Documentary. Animatronic spy creatures go undercover to discover how friendships are a vital part of animal societies, helping them survive in a dangerous world.
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The world is full of extraordinary animals...
..but how well do we really understand them?
How do they really think and feel?
To find out, a team of spy creatures is going undercover.
They not only look like part of the family, they behave like them, too.
Armed with the latest camera technology...
they are going to travel the globe...
..to understand the true nature of the animals they meet...
and reveal how intelligent they really are...
..how badly behaved they can be...
..how important friendship is to them...
..and if it's possible that they can truly love each other.
What they discover will change our perception of animals for ever.
Perhaps they are more like us than we ever believed possible.
Animals often have strong family bonds,
but how important are the other relationships in their lives?
The Kalahari Desert of Africa, home to the meerkat.
Here, everyone helps each other and life revolves around the queen,
the only female to have babies.
She can have six in a litter and three litters in a year,
so her many offspring are everywhere.
They need a lot of looking after.
But, fortunately, she has plenty of friends to help -
up to 50 of them.
And today she has one more.
A spy meerkat.
She is here to film the unique friendship that exists
among these highly sociable animals.
But this is a tight-knit community - they don't welcome strangers.
She is the biggest meerkat they've ever seen,
and requires serious examination.
She's been made to smell like the colony, so this reassures them.
Each day, different volunteers set up a creche,
giving all the child support a mother could wish for.
They share roles, including sentry duty.
It demands concentration, and it's easy to lose focus.
And sometimes it's good to have someone watching your back.
Being a sentry is a risky business,
as they are easy targets for predators.
But with young pups to protect,
they take greater risks by climbing higher.
Here, they can see predators earlier,
but are vulnerable to birds of prey.
Their self-sacrifice is about to be tested.
But this is no ordinary cobra.
It's a spy cobra.
With no regard for her own safety, she prepares to face the snake.
She reacts as she would to the real thing,
bravely protecting the colony with no thought for herself.
Her aim is to harass the snake into leaving,
but with spy snake holding its ground,
the meerkat calls for reinforcements.
This is where fraternity comes into its own.
An intimidating wall of meerkats face up to spy cobra.
They push their luck as far as they dare, goading the snake to strike.
Real snakes tire easily, so it's a matter of wearing it down.
But one meerkat
senses there's something different about this serpent.
It may look and move like a real snake,
but it shows no sign of leaving.
Spy snake has been well and truly rumbled.
Satisfied he's harmless,
the meerkats go back to what they enjoy best -
relaxing among friends.
And there's a more approachable spy creature to spend time with.
Even the pups get their own introduction.
She's part of the gang now,
perfectly placed to film more of the meerkats' close alliances.
The extremes of the Canadian Arctic present different challenges.
These wolves are all related,
but it's the close friendships between them that really count.
In this harsh world,
it's vital they work together to find and catch food,
and the mother needs support in bringing up her cubs.
A new spy creature attempts to join the pack.
WOLF CUB WHINES
Spy wolf cub may not last long.
Wolves kill strange cubs.
She considers how to deal with him.
Then pees on him instead.
Not the most fragrant welcome,
but smelling of wolf is an advantage
if you want to make friends with wolf cubs.
He soon gets a cub's-eye view of the family.
At five weeks old,
the cubs need more than just mother's milk,
so the wolves must go hunting.
They rally the pack.
This is when friendships really matter and everyone must take part.
The cubs are left behind.
They have the den to keep them safe
and a new friend to keep a spying eye on them.
In the height of the Arctic summer, mosquitoes become a problem.
A few might be a nuisance...
..but a plague can be devastating.
These bloodsucking insects can weaken and even kill.
Already the cubs are suffering.
Only the den offers some sanctuary.
The father has been out scavenging
and returns to see the growing swarm.
This is not a place for young cubs any more.
So, without waiting for the rest of the pack,
he decides they must be moved,
but the nearest alternative den is five miles away.
He sets a punishing pace. Wolves travel fast...
..and the cubs are struggling.
The smallest soon drops behind.
After running for over two miles, he's had enough.
The father conceals him in a temporary hideaway,
somewhere to regain his strength.
With the little cub safe, he continues his journey.
After five miles,
the father finally slows the pace
and the remaining two cubs reach the new den.
There are far less mosquitoes here.
The cubs are now in need of a good meal.
Without hesitation, the father sets off to find one.
Spy cub is still at the old den as the mother and the pack arrive back.
They soon realise the cubs are missing.
The mother calls for her cubs.
The pack spread out, looking for scent trails.
Everyone is working together.
After searching for eight long hours,
at last they find the new den.
But they soon realise one cub is missing.
The pack howls for the lost cub.
They won't give up searching until everyone is reunited.
As the mother sets off with the rest of the pack,
she entrusts her cubs to her closest friend.
She acts as a surrogate mother
and produces milk so she can help out in times of need.
Even with all the pack involved,
finding the lost cub in this vast wilderness will be challenging.
WOLF CUB HOWLS
The African savanna creates its own challenges
and it's given rise to some strange and unique partnerships.
When male warthogs leave the family home
they find company with similar lost souls.
They hang around in gangs,
rooting for food and indulging in their favourite pastime -
It's the perfect place for some male bonding.
But since they left the family, this is a sight they rarely see -
a young warthog on its own.
Spy warthog may soon discover just how friendly they really are.
He's certainly creating some interest.
It's been a long time since this male has met a young warthog.
Nuzzling is a greeting.
Warthogs use their sensitive noses to recognise each other.
Remarkably, he seems to be welcome here.
He's now a junior member of the gang.
But they are not the only friends he needs to make.
These lively characters are banded mongoose.
And they and the warthogs are the best of buddies.
Their partnership is one of the most surprising in nature.
When the warthog lies down, it's a signal to the mongoose.
It means he wants to be groomed.
The mongoose sets to work, removing dry or flaky skin
and ferreting out parasites like ticks and fleas.
They may act as skin therapists, but they don't go easy on their clients.
It's for their own good, and the mongoose get a meal as payment.
And they reach the parts that the warthogs fail to reach.
When they finally finish, some very happy customers are left behind.
They seem to think that spy warthog is in need of a full body treatment.
They await the signal.
He assumes the grooming position...
..and the mongoose set to work,
giving him an intimate perspective of an extraordinary partnership...
..although his skin must offer slim pickings.
Warthogs aren't the only African animal with unusual friends.
Every lake and river has a resident population of hippos.
They too are social creatures,
but they are also territorial.
Spy hippo is going where few others dare to go.
He needs to be cautious.
His subjects are notoriously bad-tempered...
and they could be anywhere.
It's never a good idea to get on their wrong side.
Spy hippo has been given a warning.
He must avoid sudden movements.
As he gets closer, ear wiggling shows confidence.
Facing one of Africa's most dangerous animals,
spy hippo must hold his ground.
The pod is made up of females looked over by a single male.
Fortunately, females are less aggressive.
Spy hippo is already capturing some of the closest views
that have ever been seen.
But hippos spend much of their time below the surface.
As the hippos dive...
..so must spy hippo.
He mimics their movements.
Rather than swim, hippos walk underwater.
Through the murk, spy hippo glimpses an extraordinary sight.
Fish are shadowing the hippos' every move.
These are barbs.
They usually feed on the riverbed
but when the hippos appear, they shoal around them.
As spy hippo moves closer,
it's clear that their skin is a maze of cuts and scratches.
These fight marks easily become infected
and parasites can also invade.
This is where the fish come in.
Together they set up an underwater clinic,
with the hippos as willing patients.
The barbs may be skin specialists...
..but they'll try a bit of dental hygiene, too.
After having a full body treatment,
the hippos seem to enter a trance.
Back in the Arctic,
the lost wolf cub has been waiting for three long days.
Only spy cub has been keeping watch.
His howls are becoming desperate.
WOLF CUB HOWLS
He is both hungry and tired.
He now needs the pack more than ever.
Many miles away, the pack is still searching,
but the cub's calls are lost in the vastness of the tundra.
The mother has set her own course,
sensing the urgency of the danger he's in.
But at least her other cubs are safe.
WOLF CUB HOWLS
The cub's calls can carry for over a mile,
but only if the wind is in the right direction.
The mother can only follow her instincts,
she has so little to go on.
her cub leaves his only protection to go searching for her.
He howls into the canyon.
It echoes his cries.
WOLF CUB HOWLS
It seems her cub did the right thing.
WOLF CUB HOWLS
He heads off in the direction of his mother's howls.
It's taken three days of searching,
but she's found him.
There's no time for celebration, she must get him back to the den.
Now the whole pack can welcome him back.
The teamwork isn't over yet,
as the cubs are still hungry.
The father makes good, as he returns bearing gifts.
As the cubs tuck in,
he seems oblivious to the trouble he's caused,
but with everyone working together, the precious cub was found.
Pack life was once thought to be about dominance and submission,
but what's actually more important are their deep bonds of friendship.
Among our closest animal relatives, friendships are equally important,
but they are also far more political.
spy bushbaby is concealed in a tree stump
to film a group of chimpanzees visiting a jungle water hole.
They are the only chimps t o bathe like this
and they have their version of a members-only spa.
Here, they get relief from the oppressive heat,
but it's also a place to socialise,
a chance for the youngsters to play and make friends.
They also admire their reflections.
Chimps are one of the few animals that can recognise themselves.
Who you are is important in chimp society.
And friendships forged at this young age
make all the difference in later life -
that's when position really matters.
Here, elders must be treated with respect...
..and youngsters must know their place.
When the big males arrive, family time is over.
This is when friendships get political.
First in has choice of the best spot -
the deepest part of the pool.
But not for long.
A senior male pulls rank.
Each new male is aware of his position
and where his friendships lie.
These two don't get on,
but this one's a very good friend.
So everyone shuffles around depending on who they are
and who they are friends with.
The most important likes to make an entrance...
..and claims the prime spot.
Once places are properly allocated, it's time for some male grooming -
a chance to confirm friendships and alliances.
These bonding moments reduce stress and improve their health.
Like humans, chimps yawn sympathetically -
a sign of closeness and empathy among familiar friends.
This is now strictly a male-only spa,
so mothers must find other ways to entertain the kids.
Or let them entertain themselves.
A five-year-old finds another of the spy cameras...
a filming device based on the fruit of the baobab tree.
Perfect for an improvised ball game.
But balls have a habit of going astray...
..and where it's landed is strictly out of bounds.
It wouldn't be wise to try to get it back.
But it's giving spy baobab a unique view of chimpanzees
at their most relaxed.
A time when they can get rid of ticks or fleas.
Or just chill out.
With his ball out of play,
the five-year-old finds other things to do.
But one brave female
is prepared to risk joining this male exclusive club.
She's rightly nervous but a male reaches out a hand of friendship.
She's a high-ranking female and this gives her special privileges...
..ones that also apply to her baby.
But the mother is still cautious -
some males aren't so tolerant.
The mother retreats, but for her daughter
the water is just too tempting.
Her cheekiness doesn't go unnoticed.
But a kiss reassures her
and confirms her special status.
This little chimp is already indulged more than most youngsters
and is likely to rise to a high position.
For the males and their gentlemen's club,
bath time is over.
The others waste no time.
As everyone rejoins the pool party, friends can play once more.
The five-year-old finally gets his ball back
and takes an accidental selfie.
Among chimps, friendships keep the community together,
and these exclusive baths have become the hub of their social life.
Back in the Kalahari,
the meerkats have a far more egalitarian view of friendship.
And there is one friend who now seems totally at home -
She is filming the details of life in the creche.
Among meerkats, it is the focus of their social life.
Here, the babies learn to make friends and discover who's who.
As childminders change all the time, the babies soon meet everyone.
As the youngsters groom each other,
they establish their own bonds of friendship.
They also learn the secrets of how to get along.
The childminders also clean out the den
and even make decisions on when the pups should be moved.
This happens when nest parasites become just too much.
Moving day is a big event
and the process must happen quickly.
To stay with them, spy meerkat needs some help.
He hitches a ride on a mobile termite mound,
complete with its own stabilised camera.
With so many pups to care for,
it's easy for one to be left behind.
He's the smallest of the litter
and he's hardly ventured from the den before.
He faces plenty of unexpected pitfalls.
Spy meerkat is following the rest of the gang.
And these pups move confidently with the adults in charge.
In the rush, they didn't check the numbers.
But with the pups out in the open, it's wisest to keep going.
The little pup is now even further behind.
It's a long trek for such tiny legs.
And the heat is taking its toll.
When spy meerkat arrives at the new den site,
everyone is already assembling.
The cubs are introduced to their new accommodation.
Now they have time for a headcount.
They realise one has been left behind.
All alone, he has no idea which way to go.
His childminder hasn't let him down.
Ultimately, everyone must be accounted for.
Meerkat society works because everyone cares for everyone else.
It's an ethos that begins when they are just pups.
Those out foraging soon track down the new den.
The mother is reunited with her babies
and her helpers can rest at last,
having done their best for the good of the colony.
The need to protect young has given rise to unlikely friendships.
Murchison Falls in Uganda.
This is spy crocodile.
Like a real croc,
he's just as manoeuvrable in water as he is on land.
He needs to be -
where he's going is difficult and dangerous to reach.
And in this special place,
spy crocodile is going to film a very brave little bird.
These are water dikkop,
a type of stone-curlew.
They may be small, but they like to live life dangerously.
Their nearest neighbour is a crocodile
and their nest is right next to hers.
Few would dare to shepherd a crocodile,
but the fearless dikkop protects her nest by marshalling the croc away.
The dikkop only gives up when the croc is safely in her own nest.
Filming the action around the nest are some spy crocodile hatchlings...
CROCODILE HATCHLING CALLS
..and the crocodile guards them as her own.
It seems insane for the dikkops to nest so close,
especially when a second croc arrives.
Nesting crocs are intensely territorial.
This is too much for any dikkop to handle.
But the rival is quickly dispatched.
The dikkop settle, a moment of calm as the croc guards her nest.
But it doesn't last.
In the heat of the day, the croc heads for water.
It's a moment not lost on this monitor lizard.
Nile monitors eat both crocodile eggs
and those of the dikkop.
But it's the croc's unprotected nest that interests him now.
Except for the spy hatchlings, the monitor has the place to himself.
He's soon digging for the buried treasure.
And gets a taste of a spy hatchling.
But the real eggs are what he's come for.
The dikkop steps into action again.
If she can stand up to a croc, a four-foot lizard is nothing.
She even tweaks the dragon's tail.
Dikkops must be among the pluckiest birds on Earth.
The male at the nest joins the battle.
They are a formidable team.
It's a risky strategy, as the dikkop's nest is now exposed...
..and the monitor won't give up easily...
..so the mother returns to her nest.
With both bird and egg thief holding their ground, it's a stand-off.
Time to call for reinforcements...
..and the crocodile hears the call to arms.
The monitor is totally outclassed.
And this is why it was worth nesting here.
They may be friends of convenience, but here most crocodile nests
have their own resident pair of fearless dikkops.
In North America, prairie dogs also have some unexpected neighbours.
Spy prairie dog discovers who these squatters are.
They are burrowing owls.
They make good use of any available free housing.
They may be uninvited guests,
but they still make the best of neighbours.
The owls hunt mainly insects,
so they are no risk to the prairie dogs
and they also help watch for predators.
In turn, the owls use the prairie dogs' alarm system,
so their close relationship works for both of them.
In the pupping season,
the prairie dogs are on high alert, watching for danger.
And rattlesnakes are one of the enemy.
But this snake is another spy creature.
PRAIRIE DOG CALLS
The prairie dog sends out an alert.
He has a special word for "snake".
But rather than panic,
the prairie dogs and owls stay where they are.
Theirs is a very measured response based on how dangerous
the threat really is.
And as spy snake shows no sign of moving closer,
they simply keep an eye on it.
There are plenty of other threats to be worried about.
They have their own name for it, too.
They shout it out to alert the whole colony.
PRAIRIE DOG CALLS
But like the snake alarm, it doesn't create immediate panic.
Each chirp lasts just one tenth of a second,
but it's packed with subtle meaning
so that everyone can know the nature of any threat.
prairie dogs have the most complex animal language ever discovered.
Nouns define the type of predator.
Adjectives describe if the threat is near or far.
And adverbs explain how fast it's moving.
The chirps for a walking coyote are further apart
and cause little reaction.
The quicker chirps for a running coyote demand immediate attention.
Now it's time to panic.
The coyotes head off for an easier meal.
When they are gone, the prairie dogs sound the all clear.
PRAIRIE DOG CALLS
Their language allows prairie dogs to stay above ground
until the last possible moment,
while the owls just have to watch what the prairie dogs do.
Time for a traditional celebration - the jump-yip.
Friendships help guard against danger,
but sometimes you have to make friends with the enemy themselves.
The langurs of India are among the most agile of all monkeys.
Spy monkey is also capturing the quiet moments,
when friendships are really made.
Grooming is used to calm tensions,
build trust and cement relationships.
They even try to make friends with spy monkey.
Stray dogs live alongside the langurs,
scavenging on food that people leave for the monkeys.
They aren't the friendliest of neighbours.
They see monkeys as competition for food
and will even kill a monkey if it gets on their wrong side.
So for their own safety,
the langurs try to make friends.
But the dogs aren't easily won over.
To ingratiate themselves,
the monkeys use the same technique they use with each other.
But grooming a dog is like playing with fire,
especially when you don't understand the body language.
But if they can make friends, they are less likely to get hurt.
Here, it's a matter of keeping your friends close
and your enemies closer.
Fortunately, most dogs just want to be loved,
and they soon succumb to the monkeys' unsolicited advances.
Grooming brings other rewards -
a tick makes a juicy treat.
They even start taking liberties.
This personal valet service diffuses aggression
and helps everyone to get along.
For a puppy, there's a different reward -
monkeys make the perfect playmates.
Like the langurs, intelligent animals have subtle
and sometimes manipulative friendships.
And those of chimps
show the greatest connections with our own lives.
Filming the Senegal chimps requires an array of spy cameras.
As well as spy bushbaby, spy tortoise is also here.
And spy tree stump offers discreet coverage.
There can be ten different cameras deployed at any one time.
A chimp hears something that suddenly changes the mood.
It's the sound of prey.
They move into hunting mode.
This is when rivalries and position are put to one side.
Everyone is now working together.
It's their bonds of friendship that allow them to hunt as a team.
They glimpse their quarry.
It's a large troop of baboons.
They plan to encircle them and take them by surprise.
They set off in different directions,
moving silently as they go.
Each takes up a different position.
Standing on two legs gives a better view.
When everyone's in place, they stop.
One flushes the baboons.
But their escape is blocked.
It's just as they planned.
There's no way out.
To the victor the prize...
or so they say.
But it's not that simple.
For this youngster, it's all too tempting.
He sneaks down to beg for a bite.
This is not the etiquette.
He must learn that the victor eats first.
His mother saves him from further social embarrassment,
and perhaps worse.
Then a ritual with huge significance begins.
The successful hunter starts to share.
The giving of meat reinforces their friendships,
meaning everyone will contribute in future hunts.
Such generosity releases the brain's feel-good hormone oxytocin,
making everyone feel content.
One chimp is tempted to jump the queue...
..but only close friends get away with taking liberties.
Everyone ultimately gets at least a morsel.
Even the baby chimp, who was rather too eager.
The friendships, cooperation and sharing that chimps show
is the foundation on which all complex societies are laid.
Now that everyone's feeling good,
it's a chance to play and relax once more.
There's nothing better than hanging out with friends.
In the animal world, friendships lie at the heart of the community.
From friends among equals...
to friendships in adversity.
From friends of convenience...
and those for self-preservation...
these many different animal relationships
mirror the complexities of our own.
Next time, our team of spy creatures investigates how and why
animals misbehave, sometimes in spectacular fashion.
The Spy Creatures are on another extraordinary mission as they discover how friendships are a vital part of animal societies. Spy Wolf Cub joins a pack of arctic wolves, where a real cub's survival depends on friendships in one of the harshest environments in the world. Spy Cub is anointed into the pack by a she-wolf that marks him with her own scent.
Spy Warthog meets some real warthogs and discovers the extraordinary relationship they have with the mongoose. He even experiences the mongoose's personal grooming service as they explore every nook and cranny. Spy Hippo comes face to face with an angry hippo, before discovering their relationship below the surface with some very fishy skin clinicians. Spy Cobra meets the real meerkat mob and is quickly dispatched with a show of unified force.
A walking and swimming Spy Crocodile finds the nest site of a real crocodile and reveals the extraordinary relationship they have with the tiny dikkop bird, who will not only stand up to the crocodile but joins them in a neighbourhood watch scheme against marauding monitor lizards. Spy Rattlesnake helps uncover the mysteries of prairie dogs - who have the most extraordinary and complex language in the animal world. In the colony, Spy Prairie Dog finds the cutest owls on earth, and we learn how they rely upon each other for protection against coyotes.
Chimpanzees take a bath in a jungle pool and show us that their social life is as sophisticated as our own. In the extraordinary climax, the chimps show how human organisation may have begun, as they spectacularly unite to hunt baboons.