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NATURE: Drakensberg: Barrier Of Spears

Airs Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Escarpment cliffs in the Drakensberg Mountains, Africa.

The Drakensberg Mountains are southern Africa’s Alps, rising more than 11,000 feet into the sky. But beneath their shimmering beauty lies an incredibly hostile environment for the surprising number of creatures that manage to live there.

Eland herd on the grasslands of southern Africa.
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Above: Eland herd on the grasslands of southern Africa.

Each spring, drenching rains destroy the grasslands at the base of the mountains, and those who would survive must climb straight up sheer cliffs of volcanic rock, through gauntlets of storms and snow, to reach the carpets of grass on the plateau. The baboons that make this astonishing annual journey may have the advantage of agility, but eland, the world’s largest antelope, have long, spindly legs and heavy bodies, which make the climb all but unbelievable. All have babies at their sides. And the vultures circle overhead.

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Nature: Drakensberg: Barrier of Spears

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