Episode 3

Image for Episode 3Not currently available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 3 of 4

Duration: 1 hour

In this programme, Martin Hughes-Games looks at the problems animals face when they live on islands. These creatures have evolved in unique ways, and when disaster strikes they have nowhere to run. Martin's journey takes him to Tasmania, where he discovers that saving a species involves more than successful breeding. The iconic Tasmanian devil is suffering from a catastrophic disease, and it is estimated that 80% of wild devils have already perished; Martin is on the ground with teams battling to save the few who are surviving. Other island creatures in danger of extinction include the koala, and the extraordinary Madagascan aye aye.

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10 items
  • Tasmanian devil

    Tasmanian devil

    The Tasmanian devil is an iconic symbol of Tasmania and may be familiar to most people as the Looney Tunes cartoon character ‘Taz’. Real ‘Tassie’ devils however, are much less hyperactive, but they are considered rowdy and aggressive. This is due to the quarrelling that occurs when they are feeding or when males are guarding females.

    They are the same size as a small dog and the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. Although they hunt small mammals and birds, they are mainly scavengers and feed on whatever is available. They have the strongest bite per unit of body mass of any living mammal, so they can even eat bones.

    The famous yawn of the devil looks very threatening but it’s used more in fear than aggression and, like skunks, devils are able to produce a very pungent odour when stressed.

    A female can give birth to 30 young but they only have four nipples. So, for a baby Tasmanian devil, competition for its mother’s milk is fierce and it’s survival of the fittest.

    Since the late 1990’s Tasmanian devil numbers have been decimated by a facial tumour disease. This now threatens the existence of the entire species. So, if a pregnant female is found with the disease and the tumours can’t be cured - the babies are removed and whenever possible, they are hand reared.

    See how tricky it can be hand rearing Tasmanian devils
  • Aye-aye


    The aye-aye is truly one of a kind. Its bizarre appearance has led to the superstition of it being known as ‘the harbinger of death’. Sadly, this reputation has caused it be persecuted in the wild.

    This distinctive primate has a long list of unique body parts which include: huge bat-like ears, continually growing teeth and a third eyelid. However, it’s the way that it eats that really makes this animal stand out from the crowd. Its third finger is long, thin and bony and it can move at 3.3 strokes a second. The aye-aye uses this finger to locate grubs in hollows by tapping repeatedly on tree trunks and branches listening out for changes in pitch. Once it has located a hollow, this specially adapted finger with a hook like claw easily scoops out the tasty grub hidden within.

    Ensuring that a captive aye-aye eats and hunts in the same way to a wild aye-aye is an important part of its welfare and enrichment, because a happy aye-aye makes a good breeding aye-aye.

    Watch aye-aye night time antics


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


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