Survival is the most important thing in the animal world, and that is made clear in the latest episode of Planet Earth II. The documentary focused on deserts and why they are extreme environments to live in. The episode kicked off with a tense confrontation between desert lions and a giraffe.
The big cats were so hungry they resorted to taking on an animal that could kill them with a single kick. The pride ran after the giraffe, leading it towards the dominant female. A brutal collision followed, with the female being trampled as she tried to leap at her prey. The female survived, but it was a poigniant reminder of how living in the desert pushes animals to the brink of desperation.
Next, viewers were transported to a forest of cacti, which became a hunting ground for Harris’ hawk. They are the only bird of prey to hunt in a pack, and they worked together to box in a ground squirrel. The squirrel took shelter under a cactus, but the birds cut off all escape routes. It reminded me of watching a horror film. To see the birds work to trap the squirrel was both fascinating and menacing.
A macabre scene followed, with shots of dead mice and lizards impaled on cactus spikes. This was the work of a butcherbird, who used the cactus as a larder. It put the bodies on the spikes as a way to feed its young and deter scavengers.
The next scene involved a plague of locusts swarming over the lush desert of Madagascar. Young locusts started by hopping across the ground and turned into winged adults. It was an incredible sight to see billions of insects buzzing in a giant cloud. With so many insects devastating crops, it’s little wonder why they are referred to as a plague.
Then, a heartwarming segment showed how sand grouse risk their lives for family. Males travel over one hundred miles to find water and bring it back to their chicks. The camera depicted the flock being harrassed by a goshawk, but grouse continued to return.
A stand out scene involved wild mustang horses fighting over a waterhole in Nevada. Watching the horses kick and bite was like watching a boxing match between two prized fighters. The contest ended when the owner of the water hole missed a kick and the new comer was able to take advantage.
When night fell on the desert, new animals came out of hiding. They included an adorable golden mole snuffling around for termites and a fierce battle between a bat and scorpion.
The ‘diary’ extract focused on the camera crew tracking locust swarms. They were forced to travel over water-logged ground, cross a river using a raft and take off in a helicopter. After two weeks of searching they found a super swarm of over a billion insects. This was a great example of the crew’s tenacity and everything they go through to bring us amazing footage.
Planet Earth II continues to deliver, and ‘Deserts’ was as compelling as the rest of the show. Next week will be about grasslands so be sure to check it out.
What did you think of Deserts?