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June 15, 2014: Negotiating Elephant Truce With Armies, Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days and More

Life is hard for an elephant. The smart, empathetic animals are known to visit the bodies of their relatives who have died (like this forest elephant below). And they're being slaughtered for their tusks. But National Geographic Explorer Mike Fay negotiated a truce between elephants and rebel leaders in the Central African Republic. (photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic)
Life is hard for an elephant. The smart, empathetic animals are known to visit the bodies of their relatives who have died (like this forest elephant below). And they’re being slaughtered for their tusks. But National Geographic Explorer Mike Fay negotiated a truce between elephants and rebel leaders in the Central African Republic. (photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic)

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 on radio, or listen below!

Hour 1

– Many anti-government rebel armies struggle for international recognition and money, in comparison to the government forces they oppose. In Africa, some groups see the wildlife as walking dollar signs, and poach elephants and rhinos to fence their ivory and horns abroad. But National Geographic Explorer in Residence Mike Fay, has made a career of protecting those animals, particularly in Gabon and Central African Republic, even when it calls him to fly into rebel held forests to negotiate with the army leaders.

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– The worlds of art and math may not be as distinct as the uninitiated might assume. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Stephon Alexander provides a perfect example of how a free-thinking mindset can alter science. As a theoretical physicist and jazz musician, he improvises within established rules to further our understanding of math, which, he explains, is very similar to what jazz musicians do to create new music.

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– Moose are big, powerful animals that most things wouldn’t be able to kill them alone. As it turns out, it can take over a hundred thousand ticks to bring a moose down. Jim Robbins says that is suddenly becoming easier for ticks to do, with milder falls and shorter winters in the northern regions of the United States. There are a large number of causes harming moose, from pine beetles attacking the trees that provide them cover, to brain worms that live in snails. Robbins says that scientists aren’t sure what to make of the declining numbers, but the sum of many weather-related changes combine to hurt the moose.

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– National Geographic magazine’s photographers, for as talented as they are, need some inspiration every now and then. Sarah Leen, the magazine’s Director of Photography is just the person to give them that boost. She tells Boyd how she chose National Geographic’s 501 best photos for the “The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years” exhibit at Los Angeles’ Annenberg Space for Photography and what she looks for in a photo when she’s choosing it for the magazine.

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Hour 2

Dean Karnazes doesn’t believe you need a special body type to run long distances. Karnazes ran marathons in all 50 states in 50 consecutive days, for his Run Across America and he shares with Boyd the most challenging endurance race he seems to keep coming back for – despite the 130 degree temperature.

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– Sounds are something that everybody encounters nearly constantly, but few people stop and ponder the way an audio engineer might. Trevor Cox wrote The Sound Book, drawing attention to our appetite for audio, as well as what he refers to as “the sonic wonders of the world.” Cox highlights Virginia’s Luray Caverns, which is home to a “Stalacpipe Organ,” and a grooved highway that plays The William Tell Overture when driven upon as unique celebrations to sound that also might help get his audience pondering the audio they encounter each day.

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– The National Parks system of the United States is so vast, that many first-time visitors just scratch their surfaces upon initial visits. It takes hours lost in wilderness to learn their true wonders. Robert Earle Howells shares some of the secrets he learned from chatting with park rangers and getting lost himself for National Geographic’s book, The Secrets of the National Parks.

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– With many well-documented years of reluctant reproducing in captivity, pandas have earned something of a reputation. But New Yorker reporter David Owen wonders if it is entirely justified. Through research for his article “Bears Do It” he shares the reproductive difficulties of one panda pair at the Smithsonian National Zoo, but points out that other couples breed with a fair amount of success.

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– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd reflects on the time he spent with Mike Fay on his Megatransect walk through the Congo Basin and Gabon. He was particularly taken by how Mike would never detour around swamps deep in Africa’s forests – he would simply walk right through them.

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