Next Episode of Darwin's Amazing Animals is
A natural history show that's a huge hit with families in Japan is now set to go global! The series explores the amazing stories of animals in Africa, the Americas and Asia, including Japan.
Life's adventures begin early for Mandarin ducklings in the big city. They must heed mother's beckoning right after they're born, leaping from the tree hollow that serves as their nest or risk being left behind. Then it's off to the nearest pond where they'll stay until adulthood. But the journey is fraught with danger. Predators such as crows watch their every move. Falling through the "quacks" of curbside drains is just one of many man-made hazards ahead for these adorable "sitting ducklings"!
Gars aren't big on activity but don't think they're being lazy. Whether hunting or breeding, they calmly wait for the ideal time. Gars are not good swimmers so they lie still, relying on their alligator-like snout with sharp teeth to ambush unsuspecting prey. And who needs annual spawning when the lifespan can reach 90 years of age? They even come to the surface occasionally to breathe air! This amazing way of life has allowed the species to survive relatively unchanged for 100 million years.
Legend has it that a powerful "man-beast" inhabits the cloud forests of Ecuador. Undaunted, the Darwin team traversed rugged terrain pursuing this mythological figure. What we found was hardly mysterious: an agile bear species whose playful cubs frolic in the treetops. Mothers raise their young on steep hillsides to maintain a careful distance from overly-aggressive males. She also decides when her cub must strike out on its own. We were fortunate to witness this cruel yet inevitable separation.
The Darwin team has been closely following a large pride of lions over the years. The juveniles, so carefree in their youth, now find themselves in school, just like children. They attend a range of classes to learn hunting, parenting and dealing with rivals. Female students show initiative, while the boys mostly lie around. In response, some of the instructors dole out a range of punishments including scoldings ... and expulsions! Find out what it means to "get schooled" in the "mane" subject!
The Bay of Fundy features the world's largest tidal range of up to 16 meters. Huge mudflats lie exposed, attracting millions of semipalmated sandpipers during their summer migration that feast on the plentiful mud shrimps and worms. Their presence, in turn, attracts peregrine falcons looking for an easy meal. Cormorants dive amid the strong currents for small fish, only to find seagulls lurking on the surface, ready to steal their catch. These stomping and chomping grounds are a sight to behold.
What is that "green wave" over the Tokyo skyline? We need to go back some 60 years, when a pet craze swept Japan. Huge numbers of rose-ringed parakeets were imported into the country to be sold as pets. Some "flew the coop," escaping from their cages or were released intentionally. Their feral numbers have since swelled to around 1,700 nationwide. Observations have revealed the parakeets both learn behaviors from other birds and exchange information such as feeding sites with their own kind.
A jungle within Tokyo? It may come as a surprise that many wild animals, including deer, boar and badgers live right near humans in the Tama River. Improved flood control and regular maintenance have resulted in a range of environments, such as grasslands, woods and exposed rocky and sandy bars extending several hundred meters in all directions. Motion-activated cameras set up along the riverside and animal trails revealed a host of surprises, including a weasel family's hidden fishing spot!
In 2019 a strong typhoon devastated parts of Japan. Viewers of the Darwin program wrote to us expressing concern for the wildlife we profiled in an earlier episode inhabiting the banks of Tokyo's Tama River. Can the "Tamazon" ecosystem still support the deer, boar, badgers and weasels? Our cameras indeed revealed unparalleled destruction ... but also rejuvenation. Waterways have changed course. Sandbars have shifted. And the wildlife? Though challenges remain, the footage paints a rosy future.
The male Japanese stream frog sports some surprising sumo and wrestling moves. But watch this Prince Charming's way with the ladies. During mating season, he'll clutch a female in a vice-like grip and ride piggyback as she makes her way toward the spawning grounds. But it's no pleasure cruise. The long river route is full of fast-flowing rocky turns and waterfalls. No matter the hazard, he will not let go. But a new threat awaits: the bevy of anxious bachelors who don't accept no for an answer!
A rosy red nose and bright blue cheeks ... a kabuki actor? No, it's the mandrill! For males, that pretty face plays a key role in their quest for dominance. After all, their troops, called "hordes," can number into the hundreds. The Darwin team tracks 1 horde featuring 3 strong adults vying for the alpha male role. The current leader's color is fading as he ages; another is young, brash and a bit violent; while the third, the largest of the trio, is quite timid but a hit with the ladies!
Ah, mouth-watering salmon! Yet not much is known about this treat aside from what we see on the dinner table. The Darwin team decided to join a number of surveys to find out more. Back in their natal streams, males fight over females. Does the loser simply swim away? No! "He" turns into a "she"! During the act of spawning, the pair's hearts stop ... but it's not out of love! And while in the open ocean, these fish can reach depths approaching the deep sea. Why? The reason is ... unfathomable!
The ancient city of Nara features many world heritage sites. But the most endearing attraction may be the cute and friendly deer. They're everywhere, from temple and shrine precincts and parks to streets and shopping areas. And they're hungry, each consuming about 5 kilograms of vegetation daily, not to mention deer crackers offered by tourists. But don't go mistaking them for tame creatures simply begging for handouts. They're wild animals, and according to Shinto lore, messengers of the gods.
The ancient city of Nara features many world heritage sites. The most endearing attraction, however, may be the cute and friendly deer. Look out for those pointy antlers in fall though! Stags are quite aggressive in the rutting season, posing a real risk to tourists and passing cars. As a result, most bucks have their antlers sawed off for safety. But don't think for a moment that this eliminates their chances with the does. With or without their racks, males continue battling for dominance.
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