The Our Planet Species You Can See with Nat Hab & WWF

Emily Goodheart Kautz April 23, 2019 0

Our Planet brilliantly encapsulates the idea that our wild places are worth protecting. Detailed within each episode are accounts of spectacular natural phenomena, such as the super blooms that occur once every decade in California’s deserts after a cloudburst. Equally thrilling is that which is yet to be discovered in the natural world—less than 5 percent of the ocean has been explored, and new species are being found in rain forests every day. Our ecosystems are home to a host of unique wildlife that displays fascinating behaviors. You can see many of the series’ featured animals on trips with Natural Habitat Adventures, the partner of World Wildlife Fund.

From Deserts to Grasslands

Desert Lions and Elephants

Matriarch Desert elephant leads her family through barren lands, Namibia

A matriarch desert elephant leads her family through barren lands, Namibia. © Silverback/Netflix

This episode opens with a group of elephants that are following their matriarch, the reigning female whose knowledge is passed down over generations. A pair of lions look on, their golden coats blending into the sands. We see the elephants reach the distant trees in their search for water, only to find a dry riverbed. To make matters worse, seedpods from the ana trees have failed this year, a food source for the hungry pachyderms. But a bull elephant helps the herd—he stands on his hindquarters to reach the leafy branches of the canopy, pulling them down for others to eat. This depiction of survival in the harshest of conditions, of nature’s ability to flourish against all odds, is inspiring. On a Great Namibia Wildlife Safari, spectacular scenery is complemented by desert-adapted wildlife, including oryx, which can maintain a body heat of up to 113 °F, black rhinos, elephants and lions.

Male Desert lion walking, Namibia

A male desert lion walking, Namibia. © Jamie McPherson

Wildebeest

A wildebeest calf at full speed racing away from hunting dogs, Tanzania

A wildebeest calf at full speed racing away from hunting dogs, Tanzania. © Jamie McPherson

The Serengeti plains in East Africa sustain more than 1 million wildebeest as they follow the seasonal rains. Females give birth to their calves within a three-week period, and the young wildebeest frolic and play with abandon, strengthening their legs for the immense journey ahead. The herd protects the calves as they travel, grazing on newly sprouted grass as predators follow in their wake. Our Planet features African wild dogs pursuing a singled-out calf, but mother comes to the rescue, shielding her young from the attack. The hunting dogs must try again another day. This great migration is one of the most spectacular on earth and can be seen on the Great Tanzania Migration Safari and on an Ultimate Kenya & Tanzania Safari.

Tigers

Tiger cubs with mother, Kanha National Park, India

Tiger cubs with mother, Kanha National Park, India. © Silverback/Netflix

The stage is set as a tigress emerges from the shadows, her stripes blending with the tall grasses. She stalks a deer, but its barking cry alerts others to the imminent danger. Her prey having evaded her this time around, the powerful predator returns to her two cubs. Our Planet states, “In the last hundred years, the number of wild tigers has declined by over 95 percent,” but tiger numbers in India are now growing thanks to increased conservation efforts. Ecotourism has aided in these efforts by supporting the local economy and providing an incentive to protect wild grasslands. Search for tigers, greater one-horned rhinos and Asian elephants on a Grand India Wildlife Safari.

 Cheetahs

This coalition of 5 male cheetah is one of the largest ever seen. By ganging together they are able to dominate a large territory as well as hunt more successfully.

This coalition of five male cheetahs is one of the largest ever seen. By ganging together they are able to dominate a large territory as well as hunt more successfully. © Adam Chapman

Cheetahs—the fastest land animal on earth. Their spotted pelts are nothing more than streaks as they sprint agilely through the high grass, working as a team to take down their prey. The crew of Our Planet was able to film a coalition of five males, one of the largest ever observed, as they took down a wildebeest together in a dramatic display. A cheetah’s stealth and speed is nothing short of breathtaking, which you may have the opportunity to behold on a Great Kenya Migration Safari or an Ultimate Kenya & Tanzania Safari.

Three out of coalition of five male cheetah, hunting wildebeest on the plains of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya. This coalition of 5 male cheetah is one of the largest ever seen. By ganging together they are able to dominate a large territory as well as hunt more successfully.

Three out of a coalition of five male cheetahs, hunting wildebeest on the plains of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya. © Jamie McPherson

Jungles

Orangutans

Orangutan using stick tool to winkle out ants from a tree hole.

An orangutan using stick tool to winkle out ants from a tree hole. Suaq Belimbing, Lueser Ecosystem, Sumatra. © Silverback/Netflix

A baby orangutan and her mother—named by researchers Eden and Ellie, respectively—navigate the branches in a tropical rain forest. Ellie has a mental map of her surroundings and shows Eden different foraging techniques, including how to gather ants and how to locate fruiting trees. These intriguing scenes are a window into jungle survival, featuring the extraordinary primates with whom we share a common ancestor. Orangutan babies stay with their mothers for seven to eight years, and their long developmental period makes them particularly vulnerable to environmental change. In Our Planet, David Attenborough gravely estimates, “We lose 100 orangutans every week from human activity…[and] in the last four decades the pristine lowland jungle that orangutans depend on has declined by a staggering 75 percent.” Sixty-six million acres of pristine rain forest have been replaced with tracks of palm oil trees. If we do not act, these lush sanctuaries for animal life may become, quite literally, a paradise lost.

Sumatran Orangutan. This individual is part of a long term study.

This baby orangutan is part of a long term study and is featured in the Jungles episode. © Huw Cordey

We can ensure Eden’s generation is not the last of the wild orangutans. WWF has been endeavoring to protect the orangutan by aiding in the creation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), promoting sustainable forestry, monitoring orangutan populations, and supporting local community conservation efforts and ecotourism. Nat Hab’s commitment to preserving wildlife habitats and leadership in sustainable practices allows you to experience the Wilds of Borneo in an environmentally sound way.

Frozen Worlds

Polar Bears

Grandmother's footsteps. A polar bear mother hunting an adult ringed seal with her year-old cub in tow.

A polar bear mother hunting an adult ringed seal with her year-old cub in tow. Cubs spend the first 2 years with their mothers learning to hunt before making their own way in life. This cub knew to stay close to mum, following exactly in her footsteps, so as not to break her outline whilst on the hunt for seals. This hunt ended in failure, as most hunts on adult seals do. © Jamie McPherson

A mother sneaks up on a seal, her young cub following in her shadow. They hunt in overcast conditions, blending into their surroundings, as they slowly approach their target. The white bears have made this frozen landscape their home, but changes in the ice are making hunting increasingly difficult. Human activities now shape the planet, and northern species are some of the first to face the consequences of a warming world. By increasing our scientific understanding of polar bear behavior and the effects of diminishing sea ice on the entire ecosystem, WWF and Nat Hab are making strides to protect polar bears and their natural habitat. See how conservation travel is helping protect Arctic wildlife on our Classic Polar Bear Adventure.

Polar bear cubs at play, Svalbard

Polar bear cubs at play, Svalbard. © Jamie McPherson

Penguins

Gentoo penguins diving down together in search of krill.

Gentoo penguins diving down together in search of krill. Gentoos dive to depths of over 650 feet in search of food. Once they find a patch of krill, they journey repeatedly to and from the surface until the krill patch disperses, Antarctic Peninsula. © Oliver Scholey

In the Antarctic, vast colonies of penguins dot the frozen landscape. Our Planet features gentoos, the fastest of all penguins in the water, as they dive for krill in the icy sea. Orcas follow the gentoos, and they dart through the water in a daring chase. Onshore, the film crew captures the heartwarming moment of a king penguin feeding its fuzzy chick. Set out on the adventure of a lifetime and encounter penguins along with whales, seals and albatrosses while Sailing Antarctica.

Gentoo penguins taking a rest from fishing on an iceberg passing by in the Gerlache Straight, Antarctic Peninsula.

Gentoo penguins taking a rest from fishing on an iceberg passing by in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctic Peninsula. © Sophie Lanfear

Freshwater

Jaguars

A jaguar swimming in a river in Brazil's Pantanal.

A jaguar swimming in a river in Brazil’s Pantanal. Jaguars are strong swimmers but are much more proficient hunters on land than in water. © Gavin Thurston

In the world’s largest tropical wetland, the jaguar rules. The head of a large male bobs in the water. It paddles with giant paws before climbing onto the riverbank, its coat slick and gleaming. Unsuccessful in its pursuit of capybara, the large cat turns to more formidable prey—a caiman. It takes a death-defying leap from the trees above and into the river with a great splash, landing on the fierce reptiles back. As the caiman rolls, attempting to drown the jaguar, the cat clamps down on its neck with powerful jaws. It’s a fight between top predators, and the jaguar is victorious. Experiencing the Jaguars & Wildlife of Brazil’s Pantanal will undoubtedly leave you in awe.

Jaguar hunting along river bank Pantanal, Brazil

A jaguar hunting along the river bank. Pantanal, Brazil. © Silverback/Netflix

Brown Bears

Brown bears in Alaska fight over a salmon.

Brown bears battle over a salmon, Alaska. © Brad Josephs

There are few spectacles more compelling than watching massive, glossy-coated grizzlies spar over prime fishing spots, showers of droplets sparkling in the sun as the bears charge through the river. The salmon they feed upon make an incredible journey, traveling against the current from the Pacific Ocean to their natal stream to lay their eggs. Brown bears snatch the leaping salmon from cascading waterfalls, eating the fatty fish to sustain themselves for their winter hibernation. However, Pacific salmon number less than 1 percent of past populations, as dams block the fish from traveling downstream. This poses a threat to the giant grizzly, but WWF is working to preserve free-flowing rivers by reconnecting them through dam removal, promoting laws that protect these waterways and encouraging leaders at the local level to make better decisions about water management. Come face to face with these glorious bears on the Great Alaskan Grizzly Encounter.

Forests

African wild dogs

Wild Dog ( Lycaon Pictus) mother returns to den after the hunt to provision her pups . Wild Dogs are incredibly reliant on the Miombo Forests of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania as a refuge for raising pups and escaping predation pressures from lions and people.

A wild dog (Lycaon Pictus) mother returns to her den after the hunt to provision her pups. Wild dogs are incredibly reliant on the Miombo Forests of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania as a refuge for raising pups and escaping predation pressures from lions and people. Save Conservancy, Zimbabwe. © Jeff Wilson

Painted pups are a sight to behold. The excitable litter greets their parents enthusiastically, jumping, grabbing one another’s tails, rolling and emitting shrill squeaks. Playing establishes the social bonds they need to hunt as a team. Wild dogs inhabit the woodlands of Southern Africa. Browsing elephants open up the forest, which attracts the animals these dogs prey upon, such as impala and springbok. Preserving forests, which are a hunting ground and refuge, is essential to this endangered canine’s survival. You’ll have the chance to spot a pack of these rare painted dogs on our Secluded Botswana Safari or on an adventure to experience the Hidden Jewels of Zimbabwe & Zambia.

Wild Dog pup waiting at the den expectantly for the pack to return .

A wild dog pup waiting at the den expectantly for the pack to return. Save Conservancy, Zimbabwe © Jeff Wilson

Lemurs

Sifaka lemurs in Madagascar.

A sifaka lemur family, Madagascar. © Alek Komarnitsky

The island of Madagascar has been isolated for more than 80 million years, resulting in a host of endemic wildlife that has evolved unique traits and abilities. In Our Planet, baobabs tower overhead as a fossa, Madagascar’s top predator, slinks along the forest floor and a lemur feeds on magenta blossoms in a tree. At least 40 kinds of lemurs live here, from the small mouse lemur to the large sifaka. Yet these primitive primates are under threat, as their homes shrink at an alarming rate—only 3 percent of Madagascar’s dry forests remain. Ecotourism helps preserve these biodiverse forests that brim with colorful wildlife, which you can discover on a Madagascar Wildlife Adventure.

Forest elephants mining minerals in a pool. Mbeli Bai, Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo. © Sarah Walsh

Traveling with Nat Hab and WWF helps conserve these species and wild places, as we make it our mission to raise the bar on conservation in the destinations we visit. Sustainable tourism brings revenue to local communities and conservation projects, providing an initiative to protect animals and become proper caretakers for our planet. Join us on one of our adventures that span the globe to witness for yourself great migrations, incredible chases, newborn babies and other remarkable wildlife encounters.

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