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Full EpisodeSpy in the Wild | Episode 1 | Love

Spy Creatures explore the rarely seen emotions of animals, revealing if they are as strong and complex as our own. Join the “spycams” as they are accepted into a wild dog pack, witness elephant love, and are mourned by a troop of monkeys.

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-The world is full of extraordinary animals.

But how well do we really understand them?

What do they actually think and feel?

To find out, a team of SpyCreatures is going undercover.

They not only look like part of the family, they behave like them too.

[ Squawks ] Armed with the latest camera technology, they are going to travel the globe to understand the true nature of the animals they meet and reveal how intelligent they really are... How badly behaved they can be... How important friendship is to them... And, can they truly love each other?

What they discover will change our perception of animals forever.

Perhaps they are more like us than we ever believed possible.

-Animals live complex lives, but how sophisticated are their emotions?

On the African Savannah lives one of the world's most intelligent and family-focused animals -- the wild dog.

In this pack, all the puppies belong to just one mother, but are showered with affection by every member of the extended family.

When the adults go hunting, a new pup makes an appearance.

This is Spy Pup.

The only giveaway is the camera in his eye.

He's here to film the emotional dynamics of pack life, but first, he must be accepted by the pups.

They could easily rip him to pieces.

So he mimics their body language to make them feel at ease.

He uses the play-bow.

It's a universal invitation to have fun.

[ Sniffing ] He's won them over despite his slightly strange smell.

The adults, however, may be harder to convince.

So he makes a submissive gesture and wags his tail.

[ Sniffing ] Now accepted, he soon gains the most intimate view of wild dogs ever seen.

The pups beg for food by licking the adults' mouths.

Fresh meat caught just for them.

With survival depending on teamwork, affection strengthens family ties.

Unfortunately, it's not just Spy Pup that's watching them.

[ Yelping ] The strength of their love is about to be tested.

[ Whimpering ] Lions regard wild dogs as rivals.

She'll kill the pups if she can.

[ Panting ] Spy Pup can only lay low and observe.

The lioness picks up the smell of the den.

The dogs try to divert her attention.

But with pups in her sights, she won't be easily distracted.

The pack keeps up the diversion.

But it's the desperate mother who decides to risk all... Goading the lioness to attack her.

Over and over she teases the lion, while the pack provides backup.

[ Panting ] After 40 minutes of relentless pressure, the exhausted lioness accepts defeat.

Spy Pup had a ringside view of this extraordinary encounter, and in the aftermath, the pups are reunited with their mother.

After the lion's visit, she calms down by cleaning the den.

For her pups, it's a chance to enjoy the dust bath.

Even Spy Pup joins the fun.

A mother's love is so fundamental.

Could it be found in a relic from a prehistoric age?

In Uganda, this Nile crocodile is coming ashore for a very special event.

Her babies are about to hatch.

Sharing her nest are some very special hatchlings -- Ones with cameras in their eyes.

They're here to record the relationship between a mother crocodile and her young.

The Spy Hatchlings have been filming her for days as she waits for her real offspring to arrive.

[ Hatchlings calling ] The calls of her babies synchronize their hatching, encouraging the whole brood to emerge at once.

[ Hatchlings calling ] They are also cries for her attention.

For three long months, she protected her eggs day and night as she waited for this moment.

Now she meets her babies for the first time.

They are delicate and vulnerable.

But they are not safe here.

She must get them to water.

Her solution is extraordinary.

Despite having the most powerful bite in nature, she carefully gathers them in a throat pouch beneath a stockade of deadly teeth.

She is as gentle as a croc could ever be.

She won't leave any behind.

Even Spy Hatchling.

Safe in her cavernous mouth, all survive unscathed.

And Spy Hatchling is still filming.

They still need her protection.

Even in water, just one in ten survive.

For danger is everywhere.

A grey heron.

He has the pick of the bunch.

[ Crocodile growls ] Crocodiles have changed little since the age of the dinosaurs, but their maternal care is anything but primitive.

She'll protect her babies for the next two months.

Such bonds becomes stronger when whole families are involved.

African elephants show a much more developed sense of love.

Their extended family is made up of related females led by a wise old matriarch.

She holds the wisdom of the generations, and this needs to be passed on to all.

To infiltrate the herd, a new SpyCreature is needed, one based on a bird that lives among them.

This is Spy Egret, complete with a filming eye.

The first challenge will be surviving the initial encounter.

It could be a brief assignment.

He's facing 40 tons of unstoppable herd.

[ Squawks ] His first test over, it's down to business.

As well as Spy Egret, there are other cameras covering the action.

Spy Tortoise can quite literally get under the elephant's feet.

The cameras soon capture something remarkable.

A vulnerable new arrival less than an hour old.

His mother must help her newborn to his feet.

It's the start of the most important relationship of his life.

His first steps are a challenge.

[ Whines ] The bond between them will be complete when he finally suckles.

His mother gently guides him to the spot.

It's time to meet the relatives.

It's a big occasion.

Each member of the family wants to introduce themselves.

They will all play a role helping him grow up.

For now, the attention is overwhelming.

But in the coming years, he'll learn all he needs to know for his survival from these loving females.

The babies of some animals have to find their place in even larger animal families.

This temple in Rajasthan is home to a troop of 120 Indian langurs made up of related females and their offspring.

They are the most gentle and affectionate monkeys in the world.

It's a sisterhood with an unusual system of childcare.

To see how this works in practice, a Spy Baby Monkey is joining the family, complete with camera eye and a range of lifelike movements.

The plan is to blend subtly into the crowd, but the monkeys have other ideas.

They're more than a little suspicious of the stranger in their midst.

She's creating such a stir, every monkey in the neighborhood pays her a visit.

Her camera reveals the extraordinary athletic prowess of these lively monkeys.

To escape the pandemonium, the mothers set up a baby and toddler group in a quiet part of the temple, but looking after baby is a full-time occupation, so once they are three weeks old, if mom wants a break, she has a solution -- employ a teenage babysitter.

As these young females develop feelings of love and care, they just want to hold a baby.

It's an arrangement that gives the moms a break, a chance to be pampered and groomed.

She may have a designated babysitter, but here, every young female wants to play mom.

When everyone's had a go, there's always one left holding the baby.

It's a serious responsibility, but the novelty soon wears thin, especially when everyone else is having all the fun.

The babysitter decides to join the game while the baby clings on for dear life.

It's just as well these babies have good motor skills.

But some challenges test the baby's grip to the limit.

An almost sheer drop of 60 feet.

The babysitter is oblivious to the danger.

For the baby, a final indignity.

Time for the mother to reclaim her infant.

The babysitter wants a break, too.

There are plenty more volunteers, but for both baby and mother, enough is enough.

It seems traumatic, but this is how teenagers learn the parenting skills they'll need in the future.

There's no shortage of love here, even if at times, it's tough love.

The prairies of North America, home to an animal with a surprising loving nature.

This inquisitive soul is the prairie dog.

He has a new neighbor, Spy Prairie Dog.

Everyone's curious to see the new arrival.

Spy Prairie Dog is here to capture the secrets of their intimate family relationships.

They live in towns made up of around 20 family groups.

In these wide-open spaces, everyone relies on each other to watch for danger.

So to strengthen their family connections, they have an endearing way to express their affection -- kissing.

Like a human kiss, it's thought to encourage the bond of love and release oxytocin, a pleasure hormone that floods the brain.

It also helps identify family members and strangers from out of town.

But when a rival male blatantly steals a kiss, it doesn't go down well with the head of the family.

The cheating female wisely hides as fur flies.

Love rival gone, the prairie dogs regroup with an enthusiastic display called a jump-yip.

The jump-yip shows the colony is alert and on-guard.

It also reinforces its unity, ensuring everyone is on the same wavelength.

Even Spy Prairie Dog gives it a go.

Back on the African savannah, the newborn elephant is on the move, and he now needs the protection of his family more than ever.

The SpyCreatures are on duty too.

As they travel, the mother uses her tail to make sure her baby is always in touching distance... For danger can come from the most unexpected places, and wild dogs can be aggressive, especially when they have their own pups to protect.

The elephants, on the other hand, could easily destroy the den and crush the pups.

The dogs advance to meet the threat.

Wild dogs are effective killers, able to take down a newborn elephant.

But their only concern now is the safety of their pups.

Stragglers are rounded up.

The elephants are equally concerned for their baby.

They shepherd him behind a protective wall of legs.

The dogs form their own barrier between the elephants and the den.

It's a showdown.

The matriarch leads the charge.

[ Trumpets ] [ Trumpets ] She's the most experienced member of the family.

[ Trumpets ] As the conflict escalates, the elephants put on a united show of strength with the baby hidden behind a moving barrier of legs.

[ Trumpets ] Eventually, the two sides accept an uneasy truce.

Both loyal and loving families know there's too much to lose from further confrontation.

With Spy Tortoise now fully accepted by the herd, the elephants bring him along for the ride.

Albeit a brief one.

The affection that binds families together may be strong, but the bond between courting couples is in a different realm.

In southern Kenya, love is blossoming.

This male red-billed hornbill has found the perfect spot to bring up a family.

His mate is never far away.

He performs a little dance to entice her to take a closer look.

She shows her approval by starting to spruce up the place.

They now face a challenge that will test their commitment to the limit.

They set to work gathering mud, a central element to their plan.

Their aim is to make the entrance smaller.

They also add poisonous millipedes to the mix, creating an insect repellent that keeps nest-raiding pests at bay.

The hole is shrinking fast, so before it gets too small, the female must move in.

This tiny chamber will become her home for the next 12 weeks.

She's a willing captive, even using her own droppings to help narrow the hole.

She now relies on her mate to deliver more building materials.

Working as a team, the female shrinks the entrance from within.

Their plan is to make a prison cell, but one purely for her protection, as it keeps predators like snakes from entering.

Soon the hole is reduced to a mere slit, just big enough to squeeze in supplies.

Eventually, the eggs are laid.

As the weeks go by, he brings her up to 20 large insects each day while she incubates.

But what goes in must come out.

Nest hygiene is essential.

25 days after laying, the moment has arrived.

[ Chirping ] She has a brood of three, plus one adopted chick -- Spy Hatchling.

One chick takes him under her wing.

With more mouths to feed, the male is in overdrive, finding at least 70 insects each day.

[ Hatchlings chirping ] They have voracious appetites, but at least one beak doesn't need feeding.

After being cooped up for over two months, the lack of space and constant quarrelling is getting too much for mom.

She starts to chisel her way out, testing the hole for size.

To keep her babies safe, it must stay predator-proof.

It seems an impossible squeeze, so easy to get stuck.


The chicks instinctively use spittle and droppings to close up the entrance again.

Now the hard work of hunting can be shared.

Each chick needs one insect every ten minutes.

One bird alone couldn't keep up with demand.

Spy Chick even gets a mouthful, but of course he shares it around.

The parents will feed their chicks for another three weeks until they are ready to fledge.

Few birds show such dedication.

It's the ultimate expression of trust.

They'll remain faithful for their entire lives.

Not all partners show the same commitment.

The cold wastes of Antarctica.

For Adelie penguins, the challenges start the moment they arrive from the ocean to breed.

The males race to their nesting grounds, desperate for a head start on their rivals.

As soon as they arrive, the quarrels begin over who gets the best nest sites.

Spy Adelie enters the fray.

The females are fussy partners, and the males fight over pebbles to make sure they build them the biggest and finest nests.

And they don't mind who gets in their way.

[ Penguin calling ] A late arrival hurries into the colony.

With the best nest sites taken, he's forced to the outskirts, where no one wants to be.

It's a cold and soggy place to build a love nest, especially when the point of the pebbles is to keep their eggs raised and dry.

Spy Adelie helps as best he can with a well-placed pebblecam.

The latecomer isn't discouraged and gathers more pebbles as fast as he can.

But round here, you can't turn your back for a second.

As soon as he puts it down, his pebble is stolen.

The thief embellishes his impressive nest.

Oblivious, the latecomer is travelling ever farther to find stones... while the crook takes advantage of the moment.

He may have no moral code, but he certainly has a magnificent nest.

In contrast, the latecomer's nest remains in a sorry state.

To make matters worse, the females have started to arrive.

Females often remain faithful to their partners, but only if the nests meet their high expectations.

So for the latecomer, the pressure is on.

She makes a considered inspection.

Perhaps one last stone will swing it?

He awaits her verdict.

Her reaction is somewhat disappointing.

Nearby, the bachelor thief proudly shows off his ill-gotten gains.

There's only so much a female penguin can resist.

She wants a male with a dry, raised nest where her eggs will survive, and she's found one.

But her jilted partner won't give up without a fight.

It was a brave effort, but it wasn't enough.

She chooses the thieving male with the finest nest.

Her mate makes one last plea, but it's all in vain.

And he's subjected to the final indignity.

But Adelies are plucky and irrepressible birds, and if you can't beat them, join them.

He can always build another nest, especially with a little help from a friend.

Back in the warmth of Africa, Spy Tortoise is going undercover in more familiar territory.

He's spending time with real tortoises to record what insights into love they might offer.

This leopard tortoise is desperately seeking a romantic liaison.

As he sets off on this amorous quest, Spy Tortoise plays wingman.

The hopeful suitor's technique lacks a certain subtlety.

First he gives chase.

And then gets a bit more aggressive.

If you're covered by a hard shell, it's difficult to be sensitive.

And there's nothing subtle about what happens next.

Spy Tortoise is here to observe, but things don't always go according to plan.

Probably best to forget that ever happened.

For our SpyCreatures, being immersed in the world of animals is not without its hazards.

In Rajasthan, the temple langurs have taken Spy Monkey into the heart of the family, but some are keen to take the budding relationship to the next level and are getting a little too familiar.

Then, disaster strikes.

An injured baby is a cause for concern.

And this langur seems to believe our Spy Baby has died.

Then, something extraordinary happens.

The monkeys gather round the motionless SpyCreature as if it is a real baby.

They react just as they do when their own babies die.

A quiet and contemplative mood descends on the colony.

There's a sense of grief as well as empathy for one another.

Quite accidently, our SpyCreature is at the center of something extraordinary, capturing emotions that have rarely been observed.

Such apparent expressions of grief may not be unique to primates.

On the African Savannah, giraffes are appearing from every direction.

This is what they've come to see.

An old giraffe has passed away, and it seems to have profoundly affected those who shared these vast grasslands.

And more arrive, creating an unprecedented assembly never witnessed before.

The giraffes keep coming throughout the day, seemingly paying respects to the old male.

An awareness of death was previously believed to involve just a few special species, but this behavior suggests more animals feel this loss.

Deep feelings are not such a surprise among chimpanzees.

These intelligent animals have a lot to show us.

In the forests of Senegal, Spy Bushbaby is part of a team of spy cameras capturing intimate views of our closest living relatives.

Here the family lives a charmed existence.

Parental love and friendships form the foundation of their society.

Spy Tortoise is also being deployed.

But these are highly perceptive animals.

[ Shrieks ] And something's not quite right.

This five-year-old boldly checks out what the others are suspicious of.

They all seem equally baffled.

But with his curiosity piqued, he simply can't stay away.

As his interest grows, so does the strength of his feelings.

[ Calling ] He just has to have Spy Tortoise all to himself.

He hides with it in his leafy day bed, where he'd normally take a nap.

But he's too excited to sleep.

He's torn between using it as a pillow and giving it a cuddle.

It's somewhere between a toy and a pet.

[ Calling ] It's definitely not for sharing.

[ Calling ] Chimps don't normally have possessions, but Spy Tortoise has stirred new emotions.

Elsewhere in the forest, Spy Bushbaby is helping document an equally unique event.

One of the older chimps is playing with a tiny kitten.

It's the offspring of a genet cat found abandoned in the forest.

He treats it gently, mindful not to hurt it.

Even a nip is tolerated.

The way he responds to the genet is quite remarkable.

Other chimps are intrigued.

And one shows an unwelcome interest.

This chimp is used to having his own way, but without any feelings for the kitten, he's a bit too rough.

The owner shows real concern and intervenes to protect his vulnerable pet and takes it from harm's way.

They hide behind a termite mound.

It's not just a private spot.

It's a favorite fishing hole.

By using a stick, he can fish for termites.

[ Kitten crying ] But the crying kitten soon reclaims his attention.

And although he doesn't know how to care for the little creature, he tries to comfort it.

This is a glimpse of something quite profound -- the first stirrings of empathy for another species.

These many incarnations of love in the animal world may offer a mirror to our own complex feelings.

Next time, a team of new SpyCreatures investigates how intelligent animals really are, with some extraordinary revelations.

-To learn more about what you've seen on this 'Nature' program, visit