Episode 2 India: Nature's Wonderland


Episode 2

Wildlife expert Liz Bonnin, actor Freida Pinto and mountaineer Jon Gupta reveal the hidden wonders of India's surprising natural world.


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Transcript


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India.

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A vibrant, bustling world, home to over a billion people.

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But if you know where to look...

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The most spectacular wildlife...

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Ancient cultures...

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And extreme landscapes can be found.

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I'm Liz Bonnin.

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I'm here to explore India's spectacular

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wildlife in one of the most bio diverse places on Earth.

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I've spent years studying wildlife,

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but every time I return to India, I discover something new.

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LION ROARS

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I completely underestimated how extraordinary

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and eye-opening this was going to be.

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Actor Freida Pinto was born here.

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She wants to share the remarkable bond

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between India's people and the natural world.

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You always see that there is a connection between man and animal.

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Wow!

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And from the highest peaks on Earth, mountaineer Jon Gupta

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explores India's most extreme landscapes.

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My passion is mountains,

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and there is nowhere in the world like the Himalayas.

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We're travelling the length and breadth of this subcontinent

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to reveal the hidden wonders of India's natural world.

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These are...

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-ALL:

-The Wonders of India!

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India is home to a spectacular array of habitats and species,

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many of which are found nowhere else.

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I've been enchanted by India ever since my first visit.

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My great-grandparents came from here.

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This land is so vast, you could spend a lifetime exploring it

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and still only scratch the surface.

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I'm starting my journey 300 miles west of Delhi.

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In a place which seems rather unremarkable.

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But this village hosts a unique wildlife event.

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A collaboration between birds and people I've heard about

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but have never witnessed.

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If it's half as impressive as they say, I'm in for a real treat.

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This is Khichan and it's known as the village of the cranes.

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Every year, tens of thousands of birds migrate here

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from their breeding grounds on the steppes of Eurasia and Mongolia.

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And it's not just the watering holes that border

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this village that draw the birds here -

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the people play an integral part in the lives of these elegant birds.

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I've discovered that the story of India's wildlife

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is one of ancient reverence.

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Every day in winter, the people of this village fill a square

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with food for some weary travellers.

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Demoiselle cranes.

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It has created one of the most spectacular

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sights on the subcontinent.

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Like all the best spectacles, it starts slowly.

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At dawn, the birds start to arrive in small numbers.

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They fly in formation, like ribbons stretched across the sky.

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There's something really emotive about watching them fly overhead.

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This fluid, coordinated movement. Oh, it's just, just beautiful.

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As the sun rises, so the number of birds increases.

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Gradually, the sky fills with cranes.

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LOUD COOING

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It might sound a bit like a cacophony

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when they're all together, and there is a real order to it all.

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They land on a hillside overlooking the village.

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Once the numbers reach a critical mass, they take to the skies again.

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Oh, my God!

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Look at that!

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It started off ever so gently, and now it's really,

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really kicking off. That's extraordinary!

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But the birds don't enter the feeding area straight away.

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They are extremely wary.

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So while the people of the village go about their morning routine...

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..the cranes circle above.

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Waiting for the first bird to take the plunge.

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For some unknown reason, the first bird is quite often this one.

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A bird with only one foot.

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Day after day, it's the first one to feed.

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Maybe it needs this head start because it can't compete

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when the square is crowded.

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The rest of the cranes are circling in what looks like a really

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synchronised, coordinated type of activity.

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All contact calling to each other nonstop.

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Once the rest can see there's no danger,

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they flock to the square in their thousands.

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I'm so impressed with how orderly this all is.

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They don't all land en masse to feed.

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There's a sort of controlled movement of the birds outside

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the enclosure, and then the front bit takes off,

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circles overhead and lands on the outside

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of the already feeding birds,

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and they're doing this in stages.

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It could be pandemonium, but it's not -

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it's incredibly civilised and orderly.

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I completely underestimated how extraordinary

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and eye-opening this was going to be.

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This flock acts like a well-oiled machine.

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No call, no movement is made by accident,

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and even the subtlest change in behaviour...

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moves through the flock like a ripple!

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This has to be seen to be believed.

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Demoiselle cranes are the smallest of all cranes.

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They were given their name when the French queen, Marie Antoinette,

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first saw one.

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She loved their delicate appearance.

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Demoiselle means maiden or young lady.

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But these birds are much tougher than they look.

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To get to Khichan, they have travelled 1,200 miles

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across the Central Asian plain.

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But it's the height they fly that is remarkable.

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Specially adapted lungs process oxygen more efficiently,

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so they can rise up into thinner air.

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They fly over the Himalayas at altitudes of up to 7,000 metres.

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The cranes started to come here

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because of the watering holes surrounding this desert village.

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Sevaram Mali Parihar is one of those that began this project.

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How many cranes were there at the beginning compared to how

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-many there are now?

-HE TRANSLATES

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So how much grain do you put out every day?

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That is a lot. So how do they pay for this?

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The people of Khichan are mostly members of the Jain community.

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It is a central belief of this ancient religion that animals

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and people should be treated with equal respect.

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When they saw hungry birds on their long migration,

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they felt it was their duty to help them.

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The villagers of Khichan have dedicated themselves to the

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preservation of these magnificent cranes.

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And you go beyond just feeding them, is that right?

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I saw some newspaper clippings about telephone or electricity wires?

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Yes. HE TRANSLATES

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It's an extraordinary amount of dedication.

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Why...why go through all of that?

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HE TRANSLATES

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Do you ever get tired of this, every morning, this incredible spectacle?

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But these wild birds are nervous feeders.

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Anything can scare them off.

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As quickly as the cranes entered the square, they leave.

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The villagers lay out the food for the next day

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and the routine starts all over again.

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I've been lucky enough to witness many spectacles.

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But they tend to be in wild places, away from people.

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To see something as dramatic as these cranes right in the

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centre of an otherwise ordinary village is a rare treat indeed.

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As an actor growing up in India, performance is in my blood.

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One of India's oldest forms of theatre mixes animals and

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people into a world-famous spectacle packed with spirit of my home.

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To witness it, I've travelled to Assam in the northeast of India,

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where, thanks to their isolation, the island communities

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of the Brahmaputra River maintain age-old traditions.

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Indian culture and religion have a very strong link to the natural

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world, specifically animals, and a lot of gods in Indian mythology

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and religion seem to appear in some animal form or the other.

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So how do they bring these gods to life?

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This is the ancient skill of mask making.

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They are used to tell mythological stories of the struggles

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between gods.

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In India's religions, such gods often take the form of animals.

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I think it will be absolutely incomplete,

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this trip, if I didn't try to gather some skills myself.

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IN HINDI:

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So the next step

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-is cow dung and what else?

-Cow dung, yeah, and clay.

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And clay. OK, it's a mixture of cow dung and clay

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to give the mask whatever character they desire to give it.

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So right now you have...

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Yeah, yeah, Hanuman.

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So right now, he is busy making a very,

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very famous character in the Ramayana.

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-Ramayana, yeah.

-It's Hanuman, the monkey god.

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Hanuman is one of the most recognisable gods throughout India,

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a deity with the face of a monkey and the quick witted instincts too.

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THEY SPEAK IN HINDI

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Well, basically, what he's saying is that I'm very good at this

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and I don't need any help.

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I'm actually the worst when it comes to crafts and arts, so this

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is me pretending that I'm actually an expert, when I'm actually not.

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Indian life is full of stories

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and religious fables that serve as a bedrock of this culture.

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The masks are an ideal way to bring those stories to life.

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They are the most colourful and expressive I've ever seen.

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One look is enough to convince me I need to try them on.

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OK.

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This is going to be a battle. Good and bad.

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THEY GROWL

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LIGHT APPLAUSE

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That's my Oscar!

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Legend has it that the inhabitants of these islands were urged to

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learn how to make these masks by a voice from the Brahmaputra itself.

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The masks have a spiritual purpose.

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These characters are from the story I'm to be shown.

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The Ramayana is not just one of the most important books in the

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Hindu religion, it's one of the best known stories in the whole of India.

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It's the story of Rama

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and his battle with the demon Ravana, who is after his wife, Sita.

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Here, Sita is being captured.

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The vulture, Jatayu, tries to save her.

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The demon king kills the vulture and runs off with Sita.

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But in the story, it is Rama who triumphs,

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thanks to the help of the animal kingdom.

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Especially the monkey army,

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led by the nimble Hanuman.

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THEY YELL

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These legends have been a part of our culture for centuries.

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Like millions of other Indians, they were a central part of my childhood.

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This constant telling and retelling of stories

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where nature helps overcome adversity

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reminds us of the importance of the animals that surround us.

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APPLAUSE

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And I want to say thank you so much for this wonderful performance.

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This was absolutely wonderful to bring it to life.

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Thank you so much for doing this for us. Thank you, thank you.

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From a man-made spectacle to one that was created

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40 million years ago.

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To my mind, these are India's greatest marvel of all,

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the Himalayas.

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I've climbed throughout the Himalayas in Nepal

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and Central Asia, but never before in India.

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The reason I wanted to come here is that my grandfather was born

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in the foothills of these mountains.

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Though he left India for Britain, this vast landscape was

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the backdrop to his childhood.

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Finally, I have the chance to come and explore it for myself.

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The higher I climb, the thinner the air gets.

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It means I can only ever visit these heights for a short period.

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At these altitudes, everything is difficult, even breathing.

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But all around me

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there are animals that have made this place their home.

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To stay in their world for any length of time,

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I would need to use specialist clothing and equipment.

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I want to learn about animals that have perfectly adapted

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to life amongst these peaks.

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To see them, I've had to come to just below the snow line.

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These are tahr.

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There's a reason I want to see them in action.

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I've heard this goat is the ultimate mountain animal.

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They've adapted to live in the most extreme mountain

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environment on Earth.

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Their long, thick fur keeps them warm in the harsh mountain winters.

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Their hooves have hard edges and soft rubbery centres.

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Perfect to wedge into rocky cracks.

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Their shoulders are shock absorbers.

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They can go anywhere, and I do mean ANYWHERE.

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Life in these mountains lives on a knife edge -

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there's very little room for error.

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I've climbed Everest,

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but I'd think twice before attempting to descend that.

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Yet this is the daily commute for even the youngest tahr.

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At each step they take, there's rocks

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and grass tumbling down the rock face.

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Tahr eat grass, herbs and leaves,

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but food is a scarce commodity up here.

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By climbing, they can get to vegetation that no other

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animal can access.

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I can barely watch it!

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I can't believe it. There are now two families descending the cliff.

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Even the youngest tahr takes this in its stride.

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I just wonder at what point the mother stands at the top

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of a cliff as big as this, at least 300 or 400 metres high,

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looks over and just says,

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"Yes, I think it's about time that you, my tiny, tiny little tahr

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"come down this rock face with me, and off you go."

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I can't help but be impressed at the agility

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and the dexterity of the tahr.

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It's a perfect example of how India's wildlife has adapted

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to live in even the most inhospitable places.

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The sheer size of India means there are many extreme

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habitats for wildlife.

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I've travelled a short way down the Brahmaputra to

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Kaziranga National Park - 160 square miles of grassland.

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I'm here to see India's longest-running

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conservation success story -

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India's rhinoceros, the one-horned rhino.

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And this is the best way to get close to one.

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So this is quite early in the morning.

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And the elephant is our chosen mode of transportation.

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I'm riding with wildlife cameraman Sandesh Kadur.

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He's spent a lifetime studying the rhinos.

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We're going to hopefully spot these rhinos today.

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Well, where we are, Kaziranga, is one of the best places to see

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-the one-horned rhino.

-Right.

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It has half the world's population right here,

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-but we do have to look for them.

-OK.

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As we enter the grass, I'm desperate for my first glimpse

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of this rare beast.

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Look at that, look at that.

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Oh, wow, that's amazing. Oh, we're very close to this guy.

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Oh, yeah.

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This is probably one of the best rhino sightings I've had

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in a long time.

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Now you can see how big the rhino is.

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I've never seen a one-horned rhino before

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so this is literally my first time.

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The rhinoceros conservation story goes back over 100 years.

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Kaziranga was created in 1905 when habitat destruction and hunting

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had brought rhino numbers in India crashing to just ten or so.

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Since then, these protected lands have helped numbers rise.

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There are now over 2,000 here.

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People come from all over the world to see them.

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They've got very, very small eyes.

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-They're practically blind.

-Aw!

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Rhinos have bad eyesight but good hearing.

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Their ears swivel at the slightest sound to locate danger.

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When threatened,

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these massive beasts can charge at up to 30mph.

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Oh, my God, he's been... He's had a little bit of a fight.

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-Oh, yeah!

-He's got a...

-Got a little...

-..gash.

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See, that's how delicate the skin is.

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Any little thing punctures it and wounds it.

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It looks like armour, but it is actually very, very soft.

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-Really?

-And another little titbit.

-Uh-huh.

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They get sunburnt very quickly.

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Aw.

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In summer, temperatures approach 40 degrees.

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The rhinos take to the water to cool down.

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Their skin gets covered in ticks and mites,

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the rhino relies on mina birds

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and egrets to pick the parasites from those hard-to-reach places.

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So what's...what's your...? What do you feel like? Your first rhino.

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My first rhino experience! I actually am...am...

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Ah! This is beautiful.

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It makes you emotional, right?

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Just to be in the presence of these wild animals.

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For me, that was the most beautiful thing. It's a real privilege.

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Just as we're about to leave,

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Sandesh spots an unbelievable treat.

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-Oh, look at that! Baby rhino.

-Ah! It's a baby rhino.

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Aw. How old do you think...?

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Oh, this is a newborn, hardly two months old. This is incredible.

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God, we're so lucky. We actually see the mother and the baby.

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That's right.

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This is a rare sight.

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Rhinos only have a single calf every three years.

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But this is a sign of the continued health of the rhino programme

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here, in Kaziranga.

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-Incredible.

-You couldn't have asked for more.

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Once, rhinos were found all across the northern plains.

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But poaching threatened their very existence.

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Thanks to over 100 years of protection in this park,

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numbers are on the increase.

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There are now over 3,000 of them in the wild.

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Over half live in these protected lands.

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The lush vegetation that gives the one-horned rhino a home

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is typical of the sights you associate with India.

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But India is also home to desert.

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The Thar Desert in the northwest of India is the largest

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desert in the country.

0:26:460:26:48

It's as large as Britain.

0:26:480:26:50

In places, the average rainfall is just ten centimetres a year.

0:26:520:26:56

An ancient legend explains how such a forbidding place came into being.

0:26:580:27:03

According to mythology, the Thar Desert was created

0:27:050:27:08

when Rama tried to dry the sea to reach Sita, who was being held

0:27:080:27:12

captive on an island.

0:27:120:27:13

The sea god begged Rama not to dry out his entire ocean

0:27:150:27:19

and just to dry out a small section where wicked people lived.

0:27:190:27:22

Rama agreed, and so the sea god granted him passage to Sita.

0:27:220:27:27

And as a thank you, Rama turned the dried out sea into a fertile desert.

0:27:280:27:33

The most barren part is the Rann of Kutch.

0:27:370:27:39

This is the home of an animal that is a true natural wonder of India.

0:27:410:27:45

It's able to call this baking furnace home.

0:27:470:27:50

It's the only place in the world where you'll find

0:27:520:27:56

the Indian wild ass.

0:27:560:27:57

In the most arid parts of the Rann of Kutch, the wild ass ekes out

0:28:000:28:04

an almost impossible existence,

0:28:040:28:06

surviving on the little nourishment available in the sparse scrub

0:28:060:28:09

that grows there.

0:28:090:28:10

This is one of the hottest places in India.

0:28:140:28:17

Temperatures peak at almost 50 degrees Celsius.

0:28:170:28:21

Living year round in this relentless heat, the Indian wild ass is

0:28:220:28:26

one of the hardiest animals in the world.

0:28:260:28:29

It has had to adapt to survive.

0:28:300:28:33

Rain comes for just a few months of the year.

0:28:340:28:37

When the surface water dries up,

0:28:400:28:43

the Indian wild ass gets the hydration it needs from eating

0:28:430:28:46

the scrubby plants that draw their moisture from the ground.

0:28:460:28:50

But it's not the only animal that lives here.

0:28:530:28:56

At certain times of the year,

0:28:570:28:59

wolves and hyenas will enter the desert, too.

0:28:590:29:02

To evade these predators,

0:29:030:29:05

the Indian wild ass has a special talent.

0:29:050:29:07

It's one of the fastest animals in India,

0:29:080:29:11

with a top speed of 50mph.

0:29:110:29:14

Every aspect of their lives is driven by water.

0:29:190:29:22

The brief rains turn the plains into green marshland.

0:29:260:29:30

Mating is timed so that foals will be born into this period

0:29:320:29:35

of relative plenty.

0:29:350:29:37

Females make it very clear

0:29:410:29:43

if they don't think it's the right time to mate.

0:29:430:29:46

Living in a place of such extremes, the Indian wild ass is a perfect

0:29:530:29:58

example of the resilience of India's wildlife in a hostile landscape.

0:29:580:30:02

From a land of baking heat,

0:30:050:30:07

it is just 600 miles north

0:30:070:30:10

to one of frozen ice.

0:30:100:30:12

The Himalayas are home to the greatest quantity

0:30:160:30:19

of freshwater ice outside of the poles.

0:30:190:30:22

It gives the mountains their empty, barren appearance.

0:30:230:30:27

But that's deceptive.

0:30:280:30:29

Everything here is alive.

0:30:340:30:36

The Himalayas are still growing.

0:30:380:30:40

Even though they are the highest mountains on Earth,

0:30:430:30:46

they are actually the youngest.

0:30:460:30:48

In geological terms, at just 40 million years old,

0:30:480:30:52

they are mere infants.

0:30:520:30:53

As the land masses they sit on continue their slow motion collision,

0:30:570:31:00

the Himalayas gradually rise.

0:31:000:31:02

It's mind boggling to think that this is still taking place today

0:31:050:31:08

and that the Himalayas are growing by a few centimetres each year.

0:31:080:31:12

For me, life in these mountains is simply on a different

0:31:140:31:17

scale from the world below.

0:31:170:31:18

Having spent a lot of my time living in these high mountains,

0:31:220:31:26

it's clear to me that these mountains are very much alive.

0:31:260:31:30

Last year, I was on a high camp on a mountain just near Everest and

0:31:300:31:33

I took the day off to rest. And as I spent the day sat there watching the

0:31:330:31:38

mountains, I couldn't help feel that they were also breathing with me.

0:31:380:31:42

In the morning, it's clear, crystal clear. And through the duration of

0:31:440:31:47

the day, clouds come up the valleys and disperse into the big hills.

0:31:470:31:52

And then later on in the afternoon,

0:31:540:31:56

when the temperatures start to plummet, the clouds do the opposite.

0:31:560:31:59

They then descend back into the valleys

0:31:590:32:01

and slowly dissipate back away, leaving this clear again.

0:32:010:32:04

And as I watched these clouds, I couldn't help but feel that these

0:32:060:32:09

mountains had taken an entire day just to take one full breath.

0:32:090:32:14

But even giants need help.

0:32:200:32:23

In the Himalayas,

0:32:230:32:24

it comes in the form of one of the smallest inhabitants.

0:32:240:32:27

The pika.

0:32:290:32:30

I want to see how this tiny creature plays a vital role

0:32:330:32:37

in the life of them.

0:32:370:32:38

Sahas Barve studies the animals of these mountains.

0:32:390:32:44

Oh. There's one right there. It's...

0:32:460:32:49

Oh, yes, yeah. Ah, they are quite small.

0:32:490:32:52

It's sleeping. Yeah, they are.

0:32:520:32:54

Pika are known locally as the friendly mouse,

0:32:540:32:57

but they are actually part of the rabbit family.

0:32:570:32:59

(He's going some place.) 'Their hopping run is the giveaway.'

0:32:590:33:02

You can definitely see that this is part of the rabbit family.

0:33:040:33:07

-Yeah.

-It runs like a rabbit.

0:33:070:33:09

I know, yeah.

0:33:090:33:10

Pika do not hibernate.

0:33:110:33:13

During the winter, they make burrows under the snow and under the rocks.

0:33:130:33:18

In spring, the tunnels they create become drainage channels,

0:33:180:33:21

dispersing the meltwater.

0:33:210:33:23

Through the winter, Pika live off food

0:33:250:33:28

they have gathered in the short summer.

0:33:280:33:30

Pikas live below the snow in the winters.

0:33:320:33:34

First of all, they have this big cache of food in their burrow.

0:33:340:33:37

But if they need to get to another cache,

0:33:370:33:40

they have paths under the snow.

0:33:400:33:41

-It's all connected?

-Yeah.

0:33:410:33:43

Their activity disperses the seeds of many plants.

0:33:440:33:48

Their food stores and droppings become fertiliser.

0:33:480:33:51

And because they are active year round,

0:33:530:33:55

they are one of the few sources of food for predators in the winter.

0:33:550:33:59

Pikas are really vital to the Himalayan system

0:34:010:34:04

because not only do they aerate the soil, which helps the grass grow,

0:34:040:34:08

but they're also a really key prey species for a bunch of animals

0:34:080:34:12

like weasels and martens and foxes and eagles.

0:34:120:34:15

Without these busy creatures,

0:34:170:34:18

the Himalayas would be a very different place.

0:34:180:34:21

This vast landscape owes so much to such a tiny creature.

0:34:250:34:29

Throughout India, people have a bond with the natural world.

0:34:400:34:44

If you go through any book that talks about religion or

0:34:480:34:51

Hinduism just in general, you always see that there is

0:34:510:34:53

a connection between man and animal.

0:34:530:34:56

I'm travelling to Majuli on the Brahmaputra River.

0:35:020:35:05

Majuli is the largest river island in India.

0:35:090:35:13

It's three times as big as the Isle of Wight.

0:35:130:35:15

One of the islands that cluster around Majuli is home to

0:35:170:35:20

a man whose dedication to nature is an example to us all.

0:35:200:35:24

To meet him, I need to get on a ferry,

0:35:260:35:28

and that's not as straightforward as it sounds.

0:35:280:35:32

Getting across the Brahmaputra can be quite a task.

0:35:320:35:35

As you can see, it gets pretty chaotic.

0:35:350:35:38

Somehow, through all this chaos,

0:35:380:35:41

like most of India is, things get done.

0:35:410:35:44

We will get on the ferry, our cars will load

0:35:440:35:47

and we'll finally get to our destination.

0:35:470:35:50

Shall I load?

0:35:500:35:51

The river is up to six miles wide.

0:35:520:35:55

There's constant toing and froing of people,

0:35:550:35:57

livestock and other animals.

0:35:570:35:59

Which explains the price list for tickets.

0:36:010:36:03

OK, we've found it. This one's very important.

0:36:050:36:08

India is a very, very kind country

0:36:080:36:11

and a very hospitable country, you probably know that by now.

0:36:110:36:14

Unlike many other modes of transportation,

0:36:140:36:16

we have no passenger restrictions here on the ferry,

0:36:160:36:19

so if you want to bring a buffalo, you can.

0:36:190:36:23

An elephant with a mahout, of course you can.

0:36:230:36:25

Sheep, goat, calf, pig, bull, cow, horse and like animal, we can.

0:36:250:36:31

And... If you want to get a wild animal like tiger or lion, you can.

0:36:310:36:35

So let's go!

0:36:350:36:37

If you're wondering how much a wild tiger costs...

0:36:550:36:58

Less than a pound.

0:36:580:36:59

150,000 people live on Majuli.

0:37:060:37:09

It's a place where time has stood still.

0:37:120:37:14

And all over the island, people are looking for ways to work with

0:37:170:37:21

the natural world.

0:37:210:37:22

This man has even made a bike using bamboo.

0:37:240:37:27

I can never resist trying something new!

0:37:290:37:31

IN HINDI:

0:37:330:37:39

OK.

0:37:430:37:44

So he says the only trick to the bicycle is learning how to

0:37:500:37:53

manoeuvre the handles.

0:37:530:37:55

But he's not the man I'm here to see.

0:37:570:37:59

See you later! Aaah!

0:38:000:38:03

This unique culture is under threat.

0:38:040:38:06

Not by man, but by the very thing that gives it life -

0:38:070:38:11

the Brahmaputra river itself.

0:38:110:38:14

Since the 1950s, Majuli has lost a third of its landmass

0:38:250:38:29

due to erosion from the river.

0:38:290:38:31

In 15 to 20 years, Majuli and her neighbouring islands

0:38:320:38:36

could cease to exist.

0:38:360:38:37

Unless something is done.

0:38:390:38:41

I'm crossing to a neighbouring island with someone who has

0:38:450:38:49

become a legend.

0:38:490:38:51

He has taken action that has highlighted

0:38:530:38:55

the plight of these islands...

0:38:550:38:56

By planting trees.

0:38:580:39:00

Thousands of them.

0:39:000:39:01

IN HINDI:

0:39:030:39:07

28 years.

0:39:120:39:14

-Soft sand.

-Sand.

0:39:240:39:25

OK. He's planted every single tree in this forest.

0:39:250:39:30

There was practically nothing, it was just sand,

0:39:300:39:33

just barren land, and he's planted every single tree.

0:39:330:39:37

It has taken three decades, but on this island,

0:39:370:39:40

Jadav Pareng has created his own rainforest.

0:39:400:39:43

Now roots and vegetation bind the land together,

0:39:450:39:48

forming a natural barrier against the current.

0:39:480:39:50

And wildlife has returned, too.

0:39:520:39:54

Jadav has seen elephants, rhinos and even tigers in his forest.

0:39:550:40:00

IN HINDI:

0:40:040:40:07

Jadav tells me his story

0:40:330:40:34

and why he has worked so tirelessly to save the land he grew up in.

0:40:340:40:39

The fruits that he ate on this island, as a child,

0:40:420:40:47

he realised that after the floods,

0:40:470:40:49

when the trees would be destroyed and future generations would not

0:40:490:40:54

have the opportunity to taste those lovely fruits that he ate as a kid.

0:40:540:40:58

So a part of it is him trying to save this place for the animals

0:40:580:41:03

but it's also a very...it's a pride in his childhood that he wants to

0:41:030:41:07

pass on to the next generation of children.

0:41:070:41:10

He's a very generous man.

0:41:100:41:12

It's through the efforts of heroes like Jadav that India's wild

0:41:170:41:21

places remain protected.

0:41:210:41:23

At the other end of the country is a mountain range called

0:41:350:41:38

the Western Ghats.

0:41:380:41:39

They're India's oldest mountains.

0:41:410:41:44

They run for 1,000 miles from Mumbai to the southern tip of India.

0:41:440:41:48

They're home to 50 million people.

0:41:520:41:56

But the monsoon rains and southern heat create

0:41:560:41:59

near perfect conditions for wildlife, too.

0:41:590:42:02

This great mountainous tropical rainforest is one of the most

0:42:040:42:07

biodiverse places on Earth.

0:42:070:42:09

The Western Ghats explode with life,

0:42:120:42:15

packed with species that are only found here.

0:42:150:42:18

50% of all of India's amphibians are found in the Western Ghats.

0:42:190:42:25

Many live nowhere else in the world.

0:42:250:42:28

Like the rare purple frog.

0:42:280:42:31

IT CROAKS

0:42:350:42:37

This species may be one of the strangest looking creatures

0:42:370:42:40

on the planet, but scientists believe it's a rare survivor of a

0:42:400:42:44

lineage that dates back 130 million years, to the time of the dinosaurs.

0:42:440:42:49

For 50 weeks, this male has remained hidden underground,

0:42:510:42:54

buried in the mud where his food is.

0:42:540:42:57

His pointed nose allows him to burrow, but it limits the size

0:43:000:43:04

of his mouth, restricting his diet to termites and other small bugs.

0:43:040:43:09

He emerges for just two weeks every year as the monsoon begins.

0:43:120:43:16

He has just one thing on his mind - to breed.

0:43:180:43:21

After he's mated, he'll return to his muddy burrow.

0:43:230:43:27

With such a short time above ground, this species remained

0:43:310:43:34

undiscovered until 2003, when it was formally identified.

0:43:340:43:39

And it was instantly added to the endangered list.

0:43:410:43:45

The Western Ghats are home to over 300 endangered species.

0:43:550:44:00

The one I'm travelling to see is the lion-tailed macaque.

0:44:030:44:06

It's thought to be one of the ancestors of all Asian macaques.

0:44:110:44:15

This is the only area in which they're found.

0:44:160:44:19

Wildlife cameraman Kalyan Varma is one of those helping

0:44:240:44:27

to protect the local population of macaques.

0:44:270:44:30

Like all monkeys, they're very inquisitive.

0:44:310:44:34

Ah, they're just coming from the morning roost.

0:44:370:44:40

Wow, look at... Oop! Oh, he's so handsome!

0:44:400:44:43

Oh, look at that hand.

0:44:430:44:45

They're definitely used to cars anyway.

0:44:450:44:47

-Oh, wow, look at this!

-Oh!

0:44:470:44:49

SHE MUFFLES LAUGH

0:44:490:44:53

-They're just very curious about us.

-I didn't even see him!

0:44:530:44:57

Well, good morning.

0:44:570:44:59

And that's a lion-tailed macaque.

0:45:030:45:05

These are the most endangered of all India's macaques.

0:45:080:45:12

There are just 4,000 left in the wild.

0:45:120:45:15

Their home in rainforest canopy is being cut down to make way

0:45:170:45:21

for tea plantations.

0:45:210:45:22

They're being forced to share space with people.

0:45:240:45:27

It makes these wild animals more approachable.

0:45:280:45:31

I've got lion-tailed macaques above me to my right.

0:45:340:45:38

This beautiful female behind me.

0:45:380:45:40

And I can't quite believe just how close I am to...

0:45:430:45:46

Oh, a mother and infant!

0:45:460:45:49

Two. Oh, my God, they're... This is...unbelievable.

0:45:490:45:53

There are three females in this troop

0:45:530:45:57

with very young infants hanging on to their bellies.

0:45:570:46:00

There's one there, there's another one there

0:46:000:46:02

and there was another female over there with an infant,

0:46:020:46:04

up in the tree. And that is SO rare to see!

0:46:040:46:09

Females will only bear maybe three or four offspring in their lives.

0:46:090:46:14

Like many species of macaques, science has named these

0:46:160:46:19

beautiful animals after their tails, which is somewhat surprising.

0:46:190:46:24

For me, it's more the mane around the face that reminds me of lions,

0:46:240:46:28

why aren't they called lion-maned macaques?

0:46:280:46:31

I always wondered that as well because in the local languages

0:46:310:46:35

and all of South India, they call it the lion-faced or

0:46:350:46:37

-the lion-maned macaques.

-Do they really?

-Absolutely.

0:46:370:46:40

And I don't know why in English the scientific name

0:46:400:46:42

is lion-tailed macaque.

0:46:420:46:44

Lion-tailed macaques face threats every day from busy roads.

0:46:470:46:51

HORN BLARES

0:46:510:46:53

WHISTLING AND YELLING

0:46:530:46:56

The Nature Conservation Foundation has come up with an ingenious

0:46:560:47:00

solution to the problem of getting across the thoroughfares that

0:47:000:47:03

slice through their forests.

0:47:030:47:05

Bridges made from fire hoses.

0:47:100:47:12

How much of a difference has this made to casualties and fatalities?

0:47:140:47:17

It's quite a bit. I think a lot of them, especially the young ones,

0:47:170:47:20

love using this. It's the older ones that are on the road mostly.

0:47:200:47:23

So the young ones definitely like the protection of the bridges.

0:47:230:47:26

-Right.

-But once in a while, some of these alpha males have taken that

0:47:260:47:30

over as their territory. So you see one alpha male sitting on there,

0:47:300:47:33

being a bully, not letting anyone pass through.

0:47:330:47:36

So it's no longer a bridge, it's the alpha male's territory.

0:47:370:47:40

Absolutely. They like those places. They get a vantage point,

0:47:400:47:43

-all this traffic going underneath them.

-Uh-huh.

0:47:430:47:46

What I'm loving - not only do you have these bridges,

0:47:460:47:48

you've also got those two guys with the signs to slow the traffic down.

0:47:480:47:51

-Yeah.

-So the will is there. There's a lot of effort being put

0:47:510:47:54

into protecting your remaining monkeys.

0:47:540:47:56

Yes. And you know, this population is one of the largest single

0:47:560:48:00

populations. So we are hoping that as this population grows,

0:48:000:48:03

eventually they'll colonise other forest fragments in this landscape.

0:48:030:48:06

Lion-tails still face huge challenges.

0:48:060:48:10

But thanks to the people here, their future already looks a lot brighter.

0:48:110:48:15

I really didn't expect to get this close to these macaques.

0:48:180:48:23

I mean, I suppose we're used to seeing monkeys climbing over

0:48:230:48:26

cars these days, but these are lion-tailed macaques -

0:48:260:48:29

they live really high up in the canopy.

0:48:290:48:32

And the only reason this has been possible is

0:48:320:48:35

because a very tiny proportion of the remaining population

0:48:350:48:38

have adapted and they've become habituated to humans,

0:48:380:48:42

and that's the reason why we came here.

0:48:420:48:44

And it's totally been worth it.

0:48:440:48:46

I normally spend my time thousands of metres up in the mountains.

0:48:580:49:02

But for our last wonder, I've left the heights

0:49:040:49:07

of the Himalayas to come down to sea level to witness a wildlife event...

0:49:070:49:11

..featuring an animal that's very close to my heart.

0:49:120:49:15

The olive ridley turtle.

0:49:160:49:18

I've actually been fortunate enough to dive with

0:49:210:49:23

olive ridley turtles. Now, of all the big animals in the ocean,

0:49:230:49:28

there is something totally unique about watching turtles swim.

0:49:280:49:32

It's incredibly graceful and effortless.

0:49:320:49:36

The experience of swimming with turtles

0:49:360:49:38

was so intimate that I've never forgotten it.

0:49:380:49:41

So when I heard of the mass hatching of olive ridley turtles

0:49:420:49:45

that takes place here every year, I simply had to come.

0:49:450:49:50

This is Odisha, on the Bay of Bengal.

0:49:520:49:56

The seas here are rich with nutrients picked up

0:49:560:49:59

and carried by India's great rivers on the 1,500 mile journey

0:49:590:50:04

from their source high in the Himalayas.

0:50:040:50:08

Where the rivers meet the sea, they deposit their bounty.

0:50:080:50:11

These waters are bursting with life.

0:50:120:50:14

This beach is about to add to it.

0:50:160:50:18

At the moment, as you can see, this beach is just calm,

0:50:200:50:24

like any other normal beach. And it's hard to believe that

0:50:240:50:27

through the night and tomorrow morning,

0:50:270:50:30

this entire beach will be alive

0:50:300:50:33

and will erupt with baby olive ridley turtles.

0:50:330:50:36

This is the largest mass nesting

0:50:370:50:39

site in the world for the olive ridley turtle.

0:50:390:50:42

It's vital to the survival of the species.

0:50:430:50:46

It's considered so important that the local government post

0:50:490:50:52

guards to protect the young turtles.

0:50:520:50:55

Olive ridley turtles spend their lives out at sea.

0:50:590:51:02

But each year, at one particular time,

0:51:040:51:07

hundreds of thousands of females return here.

0:51:070:51:10

It's the beach they hatched on, and they too will lay their eggs here.

0:51:100:51:15

It's an event that is known as the arribada.

0:51:150:51:19

It means the arrival.

0:51:190:51:21

Once the eggs are laid...

0:51:270:51:29

..she returns to the sea.

0:51:310:51:32

Leaving the eggs to incubate in the sand.

0:51:370:51:39

They'll take between 40 and 60 days to grow.

0:51:410:51:44

I'm here to see hundreds of thousands of baby turtles

0:51:490:51:52

bursting out of the sand.

0:51:520:51:54

As night draws in,

0:51:560:51:58

the first turtles begin to hatch.

0:51:580:52:01

These two little fellas

0:52:020:52:04

are the first two that I've seen this evening.

0:52:040:52:07

They've just literally popped out of a hole, just to the right

0:52:070:52:10

of my foot here, and are now slowly taking their very first steps

0:52:100:52:14

towards the ocean, which is just here.

0:52:140:52:17

And it's just lovely to watch.

0:52:170:52:19

My first baby turtle makes it to the sea,

0:52:210:52:24

but this is just the beginning.

0:52:240:52:26

The hatching is so important that we have to use a camera

0:52:350:52:38

that films by moonlight alone.

0:52:380:52:40

It's such a big moment for this little turtle. He's clearly just

0:52:440:52:47

taking his time to look around and decide which way he thinks is best.

0:52:470:52:51

We believe that they follow the light.

0:52:530:52:54

And often when they come out at night like this,

0:52:540:52:57

the moon and the reflection of the moon on the sea

0:52:570:52:59

is the way...is how they know which way to go.

0:52:590:53:02

Light pollution inland makes some of the young head the wrong way.

0:53:030:53:07

Across the beach, hundreds of nests start to move.

0:53:120:53:15

Scientists have discovered that the turtles co-ordinate

0:53:180:53:22

hatching by calling to each other while they're still in the eggs.

0:53:220:53:26

Most of the turtles hatch under cover of darkness.

0:53:300:53:33

As dawn breaks, I can see why.

0:53:410:53:44

They are easy pickings for predators.

0:53:450:53:48

Like jungle crows and Brahminy kites.

0:53:510:53:54

Even those that make it to the sea aren't safe.

0:54:030:54:06

Sharks and other threats await.

0:54:060:54:08

Of all the turtles born here,

0:54:100:54:12

only one in 1,000 will reach maturity.

0:54:120:54:15

It's the reason that there are over a million young.

0:54:170:54:20

But it's not just predators that are a hazard.

0:54:220:54:24

This poor little turtle's really well caught up in this fishing net,

0:54:270:54:31

and I'm trying to free him.

0:54:310:54:32

But I've just got to be really gentle, he's so fragile

0:54:340:54:37

that I'm desperately trying not to hurt him while I do this.

0:54:370:54:40

This could take me a long time.

0:54:430:54:44

Here we go, got his little fin free.

0:54:460:54:49

Yay!

0:54:490:54:51

The local fishermen stop work during the arribada and the hatching.

0:54:520:54:56

And it's not just the fishermen who are helping.

0:54:590:55:01

Chetan Rao has spent the last year trying to understand this phenomenon.

0:55:030:55:08

There's a few folk on the beach with buckets, can you tell me

0:55:100:55:13

what they're doing, what their purpose is?

0:55:130:55:15

A lot of these hatchlings start probably and instead of moving

0:55:150:55:17

towards the sea, they end up going towards the other side.

0:55:170:55:20

-Away from the beach.

-Away from the beach, yes.

-Right, OK.

0:55:200:55:23

So a lot of these locals have volunteered themselves to come here

0:55:230:55:27

and sort of pick up hatchlings which are disoriented and

0:55:270:55:30

release them close to the water

0:55:300:55:32

so that they can all can go back safely.

0:55:320:55:33

So these guys are volunteers from the local village?

0:55:330:55:36

Yes, they're all local villagers who are here.

0:55:360:55:38

They'll pick up any hatchling that they find that's not

0:55:380:55:41

going the right direction, and just lead it towards the sea.

0:55:410:55:44

-So these baby turtles we see today...

-Yeah.

0:55:510:55:53

How long will it be before they return here and how do

0:55:530:55:56

they know that this is their beach? How do they know to come here?

0:55:560:55:59

They return after a span of 15 to 16 years,

0:55:590:56:03

when they're sexually mature.

0:56:030:56:05

But how they come back is probably part of

0:56:050:56:09

an inbred homing instinct.

0:56:090:56:10

You know, like, they know where they were born.

0:56:100:56:13

That's incredible to think,

0:56:130:56:14

cos hopefully these turtles will go, they'll swim for hundreds,

0:56:140:56:17

thousands of miles round the ocean. And you're saying in 15 years plus,

0:56:170:56:21

they'll come back to this beach and lay their eggs.

0:56:210:56:24

-Exactly.

-That's incredible, you know.

0:56:240:56:26

It is, it is. It's one of nature's great mysteries.

0:56:260:56:29

-Great mysteries.

-Yeah.

0:56:290:56:30

As the baby turtles enter the water, the sun rises on a new day.

0:56:340:56:38

The people here are doing everything they can to make sure this

0:56:410:56:45

beach continues to be somewhere that babies can hatch in safety.

0:56:450:56:49

India has shown us sights found nowhere else in the world.

0:57:040:57:09

We've witnessed spectacles on a scale we would never have imagined.

0:57:090:57:13

And everywhere we visited, we've met people.

0:57:140:57:17

People who don't just want to help,

0:57:180:57:20

but who know the true value of the world around them.

0:57:200:57:24

Because in India, people and nature go hand in hand.

0:57:240:57:29

It's a relationship that dates back

0:57:290:57:31

to the beginning of this civilisation.

0:57:310:57:33

A relationship forged in the religions and cultures of India.

0:57:340:57:39

A gift from the past that can help to ensure that what makes India

0:57:390:57:43

so special today will still be here tomorrow.

0:57:430:57:46

Maybe that's the true wonder of India.

0:57:500:57:54

In a country of over a billion people, there is still a place here

0:57:540:57:57

for some of the most extraordinary wildlife on Earth.

0:57:570:58:01

The hidden wonders of India's spectacular natural world are revealed by wildlife expert Liz Bonnin, actress Freida Pinto and mountaineer Jon Gupta.

Experience a village of birds, masks that come alive, the world's greatest mountain range and baby turtles erupting out of the sand.

This is truly a land like no other.


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