Waterhole: Africa's Animal Oasis

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Nature Documentary hosted by Ella Al-Shamahi and Chris Packham, published by BBC in 2020 - English narration

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Image: Waterhole-Africa-s-Animal-Oasis-Cover.jpg

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Waterholes are vital to the African ecosystem as bustling oases where elephants, lions, leopards and hundreds of other species meet and compete for water. But little is known about how they support so much life. Now the BBC Studios Natural History Unit is working with Mwiba Wildlife Reserve in Tanzania to create the world’s first waterhole with a built-in specialist camera rig. With half-submerged and weatherproofed remote cameras, Chris Packham and biologist Ella Al-Shamahi aim to uncover the complex dynamics of the waterhole for the very first time. They film across three dramatic periods: the middle of the dry season, the hottest time of year and the height of the first rains, to gain unique insights into the lives of some of Africa’s most iconic animals and uncover the increasingly important role of water in Africa with the growing impact of climate change. Chapter 1: In this first episode, the waterhole is built in the middle of an open patch of savannah to enable wildlife to approach it from all directions. The team excavate 100 tonnes of soil and lay eight kilometres of fibre optic cable and piping. Sixty thousand litres of sustainable groundwater is pumped in, filling two pools - thus giving more water edges for thirsty animals to access. At the beginning of the dry season, the new waterhole is open for business, and the cameras are rolling. As demand for fresh water builds, the team wants to find out which animals will come, if they share, and how many species in total use this precious new water source. Within the first hour, warthogs and elephants discover this new oasis, and soon a cast of wild animal characters keep coming back. Ella uncovers the surprising schedule for a day at the waterhole, and Chris uses state-of-the-art thermal cameras to reveal how different species thermoregulate to survive. With each day, the landscape becomes drier, and soon tensions are rising between the two biggest drinkers: elephants and cape buffalo. Is there enough room at the waterhole for these two African giants? While more animals gather at the waterhole, wildlife cameraman Bob Poole is looking into the effect it is having on the wider landscape, including the resident big cat population. Predators do not need to drink water regularly, but it is thought they use waterholes as hunting grounds during the dry season. As leopard and lion close in, the waterhole becomes a dangerous place to be, and the wild community of regular drinkers must risk life and death with each visit. Chapter 2: It is the hottest time of year, and the waterhole becomes busier in the cool of the night. With remote cameras able to get closer than ever before to the action, the team uncovers the new dynamics of night-time at the waterhole. The shift to nocturnal activity also brings a new predator out of the shadows: hyena. A group moves into the area, but they are so elusive that it is hard to know how big the clan is. Their arrival has a dramatic effect on other predators in the area, and no lions or leopards are spotted at the waterhole while they are around. To discover more about the waterhole hyena clan, Chris Packham and wildlife cameraman Bob Poole use remote cameras to monitor their nearby den. Ella Al-Shamahi discovers how the increased footfall has changed the shape of the waterhole and how, as temperatures rise, the waterhole residents' behaviour is also changing. Cape buffalo who were once frequent visitors are nowhere to be seen, but elephants come in ever-increasing numbers and they are not just drinking. For many herbivores, the waterhole is becoming an increasingly risky place to be, but new bird species are flocking to this oasis. Among the newcomers are yellow-billed storks who spend an hour trying to fish, and ironically may have carried fish eggs on their feet to the waterhole. In an ambitious experiment, Chris and the team attempt to count the hyena at night, and they discover larger numbers of the carnivore than they ever imagined. As rain clouds gather, another dramatic change is on the horizon, but what will happen to the waterhole residents? Chapter 3: The rains hit the waterhole, and for the first time in half a year, grass begins to grow, and water is everywhere, dramatically changing the fortunes of the wild residents. The waterhole area is totally transformed into a lush grazing pasture, and a pair of Egyptian geese take up permanent residence on the waterhole’s edge. This time of year can be harder for predators, as prey can migrate further and temperatures are not as extreme as during previous seasons. Using the remote cameras, Chris and the team reveal how the waterhole hyena clan copes with these new circumstances. Ella uncovers the huge shift in the waterhole timetable and new competition flooding into the area: wildebeest. The great migration follows the pattern of the rains, and it is pushing wildebeest herds numbering in the thousands towards Mwiba Wildlife Reserve. These grazing animals move en masse and require a lot of food and water wherever they are – will this put further pressure on the waterhole residents? Following the herds of wildebeest are predators from across the region that stalk them, waiting for an opportunity to go in for the kill. These new predators may pose a threat to the waterhole area and challenge the hyena to their territory. As the rains continue, it is not just the landscape around the waterhole that alters. With food and water in abundance, it is birthing season for many herbivores, but how will an increase in population affect the waterhole area? At the end of the rainy season, Ella delves into the data to discover how animals have used the waterhole across the past three seasons: which animals drank the most? How many animals came in total? And, out of all of them, which species came the most frequently?

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x265 CABAC Main@L4
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 23 (~2076Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: q82 VBR 48KHz (~128Kbps)
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 2h 57m (total)
  • Number Of Parts: 1 (3 chapters)
  • Part Size: 2.75 GB
  • Source: HDTV
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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