Jungles - People of the Trees

Image for Jungles - People of the TreesNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 4 of 8

Duration: 1 hour

The rainforest is home to more species of plants and animals than any other habitat on the planet. But for humans, life there is not as easy as it looks. Life in the trees requires great skill, ingenuity and sheer bravery.

The Matis of Brazil carve 4m-long blowpipes to hunt monkeys in near total silence. Deep in the Congo forests, Tete defies death by scaling a giant tree using nothing more than a liana vine and he must then negotiate an angry swarm of bees - all to collect honey for his family.

Three children from Venezuela's Piaroa tribe venture deep into the jungle to hunt tarantulas to toast for lunch. In West Papua the Korowai tribe show off their engineering skills by building a high-rise home 35 metres up in the tree tops.

Most memorable of all, in Brazil we join a unique monitoring flight in search of an uncontacted tribe.

  • Jungles episode facts

    • The Amazon is the world's largest river basin and the source of one-fifth of all free-flowing fresh water on Earth. Incredibly the Amazon is also home to one in ten known species on Earth.

    • The word 'jungle' comes from Sanskrit jangala, meaning 'uncultivated land'.

    • Although tropical rainforests cover only 2% of the planet's surface, they are home to half of all species on Earth.

  • Human Planet – Jungles - BaAka polyphonic singing

    Human Planet – Jungles - BaAka polyphonic singing

    Human Planet advisor Louis Sarno discusses the polyphonic singing style of the BaAka people of the Central African Republic. Louis Sarno is an ethnomusicologist who has lived with the BaAka people in the Congo basin for the last 24 years.

    Watch the BaAka polyphonic singing video
  • Human Planet – Jungles - BaAka water drumming

    Human Planet – Jungles - BaAka water drumming

    BaAka women use the surface of a river to drum exciting rhythms with their cupped hands in the Congo Basin of the Central African Republic. Each person plays a different rhythmic pattern which together forms a more complex syncopated rhythm.

    Watch the BaAka water drumming video
  • Human Planet – Jungles - Counting with the Korowai

    Human Planet – Jungles - Counting with the Korowai

    High in a tree house in Papua, Korowai children teach researcher Rachael Kinley how to count Korowai style using parts of her body.

    Learn to count Korowai style
  • Tom Hugh-Jones Producer/Director Oceans and Jungles

    Tom Hugh-Jones Producer/Director Oceans and Jungles

    Ever since his anthropologist parents took toddler Tom to live with a tribe in the Amazon rainforest, he’s had a fixation with travelling to remote places. Since then, Tom’s spent as much time as possible travelling, finding weird animals and generally scrabbling around in the dirt. When he heard about Human Planet, he knew it would be perfect for him, bringing together his passion for natural history and anthropology. Aptly he was assigned the Jungles episode and has been sweating it out in the forest ever since. He was also given the Oceans episode, but his dream of directing it from a sun lounger, pina colada in hand hasn't quite come to fruition. No one prepared him for the challenges, frustrations and physical hardship of storms, big waves and sea sickness!

  • Willow Murton, Assistant Producer, Arctic and Jungles

    Willow Murton, Assistant Producer, Arctic and Jungles

    When she began on Human Planet, Willow had one request to return to Latin America. Since then she has made the Amazon her second home. Willow has run through the rainforest with Matis hunter friends, set anchor on the Rio Negro, flown over the endless green of the rainforest canopy and learnt how to toast spiders in Venezuela.

    The jungle is not an easy place to work in, but as the Matis of Brazil say, ‘if you know the forest, then you know that is has everything that you need’. Once the engine failed on the speedboat after a long day’s hunt, leaving Willow and the cameraman waiting for hours until they were rescued. The Matis hunters were quick to catch piranha and Amazon river fish for an impromptu barbecue, seasoned with tropical rehydration salts and followed by a quick wash in the same waters. Despite the temptation of spiders and piranhas, Willow remains a vegetarian.

    She is in love with the Amazon's colour, creatures and people and can’t wait for her next Amazon adventure.

  • Rachael Kinley, Researcher, Oceans and Jungles

    Rachael Kinley, Researcher, Oceans and Jungles

    With a first class degree in Archaeology and Anthropology from Cambridge, a love of adventure and a desire to meet intriguing people across the world. Rachael is convinced the job description for Human Planet researcher was designed for her. Coming from chilly Lancastrian climes, what she didn’t bank on was quite how rubbish she would be at coping with the tropical heat. Luckily, most of her shoots have involved water, from days at sea on a boat in the Philippines to weeks being drenched by tropical downpours in the Amazon – providing a welcome opportunity for a cooling dip.

    Working for Human Planet, she has dodged rocks thrown from slingshots in the Andes and narrowly escaped typhoons in the Philippines but couldn’t avoid being stung by African bees in the Congo basin. She has loved her time on Human Planet and the wondrous people she’s met.


John Hurt
Tom Hugh-Jones
Series Producer
Dale Templar


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