National Geographic: Australias Animal Mysteries (1999)

With the coming of each new dawn,
shadows of an ancient past echo
across Australia
land of eternal mystery.
Alien and remote for
countless centuries,
it remains today an
almost mystical land...
a land only recently disturbed
by the arrival of man.
Long before the time of man,
there appeared here creatures
among the most bizarre on Earth.
So unlike other animals are they
that many early European explorers
could hardly believe they were real.
Even today, three centuries later,
many of the questions the animals
pose to science remain unanswered.
Throughout Australia, investigators
and scientists probe the secrets
of this infinitely varied wildlife.
Animals once dubbed "living fossils"
have been properly identified
and categorized, their evolutionary
relationships better understood.
Yet, inevitably, there remain more
questions than answers
haunting, ago-old mysteries that beckon
all who behold the spectacle of life
unique to Australian shores.
Washed by the South Pacific on the
east and the Indian Ocean on the west,
Australia stretches for almost
three million square miles.
It is the world's smallest continent,
the largest island
a self-contained biological laboratory
unique in the world.
Science has long been puzzled
by how and why this island-continent
became home to what is probably the
most distinctive assemblage
of creatures found anywhere in the world.
Part of the answer lies in
Australia's remoteness,
its geographic separation
from the rest of the world.
Cut off from the Earth's
great landmasses,
Australia has evolved in seabound
isolation for some 50 million years,
its wildlife relatively undisturbed
by influences from the outside.
But the world as we know it today
does not hold all the answers
to Australia's past.
We must look to a distant time in
the Earth's geological history
when the continents were joined.
Scientists believe that somewhere
in the continents we know today
as the Americas, Antarctica,
and Australia,
the earliest marsupials
evolved and fanned out.
When the landmass split apart,
the continents carried
their life-forms with them.
However, in South America, predators
and competitors for food
eventually wiped out a great
number of marsupial species.
In Antarctica they became
frozen out of existence.
Only in Australia,
safely cut off from competitors,
could these unique creatures flourish.
And until the relatively late
arrival of man,
they evolved, for the most part,
undisturbed for millions of years.
Even today, Australia's human
population is only 141/2 million,
and because much of the interior
is a harsh, arid land,
the large cosmopolitan
centers cluster on the coasts.
A common myth about "Down Under"
is that one can see kangaroos
hopping down the streets of Sydney.
Yet it is quite likely that many of
these people have never even seen one,
and perhaps never will, outside a zoo.
Zoos and sanctuaries are popular
attractions throughout Australia.
Here, tame animals
provide the opportunity
for an intimate look at some of
the country's most treasured resources.
Most of the kangaroos at this sanctuary
have been raised here as orphans...
their mothers the victims of
automobiles or a hunter's gun.
Under the watchful eye of a keeper,
the joeys, as young kangaroos are called,
can be cared for until old enough to
be on their own in the park.
I'm going to put him in a bag.
A pillowcase is an ample substitute
for the mother's pouch.
Good joey. That's a baby.
Sit square on. Put two hands one on
top of the other.
Perhaps number one of any popularity
poll is Australia's pride and joy,
the cuddlesome koala.
...Straight over your shoulder
towards the camera.
Chin up. And thank you.
Okay miss, just watching me, please.
Oh, you've got a beautiful smile,
dimples and all.
How about that, eh?
Captured young,
koalas come to accept humans.
Even in the wild, they are basically
unaggressive if undisturbed.
Life for the wild koala revolves in
and around forests of eucalyptus trees
throughout eastern Australia.
On the ground just to move from
tree to tree,
the koala spends almost all
its time high in the branches.
It has developed highly
specialized adaptations
for its arboreal life...
long arms, well-padded paws,
and opposable thumbs with
a vice-like grip.
Not only home and shelter,
eucalyptus trees provide the koala
with its primary food.
It eats about two pounds of leaves a day.
Despite superficial resemblance,
the so-called koala "bear"
is not a bear at all,
but a true marsupial a
pouched animal like the kangaroo.
After birth the young will stay in the
mother's pouch for about six months.
When strong enough to leave the pouch,
it will do so only intermittently,
and for the next few months will
travel everywhere with its mother,
clinging either to her back or chest.
The koala has inspired myriad reactions
from observers over the centuries.
One author has written:
"The koala's expression always reminds
me of a Byzantine Madonna
or some dowager duchess...
rather bored, well-fed and well-bred...
But many aborigines saw something
quite different
to them the koala represented
the reincarnation
of the spirits of lost children.
A research team from Queensland's
National Parks and Wildlife Service
is studying the koala's ecology and
reproduction in the wild.
Their study area is roughly 600 acres
where 30 to 40 koalas normally live.
He's got up higher than he was
when we first saw him...
Okay, let's go.
Led by Dr. Greg Gordon,
the researchers have been capturing
and tagging koalas since 1971.
It is by no means a simple task.
First they must get them down.
And, as the wary animal
climbs even higher,
the pole must be extended to reach it.
This is not going to be
all that easy, Greg.
He's got to he's going to drop just
near the edge of the embankment.
Yeah, I think you're right.
Experience has taught the scientists
that the procedure is basically
safe the koala
its sturdy build and thickly padded rump
seem to protect it against the fall.
That's it. You're just below him now.
You're right below him.
Go on, drive him off.
Got him?
See, doesn't hurt him at all.
Particularly when they come down
on a branch like that.
It was a rude awakening, wasn't it.
Though easygoing by nature,
a koala may become
aggressive under stress.
The bag is a precaution against
his powerful claws and tenacious bit.
Sought for its fur in the early
decades of this century,
the slow-moving koala was hunted
to the very brink of extinction.
Today, thanks to government protection
koalas are once again secure.
Recently, however,
it this area of Queensland,
there has been a puzzling
decline in the birth rate.
By tagging the animals and
studying them over a period of years,
the scientists hope to pinpoint the cause.
In the meantime,
thorough examinations expand
their understanding of growth patterns
and general states of health.
Color-coded tags make the animal
easily identifiable
even when high in the trees.
This one was tagged originally
when still in his mother's pouch,
and much about him is already known.
Tooth wear is about the most
reliable indication of age.
This male is roughly three years old.
Now, we'll do his chest gland.
On their chests all male koalas
have a scent gland
which exudes a distinctive odor.
By rubbing the gland on tree trunks
and branches,
they announce their presence
to others in the area.
Okay, we'll go out of the sun, over here.
That sound like a good idea.
Okay, fellow.
There we are. Good as new.
He's not going to go to that tree again.
Go on.
...nasty, that one...
Momentarily disoriented after his
release from the bag,
the young koala seems unsure
of what to do next.
But within seconds he heads back
quickly to the same tree
from which he'd been captured.
Guess he proved me wrong.
He took that rather well.
Sensing only that he is safely back
where he wants to be,
the koala cannot possibly realize
how today's encounter with strangers
may well help determine the
future of his kind.
Perhaps the very symbol of Australia,
the kangaroo remains as fascinating today
as when the first live specimen
reached England in the 1700s.
A handbill announcing the
event proclaimed that
"to enumerate its extraordinary
Qualities would far exceed
the common Limits of a Public Notice".
Now, almost two centuries later,
a rare piece of film documents
one of the kangaroo's most
extraordinary qualities of all.
After a gestation period
of about a month,
this red kangaroo prepares to give birth.
Though scientists now understand
the biology of marsupial birth,
it is no less remarkable to behold.
All marsupials are born in an
undeveloped state,
their growth to be completed
inside the pouch.
Defenseless and blind,
the tiny newborn,
completely unaided by the mother,
must navigate through her
thick fur toward the pouch.
If it loses its way, it will die.
Once inside the pouch,
guided only by its sense of smell,
the newborn finds one of the
mother's nipples.
Here it will remain attached,
suckling for more than six months.
Now the joey will be strong enough to
leave the pouch intermittently.
But even when it is old enough to graze,
it will return to the pouch to nurse
for several months more.
Amazing in their adaptability, some
kangaroos are as at home in the trees
as others are bounding
across rocky slopes.
There are about 50 species
of kangaroos in Australia
ranging from up to seven feet in
height to the size of a common rat.
But one trait they all
share is that they hop.
Though it may weigh
as much as 200 pounds,
the kangaroo is a picture of grace
when it takes to flight.
It can reach speed up to
and cover as much as 25 feet in one leap.
Recently scientists were amazed to
discover that, at certain speeds,
the kangaroo actually uses less
oxygen the faster it goes.
It was found that,
like the spring in a pogo stick,
the kangaroo's leg muscles and
tendons store energy,
which is then released without effort
when the animal next pushes off.
Though the kangaroo is no doubt the
most famous marsupial,
Australia boasts as many as
The ferocious-looking Tasmanian Devil
is one of the few
that eat meat exclusively.
Once can only imagine the astonishment
of early explorers
when they saw a pouched
animal take to the air.
These possums do not
actually fly like birds,
but their kite-like membrane enables
them to glide
for distances of 40 yards or more.
Only in small patches of Western
Australia will one find the numbat,
a small, gentle marsupial now extinct
in other parts of the country.
With sharp claws the numbat roots
out termites, its primary food.
Its long, sinuous, sticky tongue can
capture thousands of the insects a day.
With its distinctive bands of white
and its bottlebrush tail,
the numbat is considered by many
to be Australia's most
beautifully marked marsupial.
The majestic Blue Mountains lie
Here, beneath the vivid blue haze
which gave the mountains their name,
areas of pristine wilderness abound.
Nestled in the hills,
an historic estate called Yengo
spreads across 25 acres.
For the past 12 years it
has been a private reserve dedicated
to breeding endangered animals.
He's really heavy, I'll tell you that.
The owner is businessman Peter Pigott,
one of Australia's
foremost conservationists.
With his wife and son,
he is transferring a wombat injured
in a fight to a safer enclosure.
Come here.
Come on.
Nice leg to bite.
Pigott's breeding success with
wombats is considered phenomenal
better than any zoo
and is attributed to his
concern for creating
the most natural setting possible
in a captive environment.
I guess that my first opportune at
doing something very constructive
in the field of conservation was the
rediscovery of a wallaby
that we thought was extinct.
The parma wallaby, a mall kangaroo
only about 14 inches tall,
was abundant until early settlers
destroyed its habitat
and introduced new predators.
Though thought to be extinct,
a small colony was discovered in 1965.
Starting with only 18 animals,
Pigott has increased the population
here to more than 200 in ten years.
A lot of people say to me,
now why should we conserve wildlife?
Why should we be really concerned?
I mean, aren't people more
important than wildlife?
We are all part of the 600 million
years of evolution
and I suppose that one of
the great things
that separates mankind from the animals
is our sense and
appreciation of the esthetics
our love of literature,
our love of art and poetry,
and of nature itself.
I often think that if we lose this we
disregard the world that's around us
and the animals that are here.
We might wake up one morning and
find ourselves on the endangered list.
Her skies ablaze with color,
Australia has been called
"the foremost land of birds".
More than 300 species are
unique to her shores.
One of Australia's most distinctive birds,
the mallee fowl is a prodigious engineer.
To incubate their eggs in a harsh
environment that is generally dry
and subject to sharp temperature changes,
they build mounds up to 15 feet
across and several feet high.
Working together,
male and female have laid down
a bed of wet leaves and twigs.
To seal in the moisture and heat
of the fermenting compost,
they cover the mound with sand.
The egg chamber itself lies
at the heart of the mound.
Beginning in the spring and
continuing for three to four months,
the female will come about once a
week to lay a single egg.
The mallee regions are marked by
sharp temperature fluctuations
between day and night and
as the seasons change,
but the egg chamber must be kept at
an almost constant 92 degrees.
Once the female has laid her egg,
she will heave the tending
of the mound to her mate.
To determine the temperature,
he probes the sand.
With a sensitive spot either
in his bill or tongue,
he gets a reading as accurate
as any thermometer.
Regulating the temperature by
removing sand to release heat
or adding sand to conserve it is an
almost constant job for the bird,
a consuming task to
which he dedicates himself
for up to nine months of the years.
Roughly every two months,
a chick will work its way up through
the thick soil and wander off,
never to see its parents again.
From the depths of the forest echoes
a haunting and memorable sound...
the lyrebird, master of vocal mimicry.
Seemingly endless in its variety,
the lyrebird's repertoire
include other bird calls,
as well as man-made sounds.
The mating ritual is highlighted
by a shimmering display of
the bird's immense fan-like tail.
In central Australia,
heavy rains have flooded to desert.
But storms are few and short-lived in
this harsh, arid country.
As the claypans begin to dry up
the water-holding frog demonstrates
a remarkable adaptation.
Increasing its body weight by
as much as 50 percent
with water absorbed through the skin,
the frog burrows into the softened clay
to a depth of more than three feet.
Once underground, it will enter
a sleep-like state
its active life essentially over
until the desert once again sees rain.
Encased in a cocoon-like bag
of dead skin,
the frog will remain in its chamber,
sealed beneath the now dry
and hardened earth.
In times of drought, these amazing
creatures have been known to stay buried
for two years or more.
Only when the rains finally come
and the earth begins to soften
can the frog begin to emerge.
It must mate quickly
so that his young will mature
in time to soak up their own water supply
and bury themselves
until the next rains come.
In the forests of
southeastern Queensland,
a major scientific discovery
was made in 1972.
Since that time,
a bizarre animal unique in the world
has been making history.
The first noteworthy fact was that
it existed at all
Australians had always believed that
in their country
there was no such thing
as a frog that lived in water.
Since the time of the original discovery,
captured animals have been sent to
the Zoology Department
at the University of Adelaide
for study by Michael Tyler.
one of the countries
foremost takes on ton-frog.
Spending their daylight hours
hidden under rocks
these frogs are the most light sensitive
and shy of any Tyler has ever seen.
The only way he has been able to
observe them successfully
is to remove them from
their regular aquarium.
In a specially built tank with
one-way glass windows,
the frogs will be unaware
of Tyler's presence.
Because many have died in captivity
and in recent years
no more have been found in the wild,
these two remain to
unlock the mysteries of
some of the most unusual
animal behavior ever recorded.
But though action like this free-falling
is bizarre and unexplained,
it is the animal's reproduction
that has most electrified the world.
What is so unusual about the
gastric-brooding frog
is the fact that it carries
its young in its stomach.
Superimposed on an X ray,
an artist's conception follows
the growth of some two dozen tadpoles
until, at roughly eight weeks,
the female's stomach is completely
with fully developed frogs
ready to be born.
The mother opens her mouth and then
she dilates her esophagus
and the babies pop up from the stomach
one or two at a time,
and sit upon her tongue.
And then they sit and look around,
look at the world outside,
and then just very, very gently step out.
Tyler's rare photo of an actual birth
has made headlines around the world.
Here we have an animal
which can switch off
acid being produced in the stomach.
An awareness that that would be an
extremely novel way
of being perhaps able to treat people
who might need to be able to
make use of that as an advantage.
For an example, during the treatment
for peptic ulcers,
it would be so useful to be able to
switch off gastric acid
secretion totally for a period of
time and do it very, very readily.
I say it's a long, long way.
between what we've done so far
and such a thing as a possibility.
But, I mean,
in the matter of a few years ago
no one would have dreamed
that the existence of this frog
with this habit could
possibly occur and so,
with that in mind,
I don't think it's impossible
or too far fetched to maintain hopes
that is may have clinical application.
In the reptile world,
Australia stands out as the continent
with the largest proportion
of venomous snakes.
The death adder is one of the
country's most poisonous snakes.
Without treatment,
half of its human victims will die.
Like all snake,
the death adder feeds primarily
on small animals like lizards.
Its approach is neither
timid nor aggressive,
for in the end it relies on
an extraordinary device
for enticing the skink within range.
Wriggling its tail tip as a lure,
the snake can lie quietly and wait.
Attracted by what must appear
to be a squirming insect,
the skink draws near.
The venom, five times more powerful than
that of its cousin, the king cobra,
paralyzes the muscles
that control breathing,
and the victim dies of asphyxiation.
The Australian reptile Park
was founded by Eric Worrell,
who has worked with snakes
for more than 50 years.
People overseas always
think of Australian animals
as being koalas or kangaroos.
They don't think very much about
our snakes, our other reptiles.
We have the deadliest reptiles
in the world.
Robyn Worrell is an experienced
snake handler.
With careful concentration
combined with skill,
she has been bitten
only once in ten years.
Though her snake-milking
demonstration may draw curious crowds,
the primary goal of her work lies in
the realm of science and medicine.
What I'm milking here is
the mainland tiger snake.
There's probably about
seven or eight different types
of tiger snakes in Australia.
It's the third deadliest
that we have in Australia.
What I'm actually doing now
is just enticing the snake to bit
over the rubber.
The fangs are penetrating through
that rubber and the venom
accumulates in the bottom of the beaker.
Generally we keep...
Over the years, the venoms collected
at the park
have proved invaluable to laboratories
developing snake-bite cures.
The work we do here is vital in that
it has been estimated that we save
one life a day from snake bite.
That's during the snakes' active season,
which is to say from
September until April.
And I think that works out to
something around 20,000 lives
that this organization
has saved since we started.
Thanks largely to the Worrells' work,
there are now antivenoms
for all Australia's poisonous snakes.
In addition to snakes,
Australia's reptiles include some
Lacking venom as protection
against predators,
they depend on an impressive
array of defenses and bluff.
Looking like some creature
from the Dinosaur Age,
the Thorny Devil belongs to the
group aptly called dragon lizards.
Actually a squat, slow-moving,
ant-eating lizard,
the devil is found throughout the
arid regions of central
and western Australia,
and has adapted to some of
the continent's harshest conditions.
But perhaps its most notable adaptation
is its coat of spines
a barricade of daggers warning
all the might come near.
Lizards abound throughout Australia.
The most famous and perhaps
the most spectacular roams the forests
of the warmer northern regions.
Undisturbed, the frilled lizard
looks harmless enough.
But in the face of an enemy,
it performs with remarkable bluff.
If all else fails,
it need only make a hasty retreat.
The entire range of Australian wildlife
is the domain of these two naturalists
Together they are known
as Mantis Wildlife Films.
Individually they are
Australian Jim Frazier
and his British-born partner Densey Clyne.
For the past 12 years they have
specialized in filming behaviors
the naked eye can barely see.
Today the object of their search is
one of the most fearsome ants on earth.
They're coming out already.
This one is bringing something
into the nest. What is it?
It looks like a bit of food...
Food or...
I don't know what it is.
About an inch long,
They've seen us already.
the formidable bulldog
ant inflicts a powerful
and painful sting.
But to film their behavior,
Jim and Densey must collect
the entire colony
perhaps as many as 400 ants.
Even the larvae be taken, but
Jim's film sequence to be completed.
There we are.
At Densey's home,
the headquarters of Mantis films,
Jim has built a plaster model based on
his knowledge of the nest in the wild.
There's quite a lot of
them on the glass there...
Yes, right.
They're coming out everywhere.
The slippery white coating at the top
will prevent the ants from escaping.
It's amazing what a lot of noise
they make, isn't it? Yeah.
Running around.
You can actually see the sting
coming out and trying to sting the glass.
Going in between the sections of glass.
Look at this one here.
Look at the sting.
They're not happy are they?
Well, if I had my home
uprooted like that,
I wouldn't be very happy either.
Jim, I think although they're in a
bit of a panic now,
you know, as soon as the queen
is settled in one of the chambers,
they'll be alright.
They're starting to slow down now.
They're not quite as frantic as they were.
No, they're not. Some of them have
found the larvae
and pupae down below.
It will be three or four days before
the ants settle down sufficiently
for Jim to begin filming.
I worked at the Australian Museum
for about seven years,
and in that time I learned how to
manipulate the environment,
as it were, in making miniature dioramas,
and it seemed a natural thing to
combine photograph
with the filming of small animals.
Colony life centers around the queen
whose primary function is to lay eggs.
She may produce as few as one a day
or as many as one every two hours.
Using her sharp mandibles,
she gently picks up the egg
and looks for a safe place to lay it down.
She must be careful that the
voracious developing larvae
do not steal it for food.
But indeed, this time it is a
larva that wins out.
To complete their development
into adult ants,
the larvae will seal themselves
inside a cocoon they make
by spinning silk around debris
from the tunnel floor.
Having adjusted to their
man-made environment,
the ants go about their routine.
An intruder into their silent,
miniature world,
Jim Frazier feels privileged to have
witnessed little known behavior
of one of the most
primitive ants on Earth.
Millions of years of isolation in
have protected a group of
animals that today
has no living relatives on Earth.
Sharing features of both ancestral
reptiles and early mammals,
they may offer a glimpse of how more
modern mammals evolved.
One of these egg-laying mammals,
or monotremes,
is the echidna, the spiny anteater.
This small, unaggressive creature
has only a tiny mouth at the end
of its sticklike snout and no teeth.
In the daily search for ants,
it relies solely on the long sticky
tongue as its means of getting food.
The echidna's only defenses
and very effective ones they are
are needle sharp spines
and the ability to sink out of sight
in the face of danger.
Digging rapidly into the hard earth,
the powerful echidna can
disappear within minutes.
An almost impenetrable shield will
be all that remains above ground.
The female echidna carries
a singly leathery egg
in a pouch that forms on her belly
at the beginning of the breeding season.
In about ten days the egg will hatch.
The tiny baby nurses in the pouch
for up to two months.
By definition, a mammal is a warm-blooded,
haired animal that suckles its young.
The echidna qualifies in all respects.
But it retains the distinctly
reptilian characteristic of laying eggs.
When and why other mammals stopped laying
eggs and began to bear their young live
remains a recurrent
riddle of evolution yet to be solved.
In eastern Australia's streams,
rivers, and lakes
is found the echidna's only
living relative on Earth.
Outwardly looking nothing
whatever like its spiny cousin,
the platypus does share its
reptilian traits,
including the laying of eggs.
Although it is often called the
"duckbill" platypus,
its bill is actually soft, pliable,
and rubbery, quite unlike a duck's.
filled with sensitive nerves,
it is a specialized adaptation for
feeling out the insect larvae
and crayfish on which the platypus feeds.
Lacking teeth, adults grind their food
between large horny plates in the jaws.
Because the platypus spends much of
the time burrowed in riverbanks,
little of its life cycle is known.
So unlike other animals is the platypus,
it was considered a hoax
when discovered in the late 1700s.
Laymen still gaze quizzically at an
animal that appears to be part mammal,
part reptile, part bird.
At an early date it was named "paradoxus".
So much of a paradox is the platypus
that almost two centuries later
it remains a creature shrouded in mystery.
One of Australia's foremost naturalists,
David Fleay has been studying the
platypus for close to 50 years.
Today at his Fauna Reserve in Queensland
visitors can enjoy an assortment
of Australian exotica,
but it is the platypus most tourists
come especially to see.
Well, he's going through
his ordinary routine now.
He's out feeding and swimming
and when he's had enough of that,
which goes on for about 10 hours,
right into the night,
he goes back into these tunnels,
curls up, and goes to sleep.
It was almost 40 years ago
that Fleay gained world-wide fame
as the first person to breed a
platypus in captivity.
It began in 1943 with a couple
named Jack and Jill.
Taken from the wild,
they adjusted well to captivity
and became unusually tame.
Not long after mating had been observed,
Jill stopped eating and disappeared
into her nesting burrow.
Fleay suspected she must be
ready to lay eggs.
It was roughly eight weeks
before we thought,
as the information was at that time,
that at eight weeks the baby
should be able to crawl about and swim.
So we took the risk of
opening up the tunnel
at this point, and having looked.
I felt that somehow that we were
doing the wrong thing.
And as it proved,
it was the wrong thing.
We found that she
had one solitary young.
Nice and fat and in good order,
but it was blind and helpless and
obviously couldn't either swim or walk.
We'd opened that up much too soon.
We left things alone and just watched
carefully from that point on.
And then, at a further rate,
about 16 weeks altogether,
we opened the back of the tunnel again
and found that the baby
was alive and well.
It was a tremendous relief.
Well, it was relayed
round the world and it was announced
in New York and London.
The platypus, of course,
is a fabulous animal.
It's always attracted a lot of attention.
It was considered impossible round
about the 1930s
for one to live in captivity for
more than a few days.
After all the years of effort,
it was a tremendous thrill.
We put the flag up that day.
Four decades later not even Fleay has
managed to breed the platypus again.
With his assistants
from the university of Queensland,
Dr. Frank Carrick works after
dusk and at dawn
when the platypus is most active.
He has been studying the animal's
ecology since 1972.
At least with the water
being high like this,
there are fewer snags...
An unweighted fishing net has been
laid parallel to the riverbank.
The scientists check the net at
regular interval
guided by a light from shore.
Although the net is designed
so the animal can surface and breathe,
there is always the
danger of entanglement.
Gary, I think there might be an
animal in the net
a bit further from us there.
Would you like to just put
the sop on it?
Yeah, he's gone under a bit.
Go out and get him out.
Okay, just ease it up here, Jim.
Here he is, you little beauty.
Get him out.
Into the boat you go.
It's male, too.
His spurs.
Because the male platypus has
venomous spurs on his hind legs,
he must be handled with extreme care.
Although it's not certain,
scientists speculate the spurs are
used against other males
in competition for females at mating time.
You got the box alright.
Put him in. in you go, chief.
Bless you.
Now, in you go.
That's a boy.
That's got him.
There, check him.
Let's have a look at him.
Good boy.
Once the animal is lightly sedated,
Dr. Carrick can safely
begin his examination.
Although the platypus
has existed for millions of years,
significant information on its ecology
has been gathered only
within the last decade.
And so even the most basic data
on weights
and measurements are invaluable.
I think, really, the platypus is
one of the most crucial animals
of all the Australian animals
that we need to know much more about.
Both for the interest of seeing
how patterns in the modern mammals
evolved and also
of course, in helping us
in a rational way
to ensure the platypus does
continue on into future
as it has done for many millions of years.
It always happens, doesn't it.
It's Well, starting to rain.
Thanks, Jim.
Alright ol' mate, you'll never notice it.
Levels of hormones in the blood
help the scientists determine
when and how often the male platypus
is sexually active.
In any wildlife study,
many of the important findings
come from animals that
have been captured before
and then followed over time.
Because platypuses,
for the most part, remain in a
relatively small home range,
Carrick hopes to entrap
this animal again,
a metal band identifying him
as Number 89.
A bit of jewelry.
Now, marked and identified by his captors,
Number 89 is ready to be set free
to return to his burrows, his secret ways.
We going down with you?
No. I'll put him in.
no sense everyone getting wet.
With the surge of scientific research
in Australia over the past two decades
a fascinating tableau of life
has unfolded.
Unlike bewildered early explorers
who saw only a topsy-turvy world
of improbable-looking animals,
scientists of today
understand how isolation
and geography helped shape the
evolution of Australia's wildlife.
But the puzzle is far from complete.
And so it remains.
Haunting questions of an ancient past
echo still across this remote,
exotic land.
Perhaps someday, one small animal
with its tiny metal band
may help unlock some of
the long-hidden secrets of Australia,
a land that time forgot.