joined rat handler Shirima Vendeline,
'who's putting this amazing animal through another stage of training.
'Because it was raised in Tanzania, it needs a crash course
'in the smells and sounds of Cambodia.'
This is something completely new.
There are new sights, smells.
I can smell motorbikes, food, spices.
'This is vital training to make sure the rats aren't distracted when searching for TNT.
'Compared to us, these rats have 50 times the number of smell receptors
'in their nose, so it's understandable that this
'rat's whiskers have gone into overdrive.
'As news spreads of the hero rats, many of the locals are seeing
'what they once saw as vermin in a new light.'
It's nice, yeah? Yes.
'But not everyone is ready to get up close and personal with a kilo of rodent.'
Do you want to say hello? Touch it. No?
Walking through the market with this rat is...
Everyone's reaction, the kids in particular, is so inquisitive.
And it's the adults that are keeping their distance.
Finally, it's back to rat boot camp for a well earned sleep.
After 12 months of training, the hero rats are just weeks from active service.
Beatty's main concern is that they never miss a mine.
Just one mistake in the field could be potentially fatal for both rat and handler.
Training in a sandpit is one thing, but it's vital the rats are used to
working in a training field that more closely resembles the Cambodian countryside.
And to make things more realistic, they've buried all kinds of things,
including discarded metal objects,
which you typically find in the ground next to mines.
These objects would normally delay the process as a human team
would have to stop and carefully dig them up, wasting valuable time.
But how will the rats cope?
So here you've also got other metal fragments.
Yes, because we want to confuse the rats. Ah.
The first decoy is a tin can.
And it's right under her nose.
But she's not fooled.
How about when I'm at the reins?
Will she still locate the dummy mine?
Just not pull it hard.
Just guiding the rope slowly. Yeah, slowly.
You concentrate on the rats.
It's just like walking a dog, isn't it?
Even with me in charge, Leila quickly goes to work.
She's got that nose in the air.
Leila's scratching. That's a land mine.
HE LAUGHS Well done.
'Time for a nutty award.'
There you go. Yeah.
She's getting it right 100% of the time and she hasn't missed a single
marker in this area that we're working in.
It would take these rats about 15 or 20 minutes to search an area
of 200 square metres, whereas it would take a human team five days.
Yes. It's so amazing.
These hero rats have already helped clear 13,000 land mines from
Mozambique, rendering the country mine free.
I hope that this tool can assist a lot in Cambodia so the people can get their lands...
To get their lives back. Yeah, and their lives are better off.
All because of one small rat.
Yes, you are right.
Here we have an animal that across the globe is seen as a pest,
but these giant African rats have become unexpected heroes.
They are the ultimate sniffing bomb squad,
and they do it all, quite literally, for peanuts.
So far, we've seen that when it comes to animal intelligence,
appearances can definitely be deceptive.
We've discovered that we might be responsible for making smart animals
even smarter, and we've seen that some animals' intelligence is
closely related to their habitat.
Finally, back in Kenya, Giles Clarke is about to witness a big day for a small elephant.
For the past year, baby Ndotto has been cared for by his keepers at the elephant orphanage.
But if he's going to survive back in a wild herd, he's going to have to
learn how to live with other elephants.
I'm here to see whether a herd of 29 older orphans can show a form of
emotional intelligence, empathy, when they meet up with him.
Will they give him the confidence he needs to leave his human carers and
start his journey to become a wild elephant?
Baby Ndotto is on his way to meet his new family.
Everywhere you look, there's just elephants walking through the bush.
Ndotto's always preferred to spend his time with people.
But keeper Edwin's convinced all that can change.
Do we think that the other elephants are really going to be able to teach Ndotto what's needed?
Yes. They are out, they will be able to teach him
what is needed because they know he's an orphan as well, like them.
The time has come. The orphans have arrived.
For the plan to work, Ndotto will have to be brave enough
to move away from his keepers and towards the herd.
This is his big chance.
The enthusiastic orphans seem keen to take on their pupil.
Unfortunately, Ndotto doesn't want to join in.
He keeps running off, so things aren't going to plan.
He's always so determined to follow the keepers.
Edwin and the team are desperate to see Ndotto have the physical contact
that the other orphans have with each other.
That interaction, touching and playing
is very important because they get
to learn from one another and socialise with one another. OK.
But despite everyone's efforts,
Ndotto still wants to spend his time with us.
Have time. Have your sweet time
and play together very well.
See you later.
Don't come with me. No.
After nearly an hour, it looks like there might be a breakthrough.
Mbegu is a young female who, like Ndotto, has suffered.
She was rescued from angry villagers who had killed her mother in front of her.
In a wild herd, female elephants will look out for any youngsters.
Mbegu seems to understand his needs.
Her maternal instinct and empathy kick in.
Mbegu is going directly to Ndotto.
Yeah. Straight round, straight to him.
Maybe she knows he needs reassurance.
To our amazement, this time Ndotto stays right where he is.
Mbegu tries to see the trunk,
the rest of the body, touching Ndotto.
Just to reassure, just to reconfirm that all is OK.
You can see Ndotto really leaning his head up against her back leg.
You know, like, sometimes when a human child is with a mother,
the baby or the human child will want to touch on somewhere
on the mother's body, so that's what Ndotto is doing.
Experts are only beginning to understand how Mbegu
is tuned in to what Ndotto is feeling.
Do you think that Mbegu somehow knows the trauma that Ndotto has gone through
in the past and that's part of the reason that
she feels the need to embrace and take care of him?
Yes. They tend to remember everything that happens
in their lives and that's why Mbegu still knows
or remembers what happened to her and her mother,
and that's why she extends her love to the other orphans who come in,
because she knows what they've gone through.
Mbegu is showing a level of empathy scientists used to believe
only humans were capable of.
With Mbegu at his side, by the end of the day
Ndotto is bonding with the other orphans.
And he's learning to copy the way she pulls up the tastiest grassroots.
Although, he does have a little way to go!
But Ndotto certainly hasn't lost his love of people.
He's making good progress with Mbegu watching his every move.
Mbegu has her ears up just as a little bit of a warning to me,
just leting me know that I've got to be careful here with little Ndotto.
But then I get that all-important signal that Mbegu trusts me.
Thanks to Mbegu's extraordinary emotional intelligence
and empathy for Ndotto,
his journey back to the wild has begun.
'Next time, we're investigating the mysterious world of animal relationships.
'Patrick's in South Africa to discover how nature's undertakers are saving human lives.'
This is quite intimidating.
He probably can sense that. SHE LAUGHS
'In Thailand Giles reveals the special bonds
'that could help save one of the world's most endangered cats.
'Lucy helps find a cure for the relationship problems of a very rare pig.
'And I'm in Costa Rica to uncover the team-building rituals of
'a very successful troop of monkeys.'
Whoa! OK, that's called branch breaking,
and that's definitely a sign of aggression.
And that landed right on my head. Thank you.
Planet Strictly to Sparkle - this is Mission Fabulous.
It's your job to find this year's celebrities. Good luck.
'Sparkle welcomes you on board.'