The family is one of the most powerful forces in nature.
Family life is full of wonder...
For the past four years, we've been following
some of the most celebrated
and endangered species on Earth.
We followed their fortunes
from here on the plains of Zimbabwe,
to the jungles of India...
from the edge of the Sahara...
to the frozen wastes of Antarctica.
We join each family at a crucial moment in their lives
when they are battling against the odds,
fighting for survival,
against the elements...
and against rivals.
We've got closer, and filmed in greater length,
and in more detail,
than we've ever tried to do before.
In our modern world, ensuring the survival of the next generation
is becoming ever more difficult.
For these families, to win against the odds
will be their greatest challenge.
This is Dynasties.
Senegal, West Africa.
Home to a remarkable troupe of chimpanzees.
It gets so hot and dry here.
It's the very limit of where they can survive.
This territory is ruled by one strong and determined leader,
an alpha male known as David.
His rule gets him the best of everything,
but he can trust no-one.
He's surrounded by rivals prepared to kill him for his crown.
This is a story of power,
and the fight for survival.
David's torn ears are testament
to the many battles he's fought and won
to protect his status and his family.
He has ruled over his troupe for three years.
Leaders here don't usually hold power for much longer than this.
And now, as the dry season begins,
David's rivals are gathering again.
Successful alpha males
normally have many allies to support them.
But David is alone.
He has never been more vulnerable.
In the dry season, these huge mounds of earth are magnets
for all 32 chimps in the group.
The mounds are full of food,
rich in fat and protein...
These chimps have learned to use grass stems
as tools to fish out the insects.
As leader, David gets his pick of the feeding spots.
But he is wary,
as he must feed alongside old enemies.
He has two particularly ambitious rivals.
David's toes begin to twitch,
a nervous tic he can't conceal.
This is Jumkin, who has long-sought the top spot.
And this, Luthor...
a tempestuous younger male
with an aggressive streak.
The troupe is together for the first time in months
and jostling for good feeding spots can easily lead to clashes.
It's vital that David keeps order,
and defuses the situation.
All eyes are on him.
His display shows he is in control.
But in chimp society,
strength alone is not enough.
David must be political to hold on to power.
He needs to make an ally.
This is KL.
He's strong but grey-bearded
and past the age where he would challenge for the role of alpha.
David makes an approach.
Grooming builds bonds of friendship...
buying support and giving benefits in return.
Only time will tell if this new alliance will pay off.
It's already 40 degrees.
The arid land might seem
one giant sandpit for the infants,
but for the adults,
existing tensions are starting to surface.
And David has his eye on Jumkin.
Jumkin attacks an elderly female.
It's a display of his aspirations for power.
David can't tolerate this...
but KL steps in...
..And gives Jumkin a sharp lesson.
It's swiftly followed by one from David himself.
With a final, huge lunge at his rival...
...Jumkin comes crashing down.
Together, David and KL are now
a force to be reckoned with.
Fires destroy three quarters of the group's territory.
Much of their food and shelter has gone.
And with temperatures continuing to rise,
water is becoming perilously scarce.
The group must stick together to survive.
Gathering in a dried out riverbed,
they use knowledge passed down from generation to generation.
A hidden water source under the parched earth.
For David, there is more than just drought to worry about.
He can't avoid his rivals.
KL is proving to be a loyal ally to David.
And David is going to need him more than ever.
By rare coincidence, three of the seven females
have become sexually receptive at the same time.
Their swellings attract the attention of all the males.
The females will try to mate with as many males as possible.
David must control them all
to ensure he is the one who mates.
But some of the troupe, like Luthor, have other ideas.
All the other males see this could be their chance.
There's never been a more important moment for David
to assert his power.
He makes the first move.
His rivals respond with their own display of strength
and start to close ranks.
David and KL seemed to be outnumbered.
Everything turns to chaos.
At some point during the night,
the younger males turned on David.
The females and their infants come to his side
to support him and tend his wounds.
They can't stay here.
They and their young need water.
The whole group move on to the nearest water hole.
Even KL has to leave David behind.
It's a six mile trek to the next source of water.
David is left for dead.
There is now a power vacuum at the top
and Luthor sees an opportunity.
Creating fear within the group is one way to become leader.
He tries to intimidate the group,
but a bid for leadership is never instant.
He'll have to keep this up for many days.
Friendless and wounded,
David somehow musters the energy to search for food.
He has to rejoined the group before he's exiled for good.
But first, he must regain strength.
Time is running out.
Remarkably, one week after the attack,
David makes the long journey to find the group.
has ramped up his bid for leadership.
David has almost made it...
..But he's in no fit state to fight.
Luthor spots David's approach...
..and readies himself for battle.
David's only chance against Luthor
is to make himself look as strong as possible.
Intimidated, Luthor has to run.
Without a blow being struck,
David is back!
David is finally reunited with his comrade, KL.
Grooming each other reaffirms their bonds of friendship.
For David, returning is only half the battle.
Exhausted and fragile,
he's only hanging on to his leadership by a thread.
Luthor appears defeated.
With a submissive gesture,
he seeks forgiveness from David.
But David is unwilling to accept.
Over the following weeks, Luthor finds himself sidelined.
The other males now gather around David.
And Luthor has no choice but to step in line.
David has his group around him once more,
but he doesn't show them how weakened he really is.
His injuries haven't healed
and the males could turn on him again at any moment.
For now, he seems to be fooling them all.
He's buying himself time to regain his strength
before another female comes into season
when he will face competition once again.
At last, rain-filled clouds
bring an end to the drought.
David's territory is transformed.
There is water everywhere
and a glut of food.
The pressure on the group is lifted.
Everyone can relax a little
after months of hardship.
David's strength appears to be returning.
His displays in front of the group become ever more assertive.
But in truth,
he remains weaker than he lets on to the others.
Whenever possible, he disappears to gather extra food.
He gorges on everything he can find...
He's almost back to full health.
But that alone might still not be enough for him
to hold on to power.
Soon, another female will be ready to mate.
Last time, one ally was not enough for David.
He tries a new strategy.
He starts grooming other males.
Slowly, over weeks, he surrounds himself
with a band of allies.
An army of elders...
but too old to steal his crown.
Now, he must wait and see if he's done enough
to prevent a recurrence of dissent in the ranks.
Sure enough, a female has come into season.
Her swelling doesn't go unnoticed.
Last time, David was vulnerable.
This time, he has allies...
Prepared to charge ahead and clear his path.
Displaying his strength
reminds rivals to stay away.
If David has fully secured his position as Alpha,
he will be the one who mates with the female.
She catches his eye.
With a number of allies positioned throughout the group,
none of his rivals dare to challenge him.
This is David's time to mate.
Nine months later...
A new baby boy!
David's reward for maintaining power.
His rule and the future of his dynasty is secure.
By being Alpha, David will have sired
twice as many offspring as any other member of the group.
And one day, one of his sons might just have what it takes
to be a future leader.
David has become the most powerful, longest reigning alpha,
this group has ever seen.
But there will always be another dry season,
and there will always be rivals
waiting for their chance.
The Dynasties crew spent two years capturing the story
of these chimpanzees.
This is how every day begins.
Walking over 1,500 miles...
You know it's steep
when the chimps are being careful.
Carrying around 80 kilos each day
in some of the hottest temperatures on Earth.
It's got to be 46, 47 degrees right now.
I think it's fair to say filming a blazing fire,
when it's 40 degrees wasn't probably my best idea.
it's the second time we've had to run away
from bees this morning.
I got stung, and as you might be able to tell,
it's swollen up a little bit.
Oh, my God.
How stuck is it?
It's pretty stuck.
But the hardest challenge of all is understanding
the complexities of the lives of these chimps.
This is only possible thanks to scientist Jill Pruetz
and her team,
who have been studying this troupe for nearly 20 years.
One of the reasons I think I like to
have people see the chimps is,
it is almost like a soap opera.
It really is this social group
that is not that different from humans.
So you have relationships change
and you have different personalities.
Jill's insights helped the team
get to know all the different characters
she has given names to over the years.
But right from the start, one chimp named David,
grabs everyone's attention.
We've only been here a few days
but immediately David stood out.
He's really recognisable.
He's a bit of a game player, but also he's often on his own.
He's very, very charismatic.
He's got a real kind of swagger to him.
He reminds me of Marlon Brando,
actually, he's got this real kind of presence to him.
David is one of my favourite chimps.
I maybe a little biased, I think he's quite clever.
I think of him as a very strong, you know, strong willed chimp,
a very dominant chimp and he was very ambitious
when he first became a young adult,
and he rose up the hierarchy really quickly for his age.
So he became alpha, actually, when he was a teenager.
He's constantly having to fend off challenges
from other younger males.
And it just goes to show it's tough being alpha.
It's tough being at the top.
After following David for so many months,
he seems almost like family to the crew.
So when he's violently attacked it's a real shock.
Coming out this morning, it's sort of heartbreaking to see
this chimp that
was so powerful...
Just looking so weak.
Oh, he doesn't look good, he's covered in flies.
And he's looking, looking really bad, actually.
It's like a frail old man, suddenly.
Like he's ready to die, almost.
The following day their concerns deepen.
We arrived at 5am
and we've not been able to find any of the chimps.
So we've no idea what condition David's in,
and he's in a bad way already.
We wish him luck.
I'm sort of worried about him, and his state.
I just really hope he's OK.
So we're still looking.
They check the remote camera at the water hole,
where they hope David might have gone to drink.
I've just gone from the beginning...
And it looks like David hasn't been
to drink here.
Michelle has just found some tracks.
How he finds these things I don't know, but there's a chance
we might catch up with him. Good find, let's go.
Luckily, the tracks do indeed lead to David.
We've been really worried with the extent of his injuries,
we didn't know if he was alive, or if he was ever coming back.
He came right back in and maintained that alpha status.
David has been alpha for almost double
what we've seen with other alphas.
He's been challenged a few times, but he's been able to hold on.
We saw him, not only nearly lose his position in the hierarchy,
but we saw him nearly lose his life.
The injuries he sustained in the last coup,
would have been enough to kill me.
David has been able to overcome the many challenges
that have come from within,
but there's a greater threat that he and his group face.
In Senegal right now, I'd say the main threat to chimpanzees
is the gold rush, which just obliterates huge areas.
Less than a decade ago, the prices of gold rose,
and people have intensified gold mining,
so that really has increased
the number of people here.
Chimps here have lived alongside people for thousands of years.
David's group has so far adapted to life alongside humans
in a remarkable way.
But, with such demand for these minerals,
and ever more people searching for gold in this region,
habitat destruction and poaching is inevitable.
You know, there's not that many chimpanzees left.
The West African chimp here in Senegal,
and in West Africa in general,
has been upgraded to critically endangered
because so many have been lost.
In Senegal, the number of chimpanzees
is now just in the hundreds.
In the last 25 years,
80% of Western chimpanzees
And in the future, studies like Jill's
will become increasingly important
to help conservationists and local governments
protect the surviving chimpanzees,
not only in Senegal, but across the whole of Africa.
A dynasty of thousands.
A great march into the frozen wastes of Antarctica,
to face the coldest
and cruellest winter on earth.
The family is one of the most powerful forces in nature.