National Geographic Society Newsroom

February 22, 2015: Discovering AIDS’ Animal Roots & Discovering Morocco’s Ancient Markets

HOUR 1 – Mattias Klum, a National Geographic photographer who has ventured to some of the world’s most pristine areas is concerned by what he sees. But he tells Boyd that for every challenge, there is an equal amount of opportunity. And his new book, The Human Quest, explores the opportunities that the planet offers...

Although it’s considered a recent human problem, it’s likely that the first human to acquire the HIV virus did so over a century ago in Cameroon while butchering an infected chimpanzee. (photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic)


Mattias Klum, a National Geographic photographer who has ventured to some of the world’s most pristine areas is concerned by what he sees. But he tells Boyd that for every challenge, there is an equal amount of opportunity. And his new book, The Human Quest, explores the opportunities that the planet offers within the boundaries of her resources. Klum also tells of his love for Borneo and the incredible lengths he has gone to in the past in order to get the stunning images that he does.

Sarah Marquis has spent her life walking. From Canada to Mexico, from Siberia to the far side of Australia. She says that three miles per hour is the perfect speed and that humans were made to walk. But humans weren’t necessarily made to live alone in the Australia’s rugged Kimberly Region alone, surviving on grubs, found water, and her knowledge of local plants. Marquis, who has spent the last 23 years walking, usually alone, says that these four months will be the culmination of everything she has learned in her career as a professional adventurer.

– Italy isn’t the top vacation destination place to see wildlife and beautiful nature scenery, but Jeremy Berlin says that it’s a possibility that is often overlooked by tourists. In that country’s Gran Paradiso National Park, ibex and chamois goat-antelopes were protected from poachers by the park’s status as a royal hunting park, which turned into a national park after a few generations. The park even has had a few wolves in recent years. Berlin’s article about Italy’s rugged national park is in the Feburary 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine.

– Non-human animals use verbal cues to communicate, but it has been difficult for scientists to prove that they use specific vocalizations to refer to other things in their environment, often food or predators. University of Zurich researcher Dr. Simon Townsend says that chimpanzees are one of the animals that use these “referential calls”. The apes are so malleable in their verbal skills that after two chimps were moved from a zoo in the Netherlands to one in Edinburg, Scotland. Once in their new home, over time, the chimpanzees changed their vocalizations used to refer to “apples” to better integrate with their new troop-mates. Dr. Townsend says that despite his time studying chimpanzee calls, he isn’t inclined to try to speak their “language”.

– Just as the United States is embroiled in debate over whether or not to build the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadians can hardly agree on what to call the substance the pipeline would be moving. Photographer Louis Helbig‘s new book, Beautiful Destruction portrays the “bituminous sands” more commonly known as “tar” or “oil sands,” depending on one’s view of their relative value. The book includes aerial photos of the whole tar/oil-sand industry in Alberta and the book also includes essays from people on both sides of the Canadian bitumen debate.


– Zoonotic viruses are those that pass from animals to humans. They’ve plagued us for as long as we’ve existed and they cross over with more regularity than we may realize. Most zoonotic diseases stop in a relatively short amount of time, because humans aren’t an ideal host. SARS, West Nile, avian and swine flus are all familiar zoonotic diseases. But none of them have been as difficult for our medicine to manage as HIV. Most people think of the virus that causes AIDS as a relatively recent affliction, but, as David Quammen explains in his new book The Chimp and the River, HIV made the leap from chimps to humans in the southeastern corner of Cameroon over a century ago. Quammen’s book explains how the virus likely spilled-over and turned into the global scourge that it is today.

– Bird watching is a low-risk way to enjoy the outdoors, which is why the hobby is as popular as it is. David Anderson has enjoyed observing the birds around him since he was young. But the climber and tour guide operator also explains that understanding birds can help fully appreciate the risks that we take in other aspects of our lives. His example: while recnetly climbing in the Andes, he noticed a group of condors wheeling overhead. A non-birder may have dismissed the behavior as odd; Anderson understood that the birds were hoping for the climbers to slip and provide an easy meal for the scavengers. In addition to South America, Anderson regularly runs tours into remote parts of the Tibetan Plateau in China, which can be difficult to get to alone, and are ripe for adventure.

– Morocco isn’t just desert and mountains. The predominately Muslim nation is home to scenic Saharan dunes and the Atlas Mountains, but it is also boasts many centuries-old cities that are living museums. Sarah Casewit, a travel expert at Blue Parallel Luxury Tours, was raised in Morocco and says that Casablanca, among the best known Moroccan cities, isn’t her favorite city in the country. She recommends UNESCO World-Heritage site Fes, and “fun, exciting, exotic, smelly, loud, vibrant” Marrakesh as two highlights of the country’s historic markets and welcoming locals.

– With the consistent snow storms pummeling the northeastern United States and North Carolina, and a drought starving ski resorts in the west, the early winter months of 2015 have been abnormal. But Joel Gratz, founder of OpenSnow, says that weather is often abnormal. He said that it’s almost impossible to make a long-term weather prediction, but says that the bumper snowfall in New England should hold with cold weather to maintain the base that has already fallen, while the western states should get the snow they crave late in February and early into March.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd details a lapse of judgment that involves the Yugoslavian Army, cheap cross country skis, and a recently resurfaced photo.

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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.