DOCUMENTARY PROGRAMS

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WILDLIFE & NATURE DOCUMENTARIES

23 documentaries 30 / 60 minutes

Colour - Betacam SP/PAL with M&E - English and Italian Tracks

Cheetahs, The Blood Brothers (60’)

Other than the lion, cheetahs are more social than any other cat. The Blood Brothers, produced, directed and photographed by Hugo Van Lawick, explores the relationships between cheetah groups during the wet season on the Serengeti plains.

It follows the three dominant Blood Brothers, a young male and female twin, a mother and cubs and a lone female. Combining beauty, humour and drama, the film concentrates on the cheetahs as individual character - a mother with the problems of raising growing and restless cubs, the difficulties of hunting alone and the pressure to forge faithful alliances. The spectacular landscape of the Serengeti attracts vast herds of migrating wildebeest and Thompson’s gazelles which arrive to feed and give birth on the lush plains. Hyaenas, jackals and lions are among those that compete with the Blood Brothers in search of the young, unwary or infirm, but none can match their speed or grace.

Scenting their home ranges, the various cheetah groups soon discover that they are covering the same ground and skirmishes break out between them. The three brothers temporarily displace and intimidate all others as the rains draw to a close and most animals begin to desert the plains.

The Survival Game (60’)

In this selfish world of survival every creature is a potential meal. Evolution through the process of natural selection has equipped preadators with a stunning array of lethal weapons with which to dispatch their prey. But the very same processess of evolution have also equipped the hunted with a multitude of survival tricks with which to escape the jaws of death. This film reveals that the struggle for survival is often more than speed and agility, but rather the subtle art of camouflage and mimicry. This evolutionary battle of detection and deception never ceases. Both predator and prey constantly evolve more complex strategems of illusion and duplicity in the game of attack and defend. For in the race for survival it is far better to be the diner than the dinner.

By delving into an animal world of skulduggery and double dealing a bizarre story unfolds; the orchid mantid looks so much like a flower that duped butterflies easily fall victim as they vainly search for nectar on the mantid’s deadly doby; in an attempt to become ultimate hunters, some species use energies undetected by ourselves - those of infra red and radar; and when confronted by danger, the hog-nosed snake uses the ultimate ruse and plays dead. Evolution will continue to shape the animals around us and those individuals which respond to the various challenges with natural ingenuity will survive - those that do not will die.

Year of the Flame Bird (30’)

Dust devils whirl across the desolate soda thirstlands of the Makgadikgadi pans of Botswana, a harsh expanse of salt covering thousands of square miles. Seemingly devoid of life in years of exceptional rains this lunar landscape is transformed by the mysterious arrival of flamingos.

This is the story of the Flame Birds’ race against time. They must nest and raise young before the shallow waters evaporate. It is also the story of the cruellest migrations; thousands of chicks, guided by adults, face a nightmarish journey across the salt in a bid to reach water. They must join the exodus or perish.

The Terminators (30’)4

A flash of summer lightning briefly illuminates a solitary dark shape bristling in the shadows of the savannah. No malevolent spirit - though sometimes known as the African Werewolf - the Aardwolf has virtually never before recorded on film. This puzzling cousin of the hyena is one of the most specialised of all carnivores: it chooses to feed exclusively on millions of unpalatable termites.

The film documents the Aardwolf’s nightly wanderings in search of its noxious prey - the snouted termite. We follow him in ferocious defence of his ground - and jealous surveillance of his mate, for he is ever-wary of being cuckolded. In the spring the cubs are born to face the harsh realities of the African night, and prepare for the lonely nomadic existence of an unjustly-maligned, and mysterious animal.

Singing Apes of Khao Yai (30’)

Dawn...and a strange call echoes in the land of the big hills. The song of the Lar Gibbon. Filmed in the treetops, The Singing Apes of Khao Yai is the story of a family of four gibbons and a very special lifestyle that revolves around song. Featuring an adult male and female, a one year old baby and an eight years old son who is close to leaving home - we discover how song rules their lives. Not only does it define the area in which the family live; it also maintains the lifelong ‘marriage’ of the parents and for the adolescent son, is his passport to adulthood. How good his singing is will reflect his success in finding a partner and establishing new land of his own. But gibbons also face another threat to their success as young adults. Poaching for the animal trade. Gibbons have rarely been filmed. Their magical calls have all been recorded in stereo digital sound.

Bushbabies (30’)

Lesser bushbabies are pint-sized acrobats, able to leap 15 feet through trees. Even more remarkable is their social life, which has many parallels with our own.

The film opens in Africa’s dry season, where elephants, lions and wildebeest gather in the woods surrounding a waterhole. As night falls the tiny bushbabies, that live in the branches above, wake and dart about in the shadows.

A young male bushbaby leaves his mother’s group to set up in his own territory. His struggles to become independent, and the trials of starting a new family, are the focus of this delightful film.

Bushbabies are fast movers and have such good eyesight that they can jump through the trees in almost total darkness. Night photography and slow motion filming reveal their endearing lifestyle for the first time, providing a refreshing view of Africa’s wildlife.

Desert Shores of Cortez (60’)

The arid peninsular of Baja California lies along the west coast of Mexico: a finger of land, seven hundred miles long, that nearly encloses the Gulf named the Sea of Cortez. Some of the driest places on earth are found admidst the cactus forests in which live many creatures - Costa’s Hummingbirds, the Cactus Mouse. At night Kangaroo Rats emerge to forage for food but dangers lurk from the speckled Rattle Snake and more than 60 species of Scorpions.

In the fabled Sea of Cortez teems a kaleidoscopic variety of fish from the tiny Jaw Fish to 20 foot Manta Rays and regiments of Hammer-Head Sharks.

Island provide secure nesting sites for thousands of birds such as the Blue-Footed Boobies, and Sea Lions that feast on the sea’s abundance. This stunning desert resonates in harmony with Cortez’s fertile sea making it one of the world’s last great wildernesses.

Colobus Monkeys (60’)

The forest of Mt. Meru is spooky with lichen hanging from gnarled branches. The Colobus monkey’s eyes introduces the programme and in turn introduces other animals which live in their territory for example red forest duikers, a male and female buchbuck and their fawn, horn bills, colourful turacos with their bright red wings, black tailed mongoose and a several cat. The film gets to know the habits of the main characters and also become to know the colobus monkeys better, as individuals and examine the social feeding.

Land of Giants (60’)

The West Coast of North America, from Northern California to Alaska, is home to the oldest conifer forest in the world. Here, the Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, giant California redwood, Red Cedar and Hemlock trees grow bigger and live longer than anywhere else. Some are over 2,000 years old and tower 300 feet above the forest floor. This is a "Land of Giants".

Living in this world of giants trees, there are a number of creatures which also reach gigantic proportions. On the dark forest floor there are 10 inch Banana Slugs which help make up one of the richest slug faunas in the world. The Pacific Giant Salamander, another creature of record breaking proportions, can grow to more than a foot long. The fisher, the largest weasel on the continent, is a swift arboreal predator but will also descend to the forest floor to feast on its abundance of berries. The rich plant growth under the forest canopy also supports the Roosevelt Elk, the largest sub-species of elk in North-America.

The key to the creation of the forest is water, a superabundance of it. Winds blowing in off the Pacific Ocean bring rain. And the forest acts like a huge sponge, soaking up the rain as it falls and holding it, then slowly releasing it out into the streams. Pulled by gravity, the water then makes its long downhill journey back to the Pacific. This perpetual water cycle creates a wet haven for this kingdom of conifers.

These primeval forests are the most productive in the world - even more so than the tropical rainforest. But such prodigious productivity has not escaped the hand of man. Timbermen have been working these forests for over 100 years, and with more than 85% of the ancient forests already destroyed, their survival hangs in the balance.

The survival of certain animals, such as the endangered Spotted Owl, have also been linked to the forest’s future. However, as we will see in this film, far more than owl’s future is at stake. The small iris fly’s astonishing life cycle illustrates the complexity of the forest’s ecology. If we lose these primeval forests we will also lose the extraordinary runs of Pacific salmon on which the great killer whales of the Pacific depend. Our own future is also linked to the ancient forests, as they harbour a possible cancer-curing drug in the rare Pacific Yew tree.

The question is will 20th century man, living in the most technologically advanced society on earth sit back and watch the destruction of this ancient "Land of Giants"?

Shadows in a Desert Sea (60’)

In the Sea of Cortez, a tiny blenny lives in an abandon barnacle near the summit of a seamount. As powerful tides rush over the escarpment, the blenny feeds on the current born plankton and swarms of shrimp-like mysids. From the protection of his tiny barnacle, the blenny watches as dramas unfold within his undersea community. Giant squid rise from the abyss to attack jacks. Moray eels stalk sleeping fish. Jawfish rise from their burrows to display mating colors. And overhead, the shadows on the ocean’s greatest predators pass; manta rays, whale sharks, sailfish, swarms of hammerheads, and finally the most dangerous predator of all.

Through the eyes of the tiny barnacle blenny, the story of this strange and wonderful undersea community is revealed.

The Crown of the Continent (60’)

Set amongst the great Rocky Mountains of Montana and Alberta this films looks at the wildlife of one of the most remote wildernesses in North America. Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, over one million acres in size, is the setting for this stunning film in which we see how animals and plants survive from the tops of the mountains, at over 10,000 feet, to the bunchgrass prairie at 3,500 feet.

Set aside separately in 1895 and 1910, the Canadian and US parks were joined in 1932 as a symbol of friendship between these two great nations and as far as the animals are concerned the park can be treated as one.

This enormous park is home to the United States highest concentration of Grizzly bears, outside Alaska. Over 200 Grizzlies roam these mountains as do hundreds of Black bears. But despite the parks size and the appearance of an untouched wilderness man has still made his mark here and each year over a million tourists flock to the park.

Amazingly, however, the wolf has returned to the park and today a pack of around thirty animals roam the more remote regions of Glacier. The wolves return may signal a new beginning. Even such a large park as this cannot survive in isolation and the man made pressures on the outside of the park such as mining, logging and development will have to be integrated in an overall plan that takes into account the future of this magnificent park. Only time will tell whether man has learned from his past mistakes and is prepared to make some sacrifices to preserve "The Crown of the Continent".

Patagonia (60’)

Valdez Peninsula, a wedge of Patagonia that juts out into Argentina’s Atlantic seaboard, is probably the richest area for wildlife in South America outside the tropics. Its marine life includes sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals. Inside the Peninsula is home to a great variety of animals, most of which are unfamiliar to TV audiences. Also there are large colonies of up to 100 patagonian hares or maras who have an almost unique social system for mammals in that male and female pair of life.

The Hole Story (60’)

Across the grassland plains of the Kalahari, familiar grazers move on unaware that beneath them is an underworld inhabited by rarely glimpsed nocturnal animals. "The Hole Story: The Underworld of the Kalahari" uncovers this world, revealing creatures whose day is night, and whose sanctuary is underground."

As night falls in the dry season, the moonlight reveals the portals to this hidden world. From these burrows Bush Babies scamper over branches to catch a juicy insect. A Brown Hyaena, one of the rarest of the Hyaena family, forages through its territorial area in search of any easy meal.

By far the oddest member of this nocturnal cast is the Aardvark. Superbly adapted to sniff out and gorge itself on termites, its principal role is "master digger". It creates a network of underground tunnels, and as it moves on to create another home, others, like a family of Porcupines with young to suckle, take its place.

On the eve of the wet season, Fungal Termites begin a spectacular aerial dance of courtship. Only a tiny percentage will survive the predators.

"The Hole Story" follows the fortunes and adventures of these animals throughout a year in the Kalahari from the lean months of the dry season to the abundance of the wet.

Year of the Jackal (60’)

Golden Jackals are carnivores but they are not conventional predators as they don’t survive directly on the massive herds of wildebeest. The link is the vast herds of wildebeest (and others) that live and migrate on the plains of East Africa. They are small carnivores that manage to eke out an existence in the vast plains of Africa using their cunning and guile. This programme concentrates on the subtle behaviour of a family of these less well known carnivores of the east African plains. Their behaviour patterns are poorly known and they are a little filmed species, yet at the same time charismatic.

Seasons of the Sea (60’)

Soft amber light penetrates the forest canopy to reveal a surreal and magical world. Here strange and exotic creatures adjust to the change of season as raging winter storms give way to the tranquillity of spring and summer. Thousands of winged bat rays form swirling schools as they engage in courtship and mating. Silhouetted from below their spiralling schools ascend like great flocks of migrating birds circling in rising columns of air beneath thunderclouds. Great schools of squid ascend from the perpetual darkness of abyssal depths to mate, lay their eggs, and then, by the millions, die. Rare pelagic sting rays capture the squid by grasping them with the folds of their wings before devouring them.

In the open ocean outside the kelp forest, tiny shrimp-like krill form vas schools which are fed upon by rushing schools of jack mackerel and anchovies. Swarms of blue sharks pursue the schooling fish and also feed directly on the krill itself. And the greatest leviathans of all, 90 foot long blue whales, rush through the krill engulfing entire schools, their throats inflating to the size of hot air balloons with the vast volumes of water and krill.

Seasons of the Sea examines the life cycles of creatures living in the mystical world within and surrounding California’s undersea forest of giant kelp. Many of these behaviours have never been filmed before, and some of the animals filmed have yet to be described by science.

African Wild Dogs (60’)

"A Tale of Two Sisters" is a drama that deals with the lives of a pack of wild dogs that live on the vast plains of Africa’s Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. In particular, the film looks at the struggle between two sisters, Alpha - the dominant female and Beta, who is very submissive to her sister.

The scene is set when Alpha, who already has pups of her own, decides to steal her sister Beta’s new-born puppies. All of Beta’s attempts to get her pups back seem doomed to failure in this tug of love.

Woven throughout this moving story of the 2 sisters is the wider story of this pack of wild dogs and their struggle to survive: dramatic hunts when thousands of wildebeest flee for their lives chased by these impressive and tenacious hunters their incredible teamwork as they defend the pups from the jaws of a hyeana. All set against the magnificent background of one of Africa’s last great wildernesses.

Cheetahs and Cubs in a land of Lions (60’)

Set in the beautiful landscapes of the Serengeti, in Tanzania, East Africa, a cheetah mother struggles against overwhelming odds to ensure the survival of her two recently born cubs. Only one cub out of every ten born is likely to reach adulthood. Their main enemy is lions.

This film follows the life of a cheetah mother and her two cubs. It starts with the young cubs hidden in a lair in a small marsh. However, danger is ever present: lions enter the marsh in search of the cubs. The two cubs escape unnoticed but a neighbouring cheetah is less lucky.

At eight weeks old, the two cubs follow their mother away from the lair and into the open. Now they are more visible to other predators and their mother is constantly alert for danger. The playful cubs, although enchanting, make matters even more difficult for the mother by spoiling many of her hunts.

As time passes, the cubs slowly learn about the dangers in the wild and, through practice, the basics of hunting.

When the cubs are eighteen months old, the mother leaves them for good. Even at this age, the cubs are not yet fully accomplished hunters and face the dangers of starvation. With some difficulty, they manage to survive. In one of the final scenes, they face a large pride of lions, maybe somewhat overconfident in their abilities.

A Lemur’s Tale (60’)

Deep in the thorn forests of south-western Madagascar lives a host of unusual creatures found nowhere else in the world. But the most beautiful and most social of all the inhabitants of this Eden are the ring-tail lemurs, with their large eyes and long black and white tails.

Cat-like and sinuous, the ring-tails live as a troop, made up of adults of both sexes and their offspring, each with their own distinct personality, but led by dominant females. These enchanting primates search for fruit and leaves among spiny thickets, looking after their infants and maintaining the bonds that tie them together by mutual grooming.

The film follows one troop of ring-tail lemurs over one year. It starts in September. Within the last two weeks, several of the females have given birth. This year’s new arrivals include a most unusual infant. He is almost albino, but not quite, he has striking blue eyes, a feature which inspires the scientists who study the group to call him ‘Sapphire’. This is the true story of Sapphire and the other ring-tails, and their struggle for survival.

The Joy of Pigs ! (60’)

Welcome to the wonderful world of Pigs - forget everything you’ve heard about them being fat, stupid, ugly, greedy - try to see them through other pigs eyes and discover some amazing creatures whose bodies and manners are a remarkable product of evolution - though sometimes with a little human tampering. As we will learn - Being a pig can be a real Joy!

‘The Joy of Pigs’ is a film with a difference - its purpose - to educate people, but also one particular small pig, called "Piglet" about Pigs of the World. What does the future hold for a little porker like Piglet?

Spanning the globe from the deep jungles of Borneo to Africa’s Savannah’s, and from Beverly Hills to the remotest tribes of New Guinea, we reveal that the world of pigs is a most varied place. Pigs are the most widely distributed of all large mammals, now found on every continent on Earth except Antarctica.

On our worldwide journey around the realm of the pig we will see some rare faces and even rarer natural behaviour of this most entertaining of families. In Sulawesi we meet the bizarre curly tusked babirusa, and in Borneo we witness the dramatic mass migrations of the bearded pigs in Sarawak.

But what "Piglet" wants to know is who his direct ancestors were - where did domestic pigs come from? Thus we embark on the story of the domestication of the pig. Its beginnings with the tough adaptable wildboar - and its conclusion at modern farm. Being a pig is not always a joy of course. Many end up at the slaughter house - others are hunted in the jungles of Borneo - and yet others are raised to save human lives - as organ donors.

But the overall message here is that people love pigs. We discover the unconditional love between pigs and humans. We meet some very special pigs - house pets and prize winning boars. We also meet the 35 copulent outcasts at Li’ll Orphan Hammies. In Hollywood we meet Gordy - the film star pig. We also meet ‘Grub’ who undertakes the challenge of an IQ test to discover whether pigs are really as clever as people say they are.

Pigs on their own explored and exploited a huge area of the World, and with a little help from us, they conquered most of the rest.

They appealed to the human eye and stomach. As food they’ve often been exploited in successive ways. But as companions, helpers, even fortune tellers, they have enriched our lives in extraordinary ways.

Extraordinary Dogs (60’)

Anyone who has ever kept a pet dog will know that a special relationship exists between humans and their canine friends, but few of us realise what dogs are really capable of. ‘Extraordinary Dogs’ tells some truly remarkable stories about these animals.

Co-producers Nature/WNET and Partridge Films are famous for their spectacular wildlife documentaries. In this film, they have turned their cameras on our pets and shown that ordinary dogs have the capacity to become extraordinary.

In California, a German Shepherd is able to detect the onset if its handler’s epileptic fit. We watch as the dog alerts the seizure victim and then runs for help. The handler happens to be an inmate at a women’s prison, where dogs are trained as companions for the disabled.

In the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, dogs are a common sight on the ski-lifts and slopes. We see why as a Golden Retriever uses its powerful sense of smell to find an avalanche victim, hidden deep beneath the snow. These dogs have learned how to save lives.

In an emotionally charged sequence, we hear the story of Cracker, the dog that lost its life in Vietnam. Cracker was one of many army scout dogs that showed true devotion and loyalty to their handlers in the heat of battle.

Dogs help us lead our lives in the other ways. Greyhounds instinctively run and chase, and their exceptional skills now entertain us in a multi-million pound sport.

Border collies have herding in their blood and they are indispensable to sheep farmers - without his dog he couldn’t control the flock. Even a pet spaniel works magic in a hospital - bringing smiles to the faces of sick children and helping to make them well again.

How dogs were domesticated from wild wolves, no one’s quite sure. But whatever happened the results are quite remarkable. Dogs have become an integral part of human society and they’re here to stay. Their intelligence, loyalty and extraordinary abilities make them some of the best friends we could ever have.

The Secret World of Sharks and Rays (60’)

Sharks, symbols of fear, merciless killers with deadly jaws. Rays, alien sea monsters, once believed to devour ships and crew. This film seeks to dispel the misconceptions and myths, and gives fresh insight into the secret world of these intriguing creatures of the sea.

Discover the true beauty and nature of sharks and rays; explore their diversity, each species being superbly adapted to their own unique lifestyle, from supreme hunter to gentle giant.

The Otters of Yellowstone (60’)

It seems there is never a dull moment for the otters of Yellowstone National Park - running, playing, sliding, fishing, raising a family and eluding the local wily coyotes keep these irresistible little animals going all day and year ‘round.

Otters depend on open water and the fish that live in it. They are able to thrive in the beautiful lakes and rivers of Yellowstone because its thermal pools keep some lakes warm all year. But they must compete for food with others who depend on it, like bald eagles and coyotes, predators who would be only to glad to have otter on the menu, as well as fish. The otters need every bit of their cunning and speed to beat the odds.

You’ll have a hard time deciding which was more wonderful about this program - the spectacular beauty of Yellowstone itself, or the delightful family of otters you get to meet and fall in love whit as you watch.

Cobra King of Snakes (60’)

Cobras, erect and hooding are easily recognisable snakes. Yet our fear and fascination of these reptiles lies mainly in myth and misunderstanding.

This film is an enlightening emotional journey which helps us to understand why these snakes hood, why they have been worshipped, how they perceive their world and how they help to rid countries such as Sri Lanka of their devastating rat population. Cobras do have a place in nature, both as predators and as prey.

With new medicines, antivenoms available to treat all snake bite victims effectively, maybe we will be able to appreciate Cobras as the Kings they are.