The Auckland Islands are an isolated archipelago of islands far south of New Zealand. They might seem bleak, but they are a surprising sanctuary for wildlife. In summer, hordes of giant sea lions descend upon a desolate beach, and testosterone-driven males begin bloody battles for mating rights. When the pregnant females return to give birth on the beach, chaos ensues. The pups are always in danger of being squashed by overly eager males. Some of the rarest penguins on the planet, the yellow-eyed penguins, are also breeding here and must constantly evade the huge brawling male sea lions. Southern royal albatross, giant petrels and skuas are other species that go to extremes to ensure their offspring’s survival. The drama of summer in the sub-Antarctic islands peaks as the sea lion pups dare to take their very first ocean swims.
Bees and ants work selflessly toward a common goal. Bonobos maintain social harmony through sex, while meerkats organize themselves with military-level discipline. What do these creatures all have in common? The basic recognition that their survival hinges on an ability to work and live together.
Sophie looks at one skill in particular that seems to give humans an advantage over all other animals - our superior talent for language. She explores what language really is, and how close other animals come to having it. She considers the world of primates and the theory that some apes may communicate through sign language, and reveals how, even in the womb, humans start to practise making the mouth movements needed for speech. But language isn't just a power to combine words. Professor Scott explores how we convey information through the tone of voice, our accents and the pace and pitch of our speech. But in a world when we regularly talk to computers, she also shows why scientists need to develop machines that can understand the subtleties of our speech. Finally, she looks at language in this digital age and explores the role that emojis play.
3/3 • Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: The Language of Life • 2017 • Nature
In the culmination of this 1,000km scientific expedition aboard the Alucia, Liz Bonnin and the team of scientific experts journey south to visit the oldest islands in the Galapagos to see first-hand the impact that humans have had on this pristine wilderness. Back on the larger island of Isabela, where her journey first began, Liz descends into a spectacular vertical lava cave. Deep inside, she discovers how this hidden world could even provide an answer to how it might be possible to inhabit other planets. On her last land-based stop, on Santa Cruz, Liz comes face to face with the effects of man as she explores the magical misty scalesia forests and meets scientists who are tracking the invasive species spreading throughout the islands. It is here that she also checks in on a giant tortoise population whose ancient migration pathways have come under threat from the largest human population on the archipelago, and meets a man on a mission to protect this iconic creature. Finally, Liz dives into the deep blue waters to witness the birth of a brand new island. Coming full circle, Liz and the team are able to reflect on the importance of their missions which will help to protect the Galapagos and its extraordinary wildlife in the future. In an ever-changing world, what we learn now from these incredible living natural wonders and what we can pass on to future generations has never been more important.
Their habitat once stretched across the Prairies, but when humans wiped out the one thing they eat, the black-footed ferret disappeared. The only native North American ferret, this mysterious animal became the most endangered species in the world. For many years, they survived only in zoos. Now a fledgling project is attempting to bring the black-footed ferret back to Saskatchewan. This dramatic story of the ferrets’ reintroduction to the wild unfolds in Return of the Prairie Bandit, a new documentary by Kenton Vaughan set in the stunning prairie of southern Saskatchewan.
Encounter huge shoals of barracuda in Malaysia, fantastic meadows of coral in the Philippines and strange, miniature creatures inhabiting Indonesian reefs. Plus you’ll have to watch for deadly blue-ringed octopus and much more. Simply sublime!