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If it fits in my cheeks, I eats! Wild hamsters roam the graveyards of Vienna in search of fresh flowers and candle-wax, sometimes with hilarious consequences!
Europe, a crowded continent transformed by mankind where extraordinary animals are found in surprising places.
High above the city of Gibraltar, Barbary macaques – Europe’s only primate, live a life full of kidnappings and high drama whilst in the cemeteries of Vienna ‘grave robbing’ European hamsters do battle with each other for food. Come nightfall, the forests surrounding ancient Italian mountain villages become the hunting grounds for rarely seen wolves whilst deep underground in Slovenia’s caves, and living for up to a hundred years, ‘baby dragons’ or olms can be found lurking in the pitch black.
But in this crowded world there is still wilderness. On the far eastern edge of the continent, hidden in the vast forests of Finland, is the perfect place for mother brown bears to raise their youngsters. To the North, on the fringes of the Arctic Circle, the open tundra echoes with the sound of titanic battles as head-banging musk ox bulls fight for the right to breed.
Europe’s warm, stable climate and the long warm summer days help trigger the continent’s most spectacular wildlife spectacle. In Hungary, for just a few days in June, millions of giant mayflies emerge from the Tisza River. They all now compete, desperate to find a mate – within just a few hours they will all be dead and the spectacle will be over for another year. Romania’s mighty Danube delta attracts birds from around the globe. Here, great white pelican gather in their thousands but instead of finding their own fish, these bully birds rob their cormorant victims of their hard won catch.
Today just 4% of Europe is protected wilderness. Many of Europe’s animals have suffered at the hands of man for thousands of years. However, recently dedicated conservation efforts have thrown a lifeline to a lucky few. Once on the brink of extinction, the Iberian lynx is returning to the hills of Spain. Numbers have increased from under 100 to 700 in a matter of decades. Only by protecting the wilderness that remains, and creating new wild spaces, can a future for Europe’s precious wildlife be ensured.
Narrator: David Attenborough.
Seven Worlds, One Planet | Episode 5 Europe | BBC Earth
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