Life In Cold Blood

Sunday 2nd November 8.30pm

The intimate lives of some of the largest and most impressive animals alive today – crocodiles, turtles and tortoises – are revealed in this final programme. All of them are covered in thick scales that have turned into armour, yet, despite their tough exteriors, these animals are capable of astonishing behaviour and warm-hearted interaction.
David Attenborough begins the story of these ancient armoured giants in the Galapagos Islands among the beautiful volcanic mists, where he finds the biggest and most long-lived of all reptiles – the giant tortoises. Observing the difficulties they face, David says: “Making love in a suit of armour is not easy.” Luckily, these tortoises have a solution – their shells are specially shaped so that the mating pair fit together like spoons.
Green turtles mate in the water and face a different problem. Filmed in exquisite detail, a mass of green turtles in a stunning tropical blue sea passionately fight for a mate. The tension increases as several males frantically jostle to attach themselves to the female, almost drowning her in the process.
In Australia, David reveals newly-discovered behaviour. On a flooded road by a small river, over 40 huge saltwater crocodiles gather and work together to feast on migrating fish. Just like bears feeding on salmon, they gather together especially for this event and dramatically pick off fish as they leap through the air. This is remarkable behaviour, since these crocodiles are highly territorial and have to suppress their aggression when they are massed together.
Finally, David concludes that the primitive reputation of reptiles and amphibians is far from the truth. In fact, they are very sophisticated – especially in the way they use energy. David says: “At a time when we ourselves are becoming increasingly concerned about the way in which we get our energy from the environment, and the wasteful way in which we use it, maybe there are things that we can learn from Life In Cold Blood.”

Sunday 19th October 8.30pm

Snakes evolved from humble burrowing, legless lizards to become some of the most highly developed predators on Earth. In America, David spies on a timber rattlesnake as it hunts warm-blooded prey at night. For the first time, the lethal strike is captured on camera in the wild.
Although venom is a lethally effective weapon, most snakes prefer not to bite as they can get hurt in the process. But, there are other ways to deliver venom as David demonstrates. Wearing a mask (to avoid being blinded), he tests the accuracy of a spitting cobra.
Giant male king cobras will fight over a mate but they have a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ not to use their potentially fatal bites. Instead, they sway in a hypnotic, rhythmic dance, trying to press each other to the ground.
After courtship comes birth, and the cameras capture a mammoth reptilian water birth as 15 live baby yellow anacondas are born and swim to the surface to take their first breath.
David says: “These most sophisticated animals cope with life’s challenges and they do it with elegance and grace.”

Sunday 19th October 8.30pm

From iguanas emerging out of a tropical swamp to a face-to-face encounter with a monitor lizard in the Australian desert, David Attenborough traces the lizards’ colonisation of the Earth as they ultimately became the dragons of the dry.

All lizards are adept at camouflage, but the real masters of colourful display are the chameleons. In Madagascar, David meets the smallest in the world – the minute pygmy leaf chameleon. In Malawi, there is a joust between two dinosaur-like Mellor’s chameleons and, in South Africa, a Cape dwarf chameleon gives birth to a litter of young in a tree.

New discoveries are also made about the elusive pygmy blue-tongued skinks. David tempts one out of its burrow with a fishing rod, and a special probe camera reveals the secrets of its underground family life.

Less touching, but more dramatic are the bizarre wrestling bouts of the Mexican beaded lizards, which can last over an hour. Males circle and grasp each other, eventually locking together to form an arch while still trying to push each other over. The one that gains the most submissions is the winner.

Finally, he returns to the baking deserts of central Australia, home to the bizarre ant-eating thorny devil and the largest of Australian lizards, the 5ft-long Perentie.