Episode 1

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Episode 1 of 4

Duration: 1 hour

All over the world, species are on the brink of extinction. Martin Hughes-Games meets babies who have beaten the odds to become Nature's Miracle Babies.

For an endangered animal, each and every birth is vital for the survival of the species. Zoologist and presenter Martin Hughes-Games sets out to discover just what dedication, passion and expertise is needed to create each one of these miracles.

Meeting extraordinary people who dedicate their life to ensuring a future for these babies, he begins his journey in China with the pin-up of the natural world, the giant panda. Without the extraordinary advances in reproductive science, it's possible that the giant panda would be extinct.

Pandas are not the only species on the brink - Martin also follows the story of the pied tamarin - a tiny and tenacious monkey teetering on the edge, and the enormous but threatened one-horned Asian rhino. Her miracle baby is likely to weigh in at an eye-watering ten stone.

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Music Played

10 items
  • Giant panda

    Giant panda

    The Giant Panda is a species of bear native to China which, due to the destruction of its habitat, is now restricted to the central mountain ranges of the country. It is believed that less than 2,500 exist in the wild.

    Although most bears are omnivores, 99% of the panda's diet is made up of bamboo and, because the plant has a poor nutritional value, the panda has to eat lots of it! Microbes in their gut help to digest it and their paws even have a special 'thumb' which helps them hold bamboo shoots while eating.

    Since 1987, scientists at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding have been trying to solve the panda breeding puzzle, using artificial insemination, incubators and hand rearing, with a view to trying to re-introduce them to the wild. Over the last twenty years they've produced nearly 150 baby pandas; an amazing feat when you think that female pandas are fertile for only two or three days each year and the fertile period is fiendishly hard to predict. The pregnancy can be between 95 to 160 days because the embryo may not implant immediately and when the baby is finally born, it weighs less than 140 grams and is only 15 cms long!

    Martin meets the panda cubs
  • Pied tamarin

    Pied tamarin

    The Pied tamarin is a pocket-sized tree-living primate from Brazil and believed to be the most endangered monkey in the Amazon forest.

    Its range is tiny and its only found in small pockets around the city of Manaus. As the city grows, more parts of the forest disappear and so some groups have become totally isolated in tiny fragments of the city. It's difficult for them to move to new patches of forest to find new mates and, when trying to do so, tamarins are often killed on roads or powerlines. Being so close to the urban sprawl, they are also sometimes killed by feral dogs and cats.

    This small and charismatic monkey eats a whole range of food including flowers, fruit, sap, insects, spiders, bird's eggs and tiny vertebrates. They are very social animals and live in close family groups of up to 15. Baby tamarins are usually born as twins and are looked after by the entire group, including the adult males.

    In 1995 an International Studbook was created in order to captive breed the species but tamarins are notoriously difficult to keep and breed. Thankfully, institutions like Durrell have a good level of success in breeding them. However this includes occasionally having to hand rear tiny babies, which need round the clock care, until they are big enough to be re-introduced to the group.

    Tamarin babies love bananas!
  • Dominic Wormell on hand-rearing baby Tamarin monkeys

    Dominic Wormell on hand-rearing baby Tamarin monkeys

    The Head of Mammals at Durrell Wildlife Trust, Dominic Wormell, talks about his work hand-rearing baby Tamarin monkeys in captivity, to save them from extinction.

    Read and comment on Dominic’s post on the BBC TV blog

Credits

Presenter
Martin Hughes-Games
Presenter
Martin Hughes-Games
Executive Producer
Sara Ford
Executive Producer
Sara Ford
Series Producer
Annie Heather
Series Producer
Annie Heather

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