David Attenborough: This is the newest habitat on Earth. It's here that animals have to contend with the greatest change that is happening to the face of our planet. In this decade, the urban environment is predicted to grow by nearly 30%. It may appear hostile to animal life, but for the bold, this is a world of surprising opportunity. Jodhpur, India.
A g*ng of bachelor male langurs has come to challenge the resident alpha male.
This alpha rules over a valuable urban territory.
(DOGS BARKING IN DISTANCE)
But maintaining dominance here is a constant struggle. The bachelors have united to try and overthrow him.
If they win, one of the challengers will take over the alpha's troop of females, and may k*ll his infants. There are 15 males in this bachelor group. The alpha must evict every single one of them from his territory. He has chased half the bachelors away, but a splinter group has looped back and is harassing his females.
Once again, he has to battle.
Finally, he manages to expel them all. He returns home victorious, but with a serious wound on his right leg. It's a hard life for him in the city. Keeping the intruders away is a daily challenge. But it's worth it. For these urban territories are probably the best langur territories in the world. They're filled with rich feeding grounds.
Here in the temple gardens, the langurs have, over centuries, developed a surprising relationship. One that guarantee's them a constantly replenished source of food.
The people here associate langurs with the Hindu God, Lord Hanuman, and revere them. They're given all the food they can eat. And this high-energy diet has led to a baby boom. Female langurs in this city give birth to twice as many young as their forest counterparts. This mother is so well fed that her rich milk can support something rarely seen in the wild. Twins. And all these babies can create troops that are far larger than those found in the forests nearby. With less time spent looking for food, there is more time for play.
The rewards of living in a city can be huge. The challenge is to find your niche.
New York City.
This densely built-up landscape is as unnatural as anywhere on Earth.
And yet, this wild peregrine falcon looks out onto an ideal habitat. Strange as it may seem, this vastly-altered landscape replicates the conditions in which peregrines evolved. The towering buildings have a multitude of ledges on which falcons can nest, and the high perches that they need to catch the wind.
New York City has the highest density of nesting peregrines anywhere on the planet. Winds striking the sides of the skyscrapers are deflected upwards and can help the birds gain height. And the great areas of concrete roasting in the sun create thermals, so that, with very little effort, the birds can soar over the city. And so many peregrines can live here, because down at street level, there is a lot of potential prey.
Diving from height, the falcons can reach speeds of over 200 miles an hour. But their prey stay down low and close to the buildings. Too risky. The peregrine pulls out of his stoop. But the effort is not wasted. The falcons need to flush their prey into the open. And Manhattan is surrounded by water. Out here the odds change. And in the peregrine's favour.
(CHURCH BELL TOLLING)
With abundant prey here all year round, it has taken only 40 years for these falcons to establish themselves here. And now, among skyscrapers, they're more successful than their cousins living in the wilderness. Mumbai, in India, is home to over 20 million people. And there are predators here that, though rarely seen, are rightly feared. Carnivores, lured by the prospect of plentiful unsuspecting prey are on the prowl.
A leopard. Every night, under the cover of darkness they come out to hunt.
(MUSIC PLAYING OVER SPEAKERS)
These are big animals, and they're looking for large prey to satisfy their hunger. To catch more than a glimpse of them and reveal their hunting behaviour, you need night-vision cameras.
(HORNS HONKING IN THE DISTANCE)
Leopards have att*cked almost 200 people here in the last 25 years. But humans are not their usual prey. These leopards are on the hunt for something else.
Pigs. These leopards prefer to hunt the domestic animals that people have brought to the city in considerable numbers.
The pigs keep their family close.
The ceaseless noise of the city plays to their advantage. It conceals their approach. And the leopards are using this cover to hunt all over the city.
This is a thriving population. In fact, the highest concentration of leopards in the world is right here.
(CHURCH BELLS TOLLING)
It's not only the abundance of food that attracts wild animals to cities. They're usually several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside. And here in Rome, in December, one animal is taking full advantage of this extra heat. And it's leaving it's mark. In a single winter's day, ten tonnes of its droppings rain down on the city.
Starlings. In the evening, they come back to the warmth of the city after feeding in the neighbouring countryside. They must return to their roosting trees. But the first to do so are at the highest risk of being caught by birds of prey. So, they wait for others to arrive. There's safety in numbers. As daylight fades, the sky fills with a staggering one million starlings. And then follows one of nature's great spectaculars.
How, or indeed why, they perform these marvellous aerobatics, we still do not fully understand. Eventually, en masse, they brave the descent and fill the branches of their favourite trees. On these cold winter nights, the city's extra warmth can mean the difference between life and death.
A city, of course, can provide not only shelter and abundant food, but glamour. These varied objects have been carefully chosen by a bird for their brightness and their colour.
This great bowerbird has spent over a decade building this collection of mostly man-made objects. Out on a golf course in Townsville, Australia, he's putting the final touches to his enormous bower, that he hopes will impress a visiting female. He spends two hours each day rearranging his prized objects. "Perhaps that would look a little better over there." But it seems that something is missing. Instead of going into town to collect new objects, he's decided to raid his neighbour's bower. "A clothes peg! Excellent!" "And a shiny toy car." It's a risky game if you get caught. The owner is back.
There is one bower where the risk is worth it. A particular object has caught his eye. He'll have to wait for the owner to leave. This is his chance. A real treasure. A scarlet heart. "Got it." The stage is now set for female visitors. His luck may be in. The seduction can now begin.
He's showing off his best goods. "Perhaps a little plastic piping? "Or maybe a bit of coloured string?" But his guest doesn't seem to be paying much attention. "A fork? "Madame?" Nothing seems to be working. Something is just not quite right here. But he still has one trick up his sleeve.
The scarlet heart.
As a final thrill, he expands the pink crest on the back of his head. The sign of his adulthood. But he's made a mistake. This is not a female but a young male who hasn't yet developed that head crest. And he's making off with the scarlet heart.
(HISSING AND SCREECHING)
It's not easy finding sex in the city. Raising a family in the city is not easy either. It's spring time in Toronto, and this mother raccoon has exchanged her native treetops for rooftops.
Since giving birth two months ago, she's kept her offspring safe and warm inside a chimney.
Now, her young have outgrown their nursery. This is her first major challenge as a mother. The time has come to move to a new home. She needs to get her youngster to ground level. But instead of an easy climb down a tree, she is faced with a vertical drop, with little to cling onto.
Her baby's first glimpse of the urban world, from a terrifying 30 feet up. This is the last of her litter to be brought down. Its siblings are already
busy exploring the area.
And they have much to learn.
This one has fallen into a back alley and is trapped.
Mother comes to the rescue and demonstrates what must be done.
(BABY RACCOON WHIMPERING)
(BABY RACCOON YELPS)
That's the way. Raccoons are opportunists. And they're eager to explore. But they'll have to learn very quickly how to get along in this strange new environment so full of hazards.
Mother comes to the rescue once more. Urban raccoons are now demonstrably better at problem-solving than their country cousins. When the feeding opportunities are this good, the time spent working out how to get to it is well worth it. The complexity of urban life favours the clever.
(INDISTINCT SHOUTING AND CHATTER)
But to compete with humanity during daylight hours, takes more than just intelligence. It takes nerve. One enterprising species of monkey has moved into the city of Jaipur in India. The Rhesus macaque. But how to get a share of all this juicy fruit? Every morning, the troop make the same journey through the urban jungle, just as human commuters do.
Sometimes, inevitably, there are traffic jams. Once they get to the market, trouble begins.
(INDISTINCT SHOUTING AND CHATTER)
Being both intelligent and brazen is the key to b*ating human beings on their home turf.
(MAN SHOUTING REPELLENTLY)
It's daylight robbery.
There are some animals that most would consider too dangerous to tolerate in the city. Spotted hyenas.
They're feared throughout their range.
(HYENAS BARKING AND WHOOPING)
In the outskirts of Hara in Ethiopia, two clans are coming face to face to battle over a prized resource.
(WHOOPING AND YELPING)
There are about 60 hyenas in each clan. And they're well matched. After three hours of posturing back and forth, the losers retreat and the victors head to claim their prize. They have been fighting over access to the city. Once inside the city walls, they head for one place.
And they know exactly how to get there.
The ancient meat market. The scent of all these carcasses lies heavy in the air.
This tradition goes back over 400 years. The human butchers put out the bones they don't need and these hyenas deal with them. They're the only animals that can. No other here has such powerful bone-crushing jaws.
(YELPING AND BARKING)
And this relationship between man and beast has now been taken a step further.
Yousuf is calling the hyenas to his house. He and his forefathers, going back five generations, have been feeding the hyenas by hand. The inhabitants of this town believe that hyenas provide another very important service. Eating the bad spirits that haunt the streets. These are wild and ferocious animals, but once within these city walls, they behave in a completely different way. Throughout the rest of Africa, spotted hyenas are feared because they k*ll livestock, sometimes even children.
They are perhaps the most vilified animal on our planet. However, here in Harar, their relationship with people is entirely peaceful.
They have won the trust of man. Losing its fear of humans has enabled one animal to spread into cities everywhere, and in huge numbers.
Pigeons are by far the most successful urban bird.
(CHURCH BELL TOLLING)
Here, in Albi, in the south of France, the pigeons come to the river to bathe. They need to preen their flight feathers, clean off the city dust, and cool themselves down. But death lies in wait. A predator that has taken advantage of the very thing that has led to the pigeon's success... Their lack of fear. As the pigeons bathe, oil from their plumage flows downstream, and is detected. A monstrous Wels catfish. Introduced here just 40 years ago, they have proliferated. Virtually exterminated the local fish stocks... And they've now developed a taste for pigeon. Their eyesight is poor, so they use their barbels to sense the movements of their victims. This is a radical new hunting strategy for what is normally a bottom-dwelling fish. After a thousand years of living in this city, pigeons are now having to learn to avoid a fish.
(CHURCH BELL TOLLING)
Our cities are always changing. Sometimes very swiftly. And animals must cope with the changes, or disappear. One of the greatest changes in recent times has come from a single invention made less than 140 years ago. Electric light. It has become more and more powerful, filling our streets with light. It's everywhere in the city. It even goes under ground.
The difference between day and night is becoming less and less perceptible. And that has a profound effect on the activities of wildlife. In the wilderness, light triggers all kinds of behaviour. On the night of the full moon, hundreds of tiny hawksbill turtle hatchlings emerge from the safety of their nest deep in the sand. Their instinct is to reach the sea as quickly as possible. And their guide is the light of the full moon reflected on the water. But this young hatchling is confused. It's going in the wrong direction. Bright light is coming from the land. And all these hatchlings are travelling up the beach towards it.
Predators are ready to take advantage. Crabs now make their burrows directly beneath the beach lights and wait for their prey to come to them. Even if a hatchling escapes, they're still in peril.
The lights become more and more bewildering. 80% of all hatchlings on this beach are now disorientated by the lights of the town. Roads bring many to their end. Hundreds get trapped in storm drains every night. Exhausted by the effort of travelling such a distance on land, this hatchling's chances of surviving the night are slim. This turtle is one of the countless species that have been unable to adapt to the change brought about by the urban environment. Only a small number of animals have managed to find ways of living alongside us. And every 10 years, an area the size of Britain disappears under a jungle of concrete. But it doesn't have to be like this. Could it not be possible to build cities more in harmony with nature? How, and whether we decide to invite the wildlife back, is up to us. This tree is rising nearly 30 storeys. It's one of almost 800 being planted to create a vertical forest in Milan. This number of living trees would normally fill two hectares of woodland, but here, they occupy one-tenth of that area. Greening the walls and roofs of our buildings could create a rich and extensive habitat, if we wanted it to do so. There is one city where that idea is being applied on a major scale. Singapore. Two million trees have been planted here in the last 45 years.
This city is now richer in species than any other in the world. And this practise extends to all parts of the city. The waterways have been cleaned up, and smooth-coated otters are coming back. But perhaps, the most spectacular example of city greening is this grove of super trees. These 150 feet high metal structures are now full of life. Creepers have been planted to grow over the outermost branches. This is a new urban world that we have now designed and built with others in mind. Create the space, and the animals will come. Is this a vision of our cities of the future? It could be possible to see wildlife thriving within our cities across the planet. We, after all, are the architects of the urban world.
Now, over half of us live in an urban environment.
My home, too, is here in the city of London.
Looking down on this great metropolis, the ingenuity with which we continue to reshape the surface of our planet is very striking, but it's also sobering.
It reminds me of just how easy it is for us to lose our connection with the natural world.
Yet it's on this connection that the future of both humanity and the natural world will depend.
It's surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.
For a wildlife film crew, working in the urban environment was an altogether different experience. Two crews set off on two very different missions. It's Mark and Louis's first time in India.
Passed this moped, and we're not stopping.
We're going. Oh, my God!
Yeah, we're in India.
Attenborough: Along with the rest of the team, they hope to film up close and personal with the monkeys that have come from the wild to live in the hustle and bustle of the city.
I can't believe these macaques have left the peace and quiet for this mayhem, but they're fine here.
In fact, they're probably a bit more comfortable than I am with this noise.
(CAR HORN HONKING)
Attenborough: And to get into the monkey's world, Mark will be using a new rig that s*ab the camera and allows him to get right into the action.
I think Mark and Louis have got a big challenge.
To be, uh, wielding thousands of pounds worth of camera equipment down at the street level.
(LAUGHS) Rather them than me.
Louis: We've got a lady with cauliflowers passing on your left, Mark.
Mark: Just pull me aside.
On your left.
I'm more used to a jungle, if I'm honest.
Erm, well, this is a jungle all of its own.
Just with people instead of trees.
(LAUGHING) This really... It's impossible.
Attenborough: Seven hundred miles south, in Mumbai, cameraman Gordon Buchanan will have to take on a completely different filming approach if he is to capture an urban leopard hunt.
It's amazing to think that standing here, surrounded by people, all this, kind of, human activity, that within half a mile, maybe even less, there will be leopards.
Attenborough: Only glimpses of these cats have been caught on camera, and just to locate them, he'll need new infrared camera traps.
Are you happy with the composition? Good.
What about you? Correct shutter speed?
Gordon is hoping that these camera traps will reveal where they're on the prowl. For the monkey team, finding the animals seems easy...
Mark: Steady now, Rob. Rob, Rob, Rob.
...but keeping up with them is a different matter.
He almost stomped on that.
They didn't put that on the hazard assessment.
Woman: They did, as a matter of fact.
A cow in the groin?
Woman: A cow in the groin in there.
Mark: They're much tougher and more granitey than the monkeys I filmed in the wild. They're not frightened of us.
They're, erm... I mean, look at this.
He's takin' on pigs, he's takin' on goats, he's takin' on cows.
He's takin' on me anytime he wants to.
Attenborough: But with monkeys this brazen, Mark is able to follow the troop at street level.
Attenborough: To capture their movements in their rooftop world, they need to run a cable between buildings and fly a camera along it. And that calls for some inventive rigging.
I've got this soft satsuma here, and I've got to lob it to the team on the other side, over there.
We're gonna lob it from rooftop to rooftop.
We've made sure there's no one on the rooftops and it's safe to do it.
Okay, good. That's good.
I got it into the courtyard. So that's perfect.
I think our cable run at the moment is about 60 metres.
And we can travel the whole length, while panning and tilting and really looking at everything we want to.
It should give us some really dynamic stunning sh*ts.
Attenborough: The team is getting an insight at all levels into the monkeys' mischievous lives.
And are starting to figure out the routes they use to cross the city. And over the course of weeks, the macaques become all too familiar with the crew.
Mark: (CHUCKLING) Oh, monkey.
All right, little monkey. All right.
Attenborough: They're now fully embedded in the troop, and Mark is able to film right amongst them.
Louis: These guys at the moment are magic.
We've got monkeys behaving naturally.
Mark: It's good, Louis.
Louis: Very nice, too. Very nice.
Attenborough: Back in Mumbai, the camera traps are revealing where the leopards are coming out. But to stand any chance of capturing them hunting in the city, Gordon will need to use the latest thermal camera technology.
(DRUMMING AND TRUMPETING)
(f*re cr*cker EXPLODES)
(WHISPERING) I can't imagine that a leopard's gonna come with all this going on.
Attenborough: Relative silence eventually descends.
Okay, I picked up some movement behind some bushes on the camera.
Just a, sort of, a twinkling of light.
It's something warm-blooded.
Here we go.
You dancer, look at that.
It definitely knows that I'm here.
That's the type of sighting that you'd have to wait for weeks and weeks to get a leopard that close, and so airily open.
Attenborough: Over the next month, this camera enables Gordon to see into the darkness, and be the first person to film an urban leopard hunt. But it's only at the end of the trip that he has his most memorable encounter.
Buchanan: Look at the size of him.
He's coming up. He's coming up. He's coming up.
My goodness! Look at that.
He's about three metres in front of me.
My heart is racing.
That was close.
That's the closest I've ever been to a leopard.
It's often the case with urban wildlife is that it's the presence of human beings that allows certain animals to do well.
And I suppose it's just incredible that one of those animals is the leopard.
Attenborough: It isn't just Gordon getting an insight into the surprising wildlife encounters possible in the city. It's in Jodhpur, filming the langurs, that the monkey team really see the extraordinary relationship between humans and animals in Indian cities.
They're so tolerant. They're amazing.
Attenborough: And it makes a strong impression on them.
Oh, it's beautiful!
Yeah, that is beautiful.
Mark: I mean, coming to India, this is what you realise that if you let your wildlife into the city and you really embrace it, then this is the reward you get.
I mean, this phenomenal connection with incredible creatures, and that just feels wonderful.
Attenborough: It was a surprising revelation that it was in cities where the film crews had some of their most extraordinary encounters with wild animals.
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01x06 - Cities
Episode transcripts for the TV show "Planet Earth II". Aired: November 2016 to December 2016.
"Planet Earth II" is a nature documentary presented and narrated Sir David Attenborough.
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1 post • Page 1 of 1