In the 1990s, one million chimpanzees lived across Central Africa. Since then, habitat loss, hunting for bushmeat, and the exotic pet trade has caused their population to crash to just 200,000. But on Ngamba Island, a semi-wild sanctuary just off the coast of Uganda's Lake Victoria, a team of caregivers is dedicated to giving them another chance in life. Visit this remarkable safe haven, where victims--most arriving as orphaned babies--recover from mental trauma, form a new family, and learn how to be chimps.
Adam Rutherford meets a new creature created by American scientists - the spider-goat. It is part goat, part spider, and its milk can be used to create artificial spider's web. It is part of a new field of research, synthetic biology, with a radical aim: to break down nature into spare parts so that we can rebuild it however we please.
Steve Backshall reveals the incredible influence that insects and their close relatives have on Earth's many ecosystems. In the grasslands of South America the landscape has been created almost solely by one team of insects - grass-cutter ants. Across the world's oceans one tiny creature plays such a key role that, without it, the largest animal on our planet, the blue whale, could not exist. And in East Africa the savannah would quickly be swamped in dung were it not for the activities of a certain beetle. Yet the greatest influence of all comes from a group of insects that have ultimately changed the colour and diversity of our planet.
Mammals' ability to learn new tricks is the key to survival in the knife-edge world of hunters and hunted. In a TV first, a killer whale off the Falklands does something unique: it sneaks into a pool where elephant seal pups learn to swim and snatches them, saving itself the trouble of hunting in the open sea. Slow-motion cameras reveal the star-nosed mole's newly-discovered technique for smelling prey underwater: it exhales then inhales a bubble of air ten times per second. Young ibex soon learn the only way to escape a fox - run up an almost vertical cliff face - and young stoats fight mock battles, learning the skills that make them one of the world's most efficient predators.
More than a billion people around the world commute into cities each day, and they are not alone. The world's wildlife is commuting too. A steady flow of animals journey in and out of cities to find food and shelter or to start a family. Leaving the wilderness they must overcome the unique challenges that the urban world throws at them to benefit from the opportunities on offer. This episode explores whether the secret to an animal's success in this fast-changing world is to keep one foot in the wild and one in the city, becoming a wild commuter. It seems that all over the world animals are finding that the city can offer opportunities that are harder to come by in the natural world. Some, like African penguins, whose population has plummeted by 80 per cent in the last 50 years, find shelter in the city. By nesting in Cape Town they are safer from predators, and with relatively easy access to their fishing grounds they have the best of both worlds. Many other animals commute into cities because they are filled with food. In St Lucia, South Africa, that includes hippos. Able to eat up to fifty kilograms of grass in a single sitting, they have developed a taste for the short, manicured lawns and come to town every night to dine out. St Lucia's human residents have learnt to give the hippos the space they need during their night-time raids. Black bears need to eat more than 20,000 calories a day to survive their six-month hibernation through winter, and using their acute sense of smell they can easily track down leftovers. In North America they come into towns and cities in search of food. Many animals displaced from their natural habitat are now using their wild skill set in the city to help fulfill their needs. Could this be the beginning of a new and very modern migration?