National Geographic : 1994 Dec
On Television Tough Little Guys for a Big Bad Land Dakota settlers called this place of fluted peaks and plunging canyons the Badlands-a hundred-mile-long corrugation in the rolling grasslands of the Great Plains (above). This arid world of extreme temperatures provides ref- uge for such animals as the coyote and the swift fox. They and more than a hundred other vertebrate species survive here thanks largely to prairie dogs (top right). The role of prairie dogs and their double life-one above ground, one below-are portrayed in EXPLOR- ER's "Life in the Badlands." Prairie dogs are rodents that live by the thousands in sprawling "towns" that attract other animals. Burrowing owls and rattlesnakes use their tunnels, while coyotes and golden eagles prey on the plump squirrel-size creatures. Using a specially built under- ground set, producer Mike Birk- head captures their hidden lives. As the film shows, females practice infanticide to ensure the survival of their own young. Prairie dogs have been widely eradicated by ranchers. Yet if the CARR CLIFTON , ALLSTOCK dog towns disappear, so too may the many other animals that depend on them for shelter, food, and even the occasional dust bath- as one bison proved by rolling over a mound occupied by a huddled cameraman. EXPLORER's "Life in the Badlands" airs Sunday, December 18, at 9 p.m . ET on TBS Superstation. Tracking Distant Seagoers to Earth's End With trumpeting calls and a showy dance, a wandering albatross seeks a mate on the remote Crozet Islands (below). The wind-pummeled Crozets- halfway between Africa and Antarc- tica - are breeding grounds and Image Not Available BARBARA GERLACH , DRK PHOTO nurseries for seagoers such as alba- trosses, seals, and penguins. Where the visitors go when they leave the islands has long intrigued observers. Now "Mystery of the Ocean Wan- derers " assembles clues. French scientist Henri Weimers- kirch clipped a satellite transmitter onto a wandering albatross and dis- covered that it rode the winds for 12 days and 5,000 miles on a round-trip to Antarctic waters to feed. Other pelagic migrants such as king penguins and elephant seals may also have precise destinations and a fail-safe internal compass to bring them home again. EXPLORER's "Mystery ofthe Ocean Wanderers" airs Sunday, December 25, at 9 p.m. ET on TBS Superstation. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER AIRS ON TBS SUPERSTATlON , SUNDAYS AT 9 P . M . ET . NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SPECIALS AIR ON PBS ; CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS . FOR INFORMATION ON NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VIDEOS, CALL 1-800 -343-6610, MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY, 8 A . M . TO 5 P . M . ET , IN THE U . S . AND CANADA ONLY .