For some, remote islands offer sanctuary away from the mainland: the tiny pygmy three-toed sloth only survives because of the peace and safety offered by its Caribbean island home, while seabirds like albatross thrive in predator-free isolation. But island life isn’t always easy. In the barren, volcanic islands of Galapagos, marine iguanas have been forced to find food in the ocean, but their ingenuity allows a raft of other animals to survive – including deadly racer snakes. At the end of the Earth, more than 1.5 million penguins appear to have found their version of paradise on an active, wave-battered volcano.
Key Characters in Islands
Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth; Escudo Island, Panama
- The Pygmy sloth was only confirmed as a unique species in 2001. The team worked with scientists studying the remarkable but small population of a few hundred individuals, that live on a single island the size of New York’s Central Park.
- Pygmy sloths ancestors were trapped on the island of Escudo de Veraguas when the sea level rose around them, 9,000 years ago. Isolated from mainland Panama, they evolved into a new species 40% smaller than their mainland cousins.
Komodo Dragon; Komodo and Rinca Islands, Indonesia
- The team worked across Rinca and Komodo Islands to capture this
sequence. It’s a dangerous job for a cameraman, and up to six rangers worked with the team using just sticks as a deterrent, if the dragons got too close.
- The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard on the planet growing up to three metres long and weighing in at over 70kg.
- The Komodo Island population is around 2,000 individuals and they can be deadly to humans – there are reported cases of people being stalked and killed by dragons.
Marine Iguanas; Fernandina, Galapagos
- Working from a small yacht to access this uninhabited, remote island location, the team arrived on Fernandina and witnessed a hatchling sprint across the beach followed by what seemed a ‘medusas head’ of snakes pour from the rock.
- Racer snakes are known to also hunt fish at this location but the yearly emergence of hatchling marine iguanas is a bonanza for them.
Chinstrap Penguins; Zavodovski Island
- Zavodovski Island is one of the most remote and challenging locations any film crew could choose to work. After a year of planning, the team undertook a six-week expedition to film there, camping amongst the smoke and sulphurous air alongside the world’s biggest colony of penguins, around 1.5 million chinstrap penguins.
- Pygmy sloth - Escudo de Veraguas
- Panama Komodo dragon - Komodo & Rinca, Indonesia
- Lemurs - S & E Madagascar
- Volcano erupting - Kilauea, Hawaii, USA
- Marine iguanas - Fernandina Island, Galapagos
- Bullers albatross - Snares Islands, New Zealand
- Bird-catcher tree - Cousin & Cousine Islands, Seychelles
- Red crabs & crazy ants - Christmas Island, Australia
- Chinstrap penguins - Zavodovski Island, South Sandwich Islands, Antarctic
- Islands account for one sixth of the Earth’s land area, yet around 20% of its species.
- Small populations and therefore small gene pools, allows evolution to happen very rapidly on islands.
- Island animals are among the most threatened, of the species that have gone extinct in the last 500 years, around 80% have been islanders.