For Brazilian animals, monsoon season is a lot like Christmas, as we discovered in the first episode of the three-part nature documentary Wild Brazil (BBC2) last night. It’s a time of feasting, family arguments, and pretty little lights, which come from the luminescent beetle grubs that burrow up to the surface of termite mounds when the rains come, so they can entrap returning termites for food.
That’s the only generalisation to be made about the content of this programme, because Brazil is so vast its landscape varies so widely – from wetlands to desert and from mountains to plains – and it’s home to more animals than any other nation on Earth.
Wild Brazil was particularly good at conveying a sense of this vastness: the sections were linked together by aeriel shots which give the sensation of flying overhead from habitat to habitat. They were achieved with a nifty bit of kit on a remote-control helicopter, which we learned in the making-of addendum: seemingly a de rigueur part of nature documentaries these days.
It’s the animals, not the gadgets that really fascinate, however. There was the mischievous caracara birds, the sleek jaguars and the languorous, alligator-like cayman, whose low-maintenance approach to hunting involved lining up across the river with their mouths open and waiting for the fish to be swept straight into their stomachs.
This episode focused on three different species in particular: giant otters, the not-as-cute-as-they-look capuchin monkeys and coatis, a mammal I’d never heard of before, but which look like a cross between a fox and a raccoon. Coatis live in the grasslands of the southern Pantanal for most of the year, but are forced to retreat to the trees when the rains come and flood their habitat. I’m sure some unfortunate residents of the Thames Valley can empathise after last week.