Bloody Suckers

Filmmaker Mark Ferns goes in search of the scary and fascinating creatures that feed on blood.

Produced by NHNZ

Blood — the substance runs through the veins as the image runs through fiction, religion and popular mythology.

For many people blood is a source of fear and fascination; for many animals blood is a source of iron and protein. These animal vampires can be found in every corner of the world, from the tropics to the Arctic Circle. There are insect blood suckers, mammals, birds and even fish. They are as exotic and mythologised as the vampire bat, or as common as the buzzing mosquito. Some have highly specific hosts, others will attack anything they can get their fangs into.

Bloody Suckers is a fascinating and quirky journey into the world of these blood feeders. They may share a common diet, but each animal has a unique and intriguing way of accessing their food of choice.

Veering away from the austerity of traditional documentaries, Bloody Suckers is as fun as it is informative. In the spirit of the program, presenter Mark Ferns not only tells the audience how each animal attacks their prey, but allows them to demonstrate — on Mark himself. The audience gets to see how each creature feeds and Mark explains exactly what it feels like: from the strange mechanical pulsating of the leech to the sharp bite of the vampire bat.

While Bloody Suckers is an entertaining film, it also breaks new ground. Debate has long raged over whether vampire bats do bite humans, and Mark provides proof that they do with his on-camera demonstration.

Another Bloody Suckers breakthrough was the confirmation of the ‘legend’ of the candiru fish. For hundreds of years the candiru fish was the subject of travellers tales. Stories abound that these tiny South American fish lodged themselves into a human urethra by swimming up a urine stream. Fortunately for science, perhaps not so lucky for swimmers, this is confirmed by scientists and documented, for the first time, in Bloody Suckers.

As the programme shows, blood suckers come in many different forms from the cinclodes bird that risk its life for a taste of blood from giant elephant seals to a particular Spanish butterfly with an appetite for the red stuff.

As entertaining as it is informative, Bloody Suckers is a programme about those macabre animals that can really get under your skin.

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