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September 8, 2013: Paddling Through Russia’s Remotest Rivers, Playing Matchmaker for Rhinos, and More

The "Nobody's River" expedition explored the Amur River from its Mongolian highland roots through Russia's Far East, all the way to the Pacific. (photo courtesy Amber Valenti/Nobody's River)

The “Nobody’s River” expedition explored the Amur River from its Mongolian highland roots through Russia’s Far East, all the way to the Pacific. (photo courtesy Amber Valenti/Nobody’s River)

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 listen below!

Hour 1

This summer, an all-woman team adventured 4,400 kilometers primarily by river, but had jaunts on trains, planes and over bumpy roads, from the Amur River’s Mongolian headwaters to where it meets the Pacific in Russia’s Far East. Amber Valenti shares the story of the “Nobody’s River” expedition, describing the industrial towns polluting the river, to the pristine untouched wilderness, days from any human impact.

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As the American government mulls military action in Syria’s civil war, more Syrian citizens continue to become displaced both inside the country and in refugee camps abroad. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Aziz Abu Sarah felt compelled to help, so he started a camp for children impacted by the conflict. He tells Boyd that the future peace of in the Middle East is dependent on the current generation receiving the intellectual and physical nourishment that they require to grow into well-adjusted and happy adults.

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While attending the National Geographic World Championship in St. Petersburg, Russia, Boyd met one of the members of the Russian geography bee team. Sixteen year old Egor Shevchuk says he has been studying maps since he was three, and doesn’t know what the future holds for him, but hopes to incorporate geography into his profession. Shevchuk says that travel was an important part of understanding geography, because seeing other places helps put maps into context.

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Breeding large captive animals is often fraught with difficulty. Pandas are the best-known reluctant reproducers, but Borneo’s rhinos are receiving help from science where nature isn’t kicking in. With an aging captive male, and fewer than 100 individuals in the wild, SOS Rhino‘s president Dr. Nan Schaffer says the clock is ticking to potentially ship the selected male rhino to Cincinnati’s zoo and hopefully find a willing female rhino to maintain some genetic diversity in the population.

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Pakistan isn’t a country widely known to have a culturally diverse population, but there are tribal groups cohabitating with the Muslim majority. One of these groups is the Kalash people, who number just in the few thousands. National Geographic Emerging Explorer and archaeologist Sayed Gul Kalash, is the first woman of her people to become a scientist, works to preserve the culture and history of her people, but says the difficulty lies in establishing a better educational system to pass on her people’s culture to future generations.

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Hour 2

National Geographic Explorers in Residence Dereck and Beverley Joubert have been making wildlife films based out of Botswana for decades. Their films have beautiful moments, but life on the savannah is hard, and only the strongest survive. They have one rule: document, don’t intervene. But lately, life is even harder for the lions, rhinos and elephants that appear in the Jouberts’ films. Dereck explains to Boyd that five elephants are dying per hour on the continent due to natural and unnatural causes; one rhino dies every nine hours; and one lion every five hours. But they explain that we do have reason for hope, particularly in countries like Botswana.

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Despite, or perhaps because of, motorcycle gangs’ ubiquity across the United States in the 1960′s and 70′s, two-wheeled motorized vehicles developed a cachet in this country. To celebrate the law-abiding motorcycle culture, Gary McKechnie wrote Great American Motorcycle Tours, to help bikers get outside, enjoy nature, and see specific slices of the country, although he encourages deviation from pre-set agendas. He also took the term “Book Launch” literally and sent a copy into the stratosphere.

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New York City’s wooden water tanks that adorn most buildings taller than six stories might look like they’re hangovers from the 19th Century. Mary Jordan seeks to draw attention to the towers, and by proxy, water issues around the world with her Water Tank Project. She has artists graffiti and dress-up the water tanks in hopes that it will force the city’s residents to pause and consider water, which, she says, is something that not enough people do, particularly in the developed world.

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For sports fans, part of the thrill of watching a live game is not knowing what will happen next. Emerging Explorer Katy Croff Bell  and the Nautilus Exploration team, put themselves on the hot-seat as scientists and explorers when they launched the Nautilus Live project, where internet browsers can watch real-time exploration, and occasionally, discovery. With much less discovery than watching the bottom of the ocean in hopes of turning something up, Katy points out to Boyd that “Negative data is still data.”

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In this Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd relives his time visiting Borneo’s Danum Valley looking for rhinos, orangutans but finding many more leeches.

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