Maria Theresa - Europe's Mother-in-Law
No-one played the game of diplomacy better than Austria's Empress Maria Theresa. She made peace between the Habsburg Empire and its oldest enemies, the Bourbons, rulers of France, Spain and the kingdoms of Parma and Naples. To gain an ally against the Prussian upstarts to the north, this deeply Catholic mother of 16 was even prepared to deal with the woman whose morals she most despised: Madame Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. Their unlikely alliance helped usher in a new era in European politics, poised between absolutism and Enlightenment. Maria Theresa's most powerful strategic tool was a weapon that had always come in handy in the Habsburg arsenal: «Tu felix Austria, nube». «Others make war, but you, happy Austria, marry!» As a result, six of her children were married into the House of Bourbon. Maria Theresa knew these marriages would largely be unhappy. When her youngest daughter Marie-Antoinette wed King Louis XVI of France in 1770, all her political goals were won, but at a high personal price. Only Maria Theresa's death in 1780 spared her from experiencing Marie-Antoinette's tragic end, executed by guillotine. The biography of Maria Theresa and of the Habsburg family, is the story of the clash between private life and political power-play, between dynastic responsibility and motherly love. The blue chip drama-documentary »Maria Theresa - Europe's Mother-in-Law« marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of the most famous member of the Habsburg dynasty, and reveals a previously unseen side of the regent based on recently-discovered personal letters of the Empress to Countess Enzenberg, her lady-in-waiting.
It may be the world's oldest zoo (Joseph II founded it in 1752), but Schönbrunn is still at the cutting edge of global conservation: Polar Bears in Canada, Elephants in Sri Lanka - even Water Buffalos in Upper Austria! Following Lukas Beck's delightful and emotional first film with Schönbrunn, «A Life for Animals», «Schönbrunn's Ark» now portrays the intimate, dynamic relationships that develop between a zoo's experts and the species they reach out to save, on three continents.
Charlie is a young Bearded Vulture chick growing up among the sheer mountainsides of Switzerland's Engadin National Park. Helped by his family, Charlie will learn how to fly, will watch as his relatives paint themselves in the orange mud that is the preferred make-up of all their kind, and above all: he will be taught how to master the skills of dive-bombing with marrow-bones, his species' unique way to access high-nutrition food. But at the age of two Charlie's dark plumage will become paler, and he will be rejected. Then he must fly away, as far as the skies of Milan or Rotterdam, only to return as an adult. Now he will most likely find another chick in his nest, and it's up to him to find his own mate, and cement the new relationship with the vultures' glorious mating flights. Bearded Vultures were eradicated from the Alps by 1907, but in the 1980s they were reintroduced, and now for the first time in a century, three generations of vultures live side by side.
Meet the Martens
Inspired by Erich Kästner's Conference of the Animals, this film by Kurt Mayer («Planet Sparrow») gathers members of the remarkable Marten family from four continents to an international meeting in Vienna. The venue, a traditional hotel (think «Grand Budapest Hotel») becomes their temporary home. Honey-badgers, wolverines, ermines and stone martens - even otters - each have their own way of making their room their territory, and each room has magical access to the natural habitat they left behind. «Meet the Martens» combines blue chip wildlife photography with the comedy of unexpected encounters between relatives.
Stars and Stripes
Why is a baby deer born with white spots - and why do they disappear as it grows? Why is a young wild boar striped? What makes those stripes fade with age? Why is a goshawk spotted when it's young and striped when it's older?
In fabulous 4K footage Kurt Mündl's film opens up the study of Somatolysis, animal camouflage - and finds some amazing answers, including: why the zebra has its stripes!
Mysteries of the Stone Age
They seem to have come from another world: circles and buildings made of gigantic stones. The most famous are Stonehenge in Britain and Carnac in France. But these megaliths from the Stone Age - 5,000 years BCE - are found all round the world, as recent discoveries show. There appears to be a network of sites from the north of Scotland to the Mediterranean (Malta alone has around 30 temples) to the Far East - with gigantic graves in Korea. It's still not clear how ancient civilizations managed to create these fantastic stone structures. How did they lift the huge blocks into place? And what can we learn about those societies? What were the turning points in their history? Was there a secret connection between the cultures that built the megalith circles? New studies and the latest international research reveal fresh clues to the biggest mysteries of the Stone Age.
The Prince and the Chief: Travels in the Interiors of North America
He has been a hero for generations of readers: Winnetou, the noble Apache, created by author Karl May in the late 19th Century. Millions of readers and viewers have been riveted by his adventures, and his friendship with the frontiersman Old Shatterhand. Behind the fiction lies a true story. In April 1833, scientist Maximilian von Wied, a German prince, and Swiss painter Karl Bodmer travelled up the Missouri by steamboat. They planned to observe and record the indigenous peoples and the epic landscape of the American West. During the trip, Von Wied befriended Mato Tope ('Four Bears') the deputy chief of the Mandan Tribe. Thanks to this relationship it became possible for Von Wied and Karl Bodmer to see the world of the indigenous peoples through different eyes. This documentary as well as the writings of Karl May are based on both accounts and memories of Prince Maximilian and Karl Bodmer.
Walking with the Alpine Ibex
They rest by night, a silhouette of snoring and sighing horns, with Capricorn's stars high above in the milky Alpine skies. Only at full moon will they walk. Then the herd moves together, silently, gracefully, peacefully. Like ghosts their horned heads appear on the limestone ridges of the Hochschwab mountains. This massive range absorbs snowmelt and rainfall like a gigantic sponge, supplying a million people in Vienna a hundred miles away with crystal- clear water. Entering the distant, archaic, mystic world of the ibex was Bernhard Schatz's dream. In this unique film we follow the Alpine ibex under Bernhard's guidance over a whole year; we experience the amazing, sometimes hilarious, social behavior of these magical animals, filmed in the heaviest snowstorms and in the cracking summer heat. And with the ibex we also meet their animal companions: chamois, marmots, golden eagles and European adders.
Through a Raven's Eye
The Common Raven is the largest, cleverest and bravest European corvid - brave enough to make its home in the harsh landscape of the 'Totes Gebirge'- the 'Dead Mountains'. This barren limestone plateau at 2,500 meters soaks up rainwater, leaving the peaks bone-dry. Further down, the precipitation creates a paradise of turquoise lakes, pristine springs, moss-covered forests and mysterious moors. The temporary karst springs bring further specialist behaviour: landlocked Danube bleak make short and spectacular migrations to their spawning grounds, and wallcreepers scurry up and down steep cliffs, looking for larvae; while chamois, ptarmigans and mountain hares eke out a living amongst the jagged rocks. Gliding on silent wings through this landscape of contrasts, the raven takes us on a tour of his realm: this forbidding limestone massif may appear dead - but through the raven's eyes it's anything but!
Bears of the Karawank
No other part in Southern Europe has such a high concentration of brown bears as Slovenia's and Croatia's mediterranean karst. The bears hide in the untouched forests - no need for them to cross paths with people. The bear cubs stay with their mother until she returns to oestrous. Then, she chases them away and the cubs have to find their own territory. The young brown bears wander north until the massive Karawank mountains block their way. But young bears are curious hunters and fearless climbers. And yet crossing these mountains at up to 2,500 meters is not even their most challenging mission - an encounter with humans can bring a sudden end to their daring journey through one of Europe's wildest landscapes. These spectacular Karawank peaks with their harsh north faces and gentle southern slopes, home to teeming mediterranean wildlife, mark the southern barrier of the Alps.
Kestrels at Close Quarters
The drama of life is unpredictable. This is as true for humans as for wild animals. Kestrels have learned to live close to man. They even raise their hatchlings in our towns. This is the story of two kestrel couples bringing up their chicks in the same neighbourhood in the center of Vienna. While destiny crowns one pair's breeding with success, the other kestrels face a more brutal fate: they have chosen an inappropriate place to brood and raise their hatchlings. With a close look and unflinching passion this film reveals the family lives of Kestrels, their needs and efforts when breeding, but also the life which follows a successful brood. Once the fledglings learn to fly, both parents and offspring face a vital decision: shall they stay in Europe over the winter or head off to southern climes with abundant prey? Whatever they decide, another unpredictable drama of life beckons.
Cuba's Wild Revolution
Cuba has some of the richest wildlife in the Caribbean: 3,700 km of pristine coastline, mountain ranges still draped in primeval forest, swamps teeming with moisture-loving creatures - and much of it thrives because of Cuba's revolution. Decades of socialist government, U.S. embargoes and minimal development have left the island virtually unchanged.
This film will feature Cuba's wildlife where it meets the island's colonial and revolutionary past, and present: from the clouds of vultures riding the updrafts around Havana's legendary 'Habana Libre' hotel to the Cuban boa constrictors making their homes in the deserted mansions of long-gone sugar barons, to the coral-smothered cannon of wrecked Spanish galleons. Neighbors from Haiti to Jamaica may have flushed their natural wealth into the sea; Cuba sits like a green jewel in azure Caribbean waters, pulsing with life.
Europe's Wild West - Portugal
Sustained by water from the mountains, nature thrives in Portugal's north, offering a lush habitat to flocks of Greater flamingo. They seek out river estuaries or abandoned saline pools where they feed on shrimps. The shrimps' eggs survive in dry salt up to 5 years, until conditions are right to emerge. High in the mountains the Spanish imperial eagle hunts rabbits and birds. Montados, forests of cork oaks, are the perfect hideout for Iberian lynx. Here the great bustard, Europe's heaviest bird, performs a captivating mating dance while reciting a song irresistible to females. The whole display is sometimes watched by a Mediterranean chameleon, Europe's endemic chameleon species. Far in the Atlantic, Madeira's Desertas Islands are the only home of one of the largest and rarest species of wolf-spider. Here rare Mediterranean monk seals have one of the last colonies, while sperm whales enjoy the ocean's rich feeding grounds.
Wild Way of the Vikings
We follow the Vikings' footsteps from the Norwegian Coast to Newfoundland, visiting each of the magical islands of 'Fire and Ice' on the way: the Shetlands, the Faroes, Greenland and Iceland. In summer, pilot whales appear in huge numbers in Faroese waters. On Iceland the dominant hunters aren't humans but arctic foxes. In mid-summer guillemot chicks leap from high ledges, aiming for the churning sea 150 meters below. Besides the polar bears, musk ox, wolves and arctic foxes, Greenland is home to vast breeding colonies of geese and the dashing gyr falcon - one of the most formidable hunting machines in Nature. Finally reaching the well-wooded shores of Newfoundland, the camera dives beneath the surface to watch the humpbacks as they breach and roll in pure exuberance.
Wild Austria - Created by Water
Austria's Alpine glaciers, ancient seas and mighty rivers carved out amazing landscapes - key to her wildlife today. Eagles, ibex, otters and deer are well-known, but there are other, stranger creatures: Goldeneye ducks breed high in tree nests. Once hatched, the ducklings follow their mother to the life-giving river below. But they can't fly , so it's a leap of faith up to ten metres down. The tiny Bullhead is a fish that can't swim. It claws with its fins along the gravelly bed of brooks and creeks to resist the current. One creature even survived unchanged from the days of the dinosaurs: the tadpole shrimp, a three-eyed hermaphrodite whose eggs can lie dormant for decades - if necessary. Adults can self-fertilize, one shrimp is enough to ensure future generations. They all fit in to Austria's unforgettable landscapes and Water's endless cycle and ever-changing forms.
Part I: Frozen Peaks
Part II: Rivers and Plains
Empire of the Vineyard
A well-tended vineyard develops the quality of a wine over generations. But its micro-world is a battleground, an animal empire fought over in hundreds of tiny dramas every day. The irresistible smell of fresh vine leaves tempts deer out of the bushes. European and Asian ladybugs swarm out of their underground colony beside the vine after sleeping though the cold season. Young rabbits play in the morning mists, under the watchful eye of their mothers. An eagle owl swoops from the forest to snatch voles between the vines, then flies 200 meters further to prey on the ducks in the river. The owl shares its territory with a buzzard, which only hunts during the day. A European green lizard flashes the flamboyant blue of its neck to impress the females, as it basks on the limestone walls, not far from its natural enemy, a smooth snake.
Wild Wonders of Iran
Iran's landscapes and wildlife exceed all expectations. In the North, the Caspian Sea abuts on the Elburz Mountains, a massive range at up to 5,600 metres Iran's highest peak, extinct Mount Damavand. Over 50 per cent of Iran is barren deserts or vast steppes. Dasht-e Kavir is one of the biggest salt deserts in the world, while Dasht-e-Lut has Iran's great sand dunes, where deadly saw-scaled vipers battle with the poisonous fat-tailed scorpions, and even with long-eared hedgehogs! Further south, Lake Baghtegan is a vital winter home for thousands of pink flamingos. On Iran's southern shores where the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman meet, pelicans and eagles, sharks and dolphins patrol the coastlines hunting fish and crabs.
Corsica - The Island Continent
This large Mediterranean island combines several continents; a corner turned reveals a different world: crystalline mountain streams, gorges, with fragrant pine and chestnut forests next to brushland. Spinner dolphins, midget sharks and sperm whales play in sight of snow-capped peaks where fish eagles lazily circle. Corsica even has two distinct breeds of mouflon that have never met, introduced from Europe and Iran. 146 endemic plant and 12 animal species survive here, including a lizard that only lives on one wall of one stone hut on an offshore island!
The Woman who Knew Too Much: A Cold Case from the Cold War
Brilliant young Austrian economist Margarethe Ottillinger was arrested on 5th November 1948, crossing a bridge between the Soviet and American zones in post-war Vienna. It was a classic Cold War kidnapping. Ottilinger had been researching the Soviet exploitation of Austrian industry, but even after her release from a Russian prison seven years later, she never learned the official reason for her detention and torture. The rumour persisted that she was sacrificed by her boss and lover, the Austrian economics minister Peter Krauland. He had a Nazi past and there was evidence of a complicated web of corruption and political conspiracy. Using latest revelations from Russian and Austrian archives, this film turns a tragic personal story into an iconic account of Cold War deceit and skullduggery.
Luis Trenker - Hitler's Mountain Hero
Luis Trenker is a legend. Best known internationally for his mountain films with then actress Leni Riefenstahl ("The White Hell of Piz Pallü"), he had a controversial movie career under the Nazis and was championed by Italian Fascists, before being reborn after the War telling stories of his life on German television. This documentary shows the highs and lows of a long life, the delicate balance between Hitler and Mussolini, adaptation and resistance, box office success and cinematic art. Was he a Nazi collaborator or opposed to the Regime? Or simply an amoral survivor who never ceased moulding his own image?
The Shape of Africa
I The Ancient Bridge
II Between Land and Sea
III Coast of Wonders
A unique new look at Africa, from its coastal outlines, featuring wildlife and landscapes, national parks and game reserves unseen in other wildlife films.
Part I reveals Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia as the land bridge between Gondwana and the Eurasian continent. Rhinoceros, big cats and antelopes, even camels reached Africa through here, until the Red Sea widened, creating fabulous coral reefs and warm waters for manta rays and dolphins.
Part II shows how tectonics tore India from Africa's east coast, with Madagascar in between, leavingamazing similarities in landscapes and preserving unique species.
Part III highlights the great contrasts of Africa's west coast: harshest deserts, lushest jungles, rich Atlantic fishing grounds and the edge of the Sahara.
Walk on the Wild Side!
For 250 years the Prater has been home to Vienna's legendary pleasure gardens, ever since Emperor Joseph II opened it to the people: 600 hectares of fun, shows, indulgence -- and countryside in the city. Centuries before, these were royal hunting grounds: pastureland and woods beside the Danube. The Prater is where fantasies of every kind become reality, from the giant panoramas of the 19th century to the giant wheel immortalized in The Third Man. Yet, magically, it has never lost touch with its origins. Where once brown bears were pursued, deer, foxes, hares, pheasants, badgers and beavers still roam, with a host of smaller but no less fascinating animals like black woodpeckers, red admirals and aesculapean snakes - in this unique kaleidoscope of nature and city.
Mexico's Animal Migrants
Mexico is one of earth's few mega-biodiverse regions. Aside from residents like jaguars, eagles, roadrunners and tarantulas, there are also migrants that come in their millions from all across North and South America. Some animal adventurers set out from Mexico, others return to it or travel through. Snow Geese, Gray Whales, Free-Tailed Bats, Monarch Butterfl ies, Whale Sharks, Rufous Hummingbirds and the River of Raptors: together their stories create a living map of all of Mexico, with its most iconic animals and most spectacular landscapes.
The Secret Life of Snakes
They are among the most hated und feared animals on the planet - only few people recognize their beauty. This documentary features some of Europe's most stunning species, like the European adder, the nose-horned viper, the dice snake, the ringed snake and the Aesculapian snake. After a winter safe in burrows, sometimes in bundles of hundreds, the spring's warmth brings them back to life. Adders at 2,000 metres in the Alps have extra survival skills: they are almost pitch-black to absorb every last ray from the sun, and their offspring are born alive - it would be too cold for eggs. Storks and herons, martens and polecats predate their lower altitude cousins. Most snakes avoid humans. The Aesculapian snake likes to shimmy up trees to catch birds, but it's happiest where humans store grain or dump waste - that attracts lots of mice. And Europe has its own constrictor! So watch out next time you're walking in the park ...
Giants of the Atlantic - Azores
It's a gigantic underwater mountain range, rising in mid-Atlantic. Only a few peak near the surface, or reach still higher to build nine green gems: the islands of the Azores. These volcanic rocks, the only toehold between Europe and America, are of extra- ordinary beauty. The steep shelf of the Azores is a play- and mating ground for several kinds of whale. Here groups of male sperm whales on their never-ending migration from the Arctic to the Antarctic, meet females. Humpback whales and gray whales break the surface - and blue whales come here too, to feed from the vast biomass produced in the ocean's depths. Drifting up from the deep, plankton and krill attract huge schools of fish and squid. Portuguese Men 'o' War drift threateningly on the surface, while undersea caves host cannibalistic shrimps, manta rays and moray eels. On the islands, the grassy craters of the volcanoes are a winter home to songbirds from Iceland, Russia and North America, while their craggy outer walls form nests for vast colonies of Cory's Shearwaters.
High Life at Low Temperatures
The summits and sheer mountain ridges of Austria's'Little Siberia' funnel the freezing air from snow-coveredpeaks into a gigantic hollow - a high-level plateauat 1,000 metres from which it cannot escape:Lungau is Austria's coldest region. Creeks andstreams start higher here, and create bogs, moorsand countless alpine lakes.Summer is short but lively, as eagles rear their preciousyoung and ermines eat their fill before thesparse winter returns, while black alpine salamandersgive birth to live miniature versions of themselvesbeneath the tree-line.
Wild Boar - The Comeback
This is the surprising story of the most underrated animal in our forests - and its remarkable comeback. Hunted, slaughtered and exterminated - that was the European wild boar's fate throughout the last century. But now it's back! Its weapons: wiliness, intelligence, and the ability to cope with society's encroachments. Just 20 years ago an encounter with a wild boar in central Europe was a rarity. But now in some countries the stocks of wild boar have become a plague.
Nero - Monster or Victim?
He's the most notorious of all Roman Emperors. He burned Rome, he killed his mother and his wife and engaged in incest. He killed thousands of Christians. He committed suicide by thrusting a dagger into his own neck. He was, basically, a psycho. But suppose it was all lies. Suppose the 'crimes' he committed either didn't happen - or were normal behaviour for a Roman Emperor. Suppose other Romans had grounds to trash his reputation and succeeded for two thousand years. Suppose Nero was a hero. Like a television detective series, the documentary follows the clues of the ancient case: historical crime scenes are investigated, the credibility of witnesses is reviewed, modern investigative methods are applied and experts from different scientific fields including history, psychology and criminology are brought in to consult on the case. Together they reveal a complex web of lies, deflections and intrigue. Flashbacks and re-enactments encourage the viewer to explore theories that are suddenly disproved by unexpected twists. The result: a re-assessment of Roman history. It's time. To re-open the Nero Files.
The Canary Islands
These are the Canary Islands - isolated in the Atlantic Ocean off the North-west coast of Africa. Each island is unique with a diversity of terrain and climate - temperate coastlines, scorching deserts, tropical rainforests and frozen, snowcapped mountains. With features of a small continent, supporting one of the richest and most diverse ranges of native species on the planet.
Part I: Currents of Life- Wind and Water transported pioneer seeds, insects and animals to the isolated landmasses, defined the diversity and distribution of life and created microclimates to which many species adapted, some evolving unique features to survive in these lands. Encounters with eccentric birds and with majestic whales!
Wild Ephesus - Old Ruins, New Life
Sophisticated, pulsing with life and unbelievably wealthy - that was ancient Ephesus with its 250,000 inhabitants, its temples, baths and theatres. Public squares were paved with mosaics, the city was filled with shops, gardens
and fountains, its broad streets flanked with glowing marble statues. Two thousand years ago this port and trading center on the west coast of today's Turkey was the most important market place for marble, precious metals, ceramics, oil and luxury textiles. Its Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the world. Today nothing remains but ruins. Porcupines live in the cracks between artfully hewn marble blocks, tortoises sunbathe on the Altar of Artemis, barn owls brood among the marble pillars of a luxury villa. The former harbor, long silted up, has become a paradise for birds. Cormorants and herons raise their chicks here, pelicans drop in for a visit. Jackals and caracals turned the quays where merchant ships once unloaded their goods into their hunting grounds. Wild boars trot along the Roman road that led from the main street to the arena, stopping to gnaw on the exposed roots snaking from the ancient city walls - and so bring some of those walls tumbling down. Marbled polecats, scorpions, lizards and snakes live in Ephesus today, as does the world's smallest mammal: the Etruscan shrew, whose heart beats 1,500 times a second. Humans had to quit this wealthy metropolis - its enormous fuel consumption caused deforestation that eroded the hillsides till the harbor was blocked with silt and the sea left the city. And then Nature took over.
Wild Caribbean - Rhythms of Life
Part I: Predators in Paradise
Part II: Whales and Volcanoes
Part III: Corals and Clouds
Predators in Paradise shows the Caribbean in spectacular action. From the first frame of a sea turtle snared by a tiger shark, the film alternates between the strategies for survival of both the Hunters and the Hunted.
Whales and Volcanoes: shows what happens when a volcano bursts from the ocean, inviting unique life on to its tropical slopes and black sandy beaches; creating deep sea chasms for families of sperm whales that are so comfortable, they never leave.
Corals and Clouds: there are Caribbean islands and coasts made out of living creatures: the magical «flower animals» that colonize the shallows, with their stunning once-a-year display that is coral reproduction. Inland cloud forests are equally spectacular, but their sediment run-off is the corals' biggest threat.
The Grey and the Red - Secrets of Squirrels
Everybody loves squirrels, and yet we only know them from their brief visits to ground level. Now, extraordinary HD storytelling shows them in their own environment: high up in the treetops. This documentary examines their intelligence and explores the deadly struggle for dominance between the two main species. The cute and cuddly russet acrobats are so clever they're drawing increased attention from scientists. Indeed, they now depend on the scientists for their survival, as they face extinction. Grey squirrels from North-America are spreading fast across Europe, displacing the native red squirrel.
This documentary charts both their lovable antics and the life-and-death struggle for survival of an animal that still has plenty of secrets to reveal. It observes a family of red squirrels over the course of a year, as they mate, care for their young, and battle for food and against predators.
Greece - Highlands and Islands
Greece is a land of unique contrasts, with wild animals that have disappeared from the rest of Europe! Archaic relationships, as befits one of Civilization'ssources, and seemingly special powers like Greek Gods!
Highlands takes us to isolated places like the Vikos Gorge, Europe's Grand Canyon and wild mountain streams. Scorpions perform their mating dance, gripping each other's pincers for hours. At the foot of Meteora monasteries lives the Scheltopusik, a bizarre legless lizard.
Islands is dedicated to Greece's milder side: on Rhodes, crabs hunt butterflies as they hang from the branches of the pine. A caterpillar defends itself by turning into an Alien. And offshore, a cuttlefish flashes its message of fear, stress or courtship.
Hell and Paradise - Russia's Wild Sea
The Sea of Okhotsk lies between the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Japanese island of Hokkaido: the last and greatest unspoiled ocean on Earth. High and low tides vary by 14 meters, typhoons and tsunamis lash the shore with ten-meter waves. This is a wildlife paradise where animals grow bigger, stronger and more numerous than anywhere else. Its iconic animals are giant brown bears, the world's biggest sea eagles and the acrobatic spotted seals. Grizzlies here dip into the thermal baths and geysers left by the world's most active volcanoes. The few human inhabitants are held by the glory of the natural spectacles, the world's largest seabird colonies, starfish, sea urchins, orcas, porpoises and fin whales.
Turtle Hero - A Cold Blooded Passion
Like any young boy Peter Praschag loved animals and wanted a pet, but not a cat or a dog. His passion was for cold-blooded reptiles, his only interest was turtles. Today he is a world expert on freshwater turtles. One turtle has become an obsession: not only is it the largest freshwater turtle on the planet, it is also probably the rarest animal on Earth. Only three Yangtze Soft-shell turtles are positively known to exist. A male and a female in China, another adult in a small lake in Central Hanoi, while strong evidence suggests there may be another in a lake to the north. With assistance from experts Peter hopes to capture that individual, and he may yet help to save another species from extinction! Turtles live in a half-world between land and water, and their evolutionary history stretches back over two hundred million years. They survived cataclysmic extinction events, and have outlived the dinosaurs. Today some are amongst the most endangered vertebrates on earth.
Far away in Europe's south east is a country dominated by high peaks and crystal-clear waters, and home to a vast range of wild animals: Albania. Lake Ohrid, Europe's oldest lake, in the east, supports hundreds of endemic animals. It has outlived earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and even Ice Ages. The Balkans' largest lake, Lake Scutari, once part of the Adriatic Sea, is a vast bird reserve protecting Dalmatian pelicans, the rarest on the planet. Just 7 meters deep, Lake Scutari hosts a variety of small animals in its marshlands, that feed the herons, ibis and flamingoes. In spring it's covered by millions of water lilies, perfect shelter for snakes and other predators. The rare greater spotted eagle doesn't just swoop on its prey from the skies, but stalks it on the ground, too! This region has big predators, too: brown bears, wolves, lynx and jackals, in an intact habitat scarcely disturbed by humanity. This is truly a hidden Eden!
This film features Ireland's wild wonders - from breaching Humpback Whales off its southern shores, to Golden Eagles fighting the gales of the northern highlands, to the majestic Salmon returning from the Arctic to face upriver into the purest freshwaters in Europe and a murderous gauntlet of waterfalls and fishermen.
This stunning metropolis has a flavor of two continents - Asia and Europe, divided and connected by the Bosporus straits, where the salty waters of the Sea of Marmara mix with the currents of the Black Sea. Though the Bosporus is one of the world's busiest shipping routes you can still see three species of dolphin here - reminiscent of the sagas of the ancient world. Living relics of antiquity are everywhere in Istanbul: for example, the martens were imported by Egyptian traders to protect their sacks of seeds from rats and mice.
For migrating birds Istanbul is a toehold as they head north for the European spring. But some animals have come to stay: wild wolves, invading from the east, mate with wild dogs. It's happening today as it has for generations, so that now some scientists talk of a new species: the wolfdog.
Lost City of the Gladiators
The gladiator school at Carnuntum, Roman city on the Danube, turned slaves, prisoners, and also volunteers like our hero Atticus into skilled and brutal entertainers who could be re-exported throughout the Empire. Precision, speed and spectacular technique made them true sports stars, kept in peak condition by their vegetarian diet and rigorous training. Gladiators earned well and paid private visits to wealthy women admirers. But a moment's loss of concentration in the arena was lethal, and even in death, the loser must show no emotion. For two millennia, Carnuntum's gladiator school washidden beneath cornfi elds, but archaeologist Wolfgang Neubauer's scanners uncovered the training complex, reconstructed for this drama-documentary as part of a complete virtual Roman city; while gladiator experts and re-enactors give a uniquely authentic account of a gladiator's life.
Gentle Giant - Otter's Paradise in Capercaillie County
Compared to its fellow summits in the Alps, the Oetscher is not very high: in fact, less than 2,000 metres. But among the gentle slopes of western Lower Austria, it really is a giant, with shoulders broad enough to bear the last of the Alps' virgin forests, the country's coldest plateau where temperatures fall to -50°, the oldest trees in all of Austria, and her very own Grand Canyon, the «Tormauer». Yet in making access difficult for human settlers, the gentle giant has succeeded in protecting its primary fauna. The capercaillie - rare in other parts of Europe - still makes its home in the coniferous forests, while snow grouse roam above the tree-line. Hawks lie in wait, while otters hunt in brooks. Even the brown bear has found refuge on the Oetscher's mountainsides.
The Dolomites - In the Heroes' Garden
Untamed wilderness surrounds the distinctive rock towers, stroked by the golden glimmer of sunset: this gorgeous scene could only be in the Dolomites. It's a place for myths and fairytales, and there's no shortage of them here. But among the crags and hidden in the shady creeks, wildlife creates new stories and fables day by day. Take the lonesome wolf that roamed up from the Appenines in searchof a mate - and finds her here. Or the red fox we findcarelessly at ease in every habitat: forest, bare rock,meadows, abandoned huts, even snow and ice; few animals are so adaptable. And among the rocks is a more specialized and even more skillful climber -the chamois. Contemplating the Dolomites' wildlife seems to give this region a new shape, a new spirit- and helps us understand some of the region's immortal legends.
Lake Constance - Wilderness on the Water
No other European destination has as many incoming and out-going «flights» as Lake Constance: it's the main hub for migratory birds in Western Europe. Over 300 different species pass through every year: that's more than a quarter of a million birds. Lake Constance is so large that, standing on one shore, the Earth's curvature prevents you seeing the opposite bank. This body of water is large enough to influence the climate, and the soil round about is so fertile it creates its own ecosystem. Red-crested pochards, whooper swans, alpine swifts - and raccoons: the lake is home to a myriad of species. This film explores the secrets above and below the surface and on the banks of this lake which links Austria, Germany and Switzerland with no borders in between.
Vanishing Kings - Lions of the Namib
A lioness and her daughters hold the key to the survival of Namibia's rare desert lions: two years ago they gave birth to five male cubs, and through the hardships of the desert and without a pride male, they are raising them to independence, showing them how to hunt both the smallest and the largest prey - including even giraffes. But in a desperate, brave and spectacular attack on a giraffe, the elderly matriarch is injured and subsequently dies of her wounds. Now her two daughters must finish the education of the five sons before they grow too big to be fed. Filming over more than two years, we see the secret lives of desert lions as they roam the rugged mountains, majestic sand dunes, gravel plains, scrublands, and even the beaches of Namibia's Skeleton coast. In this place of constant danger, everlasting hunger and thirst, and inevitable suffering, five young lions must conquer the desert and establish their own kingdom.
The world's least-populated country is home to the largest steppe in the world, a fascinating desert, expansive jungles, mighty mountain summits, swamps, and more than a thousand rivers and lakes. Each landscape has its own climate, flora and fauna: snow leopards hunt argali sheep in the mountains, wolverines and lynx roam the taiga alongside reindeer and mountain hares. The steppes are home to hundreds of thousands of Mongolian gazelles, steppe eagles and Houbara bustards, while wild donkeys, camels and extremely rare Gobi bears inhabit the desert. The Tsaatan and Dukha people wander the taiga with their reindeer, Kazakh herdsmen drive yaks through the mountains and steppe nomads relocate several times a year to find new grazing land. Nowhere in the world are nature and culture so intertwined as in Mongolia. In two episodes, the documentary reveals the wonders of this fascinating country as they have never been seen before.
Europe's Last Nomads
A spectacular ancient tradition is being revived right across Europe: shepherds leading flocks across the continent through the most savage and extreme landscapes. On the Similaun glacier at 2,800 meters in South Tyrol, inexperienced sheep plummet from the hazardous path or freeze to death in snowstorms. But crossing the Alps is not the longest trek in Europe. From Spain´s legendary La Mancha plains, the last cowboys of this continent and their cattle migrate into the green highlands of Cuenca. During their five week long marathon both, humans and animals face tremendous summer heat and desert- like conditions. While in Southern France herds of 3,000 sheep cross the spectacular plateaus of the Cevennes. Each sheep carries up to 5,000 seeds in its coat and spreads these en route, linking isolated biotopes. In Romania sheep climb the Carpathian Mountains, all the way to the Ukrainian border, constantly under threat from wolves. In Europe's far west, on a Welsh island, migrating sheep even generate a habitat for rare birds. Across the continent many animals and plants depend on these nomads: the last Imperial eagles, wolves, bearded and griffon vultures, insect and bird species.
Engadin - Switzerland's Wilderness
It was a hundred years ago, when a group of Swiss champions of Nature created Engadin National Park, the Alps' very first wildlife reserve. Human interference ceased: and that meant no more rescue campaigns either, like the secret smuggling of Ibexes over the pass from Italy just a few years before. Nature up here should be as free as the glacier waters had always been. Here a drop can decide where it wants to go: east to the Inn, Danube and Black Sea, north to the Rhine and the North Sea, or south to the Adriatic and the Mediterranean. A hundred years have passed - and man has watched in wonder as a new balance has established itself in this Alpine wonderland: the Ibex thrive, the bearded vulture is back in force, and even large predators - lynx, wolves and bears - are starting to claim back their old hunting grounds. This documentary follows in their tracks to celebrate a spectacular pioneering story of nature preservation.
Forest of Fantasies
On Christmas Eve, they say, the animals can talk. Peter Rosegger, one of Austria's greatest writers, turned this legend into a magical short story about his own country childhood in Styria's Alpine uplands. It's one of Austria's most fascinating landscapes: deep, dark forests flanked by steep mountain ridges, gentle meadows reaching up to exposed summits: in limitless shades of just one color: green. Trudging through the snow to join his family for the Christmas Eve service in the valley below, ten-year-old Peter comes face to face with a young fawn in the twilight, and wonders what he could tell about growing up in the forest, with the other animals, through the seasons. This film captures the essence of Rosegger's story and the subtle and dramatic changes of the Styrian forest throughout the year.
Lionsrock - Return of the King
In February 2008 a unique wildlife reserve of 1,250 hectares was established around Lionsrock, South Africa, with the aim of returning lions and other big cats to the land of their ancestors. Most are from Europe, from rundown zoos or circuses, removed to dubious holding pens like the dilapidated Panterabig cats' asylum in the Netherlands. From here a rescued lion family are sedated and air-freighted to a perfect savanna landscape, where for the first time they can be released, free, into their natural environment. This heartwarming and joyful portrait of Lionsrock with its dedicated team also features ostriches, weaver birds, ground squirrels and other African wildlife sharing the natural habitat where the lions' ancestors once thrived. And - for the first time on TV - this film shows root canal treatment on Kongo, a majestic lion male!
On a River in Ireland
The Shannon is Ireland's greatest geographical landmark and the longest river in these islands. For 340 kms the river carves its way south through the heart of the country almost splitting Ireland in two. It is both a barrier and highway - a silver ribbon holding back the rugged landscapes of the west from the gentler plains to the east. On its journey, the Shannon passes through a huge palette of rural landscapes. On little known backwaters, Ireland's wild animals and plants still thrive as almost nowhere else. «On a River in Ireland» offers a remarkable portrait of Ireland's greatest geographical feature, using a host of techniques and showing never before filmed Irish sequences and stories.
Africa's Wild West - Stallions of the Namib Desert
In 1918 German and South African war-horses, no longer needed, were released into the burning Namibian desert.How could they survive, in one of the world's most beautiful, parched and rugged landscapes? Miraculously, they have held on to this day, constantly crossing the desert in search of sparse patches of grass, returning for water to the single well built in colonial days, sharing it with perfectly adapted oryxes - while marauding spotted hyenaspatrol close by. Far inland, in ghost towns long since abandoned by the diamond industry, snakes, lizards, chameleons and dew-drinking beetles compete for food among the drifting sands. Along the coast from the abandoned factories hundreds of thousands of seals come ashore to breed, their babies mercilessly hunted byjackals and brown hyenas.
Nock - Mountains at Heaven's Door
You might think you were in Ireland, you might sense the vastness of Castile in Spain, but you'd never believe this was the heart of the Austrian Alps: the Nock Mountains are - geologically - Austria's oldest landscape. For a hundred million years, the land around them has risen and fallen, while the mountains themselves hardly moved. The wide open spaces and the wealth of small natural wonders make believe you're not far from heaven's door: wild rivers, endless woodland, lush mountain meadows, wildflowers and wild animals. A perfect territory for creatures shrouded in mystery: the nearly invisible stone marten, the mystic raven and the inquisitive European adder.
Secrets of Bumblebees
They are chubbier, fuzzier and more leisurely than their sisters, the bees. They are a lot less aggressive and awe-inspiring than their cousins the wasps. Compared to honey bees, these social insects have long been poorly researched, though they're at home in temperate regions throughout the Northern Hemisphere and South America. A few tropical species form colonies lasting several years, but elsewhere only the summer's new Queens survive into next spring. Macro and high-speed cinematography allow us to witness their behavior, understand their biology, experience their unique abilities and leave us in awe of these droll little harbingers of spring.
Sun-Seeking Creatures - A Mediterranean World
This documentary follows the widest variety of creatures in the Mediterranean climate of the Danube - like the western green lizard and the Aesculapian snake - the largest lizard and snake in central Europe. The audience is invited to experience the family life of ground squirrels, visit the islands that have their own local species of scorpion, and encounter the praying mantis, the saga pedo and the wasp spider.
Danube - Europe's Amazon
This comprehensive cinematic portrait of Europe's second-longest river presents scenes of breathtaking beauty along the banks of the Danube and investigates the tension between humans and nature, civilization and wilderness. Dams and power stations alternate with sections of natural wilderness along this mighty river, which flows through great cities such as Vienna and Budapest and untouched natural landscapes like the Danube National Park and the Kopaki Rit. Further south, between the Carpathian mountain range in Romania and the Serbian Ore mountains, the river passes through the Iron Gate, 137 kilometers of gorges that are among the largest in Europe. The mighty river ends in a unique labyrinth of water, mud and reeds - the Danube delta. It is the last remaining major river delta in Europe and the largest reed bed on earth, used by huge colonies of pelicans, cormorants, sea eagles and spoonbills for breeding and nesting.
Part I: From the Black Forest to the Black Sea / Vom Schwarzwald zum Schwarzen Meer
Part II: Forest, Flood and Frost / Zwischen Flut und Frost
Schladming - Magic Mountains
Schladming in Austria is not the best known of the country's ski regions but it's one of the finest - because it keeps a low profile and makes sure the season doesn't dominate the landscape. That also means its nature is better protected than in normal mixed regions. Though this region is controlled by men, it is a hot spot for wild animals - and sometimes even the wolves come back to this territory, which once belonged to them.
Part I: Land of the Chamois
Sheer rock walls and deep ravines crying out to be climbed, cycling trails in the forest and some of the swiftest and blackest ski runs; peaks and pines eye their refl ections in shimmering lakes, bordered by moss, lichen and flower-studded slopes. These are Schladming's Magic Mountains. Beside the slopes this landscape is full of wild animals. Red deer, black-grouse and pygmy owls inhabit the woods and alpine meadows. Winter is merciless cold in these mountains, but there is one animal which is perfectly adapted to this habitat: the chamois. Though this region is controlled by men, it is a hot spot for wild animals - and sometimes even the wolves come back to this territory, which once belonged to them.
Part II: Land of the Champions
«Sustainable development» could have been invented by this place. Schladmingers welcomed big-city money to their region to develop tourism and peak alpine sports, but never sold out completely. They never forgot their uprising in 1525 when, as miners, they claimed their share of Europe's biggest silver mine - and were crushed. From then on, as secret Protestants in a Catholic country, they learned to keep their own counsel. But now roads, railways and mountaineering have put the town on the European map and in 2013 Schladming faced its greatest challenge: to host the Alpine World Championships, skiing's greatest show - while still staying defi antly itself.
When a female barn-owl's home - an old disused barn - is demolished, she has to seek a new place to live. On the way, flying through forests and across grasslands, she encounters most of the common owl species in Central Europe: long- and short- eared owls, little, tawny and eagle owls, some she can live peace- fully beside, others she must shun or risk becoming their prey. During her journey, the film shows how owls fly so silently and hunt so efficiently. It illustrates what they have meant to humans since ancient times, and how they live beside us today. It explains why they have become - unfairly - associated with death. Our owl finally finds a new home, as the guest of a barn owl family, in time to see the new clutch of young following their mother on their first majestic flight.
A sparrow in the Souk in Cairo: bushy and tousled, he flits between crowded stalls to build his nest and attract a mate. He's one of five heroes of «Planet Sparrow» whose adventures cover the world, from Cairo to Beijing, New York, Moscow, Vienna and Paris. Small and grey-brown, sparrows may seem dull, but this first impression is deceptive; They're extremely clever. The camera pursues these artists of flight through narrow alleys, revealing their spectacular aerial manoeuvres. In New York, orphaned sparrow chicks are adopted by new sparrow parents. Sparrows play Russian roulette in Moscow, flying beneath the cars on the busiest roads to save winter energy. In Beijing they're captured and then released to bring good luck. In Paris, centuries of living with humans have taught them to form teams that steal and share the food of café diners. «Planet Sparrow» is a documentary about these flying survival artists, their neighbors and adversaries, all photographed from the perspective of the birds!
Buddies - How Dogs Discovered Man
No animal reflects human social changes as much as the dog. For millennia, dogs have served as mankind's hunting buddies, vital companions in our struggle for survival. In today's increasingly civilized world, modern dogs have had to abandon their first instincts, finding new employment as family members, helping the disabled, diagnosing cancer, or sniffing for drugs. We have forgotten what it actually means to be a dog, a hunter. «Hunting Buddies» looks back at this part of our cultural history and discovers where dog skills come from, finding out what we have given up and gained as our relationship with dogs has changed. «Hunting Buddies» takes a closer look at dog and man, nature and culture - a cinematic cross-over appealing not just to hunters and dog-lovers but to anyone fascinated by the history and development of humankind.
Return of the Hoopoe
Across Europe hoopoes are struggling. But amidst the orchards and vineyards of the Wagram region near Vienna they are thriving. This documentary shows how the small bird with the spectacular crown feathers made a comeback in the heart of Europe and how it is dealing with its neighbours: Aesculapian snakes, foxes and falcons. But it is also the story of one man's dream that came true: Manfred Eckenfellner is the Hoopoe Whisperer, and through his passion the birds found their way back to the Wagram. Even cultivated landscapes like Wagram's vineyards offer countless opportunities for wild animals to find new niches. Kestrels use castle towers to breed and bee-eaters live in the same layers of loess vintners grow their grapes on.
Zambezi - The Thundering River
It's one of the least-known rivers on earth - yet it flows for nearly 2,800 kilometers and belongs to six countries. The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, and along its course it sweeps through a series of natural spectacles - from the blooming of a thousand musasa trees to the rains that will flood its banks, anointing the land with rich silt. But none compete with the river's crescendo - the Victoria Falls - one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Zambezi is a haven and a source of life to a vast array of wild animals and humans alike. Filmed throughout the changing seasons, we follow the river in Part 1 from its headwaters to the thundering power of the Victoria Falls. In Part 2 the Zambezi gently flows towards the Indian Ocean, taking in some of Nature's grandest wildlife spectacles. The story of the Zambezi is one of constant change, of life and death - it is the story of Africa itself.
With a population of around 3 million, Nairobi is one of the largest cities in Africa. However this metropolis is surrounded by wilderness that extends into the city itself. Just a few metres from the airport lies the Nairobi National Park, with its vast savannah and majestic wildlife. Beside the highway, separated only by a wire fence, lions, hyenas, giraffes and rhinoceros wander through grassland, while hundreds of marabous breed in the tree-lined streets in the city centres and scavenge on rubbish dumps. Hordes of apes entertain (and infuriate) picknickers in the city's parks; leopards hunt pets in wealthy suburbs, while hyenas scavenge in the city's shantytowns. This is a journey of discovery through a great city full of contradictions and teeming with nature, where humans and animals live together as - sometimes unwilling - neighbours.
Sky Hunters - The World of the Dragonfly
This film presents dragonflies as they have never been seen before. Fascinating close up shots take us into the world of these insects, which have lived on earth since the age of the dinosaurs. Spectacular super slow motion shots and elaborate computer animation uncover, for the first time, how dragonflies capture their prey at lightning speed while flying.