Our Planet II – Episode 4 “Freedom to Roam” Recap & Review

Freedom to Roam

Episode 4 of Our Planet II starts with us back with the elephants. After an epic 400km journey, our wild elephant sleep, exhausted by their journey north. After relaxing, the family of elephants reach the city of Kunming. Scared and disorientated, the family have no choice but to head back home again.

The same way they came, these elephants are  helped along by the locals, guiding them back home. After almost two years, the weary elephant make it back to the southern forest where the drought has now eased and allowed them to return where they came from. However, it is evidence that animals feel a need to move away when things get tough and migrate, having seemingly been built into the DNA for some of these animals.

January sees summer at the southern-end of the planet. With 24 hour daylight in places in Antarctica, some of the ice starts to melt, making it possible for Gentoo penguins to swim in to land to return to their chicks, bellies full and ready to feed their young. Gentoos need rocks free of ice to hatch their young and having hatched 8 weeks ago, they’re right on target to fledge before the winter months return. However, they don’t make it easy for the chicks, amusingly running away from them to make the chicks work for their meals.

Three meter leopard seals are on the hunt here though, so when the penguins are ready to return to the sea, Gentoo chicks are the perfect meal for them. Although they are the fastest penguins and if they can avoid being ambushed, they have a chance to survive and outrun the leopard seals.

Come February, the northern end of the planet points away from the sun, so in the Arctic midwinter the only light comes from the Northern Lights. It’s also when countless animals make their journey to the north, including snow geese that begin their migration. Led by the experienced adults, they make their journey but the world is very different, with industrial farmland along the way, they can feed on the endless supply of food, that also allows the geese to double in numbers. Unfortunately, not everything is as rosy as one would seem. Hunters use this time to shoot them down, which can actually reach up to 250,000 a year.

When free from the hunters though, as the goose make it to a stretch of seemingly paradisiac waters, frozen over with ice, it’s also the perfect location for bald eagles to attack. They do so by causing panic in the goose ranks, allowing for some to be crushed and bones to be broken in the chaos, and those are the ones attacked by predators and taken out.

Back in the Arctic, the suns rays starts to strengthen but in late February, most animals migrate, including the Pronghorn antelope. Their journey moves from southern Wyoming across to the lush valleys of the Rocky Mountains, where they’ll give birth. But to get there, their path has changed drastically over the years. Now, they have to get past manmade gas plants and with humans in the area, that’s easier said than done.

In fact, in total these guys travel 200km a year to make this journey. Unfortunately, it’s a journey made all the more difficult given fences are designed to keep livestock in. These pronghorn have to find a way to get through. But if that wasn’t enough, there’s also highways that they need to cross.

These changes have dropped pronghorn numbers by 90% but with specially designed bridges to avoid traffic, there’s at least been less road accidents with pronghorn in recent years so those numbers could increase again in the future.  Seasonal changes also brings big challenges, more of the natural kind like crossing fast-flowing rivers. Several weeks later however, they do make it to the fertile ground of the Rockys.

Speaking of long distance travelers, grey whales are forced to travel 8000km north, the longest migration made by any mammal, to find food. They travel south initially to give birth and allow their cub to grow in a nursery. A shallow sandbar is the perfect place to practice swimming skills, with calfs swimming against the tide to get their stamina up. However, one in three grey whale carves never make it to their destination.

Four weeks later, the grey whales are on the move but they don’t shy away from human interaction. The Californian coastline sees over 2000 ships use it a year. Unfortunately, it also sees numerous whales struck in the process from the busy lanes. Should the whales get past that, the most dangerous part of the migration comes at Monterey Bay. They have to cross deep water in the Bay, which brings its own dangers. Orca whales. Unfortunately, this also sees many grey whale carves killed.

Even at the equator, where the tilt of the Earth has little seasonal impact, some animals are constantly on the move. Army ants run the equivalent of a marathon to collect food and they specialize in collecting the larvae of other insects. Believe it or not, their nest is actually made up of living ants!

These animals have a big appetite and in the dead of the night, they head off on the move, with over half a million ants in a colony making this trek. They do so under darkness for a reason – the queen herself is on the move and much bigger than the others, there’s also super-sized larvae for other royal members of the dynasty too. They travel every night until they reach fresh hunting grounds.

Despite the dangers, many animals migrate across our globe every year. These migrations are crucial for other species but given how we’ve changed our planet, cutting off ancestral routes and impacting the most remote corners of the globe, it’s a tough ask.

However, there is hope. Technology has helped us learn more about these journeys and with our help, many are overcoming the challenges of our modern planet. The freedom for these animal to move is more important than ever before and hopefully thrive for years to come.

The Episode Review

The final episode of Our Planet bows out on a high, with a look at various different migrations across the planet and coming full circle back to Spring whence we began this journey 3 episodes ago. On the whole, this has been a decent second season, with plenty of eye-opening visuals, great drama and plenty of food for thought.

Seeing the ingenuity of humanity, including how we’ve developed bridges and subways to help animals, is a nice touch, while the different species across the planet and their desire to migrate in search of bountiful riches, makes for a really enjoyable and endearing watch.

Whether there will be an Our Planet III is still up in the air but for now, the second season bows out on a high, with a nice, concise way to close everything out.

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You can read our full season review for Our Planet II here!


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1 thought on “Our Planet II – Episode 4 “Freedom to Roam” Recap & Review”

  1. So why are yall pushing narratives that are easily disproven when anyone does their bodies research on population and temperatures? Are you receiving government funding for promoting global warming?

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