Summer is the season of plenty for most animals, but not polar bears. Unable to hunt seals until the sea freezes over again, they grow hungrier by the day. For other animals summer is when youngsters must learn how to survive.
The endearing pangolin is a little-known scaly mammal. Found in Africa and Asia, these shy creatures have an unfortunate tagline - they are the most poached and illegally trafficked animals in the world. Based in Namibia, conservationist Maria Diekmann rescues and rehabilitates her local pangolins. In a bid to better understand the global issues they are facing, we follow Maria to Vietnam, Thailand and China into the very heart of the crisis, where demand for pangolin products is greatest. In what turns out to be an emotional journey, Maria joins forces with a Chinese megastar to build a campaign to bring awareness to the plight of an animal most people have never even heard of.
Andrew Scott narrates a special programme which celebrates winter and explores how animals and plants rise to the challenges it brings. With their world encased in snow and ice, animals must find the most inventive ways to survive and even benefit from the cold. Caribou become ice road travellers as it gets slippery underfoot, stoats make their own fur bedding, and snow monkeys find a warm bath. Emperor penguins are built for the cold weather, but even they must find their own tricks to endure the world's most savage winter.
North Atlantic bowhead whales have the largest mouths of any living creature and can live up to 200 years. In fact, some still carry harpoon fragments from a century ago. Join two intrepid Inuit tribesmen as they venture into the harsh Arctic region known as Ninginganiq to witness a gathering of these mysterious and awe-inspiring giants.
The Cave of Swallows in Mexico is a 400m vertical shaft, deep enough to engulf the Empire State Building. The Lechuguilla cave system in the USA is 193km long and 500m deep with astonishing crystal formations hanging from its chambers. Although often overlooked, caves are remarkable habitats with equally bizarre wildlife. Cave angel fish cling to the walls behind cave waterfalls with microscopic hooks on their flattened fins. Cave swiftlets navigate by echo-location and build nests out of saliva. The Texas cave salamander has neither eyes nor pigment. Unique access to a hidden world of stalactites, stalagmites, snotites and troglodytes brings a wealth of surprises.
This instalment examines the earliest land vegetation and insects. The first plants, being devoid of stems, mainly comprised mosses and liverworts. Using both sexual and asexual methods of reproduction, they proliferated. Descended from segmented sea creatures, millipedes were among the first to take advantage of such a habitat and were quickly followed by other species. Without water to carry eggs, bodily contact between the sexes was now necessary. This was problematical for some hunters, such as spiders and scorpions, who developed courtship rituals to ensure that the female didn't eat the male.
Monterey Bay on California's coast is one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world, its giant kelp forest bursting with life, from microscopic plankton to visiting ocean giants. The secret key to success in such a busy microworld is balance. Steve Backshall guides us through the unique geography of the bay and introduces some of its key characters in a quest to find the one species that keeps life in the kelp forest in check.