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How Australia stars in Attenborough hit

AAP logoAAP 12/01/2017 By Danielle McGrane

It's the nature documentary that's got the whole world talking.

Planet Earth II is the follow-up to Sir David Attenborough's Planet Earth, which broadcast 10 years ago, and this new version features several Australian locations.

The series returned the BBC in the UK before Christmas, drawing millions of viewers who were transfixed by the access to some of the world's least-televised creatures, in some of the most remote locations.

With Attenborough's familiar voice taking viewers on this journey, accompanied by a score from Oscar-winning cinematic composer Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean) viewers of all ages were transfixed.

It attracted an average audience of more than 12 million a week compared with the popular X Factor, which was watched by about seven million people a week, according to the BBC.

The unlikely hit took four years to make and has got Australia to thank for many of its most intriguing scenes.

In the first episode, which focuses on island habitats, the red crabs of Australia's Christmas Island comes under scrutiny as they're threatened by yellow crazy ants, a species introduced to the island by visiting ships and which attack the crabs by squirting acid into their eyes and mouths.

"Islands are super fragile because if they're exposed to these invasive species they can run riot and that's what happened in that story with the Christmas Island crabs, so that was why we wanted to tell that story," Planet Earth II executive producer Mike Gunton told AAP.

Even if viewers were familiar with the red crabs, Gunton said this is a fresh take on their story.

The Planet Earth II team also went to Townsville, Queensland, during an episode focused on cities and were fascinated by bowerbirds living on a golf course who have adapted to their man-made environment.

"The bowerbirds nest on this golf course and they use human rubbish to ornament their nests because they like colours, particularly reds and blues and greens, so they take plastic and things like that which they can find, and they squabble over it and steal each other's bottle tops," Gunton said.

"One of them finds a tiny cushioned red heart and it's sweet because in the final denouement of that sequence, one of the other bower birds steals the heart from the other one so there's this rather nice little play on words."

* Planet Earth II will be aired on the Nine Network in February.

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