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February 3, 2013: Paddle Boarding Down Waterfalls, Searching for Venomous Snakes, and More

A water moccasin curves around a golden-heart lily in Florida. There are many species of poisonous snakes around the world herpetologist and National Geographic Explorer Zoltan Takacs is finding to study their venom. (photo by Robert Sisson)

A water moccasin curves around a golden-heart lily in Florida. There are many species of venomous snakes around the world National Geographic Explorer Zoltan Takacs is finding to study their venom. (photo by Robert Sisson)

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: 1305 – Air Date: February 3

HOUR 1

The thrill of a first-time accomplishment can be exhilarating. So, professional kayaker Erik Boomer tells Boyd he’s trying to recreate that feeling of fear and trepidation riding easier rapids that he now finds too easy to run in a boat by riding them on a stand-up paddle board. This fall, in Mexico, he rode a paddle board off a 60 foot waterfall while shooting his new film Cascada. The trick, Boomer says, is to not land on the board or the rocks.

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Don’t run from lions. National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee Amy Dickman can’t stress this enough as “Rule Number One” when dealing with the cats. But that’s easier said than done when face to face with one of nature’s top predators. Late in 2012, some villagers near her Ruaha Carnivore Project in Tanzania decided they were going to chase a lion from her kill. But the lion proved to be persistent and ended up nearly making a meal of a villager, who escaped, but “now walks with a limp.”

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Australia spent much of January in a record-smashing heat wave that saw the national average temperature above 100 degrees Farenheit for the first time ever. The temperatures were so out of the ordinary that the country had to add new colors to its heat maps. Blair Trewin a climatologist with the Australian Bureau of Meterology said that despite the heat, there were flash floods on the country’s Pacific Coast while bush fires and high winds threatened Tasmania’s biggest city.

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Paleo-anthropologist Lee Berger was walking with his son and his dog just 30 miles from Johannesberg, South Africa, near a dig site when his son found a fossilized clavicle from an Australopithecus sediba. The two million year old human was remarkably well-preserved and led to the excavation of a site that contained several other individuals. Berger was shocked at the find and assures Boyd he knew it was a pre-hominid fossil, because “antelope don’t have clavicles.”

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David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd that despite the large population, a new species of blue colored lizard has been discovered in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City. The lizard had previously been mistakenly identified as another species. 

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HOUR 2

Snake venom is thought of a poison that humans certainly want to avoid. But herpetologist and National Geographic Explorer Zoltan Takacs does the exact opposite, despite having an allergy to venom, as well as antivenom. Takacs is on a mission to unlock the possible medical benefits locked inside the venom. The venoms can be turned into medicines that treat everything from heart disease to arthritis. Takacs’ research was prominently featured in the February 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine, in an article titled “The Bite That Heals“.

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In one of the world’s most remote jungles, there is an estimated 850 million barrels of oil. If Ecuador, the home of Yasuni National Park, where the oil reserves are, pursued the oil, it would be a windfall for the poverty-stricken country. But the impact on the pristine wilderness would be disastrous. Scott Wallace, author of “Rain Forest for Sale,” in the January 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine, tells Boyd that President Rafael Correa has asked the world to compensate Ecuador for $3.6 billion in order to not develop its jungle.

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Women in Saudi Arabia experienced a big step forward in their slow and uncertain pursuit for increasing rights. The country provides women with very few rights: no vote, no driving and a strict dress code is encouraged. But National Geographic Explorer Hayat Sindi was recently among the first 30 women hand-picked by King Abdullah to his consultative body known as the Shura Council.

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Of all the animals in the planet that are difficult to track, one wouldn’t assume that a 600-pound reptile that walks .2 miles per hour would be on the list. But Stephen Blake has enlisted the help of satellites to keep an eye on the Galapagos tortoises. He’s been tracking their seasonal migration from the island’s lowlands up volcanos into the highlands, in search of food.

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In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares his experiences with Bill Haast, who worked his entire life with venomous snakes and helped pioneer using venom in modern medicine. Haast was bitten many times by venomous snakes, but still lived to be 100 years old.

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