Photo: Reinforced boma fence

A boma fenced with funding supported by the Big Cats Initiative.

Photograph by Anne Kent Taylor

Archives: Episode 1240—Air Date: September 30, 2012

This week on National Geographic Weekend, join host Boyd Matson as we dive off Washington State's Palouse Falls in a kayak, harvest human feces for profit, distinguish a shy elk from a bold elk, float in the Great Salt Lake with dozens of different migrating bird species, chew khat in Yemen, follow the stars with Australian pygmy possums, and arrest poachers in Cambodia.

HOUR 1

· World record breakers often edge their way past the competition, improving a race speed by hundredths of a second, or a height attained by several inches. But Tyler Bradt approached the record he sought to break with the confidence that he could throw himself off a waterfall - in a kayak - and survive, upping his own previous personal best by 80 feet. Bradt's record came on Washington State's Palouse Falls, tumbling 186 feet. He snapped his paddle in the process, but emerged unharmed.

· According to National Geographic Emerging Explorer Ashley Murray, the average person's poop is worth approximately $85 per year. The solid matter can be sold to power and cement plants for use as fuel. The leftover ash product created by using the "sludge" as fuel can also be mixed into concrete. As Boyd said, "The patio you're sitting on having a picnic, used to be your picnic!"

· Animals are often credited with having personalities. But before now, there is little science to back that up. University of Alberta professor and National Geographic grantee Mark Boyce says that elk do have distinct personalities. There are bold, brave elk -- and they usually end up mounted on a hunter's wall. Meek, fearful elk often possess the flight instinct to avoid hunters; he also speculates that the same brave elk that are falling to hunters may be better fighters when targeted by hungry wolves.

· The Great Salt Lake is a briny body of water that has a far greater salt concentration than the world's oceans. This makes life impossible for fish, but comfortable for brine shrimp as well as clouds of flies, which, in turn, attract thousands of birds. Boyd visited the lake with Keith Evans, an ornithologist, retired from the U.S. Forest Service. Evans tells Boyd that the lake provides a key stopover for birds on their north-south migration paths to fatten up and take a rest. He says that on an average day on the Great Salt Lake, he can identify up to 70 different species of bird.

· David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd that scientists have been able to attach microphones to cockroaches and impel them to go where they want. The bugs may be a useful tool in searching for survivors in devastated buildings in the future .

HOUR 2

· Anne Kent Taylor is known to get her way. Nicknamed among Maasai tribes people as "Old Steel," the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee protects lions by snatching meals from them. She helps build strong, chain link fences around Maasai villages so lions can't get in -- and the Maasai can't blame the predators for killing off their cattle, preventing retribution killings. She also pries elephants from poacher snares in her spare time, risking being charged in order to help out her animal friends.

· Yemen today is undergoing a lot of change. After ousting its strongman leader last year, the country struggles to find stability, with a drug addicted population and terrorist groups threatening to destabilize what little control the central government exerts. Joshua Hammer tells Boyd that there aren't many places in Yemen where a Westerner can feel safe. His article appeared in National Geographic magazine's September 2012 issue.

· Pygmy possums are not just very cute; they are 9 ounce mysteries bundled in fur. Grantee Sophie Petit has spent the last decade studying the nocturnal marsupial and has nearly as many questions as she does answers. She does know that they run only in straight lines for up to 300 hectares, cross-sampling vegetation for their favorite nectars. And she has a theory that they may use stars to navigate, much like ocean-faring Polynesians.

· Many Asian countries have facilitated animal poaching in their own parts of the world, as well as in others. A thirst for ivory in China and the Philippines drives elephant poaching in Africa. But Suwanna Gauntlett is proud to say that Cambodia has reformed itself as a haven for poachers. Her company, Wildlife Alliance, implemented and oversees anti-poaching patrols in the country. She tells Boyd that the animal trade has decreased by 70% in the country that used to have an appetite for monkey, bears and turtles.

· In this week's Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares stories of baboons that can read, leper armadillos and China's license plate lottery.

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Episode 1240 September 30

NG Weekend 1240 September 30, 2012

  • 00:11:00 Tyler Bradt

    World record breakers often edge their way past the competition, improving a race speed by hundredths of a second, or a height attained by several inches. But Tyler Bradt approached the record he sought to break with the confidence that he could throw himself off a waterfall - in a kayak - and survive, upping his own previous personal best by 80 feet. Bradt's record came on Washington State's Palouse Falls, tumbling 186 feet. He snapped his paddle in the process, but emerged unharmed.

  • 00:09:00 Ashley Murray

    According to National Geographic Emerging Explorer Ashley Murray, the average person's poop is worth approximately $85 per year. The solid matter can be sold to power and cement plants for use as fuel. The leftover ash product created by using the "sludge" as fuel can also be mixed into concrete. As Boyd said, "The patio you're sitting on having a picnic, used to be your picnic!"

  • 00:06:00 Mark Boyce

    Animals are often credited with having personalities. But before now, there is little science to back that up. University of Alberta professor and National Geographic grantee Mark Boyce says that elk do have distinct personalities. There are bold, brave elk -- and they usually end up mounted on a hunter's wall. Meek, fearful elk often possess the flight instinct to avoid hunters; he also speculates that the same brave elk that are falling to hunters, may be better fighters when targeted by hungry wolves.

  • 00:08:00 Keith Evans

    The Great Salt Lake is a briny body of water that has a far greater salt concentration than the world's oceans. This makes life impossible for fish, but comfortable for brine shrimp as well as clouds of flies, which, in turn, attract thousands of birds. Boyd visited the lake with Keith Evans, an ornithologist, retired from the U.S. Forest Service. Evans tells Boyd that the lake provides a key stopover for birds on their north-south migration paths to fatten up and take a rest. He says that on an average day on the Great Salk Lake, he can identify up to 70 different species of bird.

  • David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd that scientists have been able to attach microphones to cockroaches and impel them to go where they want. The bugs may be a useful tool in searching for survivors indevastated buildings in the future.

  • 00:11:00 Anne Kent Taylor

    Anne Kent Taylor is known to get her way. Nicknamed among Maasai tribespeople as "Old Steel," the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee protects lions by snatching meals from them. She helps build strong, chain link fences around Maasai villages so lions can't get in -- and the Maasai can't blame the predators for killing off their cattle, preventing retribution killings. She also pries elephants from poacher snares in her spare time, risking being charged in order to help out her animal friends.

  • 00:09:00 Joshua Hammer

    Yemen today is undergoing a lot of change. After ousting its strongman leader last year, the country struggles to find stability, with a drug addicted population and terrorist groups threatening to destabilize what little control the central government exerts. Joshua Hammer tells Boyd that there aren't many places in Yemen where a Westerner can feel safe. His article appeared in National Geographic magazine's September 2012 issue.

  • 00:06:00 Sophie Petit

    Pygmy possums are not just very cute; they are 9 ounce mysteries bundled in fur. Grantee Sophie Petit has spent the last decade studying the nocturnal marsupial and has nearly as many questions as she does answers. She does know that they run only in straight lines for up to 300 hectares, cross-sampling vegetation for their favorite nectars. And she has a theory that they may use stars to navigate, much like ocean-faring Polynesians.

  • Many Asian countries have facilitated animal poaching in their own parts of the world, as well as in others. A thirst for ivory in China and the Philippines drives elephant poaching in Africa. But Suwanna Gauntlett is proud to say that Cambodia has reformed itself as a haven for poachers. Her company, Wildlife Alliance, implemented and oversees anti-poaching patrols in the country. She tells Boyd that the animal trade has decreased by 70% in the country that used to have an appetite for monkey, bears and turtles.

  • In this week's Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares stories of baboons that can read, leper armadillos and China's license plate lottery.