In this episode we visit the world’s deserts, a land of extremes that pushes life to the limit. Animals here have developed ingenious ways of dealing with the hostile conditions – giving rise to the most incredible survival stories on Earth. A pride of desert lions are so hungry they risk hunting a giraffe several times their size, whilst male sand grouse fly nearly 200 kilometres each day from their nests to the nearest waterhole, simply to collect water for their chicks – and when they arrive there are predators waiting for them. And, never filmed before, a tiny bat takes on one of the world’s deadliest scorpions just to get a meal.

Key Characters in Deserts

Locust Swarm; South West Madagascar

  • Though locusts are normally solitary, the team filmed a swarm of several billion. A swarm of this size may only be seen once a decade and is one of the largest ever caught on film.
  • This swarm stretched over 300 square kilometres. It could travel up to 100 kilometres and consume 40,000 tonnes of vegetation per day!

Golden Mole; Namib Desert, Namibia

  • Golden moles are rarely seen– they spend most of their time under the sand, and what’s more they are tiny, only the size of a ping pong ball!
  • A Golden mole’s eyes are covered in fur, meaning it’s totally blind – but well suited for life underground. To compensate, it has very acute hearing – its entire head acts as an amplifier picking up vibrations in the sand.
  • Though only small, it can travel up to 1 km per night in search of food.

Bats vs Scorpion; Negev Desert, Israel

  • For the first time the crew filmed the long-eared bat (Otonycteris hemprichii to be specific) as it |hunts its surprising prey, the death stalker scorpion, on the ground. This scorpions venom is capable of killing a human.

Filming Locations

Deserts

  1. Locust swarms - South West Madagascar
  2. Harris Hawks - Sonoran desert, USA
  3. Sand grouse - NamibRand, Namibia
  4. Mustang - Nevada, USA
  5. Bats v scorpions - Negev Desert, Israel
  6. Zebra - Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana
  7. Shrike larders - New Mexico, USA
  8. Desert greening - Lomas de lachay, Peru
  9. Desert canyons - Arizona, USA (Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Antelope Canyon)

The Facts

  • Desert temperatures can reach a scorching 58°C, and all over the world these are rising more than the global average, and many are getting hotter and larger.
  • Every year a further 80,000 square kilometres of grass and farmland in already dry areas, are turned to desert.