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The central massif of the Himalayas presides over the landscape of Nepal, a constant presence
which also occupies the majority of its territory.
The white peaks have always attracted man
who considered them first as deities, then later as challenges.
But, further down, the secret forests of this part of the world conceal the most ancient
of all legends.
The human settlers of these valleys have had to find ways to survive on these sheer slopes.
Along the slopes they have created a safe place in which to grow their crops, away from
the wild beasts of the valley floor.
Their terraced fields look directly over the forests below, a superb vantage point from
which to survey the jungle of the unicorn.
In 398 B.C., the Greek historian Ctesias wrote a book about India and Nepal, and for the
first time spoke of a wild beast which, to this day, continues to fascinate mankind.
The inhabitants of the forest knew of its presence, and in the shadows of the humid
jungle its smell still lingers.
The legend lives here; the magical creature with a single horn, spoken of in countless
cultures, emerging from the mists of time, the most sought-after mystery.
But this animal has long been cursed, and time has not changed that. In the twenty-first
century it is still hunted, for the power that grows on its forehead.
We are going to enter the enchanted forest, the birthplace of the legend
ON THE TRACKS OF THE UNICORN.
Along the border between Nepal and India, there runs a strip of rainforests which alternate
with the meadows of the lowlands. Open jungle whose floor, rich in pasture, provides food
for many species of herbivores.
After Africa, these forests possess the greatest variety of animal species in the world.
And nonetheless, due to their inaccessibility, they remain virtually unknown.
Large deer such as the sambars are the food of the king of the shadows.
The presence of the Bengal tiger means the herbivores of the jungle must constantly be
on the alert. Danger is ever-present.
The pattern of the skin of this great feline forms part of the landscape, as it hunts for
the meat it needs to maintain its almost 300 kilos of striped body.
But the tiger is not the only giant of these forests. On the intense green ground there
is an animal which not even he would dare attack.
The gaur.
Weighing one thousand kilos, it is the largest wild bovine in the world.
A ton of bad temper, standing up to two metres tall.
The gaurs are not only have nothing to fear from the
tigers, but will even trample them down if one crosses the path of the herd.
A less violent way to escape from the tiger is to climb up into the higher levels of the jungle.
That is precisely what the langurs do. In India, these animals are sacred, as,
in their religion, they are related to the monkey god Hanuman. These primates are exclusively
vegetarian, specialised in the consumption of leaves. Such a poor diet that they are
forced to be constantly on the move across the roof of the jungle, in search of a decent tree.
More nutritious than leaves are these large flowers, on which the humming birds feed.
These birds are experts at extracting the sweet nectar contained inside the corollas,
along with the tiny insects that seek refuge there.
Their constant visits carry the pollen from one flower to another,
pollinating them, and so contributing to keeping the forest alive.
All these biological marvels were already here two thousand years ago, when the first
travellers spoke of this land as a magical place, inhabited by fantastic creatures, above
all one in particular, the unicorn.
Its horn, which they called an “alicornis”,
was a sure antidote to any poison, which it immediately detected and neutralised. This
made it greatly desired by kings and noblemen, always afraid of being poisoned. Some of them
offered vast fortunes in exchange for one.
Romans and Greeks spread the myth and, thanks
to a translation by Luther, it entered the bible itself, where it is quoted seven times.
The Roman Aelianus speaks of the cartazon, a term taken from the Sanskrit kartajan, which
means “Lord of the Jungle”; and Pliny the Elder calls it monoceros, with the head
of a deer, the feet of an elephant, and the tail of a pig.
But without a doubt, the most important description was that of the Roman Julius Solinus, who
defines it as “a monster with a terrible roar, and a horn springing from the centre
of its forehead, of marvellous splendour, four feet in length, and which can never be caught alive.”
The chronicler was not far from the reality. The myth lives here, and it is the Indian
rhinoceros. Its means of defence was, in fact, imported into Europe until the end of the
eighteenth century, as “unicorn horns”, to be used as remedies for a wide range of
illnesses, and this belief still continues in traditional Asian medicine.
Its leathery skin was also used for defence by men, in the form of shields for the soldiers.
This armour plating protects them from attacks by tigers.
The fact that man coveted certain parts of its body brought the Indian rhinoceros to
the verge of extinction, and by 1960 barely a hundred remained.
The massacre did not cease
until 1976, when a division of the Nepalese army was given the task of protecting them
from attacks by poachers.
These characteristic jungles are crossed by major rivers which, in the rainy season, overflow,
forming extensive flood plains.
The climate is sub-tropical, with the summer monsoon accounting for 90% of the annual rainfall.
When the monsoon arrives, the vegetation literally explodes, covering everything.
The flooded plains fill with “elephant grasses”,
so called because of their size, as they grow up to eight metres high.
In reality, it is
an ideal ecosystem for plant-eaters, the many different species that feed on grasses, which
occupy and colonise it, forming an intricate tapestry.
The incredible exuberance of the vegetation is hell for man, but not for the plant-eaters,
who gorge themselves on the gigantic feast that covers everything.
At this time of year, the rhinoceroses and a number of species of deer, such as the sambars
and the chitals, spend many hours here.
Just a few hundred years ago, the Indian rhinoceros
grazed on all the flood plains of the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, but now it
has been reduced to just two national parks: Chitwan in Nepal and Kaziranga in India.
This region, called Terai, forms the northern border between India and Nepal, and is occupied
by ecosystems characteristic of the salt forests and grasslands flooded by seasonal rises in
These are the lands of the Indian rhinoceros,
the final refuges of the unicorn.
Here in the Kaziranga National Park, the river Brahmaputra floods over every year, fertilising
the entire plain with silt so rich that the vegetation is among the most exuberant, the
variety of species among the greatest in the world.
Three quarters of the Park is then flooded, and when the waters retreat, innumerable swamps
and marshes, called “bheels”, remain.
This is when this wildlife paradise really comes alive.
70% of the world population of Indian rhinoceroses live here; for them, and for the Asian elephants,
water provides a refuge from the heat, and a place in which their enormous body weight
is a little easier to bear.
In 1985 this Park was declared a World Heritage Site, and to preserve this treasure, the Indian
government put into action one of the greatest conservationists initiatives in the world:
in Kaziranga there is one guard for every square kilometre.
Another of the treasures of these jungles is the only animal capable of taking advantage
of the meat of herbivores as large as the great buffalos.
It is also hunted by the poachers, but its major concern is finding enough to eat.
The presence of the tiger is the cause of one of the greatest problems – the coexistence
of the National Parks and the people who live close by them.
In the country as a whole, at least 50 people die every year from tiger attacks; between
3 and 5 in Chitwan alone, almost always due to imprudence on the part of the victims.
But the tiger avoids humans whenever it can. It would rather risk its life trying to bring
down an enormous buffalo.
This one has been badly injured in a fight with one of the great striped felines. Its
hindquarters, its back and its face have been clawed and bitten, and it has lost an eye.
With humidity of around 90%, the wounds will not easily heal, and internal infections will
kill it. Separated from the herd, all it can do is wait for the tiger to return and finish
off the job.
Now, it is easier to understand the function of the armour-plated skin of the rhinoceros.
You can eat in peace if you have that kind of protection from possible attackers.
But our unicorns have a taste for the high grasses of the banks of the swamp, and both
in Kaziranga and here in Chitwan, these grasses are also a valuable resource for the human
populations living around the edge of the park.
Since 1973, when it was declared a National Park, due to the fact it was the only place
in Nepal where rhinoceroses remained, a number of human settlements have been moved, the
people transferred to more fertile places without wild herbivores.
However, 310 villages
have not been able to be relocated, and they remain in direct contact with the Park.
When the season arrives, the local inhabitants cross the river, and enter the reserves, armed
with their recently-sharpened sickles.
Here they find what they are looking for. The natives have a legal concession to harvest
The natives have a legal concession to harvest the high grasses each year.
Around 60,000 people gather almost 11,000 tonnes during
harvest time, which lasts for 15 days or so.
The bushels accumulate, reaching a market value of some 450,000 dollars.
After taking off the costs of permits and labour, the net contribution to the local
economy is around 250,000 dollars.
As well as the income from sales to the paper industry, the grasses are also a basic construction
material for these people. They are also used to feed the domestic cattle, which cannot
stray far in search of pasture, for fear of being attacked by tigers.
The heavy monsoon rains make constant repairs to the roofs necessary.
This is also done with dried grass.
Wherever in the world there are people living
in a subsistence economy, we only need to see what the roofs are made of to know what
is the most accessible, cheap local material.
Underground water, clean and healthy, is, fortunately, abundant. And from this, and
the soil, the women make adobe which, of course, also includes grass among its ingredients.
But not all land uses are as uncontroversial as the harvesting of elephant grass.
Wheat and cotton fields are slowly replacing stretches of jungle.
Here, man is constantly present, carrying out the different tasks in the course of the year.
And this creates problems with the local wildlife.
These towers, called “machams” are watchtowers from which to spot wild animals.
There is always a lookout on duty,
ready to raise the alarm whenever a tiger or a rhinoceros enters
the fields, posing a threat to the workers’ lives.
In reality, all the animals are doing is returning to places that were always theirs, but which,
little by little, have been stolen from them by man, who knows how to turn to his advantage
the greatest enemy of the jungle.
But the rainforests of Asia are almost as old as fire itself. They have tremendous powers
of regeneration, the ancient strength of vegetation.
Certain species are invulnerable to fire. They do not burn, they simply resist.
The semul trees are fire-proof, and they are therefore the final refuge in the jungle.
“Chitwan” means “The Heart of the Jungle”. And once more in this part of the world legend
and reality go hand in hand.
The fact that certain species burn and others don’t, favours the growth of the so-called
“secondary forest”, different from the original jungle, clearer and with more light,
in which grass is able to grow on the ground.
It is the perfect place for the ungulates, a paradise for deer, who here form herds,
unlike their solitary relatives in the “primary forests”.
The ancient inhabitants of the primitive jungle search
are forced to climb up ever higher in of food.
This is also home to a bird which, for three thousand years now,
has been an aesthetic symbol for man.
This is the land of the peacock, the place in which evolution created such a strange creature.
It is the national bird of India, sacred for Hindus and Buddhists
alike, the destroyer of snakes and, according to popular belief, capable of them. hypnotising
The characteristic territorial cry of the males warns rivals that this territory is occupied.
Then, the suitor displays his feathers, one metre sixty centimetres long, in the hope
of sufficiently impressing one of these visiting females
that she will agree to be the mother of his eggs.
The females prefer the males with most peacock
eyes, and these continue to grow throughout their lifetime. So, the older the male, the
larger his tail, and the more females he is able to attract.
Such a flamboyant display in the middle of a jungle full of tigers is a risky business
but, in nature, nothing ventured nothing gained. And, what is more, the more superbly decorated
the males, the less they participate in rearing the chicks.
See you around some time, honey.
The langurs, however, like the good primates they are, do have a long, close family life.
The baby langurs spend a lot of time playing and learning from the adults the tricks of
life up in the treetops.
On the ground or up in the highest branches, the little ones jump and wave their arms,
developing their binocular vision which gives them extraordinary spatial balance.
In their young brains,
the neuronal connections are established which some day will save their
lives when they have to flee from danger, swinging from branch to branch.
But the jungle floor is where the organic material collects,
and the micro-organisms and invertebrates that feed on it.
Simian societies can be just as complex as ours, but when it comes to organisation,
none is as perfect as this one – the termites.
The termites do not form the bulk of their diet, but for older langurs, they are like
spicy chilli peppers, an amusing snack that breaks the monotony of all that leaf salad.
Just stick your finger in…and suck.
There are so many species of termite in these jungles
that no one knows the precise number. Their fortresses
are intelligent buildings, with their own air-conditioning. But this doesn’t prevent
them from being constantly attacked.
These are sloth bears. Their characteristic thick, long lips are designed to literally
suck up the termites from their holes.
Their sight is poor, their smell worse, and they are renowned for their bad temper.
They are among the strangest bears in the world, and local stories speak of them as fierce beasts.
The last jungles in Asia still contain so
many mysteries, that not a year goes by without it being discovered that an ancient legend
really exist, or that a mythical animal has always lived here.
But the myths spoken of in ancient travellers’ tales are now up against a formidable enemy,
a human population that is constantly growing.
Like this giant boar, man and the great jungle stand looking each other in the face, not
knowing what to do, unsure who will take the first step.
At any moment, mutual respect may turn into aggression.
And what will happen to the unicorn then?
India contains 16% of the world’s population on just 2% of the land surface, but the tradition
of creating forest and nature reserves dates from the fourth century B.C.
For the time being, Chitwan and Kaziranga are a good home for the rhinoceroses,
with around 400 in the Nepalese park and 1,200 in the Indian one,
as well as other small groups scattered across another six areas.
The total population estimated by the World Wildlife Fund in February 2000
is just 2,095 animals on the entire planet.
Weighing almost 2,000 kilos and measuring 4.2 metres in length, it needs up to 5 square
kilometres to cover its territorial and dietary needs.
Its constant movements among the grass
create an entire network of tracks which other animals take advantage of.
It’s hard to believe that such a formidable animal almost disappeared forever, as the
result of false, ridiculous, magical and medicinal beliefs, and what is more, beliefs held by
people living far away from these animals’ homeland.
The Indian rhinoceros deposits its faeces, creating over the years large piles which
act as olfactory markers or beacons, defining its territory.
Gigantic dung heaps that are impossible to ignore even for the least sensitive nose.
Rhinos are essentially solitary animals, but when the males reach sexual maturity, at ten
years of age, they fight even the females when they meet. During these rare encounters,
even the elephants prefer to leave them to it.
Scenes like this represent like few others
the essence of the wild paradise of this part of the world.
Contrary to popular belief, they do not use their famous horn as a weapon, but rather
bite at their rival. The loser will move off to try his luck elsewhere.
Another of the paradoxes of the ancient unicorn is that its horn is not the part of its body
the Nepalese most appreciate.
They come to the dung heaps in search of what they swear is an infallible remedy for coughs.
When you get home, nothing better than making yourself comfortable, and enjoying one of
the most highly-prized products of the land.
All you have to do spread out a piece of paper, and sprinkle a little rhino dung on it.
With care and patience you achieve just the right texture
to mix it with tobacco, according to taste.
An exquisite cigarette containing the most select faeces in the region.
For them, the enormous piles of dung are a plentiful
supply of the ingredients for the finest tobacco.
Without doubt an exclusive luxury that only a few can enjoy.
“The Taste of a Legend” would surely be a fitting advertising slogan.
Oblivious of man’s obsession with his faeces, the Indian rhinoceros have changed very little
in the last million years. As they are basically unsociable, the typical
group of rhinoceroses is this: a female with her child.
A vegetarian diet is lacking in a number of nutrients, which the rhinoceroses have to
obtain from other sources. In certain places in the jungle, the soil is rich in mineral
salts and trace elements, and so the mothers take their children there from when they are
very young. They memorise the location, and so the knowledge of these secret places is
passed down from one generation of rhinos to the next.
They literally eat the soil. The little one will not forget the lesson.
No one in the jungle would dare disturb a female rhinoceros with her young.
Their ferocity and courage are almost as legendary as their horns.
But rhinoceroses like to spend many hours in places also much appreciated by man.
For the rhinoceros, as for many other species of animal in this part of the world, water
means a cool retreat, and a place to find food.
In the river valleys and in all the low regions which are periodically flooded, these swamps
are formed, covering immense areas along the banks of the Brahmaputra and the Ganges.
Rhinoceroses are perfectly content half-submerged in their very own vegetable soup, from which
they eat while placing virtually no stress on their backbone, which most of the time
has to carry the enormous weight of the animal.
This tendency for very heavy mammals to submerge themselves in water, and so compensate for
their weight, was precisely what led some of them to return to the sea many millions
of years ago, giving rise to the cetaceans.
What cannot be denied is that rhinoceroses
swim well and with evident satisfaction.
As they constantly move in and out of the water, these giants open up the vegetation,
stirring up the mud at the banks.
In this way, they keep the water surfaces clear, preventing
the plants from covering them entirely.
Without rhinoceroses and elephants, there would be
much less open, available water, and the number of bird species in the region would be considerably
reduced.
Beaks. Some very still…
...others in constant movement.
The soup, which is vegetable for the rhinoceros, becomes fish soup for the majority of the
birds, such as this Asian stork.
Or this heron...
...which prefers more decisive movements.
Long legs and eyes looking down into the pool. Here, each one makes use of what evolution
has equipped them with, to catch prey of different sizes.
This male Asian jabiru is also a type of stork, and like all others in the family, is not
adverse to scavenging when carrion is around, in this case the dead body of a coot. But
neither its legs nor its beak are adapted to feeding on meat, and it will have serious
problems digesting something so large.
Each animal has its own techniques. This is an anhinga, a type of long-necked cormorant,
and it has a little problem. It seems to be offering its catch to the sun, but in fact
it is warming up after fishing, because its plumage is not completely impermeable.
This makes it easier to dive down, and swim beneath the surface, but it gets very wet
and, from time to time, it has to dry out.
And here we have the result. It was worth the dip, even if its body is now dripping wet.
But its triumphal march arouses the lowest instincts of the opportunists. The ahinga
tries to reach a safe place in order to eat its catch before anyone feels tempted to snatch
it from him.
It is hardly elegant as it emerges from the water. And its problems are not over yet:
the fish is stuck, and it will have to gobble it down, scales and all.
All this movement by the anhingas alerts the most dangerous mouth in these waters.
The marsh crocodile can be found throughout much of the Indian subcontinent. Over four
metres in length, it shelters in holes, and eats birds.
More than reason enough to make a quick exit when you hear one entering the water.
This enormous snout belongs to a close relative of the crocodile, and an expert fisher. The
gavial can reach up to six and a half metres in length, and is a zoological treasure that
lives only in this part of the world.
It is said to accompany the dead on their last journey along the sacred rivers of India.
The shallow water courses are also the scene of hundreds of small dramas which often go
unnoticed. These two toads of the Bufo genus are engaged in amorous activities, but they
are being spied on by a very dangerous onlooker.
A water snake like this one knows how to choose precisely the right moment. As it approaches,
its forked tongue transfers the smells of the river to the olfactory receptors on its head
The slippery lovers add their body fluids to the water without suspecting this could
be the last thing they ever do.
The moment has arrived.
Slithering along, the snake approaches, but the female toad, who
is on the bottom, has seen it.
Such sudden agility surprises the snake, but not the male toad, who gets on with the job,
not suspecting his girlfriend is saving his life.
Maybe another time.
Mounting another animal is also recommendable on more peaceful occasions.
Tourists riding on elephants.
The National Parks of Chitwan and Kaziranga can be visited
by anyone willing to sit atop the king of the jungle, emulating Hannibal himself.
Since at least 2,000 B.C,
elephants have been tamed and trained by man for construction, transport and war.
Now, 4,000 years later, there is still no more comfortable, safe, and cheap means of
transport on which to explore the jungles of the unicorn.
Up here, the visitors are safe from tigers, and have a superb view of their surroundings.
And, thanks to this new eco-tourism, the ancient tradition of the mahouts, the carers and drivers
of these pachyderms, is being preserved precisely at the time when traditional uses are in decline.
These men and their animals form close, life-long bonds, from the time the elephant is very young.
In this way, travelling around on the back of an elephant has become a new source
of income for the local population, and this benefits not only the rhinoceros and the tiger,
but the elephant itself, along with the ancient tradition of training them.
They are not noisy, do not contaminate, and when they stop working, they can be recycled.
And, what is more important, the other inhabitants of the jungle are used to their presence,
and so they do not frighten or disturb them.
Precisely because of these advantages, men in the past used them to hunt down the rhinos.
But, as in many parts of the world, the Indians and Nepalese have realised that a live rhinoceros
brings much more income than a dead one.
A good trophy satisfies just a single hunter,
while a live specimen can attract hundreds of amateur photographers.
For the short-sighted unicorn, this is simply an elephant with something strange on its
back, maybe parasites...but, in any case, totaly inoffensive.
Thanks to the elephant we have been able to enter the world of the unicorn, a world whose
nightmares have not changed much despite the passing of time.
The belief in the supposed
medicinal powers of rhinoceros horn still remains in traditional Asian medicine, and
so illegal trading can generate enormous profits.
In Bangkok, a kilo of Indian rhinoceros horn costs over three million pesetas. And, in
a region where poverty is rife, the temptation to poach is enormous.
The magic horn which made it a legend almost led to it join the dinosaurs, the dodo and
the mammoth in the book of extinct species.
But these people are saving them. New generations of visitors who come here not to kill, but
simply as a break from routine.
Curious travellers willing to pay to catch a glimpse of a legend.
A small army that comes in peace, and sleeps, eats, drinks and buys souvenirs here, thereby
repaying the local population for their efforts to preserve the nature of their land.
26 years ago, Chitwan received fewer than 1,000 visitors. Today, over 100,000 come every
year. 50% of the income generated by the park is used for the development of the human settlements
around it, and people are encouraged to actively participate in conservation, training as wardens,
guides, maintenance and catering staff.
The charges for entering and camping in the park, the price of elephant tours, and lodging
and permits, generate increasing income, making the local people more and more convinced that
they are fortunate in having a national park on their doorstep.
The informed visitor eagerly seeks out the most characteristic, distinguishing cultural
traits of each region, appreciating not only nature, but also local customs and folklore.
The crackle of a camp fire in the forests of Asia is still something that many are willing to pay for
Perhaps it was all true. Perhaps this is the magic of the unicorn.
Night is drawing in around the Himalayas.
Mist descends over the jungle where the last Indian rhinoceroses live.
The adult female and her child, who brings hope for the species, are heading into the
thick of the jungle to spend the night.
And another warden comes on duty.
For some a green hell, for others the mythological forest inhabited by celestial creatures and
unicorns; a place which holds an incredible fascination for all.
When the sun goes down, the sounds change, the spirits of the night awake to wander in
the moonlight.
That is how the legend was born, with the translucent wings of the bats, perhaps under
the effects of a fever, but it was here, by the Brahmaputra.
It was all true. This is the home of an incredible animal, with a single horn emerging from its
forehead, which can cure all the evils of the poor peoples with whom it shares this
land.
A being capable of attracting people from all over the world, simply in the hope of seeing it
The legend did not lie,
the unicorn exists.
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印度犀牛 (Indian Rhinoceros Full Documentary | On The Tracks Of The Unicorn - Planet Doc Full Documentaries)

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不信中原不姓朱 發佈於 2016 年 5 月 1 日

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