Andes: The Dragon's Back

With glaciers marking its tip, active volcanoes running along its spine, snow-capped peaks rising high above its range, both wet and dry tropical rainforests within its interior, and desert, lowland savanna and alpine tundra in between, the Andes is an extraordinary world of diverse terrain, extreme temperatures and multifarious wildlife. Rising out of the Pacific Coast, this high mountain range is 5,000 miles long, extending over seven countries between Tierra del Fuego in the extreme south to the Caribbean coast in the north.

Once the realm of the ancient Incan Empire, this place of myth and legend also has a rich, intriguing natural history going back to the Jurassic period, marked by an event of monumental portion—the formation of the Central American land bridge 3 million years ago. The creatures of the Andes set this land apart from all other places on earth. The Andes are home to the zorro, a “false fox” with adaptations that make it a successful inhabitant of the Andes. The flamingo, too, has developed utterly unique and specialized adaptations in order to thrive in an environment that doesn’t even seem livable—a salt pan.

Only a mountain range of extremes could harbor such a rich and diverse variety of life forms. Here you will find some of the highest, saltiest, wettest and driest terrains on the planet. Penguins, opossums, hummingbirds, llamas, pumas, foxes, condors, spectacled bears and many more have all managed to carve out an existence somewhere in one of the many worlds that we call the Andes. Buy the DVD. Online content for Andes: The Dragon’s Back was originally posted February 2007.

  • Finney

    I must say this is one of my favorite Nature episodes of all times. I plan on purchasing it on DVD, it’s really that good. Even the family cat sat down in front of the TV and watched the whole episode from start to finish, though the sloth in it did scare her a little bit!
    The sheer beauty of this episode is worth buying alone from a visual standpoint, and the the wonderful journey it takes the viewer on through the vast land of contrasts is an adventure they’ll want to go on again, and again.

  • Cindi

    I would like to know when The Andes is on Channel 9 again. After Frogs tonight the TV said it would be on but I cant find the info on your site anywhere. Cindi

  • NATURE Online

    Check local listings by clicking the “schedule” link at the top of the site.

  • Sativarg Millenious

    What a great show to have on for this Easter. Easter is very much about the Mother of life as well as the Father and Son. Blessed be this Family of Life here on Earth.

  • Chris

    I would like to find out the name of the small cat that was referred to towards the beginning of the episode. The reference was right before the pudu deer was talked about.

  • Moll

    I would very much like to find out the spelling of the name of the little rabbit-like rodent that sits in the sun. Thanks.

  • briantravelman


  • catman

    What a great program! This is my favorite episode of ‘Nature’. The Andes and their denizens are truly spectacular.

  • Al Constantineau

    Moll Says:
    I would very much like to find out the spelling of the name of the little rabbit-like rodent that sits in the sun. Thanks.

    Me too! What is it called? I want to Google up some photos of it.

  • Al Constantineau


    I found it by Googling. They are called viscachas!

  • Jorge Castellon


    Thank you. This was an excelent program. I was wordless waching flamingos dancing; observing the beuty of nature. I felt the greatness of nature with me.

  • lynn blomquist

    where can I buy this outstanding video?

  • briantravelman

    Oh man! Was so good! Probably my fourth favorite episode! They could’ve went from north to south though instead of south to north! and they could’ve shown Lake Titikaka, and it could’ve been longer! But other then that, it was great!

  • briantravelman

    Oh man! Was so good! Probably my fouth favorite episode! They could’ve went from north to south though instead of south to north, and they could’ve shown Lake Titikaka, and it could’ve been longer, but other then that, it was great!

  • Jo Linda

    I too found this episode of Nature to be glorious…..and my most favorite ever. I couldn’t get enough of it. Two hours would have been fine. The dancing of birds to Andean music was fabulous. I’m going to donate more money to PBS for just this episode alone!!!!!!!

  • Jim Holmes

    The Dragon’s Back was simply the best Nature program I have ever seen –and I have been an AVID PBS viewer for 30 years. The cinematography was awesome, the voice-over appropo, and the area incomparable. Excellent excellent job….

  • sheila weissenberger

    I too wondered what happened to the gorgeous area around Lake Titicaca

  • melanie

    This was THE BEST nature show I have ever watched and my family enjoyed it from start to finish. I need to know when it will be on again so that I can record it.

  • Toni Justice

    I would like to see this on during prime time or anywhere from 5pm to 11pm.
    I know it is on in the wee hrs. but with the new converters, we can’t record it to watch at an appropriate time.

  • chey

    Can anyone please tell me the name of the animal that looked like a rabbit but was mentioned to be a distant relative of the rat? I’ve been looking everywhere to find out.

  • Amos Herrera

    The rat rabbit thing is called a viscacha.

  • briantravelman

    Is that another name for chinchilla?

  • briantravelman

    To all those people who say this is best episode, BS… “Fragments Of Eden”, but I would rank this one 4 or 5! I taped it!

  • Mark

    The Dragon’s Back is a stunning tour of the diversity of life on our planet. With Earth Day coming up this Nature episode is an absolute must watch. It will make anyone appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty and fragility of life on Earth.

  • Dom Schnirff

    Are those the same Bolivian salt Flats that was featured on The News Hour regarding its vast lithium deposits? What is the name of the lake again? It went by too quickly to understand. Thanks in advance for and help.

  • david kohn

    I’m disappointed that Nature finds it necessary to repeat proven inaccurate depictions of history, as with the statement to the extent that “200 Spaniards defeated 15 million Incas” made in this film on The Andes. Such assertions are no longer recognized by any reputable historian. The facts show that the Incas were defeated largely by other indigenous peoples who were unhappy with Inca domination and who allied themselves with the Spanish.

    If a goal of this series is to educate the audience, then please do not perpetuate these myths about the conquest of the Americas by Europeans. Whether you are talking about Peru or about Mexico, the facts reveal a great deal of complexity.

  • megan

    Those flamingos! We laughed and laughed! That excerpt should be on You-Tube. Beautiful hour of nature. One of the best.

  • Jean Reed

    And we thought we’d seen everything. Yet how could we have been so unaware of this amazing part of our world? Please distribute and repeat this episode as much as possible. Thank you so much to all who worked on it.

  • Chad

    I very much enjoyed the portion of this program I caught on WLIW–such peculiar animals and behaviors in such an extreme part of the world. I notice that this full episode has not yet been made available to view online, as have the previous and following episodes–will this episode also be available for viewing online? It would be great if it is available so that I could see the full episode, part of which I missed at airing.

  • todd

    chris – the name of the small cat they showed is kodkod

  • aiswaryaa

    chries-the name of a small cat

  • Fabrizzio

    I loved this show, I was born in Puno a small town high on the altiplano I used to hunt Chinchillas and Vizcachas when I was young, yeah I know I was so inmature and I didn’t enjoyed nature the way I do it today, so next time I’m visiting my country I’m definetly going to see the Flamingos dancing. This show opened my eyes

  • Paul

    Great video production, unfortunately the monotone almost lifeless narration delivered by F. Murray Abraham drags it down a few notches. Why do they continue using this guy?

  • mary

    I just returned from a trip to the Galapagos and to Peru and I am still catching my breath—I took my 15 year old granddaughter and we had the trip of a lifetime. I can’t wait to see this program!

  • Patrice Greanville

    This show is simply magnificent, breathtaking in its beauty, message, and professionalism. The Andes are without a doubt one of the most enthralling ecosystems in a planet whose magnificence alone should inspire awe, love, and respect, instead of mere instincts of plunder, but that is what we see most often in human behaviour, a selfish behaviour abetted by corrupts politicians and an insane economic system.

    Those of you who were wondering about the large rodents who sit in the sun like “monks” warming up after a night of freezing temperatures…they’re called VISCACHAS, and are of course indigenous to this part of the planet. See the wiki’s entry: It’s fortunate such poor creatures possess a fur not coveted by humans, or else they’d be extinct already.

  • jonnbg

    This is one of the best nature shows packed into a one hour presentation. In part because it’s just that good but also, as it states so little has been seen or explored in this region yet so many descriptions were the most, the least, the driest, the wettest in the world. We’ve seen so much Hi-Def great info from Africa, even Russia and Alaska & this is just so incredibly refreshing and informative. I would have to say the best one hour of Nature and, or wildlife in general. A true 10 out of 10. Thank you.

  • luigi

    im just amazed with all different climates.cant wait to take a trip to south america peru its so rich in nature.i love perfection and all the picture taking by fotografers,very profesionals.i love the show,hope to see it sunday 25 at 8 pm .nice film

  • Jane

    Incredibly beautiful and informative. . .

  • JoAnn

    Wow, I should have watched all the excerpts first. My question was answered right there – the Zorro. This was an amazing show.

  • Ann

    Please post this show online.

  • Barbara Kelty

    I second Ann’s motion, please post The Dragon’s Back on line. The photography was glorious. It was altogether fascinating and beautifully done.

  • unknown

    why this video is not uploaded in nature’s website where you could watch all the previous episodes?
    it’s a shame because all but few are uploaded on the site and i can’t find it on dvd.

  • Sean

    I loved it so much! It’s one of my favorite episodes and i’m going to buy the DVD!

  • Maisie Heinecke

    Fantastic site. A lot of useful information here. I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks for your sweat!

  • Schottland

    Quite brilliant article, even if I have to mention that I’m not very familiar at all with this theme. Now I know a bit more :-) Frank

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  • Shanna

    How or where do I find this episode?! I want to buy it but can’t seem to find it anywhere.

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