Grasslands cover much of the earth and provide a home to many species of animals. From towering elephants to tiny field mice, the grass supports a range of life. In this week’s Planet Earth II, David Attenborough shows us what it takes to survive in these unique environments.
The episode began with a vista of The Eurasian Steppe, the largest grassland in the world. A tiny head popped up above the vast greenery to reveal a baby Saiga antelope waiting for its mother. The antelope’s gangly legs showed how it was born for a life on the move. Their long noses allow them to find fresh grass, demonstrating they are a successful species that have survived from the Ice Age.
The scene changed into a water-logged savanna in Southern Africa. Cameras focused on a pride of lions targetting a male buffalo in a heart-hammering exchange. The lionesses leapt at their prey as the buffalo shrugged them off. The relationship between predator and prey was made clear, with the pride desperate to feed their cubs and the buffalo determined to survive. I can’t remember the last time I’d seen such a powerful battle of wills. In the end, the male was able to escape, and I was left with a tremendous amount of respect for predators and prey.
An acrobatic display followed, with a field mouse scaling grass shoots in search of food. When a barn owl swooped down, the mouse dropped into the undergrowth and found her way home. Then, a great example of animal igenuity was shown. Carmine bee eaters hitched a ride on the backs of ostriches and elephants in order to flush out insects.
The dry season arrived and an elegant serval cat stalked the bush looking for rats. Her large radar ears enabled her to pick up movement. Every time she pounced it was like watching a work of art, and I found myself disappointed when she didn’t catch her target.
Stamina counts as much as stealth in the grass, as demonstrated by the Jackson’s widowbird. Groups of them jumped repeatedly to catch the eye of a female. The male that jumped the most was successful in mating. On the plains of Brazil a giant anteater was shown destroying a terminite nest. Its powerful claws and long tongue proved why it can eat up to 20000 insects per day.
Finally, the ‘diary’ extract followed the camera team filming animals in Karziranga National Park. They needed protection, as more people are killed in the park by animals than anywhere else. Gunmen escorted them as they set up camera traps, which were destroyed by a sloth bear. It shows how nature can be unpredictable, and why we must respect animals when we come into their world.
Grasslands was another amazing entry in the series. The final episode is next week, with animals living in and around cities. Be sure to check back for my last review in what’s been an incredible programme.
What did you think of Grasslands?