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August 17, 2014 Radio Show: Speaking to Hippos, American Seafood Industry Secrets, and More

A team of National Geographic Emerging Explorers are heading to the remote Okavango Delta to study the area's secrets and hopefully not be maimed by any of the dangerous hippos. (Photo by Chris Johns / National Geographic)
A team of National Geographic Emerging Explorers are heading to the remote Okavango Delta to study the area’s secrets and hopefully not be maimed by any of the dangerous hippos. (Photo by Chris Johns / 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
- Twenty First Century exploration is usually marked not by “filling in the blank areas of the map,” as it was in centuries past, but by the improved understanding of an ecosystem deep in the ocean or on the edges of our solar system – places that can scarcely be imagined by non-scientists. But National Geographic’s Steve Boyes has recruited a team of his fellow Emerging Explorers to venture deep into Botswana’s Okavango Delta, to paddle barefoot in stand-up kayaks through waters haunted by hippos, crocodiles and elephants, like in the days of the earliest European ventures into Africa’s waterways. The expedition is part of a nine-year survey to better understand a wetland so remote that only local tribes who have mastered survival over hundreds of years maintain a presence there. The team’s 2014 Okavango adventure will go from from August 16 to 25.

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 – Early European settlers in the United States were so gob-smacked by the scale of the continent’s wealth of biomass that could be processed into food, they could never imagine an end to the abundance. Early Americans relied so heavily on the oceans to provide nourishment that prisoners were known to riot, they were so sick of eating lobster. Paul Greenberg, author of American Catch, examines the current state of American seafood, pointing out that New York’s once wealthy oyster beds are now inedible; 90% of our shrimp, the country’s favorite seafood is imported from Asia; and even the salmon and calamari that are caught here are often first shipped to China to be prepared for the American markets.

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- Colony collapse is a threat facing the planet’s very important honeybee populations. In an effort to respond and potentially replace the pollination benefits that honeybees provide, National Geographic explorer Gordon Frankie has been studying native bee populations in California and Costa Rica. Frankie notes that very little is known about native bees, but he’s learned that urban areas can potentially provide a haven for native bees populations that might be threatened by rural and suburban development and habitat loss.

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- While so many people in rapidly modernizing countries like China and India focus on asset accumulation and lifestyle improvement, vestiges of comfort are too slowly trickling down to rural populations. 1.3 billion people around the world live without electricity in their homes, but the winner of the Terra Watt Prize, in partnership with National Geographic, Nikhil Jaisinghani, is committed to providing access to electricity to as many people as possible. He has created a business providing solar-powered micro-grids that run independently of India’s central power grid. After installation, he runs power directly to people’s homes, allowing them to charge their cellphones more than once or twice each week. This affords them opportunities to uplift themselves economically through improved communication.

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- Gear guru Steve Casimiro, returns to the show with tips on the best new adventure gear on the market, including anaction camera from bicycle giant Shimano that compares favorably to the current industry standard GoPro; an origami-inspired foldable kayak that weighs just 26 pounds; a belt-driven bike that has a nearly-indestructible drivetrain that foregoes the dirty, maintenance-heavy chains found on nearly all bikes.

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Hour 2
- Road trips with young children can try the patience of even the most devoted parents. Dylan Drake and Tomas Cortijo, better known as the decision-makers behind “Camper Clan” recently finished a 25,000 mile road trip from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Bozeman, Montana with their children, and, Drake explains, just like any parent, they had to discipline their children. But since their home was in their car, “we just used to disregarding people’s looks if our children need a timeout in a restaurant.” After all of the family’s time locked together in a van, one would think that a break would be in order. But just this fall, Cortijo will ride an e-bicycle around the country, finishing in Key West. They are also hoping to make a film about their family adventures.

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- Even kings need help from time to time. Once the image of bravery and pride, lions’ survival are on the ropes in most parts of their former range. To help drive public attention to the lions’ plight, Dereck and Beverly Joubert celebrated the second-annual World Lion Day. Beverly points out that reducing conflict by properly securing tribal livestock in lion country by building strong fences to help make lions and humans better neighbors. Dereck also debunks hunting as a method of conservation, saying that since nobody wants to mount an old, sick lion, shooting a thriving cat that still can reproduce and maintains power at the center of a pride is the objective of most hunters. The killed male leaves a power vacuum that results in the deaths of all of his offspring, and potentially some of the female lions, when a new dominant male seeks to take over the vacant seat at the head of the pride. The Jouberts stress that when one male lion dies, as many as twenty other lions can die in the pride takeover.

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- The science of human attraction is inexact. Scientists know that when dogs smell each other, their powerful noses pick up on molecules that our less potent human sniffers don’t detect. But pheromone expert and animal behaviorist Dr. Tristram Wyatt says that humans, too, may make decisions on partner-selection based on pheromones that our bodies react to without being aware of it. But Wyatt laments that it’s easy to study a mouse or a moth, human modesty has so far prevented science from following our physical chemistry into the bedroom and decoding the mysteries of love. Wyatt also says that while perfumes may make popular gifts, each person’s subtle smells comingle differently with the potions, making perfume selection difficult unless it can be smelled on the person who will wear it.

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- Sperm whales are the largest toothed whales, but until the worldwide whaling moratorium in 1982, they were hunted ruthlessly across the world’s oceans, prized for their oils that were used for many purposes, including automatic car transmissions. But when the killing stopped, the whales took a long time to rebound in the waters around the Galapagos Islands. Marine biologist Hal Whitehead explains that the whale cull that removed as many as 40,000 sperm whales each year from the oceans degraded their intricate family units, resulting in way fewer whale calves than would normally be observed. The whales’ numbers are slowly rebounding, but Whitehead explains that they’re not an animal that was built to recover from large population collapses.

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- In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares the story of a recent hiking trip with his son in Colorado. He said that parents always want to expose their children to the things that they enjoy, but must take care not to turn them off by forcing their kids into things they don’t want to do. Boyd was pleasantly surprised that his son’s early childhood adventures did instill a love of hiking. He was even more pleasantly surprised that his now-grown son is strong enough to carry the heavier supplies up and down Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks.

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