NATURE

Once Bitten

Any blood-drinker you would have liked to include in the show but couldn't?

My biggest indulgence would have been to get a sequence of the giant Amazonian aquatic leech which grows up to a foot long! It feeds on large fish and maybe on legs of mammals like the tapir or deer wading through swamps. But these leeches are very rare and no one has managed to video them feeding outside a lab setting. Given all the other tough assignments we were gunning for, it was just too ambitious. Plus, this monster stabs victims with this nasty harpoon-type proboscis. Once I became the primary blood banquet for this project, well, I kind of went off the idea.

What was the toughest location to work in?

The swampy lowlands of Venezuela and Costa Rica, where we shot the vampires feeding on cattle were tough at times. During the hottest season, the mosquito and biting flies swarming just after dusk were horrible to work around, especially when the crew are trying to keep still and quiet. So often in the wetter parts of the tropics, it's a choice between keeping few clothes and smothering yourself in repellent versus covering up with clothes and stewing in your own sweat.

By the way, there was only a very brief hesitation before deciding that I did not need to get in the water with the notorious tiny candiru fish that infiltrates the genitals of unfortunate swimmers. My full admiration goes out to camera operator Christian Baumeister who did get in the water, with only a double layer of swimming trunks for protection.

If you could be reincarnated as any of the blood suckers in the show, which would it be?

Maybe the common vampire because they were very smart and seemed to have about seven senses working for them at once. But the kissing bugs were intriguing as well -- they were very calm, determined, didn't make irritating sounds like mosquitoes, and their fearsome looking mouth parts actually did not hurt at all or cause itchiness afterwards. If it wasn't for the fact they can spread Chagas disease, I would have got to like them.


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