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10 of the greatest triumph over tragedy moments from animal documentaries


There’s an odd magic to nature documentaries. It’s the kind of TV that gives you an hour a week where you can sit down and watch the same show as your weird flatmate, and forget they’re weird for a bit.

It’s the kind of TV where you don’t think of anything else while it’s on. And you LEARN. It’s basically educational hypnosis, and something we should all watch more of.

Only, nowhere does it quite like the BBC. This year’s Planet Earth II has been mind-bogglingly brilliant. The trailer alone was enough to slacken your jaw more than the year’s best Oscar contenders.

Ultra-high-definition shots, never-before-seen animal behaviour and the unmistakable cadence of David Attenborough - we couldn’t, and shouldn’t, ask for more.

But the real great moments come when the animals fight for their lives. Sadistic, we know. But also not really. We invest in their survival, holding our breath as they’re chased, clenching in hope and letting out audible groans/no’s when their efforts aren’t enough. We’re so invested that when they manage to escape, we’re bloody jubilant.

We hear you asking for more. So here are some of the best animal escapes caught on film (prepare for a few of Attenborough’s work, because it is superior):  

Iguana vs snake

THAT scene from the Islands episode of Planet Earth II. It’s widely agreed that it’s some of the best documentary footage in history. It wasn’t easy to capture, but it makes for an utterly thrilling 2:16 of viewing. A new born marine iguana hatches, and it’s first foray in life is bolting past way too many snakes that are trying to eat it. Just when you think it’s all over, it’s most definitely not.  

Polar bear vs seal

A sneaky polar bear cuts through the freezing ocean like a deadly assassin, priming itself to launch an attack. Its target? An unsuspecting seal minding it’s own business. You’ll jump almost as much as the seal.

Buffalo vs lion pack

A buffalo is already down, surrounded by five lions, literally in the process of being eaten. No hope, you think. Until one of the lionesses goes rogue and sparks a full-on brawl. It’s touch and go for the buffalo, does he touch or go?

Giraffe vs lion

This is just so epic. It’s like the Mad Max of the animal world. An ambitious pack of lions decide to try and take down a giraffe as the dust swirls around them. It comes down to one final pounce from a lioness exhibiting Gianluigi Buffon level skills, will she score dinner for the fam?

Dog vs python

Ok, there’s a bit of human intervention here. But would you not whack a python if you walked in on it strangling your dog? That’s what happened in this clip shot in India in an effort to loosen the massive snake’s grip and save what looks like a very dead dog. 

Impala vs hyena vs cheetah

The classic David and Goliath story, except there are two Goliaths here. There doesn’t seem to be a way out, having been caught by a cheetah and left to the jaws of a hyena, but more fool on you for underestimating an impala.

Crocodile vs lion

Two predators, who will win? This is essentially everyone’s and everything’s fear; calmly walking into a body of water unaware that there’s a crocodile lurking. A crocodile which then chases you through the water. And she’s no Davey Atters, but the woman filming this panic-inducing clip is basically all of us.

Lion vs zebra

The lion in this is not faced with slim pickings. It’s faced with a wildly unloyal herd. When she pounces on one of their kinf, they all stand and watch like a rowdy UFC crowd, watching the struggle. Fickle.  

Penguin vs seal

From the first season of Planet Earth, this absolute carnage on a beach is packed with danger and gruesome seal behaviour. You can’t help but root for the emperor penguin on his way back from a long day at work just trying to get home to feed the kids. 

Fox vs ibex

Never been impressed by a weird looking goat before? Now is the time. These baby ibex navigate a deadly situation better than you could ever hope to navigate your own kitchen.



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