Joining the production crew for the Planet Earth II docuseries requires the understanding that the world could possibly get extremely out of hand at every turn. Such was the case for the crew during one particular outing, when they witnessed over 100 hyenas engaging in a series of massive street brawls. I can't imagine the cameramen had as many nightmares as I would have just from the noises that must have been made.
Planet Earth II was filming segments in Harar, Ethiopia when things got more hectic than normal. In footage that audiences will see in the upcoming episode, somewhere around 120 hyenas of differing rival families were out and about on the outskirts of the city. But they weren't trading recipes or playing street hockey; this was Hyena Fight Club, and Planet Earth II is just fine with breaking the first two rules of Hyena Fight Club. The episode's producer Fredi Devas explained that the hyenas get into regular large-scale fights like this as a way of proving which animals were badass enough to spend the nights in the city proper, where they can sleep with potentially full bellies after chowing down on bones left out for the predators by local butchers. Here's his colorful way of describing it all.
They were extraordinary. There are two hyena clans who regularly use the city. To work out who gets access, they go to a place outside the city limits and have a fight. A piece of ground where they can meet up like the gangs in Westside Story and have it out. They really fight. You've got a hundred around you, running around your feet and legs en masse, turning on each other. You do think that if they turned on you, you're gone. That's it. If they decided that we were the problem, that would be that. But they don't.
Well, I suppose you're all now aware that we can't possibly make it through another year on this rock without someone making a mash-up video with footage from Planet Earth II with audio from West Side Story. I don't have it on good faith that hyenas are worth a damn at snapping fingers, so it'll just take some movie magic to make that happen. Also, can we get everybody on motorcycles? That would be great.
When it comes to land predators, hyenas are among the most dangerous in the world, and they're particularly hardcore in Africa. Thankfully, the beasts aren't always bound with the intention of attacking, and they're not known for going after humans; even those with expensive cameras. The hyena-heavy Planet Earth II episode will also feature a close look at leopards living in the area, and viewers may be surprised to see the large felines walking among the human population in Mumbai, where leopard-on-human attacks also aren't common.
Another wild story from a recent episode also involves a large group of animals under duress, as the Planet Earth II crew witnessed the deaths of around 150,000 antelope, due to an outbreak that took only three days to do that kind of damage. As beautiful as this world can be on a daily basis, there are no guarantees for that beauty extending to four-legged melees and illnesses.
While other parts of the world have been watching Planet Earth II for weeks now, everyone here in the United States will be waiting a little while longer. The docu-series isn't set to premiere on BBC America until Saturday, January 28, 2017. To see what you'll be able to watch on the small screen before and after that date, check out our midseason premiere schedule.