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BBC's Planet Earth II premiers on DSTV

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PICTURE a pack of hyenas careering down Noord Street in Joburg's CBD amid the bustling market of people selling freshly slaughtered meat, stale vegetables and pirated DVDs.

Well, in the Ethiopian city of Harar, this is a regular and natural occurrence - sans the DVDs - where people and one of the world’s most dangerous land predators have harmoniously coexisted for more than 400 years.

Hyenas roaming the streets of Harar in Ethiopa.

This astonishing coexistence is beautifully encapsulated in the BBC’s forthcoming six-part documentary - Planet Earth II.

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INTELLIGENT SCAVENGERS: A pair of spotted hyenas search for scraps of food on the streets of Harar in Ethiopia. Picture: Paul Thompson

Planet Earth II was the most watched natural history documentary in at last 15 years in the UK, outperforming the singing competition X-Factor UK.

Planet Earth II is the sequel to Planet Earth I, which aired 10 years ago. The sequel travels through deserts, mountains, jungles, islands, grasslands and cities to document how a myriad animals survive in some of Earth’s most iconic habitats.

Dr Fredi Devas, who produced and directed the cities episode, was fascinated with Harar’s hyenas because he had always known the animals to be ferocious predators, especially after encountering them on a safari in Uganda.

He just had to relate this story to the world, he added.

“On my first night in Harar I was walking down a narrow, dark cobbled street - it was 3am and I was on my own - and eight hyenas turned into the street and started walking towards me.

"I thought that there was nothing to be done then, as I couldn’t run away. But they walked straight past me and two of them brushed my leg, and I couldn’t believe it.

“But a few nights later, I was surrounded by more than 100 hyenas fighting in a clan war and I didn’t have any fear, because I could see there really was a peaceful pact between people and hyenas in the city.”

In the Ethiopian city of Harar, Hyenas and humans have harmoniously coexisted for more than 400 years.

Joel Churcher, Vice President and General Manager of BBC Africa, said that “Planet Earth II was a sizeable investment, but one where the BBC feels it is well invested. We have our own natural history unit in Bristol (England), which is responsible for making this type of programming."

"We don’t make it just for the UK audience - we obviously make it so it can be disseminated across the world,” Churcher explained.

This series is narrated by the soothing, legendary voice of Sir David Attenborough, and at the age of 90, Devas admits that it will be difficult to replace Attenborough should he not be alive if another sequel of Planet Earth is made.

“The thing about David Attenborough is that he knows a huge amount. His general knowledge of natural history is almost unsurpassed.

"For years we have been thinking who the next David Attenborough is - and no one has come close,” Devas said.

Planet Earth II premieres on Sunday, February 5, on BBC Earth, DStv channel 184.

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