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Apeman - Spaceman
Professor Brian Cox examines how it was that in a universe made of stars, rocks and endless space, a conscious civilisation was born. His latest adventure takes him from a submerged space station in Star City on the outskirts of Moscow, to Ethiopia, high above in the Great Rift Valley, where he encounters the geladas, mankind's distant ancestors. Despite once being Africa's most successful primate, a species who at one time roamed across the entire continent, these days they are found in one just place in the remote Ethiopian Highlands. Cox investigates why these ancestors retreated, yet modern mankind has expanded across the planet.
Intelligence and adaptability allow primates to tackle the many challenges of life, and this is what makes our closest relatives so successful. This resourcefulness has enabled primates to conquer an incredible diversity of habitat. Hamadryas baboons live on the open plains of Ethiopia in groups up to 400 strong. Strength in numbers gives them some protection from potential predators. But, should their path cross with other baboon troops, it can lead to all-out battle, as males try to steal females from one another, and even settle old scores. Japanese macaques are the most northerly-dwelling primates and they experience completely different challenges. Some beat the freezing conditions by having access to a thermal spa in the middle of winter. But this privilege is only for those born of the right female bloodline. For western lowland gorillas, it's the male silverback that leads his family group in the rich forests of the Congo basin. He advertises his status to all with a powerful chest-beating display. Most primates are forest dwellers, and one of the strangest is the tarsier – the only purely carnivorous primate. As it hunts for insects the tarsier leaps from tree to tree in the dead of night, using its huge forward-facing eyes to safely judge each jump. Good communication is essential for success in primate society.
Volcanoes are one of nature’s most awesome and destructive forces, but they are also the life force and architect of our planet. They can raise up great mountains and create new land, or they can level cities and destroy entire civilizations. They provide a glimpse of the power of Earth’s internal heat source, without which it would have become a dead planet millions of years ago. In this episode, Iain takes us on a journey to some of the most dramatic places on Earth, starting in Ethiopia.
Earth, The Power of the Planet
Birds owe their global success to feathers - something no other animal has. They allow birds to do extraordinary things. For the first time, a slow-motion camera captures the unique flight of the marvellous spatuletail hummingbird as he flashes long, iridescent tail feathers in the gloomy undergrowth. Aerial photography takes us into the sky with an Ethiopian lammergeier dropping bones to smash them into edible-sized bits. Thousands of pink flamingoes promenade in one of nature's greatest spectacles. The sage grouse rubs his feathers against his chest in a comic display to make popping noises that attract females. The Vogelkop bowerbird makes up for his dull colour by building an intricate structure and decorating it with colourful beetles and snails.
From lush cloud forests to bare summits that take your breath away, the higher you climb the tougher life gets on a mountain. Human Planet explores the extraordinary ways in which people survive at extreme altitudes where nature becomes utterly unforgiving. In the Altai Mountains in Western Mongolia the vast open spaces make hunting for animals almost impossible, so the locals have forged an astonishing partnership with golden eagles which can do the hunting for them. On the precipitous cliffs of the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia we join a young boy locked in a dramatic battle with fearsome gelada monkeys which are hell-bent on raiding his family's meagre grain harvest. In the Himalayan state of Nepal - the roof of the world - we witness a rarely seen ceremony: a sky burial. In a land where there is little wood to burn for cremation, and where burying the dead is virtually impossible, the dead are fed to vultures in the ultimate reverence of nature.
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