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December 7, 2014: Return “Kidnapped” Animals to the Wild, Save the World’s Big Cats and More

This week on National Geographic Weekend, join host Boyd Matson and his guests as they climb El Capitan with young children, stop the kidnapping of Brazil’s wildlife, save lions by saving livestock, lift a 35-ton stone with prehistoric technology, work to save the last 3,000 wild tigers, visit some of the last nomadic tribes, bottle feed a...

An estimated 38 million birds and small animals are pulled from Brazil’s forests each year. Nat Geo Emerging Explorer Juliana Machado Ferreira is working to get as many of those back into the wild as possible. (photo by Frank & Helen Schreider/National Geographic)

This week on National Geographic Weekend, join host Boyd Matson and his guests as they climb El Capitan with young children, stop the kidnapping of Brazil’s wildlife, save lions by saving livestock, lift a 35-ton stone with prehistoric technology, work to save the last 3,000 wild tigers, visit some of the last nomadic tribes, bottle feed a baby cheetah, and clean up hazardous waste.

***** Please note that National Geographic Weekend has curated playlists for your listening on SoundCloud. We have all of National Geographic’s Explorers in one list; grantees in another. And music interviews in a third. ***** 

You can see all of our playlists here

Here’s this week’s show.


Andy Kirkpatrick is an adventurer, but he also has a daughter who he cares very much about. So, he chooses his adventures wisely. He explains that pursuing Everest’s summit and the South Pole are too expensive and unpredictable, but he is interested in pushing the boundaries of what he considers possible. He skied across Greenland with a paraplegic partner, as well as climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park with his 13-year old daughter and a blind climber. He responds to critics of his daughter climbing El Capitan with him by saying: “I’d be crazy not to climb El Capitan with my daughter,” because of the confidence boost and focus it gives her in her everyday life. He did say that she cried while on the wall — because she dropped her iPod.

– Every year at least 38 million animals are pulled from Brazil’s forests and sold into the wildlife trade. The macaws, songbirds, reptiles and small mammals are bought by people who, often, are well intentioned and think of themselves as “nature lovers”. But National Geographic Emerging Explorer Juliana Machado Ferreira explains that their enthusiasm is simply robbing the environment of its value. She describes her fight to end the illegal wildlife trade in Brazil and explains the considerations that must be taken before returning a “kidnapped” animal back into the wild.

– It has often been repeated that “Good fences make good neighbors.” And this isn’t more true anywhere than in Tanzania and neighboring countries. Lion conservationist Laly Lichtenfeld recently completed a ten-year study that found a 90% reduction in predation where locals keep their livestock at night. The living walls, called bomas, combine chain link fences with living foliage that conspire to keep top predators away from livestock, reducing conflict with local people who want to protect their farm animals.

– Five thousand years ago, stones weighing between two and thirty five tons were carved from quarries near Wales and transported 170 miles before they were settled into place to withstand the test of time. The monoliths, now known as Stonehenge, weren’t carried by aliens, nor were they made by Druids. Nat Geo Explorer and archaeologist Michael Parker Pearson is working to understand the stone structures and the motivations of those who erected them. He also says that it’s possible the stones were simply carried with the help of many hands.

– In our This Weekend in History segment, Nat Geo Library research manager Maggie Turqman helps us celebrate the 1776 founding of the United States’ first Greek fraternity, 1884’s completion of the Washington Monument, 1941’s Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, and 1945’s loss of five Navy airplanes in the Bermuda Triangle and 1877’s first print of the Washington Post.


Dr. Alan Rabinowitz was given the gift of stutter-free speech by big cats when he was a child; now, he wants to help them survive in the wild. The CEO of Panthera discusses the chance of ongoing survival for the world’s big cats and he says that, of all of the world’s top feline predators, tigers face the direst future. With just 3,000 of the wild cats remaining in fragmented parks, surrounded by some of the world’s most peopled areas tigers are still hunted by poachers. Rabinowitz explains that as long as a dead tiger is worth more than the cost of the bullets it takes to shoot them, the cats will be poached. A safe future for tigers lies in ramping up law enforcement to deter and prosecute poachers.

– There are very few truly nomadic tribes left in the world. National Geographic Explorer in Residence Johan Reinhard lived with one such tribe 45 years ago when, as he explains, “I was lost and they found me.” Reinhard explains that, as a species, humans have been nomadic for 99.9% of our existence, but today, because so many people have settled it’s becoming increasingly difficult for those few nomad holdouts to remain that way. He went back to revisit the tribe 45 years after he first lived with them and noted that while the people have been forced into settlements, the landscape is thriving and is wilder than it was before.

– The world’s fastest land animal has one major disadvantage on Africa’s grasslands: it is much smaller than most of the other animals that surround it. Lions, leopards, hyenas, and small but persistent wild dogs can all chase cheetahs from their hard-earned meals. But Rebecca Klein, who runs Cheetah Conservation Botswana, can’t negotiate a peace between the cats and their natural predators; but she does seek to ease their burden with humans. Klein also says that while the cheetahs are fairly easily adjust to humans living nearby, they shouldn’t be kept as pets.

– Superfunds are waste sites that often include chemical and industrial pollutants, often dangerous to those living adjacent to them. And, as Paul Voosen tells it in the December 2014 National Geographic magazine, as many as sixteen percent of Americans live within just a few miles of one of the dumps tagged by the EPA as a priority for cleanup. While many of the biggest disaster sites have since been cleaned up, such as New York state’s Love Canal, others still require active attention from the fund that was created to clean the areas in 1980. Voosen says that the waste areas tend to be in areas heavy in industry and manufacturing in the early and middle 20th Century, but they might be where you least expect to find them. Here is a graphic showing all of the country’s 1,700 hazardous waste sties.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares a story of the kitty video to end all internet cat videos: lions in Botswana’s Okavango Delta have adapted to their water-filled environment and taken to the river so their prey can’t escape.

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Meet the Author

Justin O'Neill
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.