Hostile Planet: Mountains

2019, Nature  -  47 min Leave a Comment
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In this feature, we get a unique glimpse of the grit it takes for mountain animals to survive in desolate and unforgiving circumstances. We are brought on a journey that takes us to the mountains of different countries to see how some of the species who make these places their habitat survive. The conditions they have to survive include extreme weather, hard-to-navigate terrain, and becoming prey to other animals.

At Jameson Land, Greenland in the Arctic Circle, we see a pair of barnacle geese that have produced three baby chicks on an isolated spot in order to evade predators but the spot is far away from their food source. The route to their food source is encumbered by predators and steep inclines and survival is not guaranteed, but the attempt is still necessary. For these reasons, only 60% of chicks typically survive past the first month.

In Ethiopia, gelada monkeys have a long, upward journey of 10,000 feet in order to find the grass they need to eat. Their journey to the top is difficult and they move in a large troop. Watching the family leader step up to defend his kin is quite a sight.

In the Montana Rockies, mountain goats have a supply of greenery they can feast on, but getting to what they need means crossing treacherous waters. Interestingly, what they seek is sodium, which is otherwise lacking in their diet.

We also watch golden eagles on the Norway Peak battle it out for what is possibly the last carcass available that winter.

In the Indian Himalayas, snow leopards have a similar dilemma. Depending on the weather, the availability of prey varies for this predatory animal. Following the scent of blue sheep, the lone animal ventures into rough terrain for a chance to feed. He has to lay in wait for a chance to pounce, and when he does there is no guarantee that he will get his kill unscathed.

It is all captivating to witness. You get to have a truly rare view of the extreme altitudes, drastic weather due to the changing seasons, and treacherous terrain that the animals have to master in order to survive. These factors clearly take their toll on the animals but it is still gripping to watch how each takedown unfolds. It is the true survival of the fittest.