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April 13, 2014: Cutting Cake with Jane Goodall, Saving Sparrows with Photography and More

Dr. Jane Goodall helped revolutionize what humans understand about our primate cousins. On her 80th birthday, she sat down with Boyd to discuss her past achievements and her hopes for the future. (photo by Vanne Goodall)
Dr. Jane Goodall helped revolutionize what humans understand about our primate cousins. On her 80th birthday, she sat down with Boyd to discuss her past achievements and her hopes for the future. (photo by Vanne Goodall)

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

Dr. Jane Goodall pioneered studies that sought to understand chimpanzees as cousins on our evolutionary family tree. She observed the chimpanzees from afar and little by little, through wearing the same clothes and presenting the same demeanor to the apes every day, she gained their trust, and accessed the private lives of chimpanzees – their emotions, their warfare, and their ingenuity. Through her program Roots and Shoots, she seeks to broaden her impact from better understanding chimps, to making the world a better and more livable place for future generations of all animals. She joins National Geographic Weekend in celebration of her 80th birthday.

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- Lions once roamed the African savannas, dominating the landscape and enjoyed the cachet of an apex predator – the big cats killed what they wanted and rarely suffered consequences. But in the past couple centuries, the lion’s dominance has dimmed. People have replaced its former foe at the top of the predatory pyramid and punishing the cat any time a lion does what a lion is wont to do – kill prey animals that humans raise as livestock. National Geographic Big Cats Initiative’s Laly Lichtenfeld seeks to help reduce conflict between lions and humans by removing human-raised animals from temptation. The Build a Boma program provides living fences that will effectively remove cows and goats from the lions’ menu and will reduce human frustration the cats.

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- Invasive rodents are so difficult for delicate ecosystems to survive because they introduce a quickly-reproducing drain on biodiversity that often doesn’t have any predators to discourage their growth. National Geographic grantee James Russell has studied ways that humans can help return the balance to fragile islands in the the Pacific Ocean that have had rodents rampantly eating seabirds’ eggs. Poisons thrown from helicopters that target mice by looking like foods they would eat, like grains, have a very high success rate in ridding islands of pests. But Russell warns that since rats reproduce so quickly, they must remove 100% of the rodents, otherwise they will quickly overrun the islands again.

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- Conservationists often quietly lament that the public appetite to save pandas, tigers, and other beautiful animals that may go extinct despite best efforts to save their wild populations often overshadows achievable successes of less sexy species. But photographer Joel Sartore, known for his Photo Ark project’s efforts to photograph every kind of animal in captivity, recently had a success for a “tiny little brown bird.” His images of Central Florida’s grasshopper sparrow helped publicize the plight of an animal that has only 200 nesting pairs left in the wild, bringing money and hopefully easing them back from the brink of extinction.

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- On Maggie Turqman’s “This Weekend in History” segment, the National Geographic research manager helps us celebrate the events of April 11-13 from over the ages. This weekend in 1606, Great Britain adopted their Union Jack flag; in 1943, Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.; and in 1796, the first elephant arrived in the United States.

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Hour 2

- On his recent trip to Laos, Boyd went on a scavenger hunt for lettuce and fruit with moon bears. They are at Free the Bears sanctuary, that takes in orphaned or injured bears who would not survive in the wild. Many of the bears have been recovered from poachers who try to smuggle them into China or Vietnam for their value on the black market. Program manager Michael Brocklehurst describes their value in traditional Asian medicines as “bile farms” where they keep the bears alive to slowly milk their gallbladders for the valuable bile. And while at the sanctuary, Boyd met the first recipient of brain surgery in Laos – of any species — a moon bear who otherwise would have died if not for the life-saving operation.

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- In the 1930’s a doctor and his mistress retreated from German civilization to live a life of deprivation and hardship on Floreana Island, in Ecuador’s Galapagos Archipelago. They worked hard for their sustenance and shelter, and the doctor, as a devout follower of Fredrich Nietzsche’s philosophy was as happy as a nihilist could be, until other people followed him there. After years on Floreana a series of suspicious deaths saw the island’s population dwindle from nine, at its apex, down to just five. Directors Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller were able to cobble together the story into a documentary after discovering a trove of hours of original film depicting life on Floreana during its time as a mini metropolis. Their documentary, The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, guides viewers through the events that led up to and resulted from the spate of mysterious deaths on Floreana.

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- For the stylish adventurer, each expedition has the potential to yield a rash of anxiety over the proper clothing to bring, and how many of each type is the right number. National Geographic Adventurer of theYear Andrew Skurka joins Boyd to describe his packing methods that keeps him not too hot on the trail, not too cold at night and smelling as good as can be reasonably expected of an Appalachian Trail through-hiker.

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- As large American corporations like Starbucks, Coca Cola, and McDonalds continue their global conquest, distant cities like Dubai, St. Petersburg, and Beijing lose some of their local flavor. But Daniel Brook, author of A History of Future Cities, assures Boyd that this has always been the case. He says that some of the world’s most recognizable and visited cities were started as copy-cats that mimic other places. But what happens next is the important part: over the decades that follow, planned cities evolved and changed by locals in ways that their planners never could have anticipated.

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- In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd is inspired by Dr. Jane Goodall to share the story of one of his own chimpanzee encounters. The chimpanzee ends up rupturing his eardrum with a piece of grass.

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