It's Nature Night! Africa, The Himalayas & Orangutans

Jan 18, 2014

Monday nights on WLRN are a wild, wild ride.  The evening is dedicated to natural history documentaries you won't want to miss. The action starts with the award-winning PBS series Nature and follows up with some of the best wildlife films from the BBC and elsewhere. 

This coming Monday, January 20, WLRN Channel 17 presents the following line-up of beautiful films about wild animals from breathtaking locations around the world:

Nature: The Himalayas (8:00 p.m.)

The Himalayas are the highest mountain range in the world, spanning thousands of miles and boasting an exceptionally diverse ecology. Forests, wetlands and grasslands are as much a part of this world as the inhospitable, frozen mountaintops that tower above them.

The word "Himalaya" is Sanskrit for “abode of snow,’ which is fitting for a stretch of land that houses the planet’s largest non-polar ice masses. Extensive glacial networks feed Asia’s major rivers including the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra. As a vital source of water for human consumption and agriculture, the survival of more than a billion people depends on this remarkable expanse of natural beauty.

This show takes us on a stunning journey from Mount Everest and the Tibetan Plateau to the Gaumukh Glacier and the Ganges. It introduces us to a complex, interconnected world that continues to inspire, challenge and amaze the human race.

Wild! Orangutans: The Last Trimate (9:00 p.m.)

This stunning documentary is a compelling account of the work of Dr Biruté Galdikas and her life-long fight to save the diminishing world of Indonesia’s wild orangutans whose habitat is threatened by rampant deforestation and palm oil plantations.

In the late 1960s, legendary anthropologist Louis Leakey asked three women to study and care for the great apes of the world. Dian Fossey was tasked with protecting the giant gorillas of Africa until her murder by poachers, an event that led to the making of the movie "Gorillas in the Mist.” Jane Goodall's responsbility was to research the chimpanzee, and to this day she travels the world raising funds and awareness. Biruté Galdikas was sent to Borneo to document orangutans. The three women were collectively known as the "Trimates."

Decades later, Biruté is still in Borneo and is the least known of the three women. Yet her crusade is no less compelling. Nobody knows more about orangutans than Dr. Galdikas.

Wild Africa: Savannah (11:00 p.m.)

The savannah, home to the greatest animal herds on Earth, is the subject of this episode of the blue-chip BBC documentary series. Despite its timeless appearance it is actually Africa's youngest landscape, shaped by the weather and the animals themselves. As the continent dried, rainforest trees dwindled and were replaced by swathes of open woodland, thickets and grassland. Elephants, drawn from the rainforests around three million years ago, are the greatest architects of the land and are filmed pushing over trees. Primates also moved into the savannah, beginning with the ancestors of modern baboons.

Grass is a vital element of the ecosystem here. Grazing herds trim the grasses, promoting rigorous growth and more numerous varieties. Seasonal rains and fires also shape the environment of the savannah. After rainfall, the plentiful grass seed triggers a race to breed for millions of red-billed queleas. Marabou storks pick armyworms from the grass and quelea chicks from their nests.

The dry season can last eight months, forcing many herbivores to migrate in search of water. Wildebeest follow the rains, while elephants travel a network of paths between waterholes. Buffalos rely on tough grasses to sustain them through the lean times, but as they weaken, lions sense an opportunity. Long, narration-free, slow-motion sequences of lion and cheetah hunts are accompanied by evocative orchestral music. Night-time cameras follow rarely-seen animals including aardvarks, servals and an African wild cat. The reasons for this abundance of life are the savannah's vast size, fast recycling of nutrients and the adaptability of its wildlife.