March 10, 2013: Going Undercover for Elephant Ivory, Held Hostage by Hippos, and More

In the new film “Battle for the Elephants,” producers J.J. Kelley and John Heminway track the ivory trade from elephant poachers in Tanzania to China’s middle class homes. (Photo by John Heminway for National Geographic Television)

Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend.

Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend, or pick your favorite segments and listen now below!

Episode: 1310 – Air Date: March 10, 2013


Elephant numbers dwindle across Africa as the demand for their ivory continues to be pushed by an apparently insatiable thirst from China. National Geographic Television film producers J.J. Kelley and John Heminway follow the ivory trade in their new film, Battle for the Elephants. In it Kelley goes undercover in Tanzania to meet the ivory poachers, while Heminway studies the final products, prominently displayed in the homes of an increasingly affluent Chinese middle class. Listen here.

Julie and Colin Angus, one-time National Geographic Adventurers of the Year for their self-propelled circumnavigation of the globe, found an appropriate follow-up to their extreme journey. Taking inspiration from a bike ride between Scotland and the Middle East to explore their family roots, Julie tells Boyd that they decided to follow the history of the olive tree, as Phoenician traders spread it around the Mediterranean Sea. She said that while their “Olive Odyssey” wasn’t as rugged as their past adventures, it had its own challenges, as they had their 10-month son along for the ride. Listen here.

Extracting non-renewable resources from the ground can scar a country’s landscape irreparably; but when done properly, it can jump-start a nation’s economy and pave the way for permanent development. Environmental scientist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Saleem Ali consults governments on the best ways to develop their natural wealth. He tells Boyd that greed has the potential to blind elected officials, but a bigger threat in developing nations is armed insurgencies that seek to destabilize the countries in order to profit from the extractive wealth. Listen here.

Remotely operated “drone” aircraft have helped the American government observe and attack terrorists abroad for years. But the aircraft have now caught the eyes of police departments, farmers, and a broad array of groups inside the United States, raising many ethical questions of jurisdiction and illegal spying. John Horgan wrote “The Drones Come Home,” in the March, 2013 issue of National Geographic. Horgan explains that the upside is likely too great to ignore for many industries across the country. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd that squid can fly. The cephalopods have been observed shooting water, like a fire hose, from their bodies, which can propel them nearly 100 feet through the air and help them elude predators. Listen here.


Hippos are known as the most dangerous animals in Africa. They’re humongous, they’re ill tempered, and they’re unafraid. Needless to say, when two British adventurers nearly paddled over one on their 600-mile River Gambia Expedition, they were alarmed. The trip took Jason and Helen Florio across three countries as they documented the lives of the people they encountered along the river, anxious over a proposed dam that would potentially change the river in significant ways. Listen here.

Panama’s strawberry poison dart frogs, despite their name, come in up to 15 different colorations that vary geographically across the Bocas Del Toro Archipelago. National Geographic grantee and herpetologist Dr. Molly Cummings studies the frogs and has attributed their variation to a few different hypotheses: predatory selection; mate selection; and frog-against-frog competition. Dr. Cummings also confirmed to Boyd that she has not yet kissed one of the poison frogs. Listen here.

As the weather begins to warm and winter recedes into memory, bears and humans return to the Appalachian trails from their winter hibernation. The black bears who make eastern Tennessee their home generally prefer to avoid people whenever possible, but people often carry food, which can attract hungry bears. Joel Zachry, bear biologist and author who works with the Appalachian Bear Rescue, has some tips to avoid conflict with the bears we meet along the hiking trails. Listen here.

In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd gives a sneak preview of his current trip to South Africa. He’s meeting with Louis Liebenberg, an expert animal tracker and persistence hunter, to learn the secrets of the tribes who once plied the trade across Southern Africa. Listen here.

Human Journey


Meet the Author
Justin O'Neill produces the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend with host Boyd Matson. Check it out on on SiriusXM satellite radio (XM channel 133 Sundays at noon), subscribe to the iTunes podcast, or stream it directly to your smartphone with Stitcher Radio.