Turtle Farm

Green Sea Turtles have for centuries been a big part of the diet for the people of the Cayman Islands.  That’s bad news for an endangered species under threat for a variety of reasons.  To meet the food demands of locals and to keep them from taking turtles from the wild green sea turtles are now being farmed raised on Grand Cayman.  The best part of this story is that the farm is also producing enough turtles to release hundreds into the wild where they are successfully reproducing.

Winners of the 2011 National Geographic Magazine for Kids “Hands On Explorer Challenge” got a trip to the Cayman Islands as part of their prize.  One of the stops on the trip was the turtle farm where the kids got to do some hands on learning about turtles.  I went with them on the trip and interviewed the chief researcher at the turtle farm for my radio show, National Geographic Weekend.   The interview will air this weekend but here’s a video version which shows the turtles and some of the kids who were contest winners.

Orphan Elephants

Are you a cynic, your emotions under lock and key, your heartstrings unplucked.  Do you remain unfazed by either the cute or the less fortunate?  I think I have a cure, a way to break down that wall.  Just spend one afternoon at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya.  Its mission is to take in orphaned elephants, and with humans acting as surrogate mothers, provide the parenting the young elephants need to survive.  If a few hours hanging out with these baby elephants doesn’t leave you as emotional as a teenaged girl at a Justin Bieber concert, then there’s no hope for you.

Saving elephants is not an easy task.  Orphaned elephants have a hard time surviving without their mothers.  Most people thought it impossible for humans to successfully hand raise orphaned baby elephants and then return them to the wild.  But the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is now managing to do the impossible.

In the Sept. issue of National Geographic Magazine photographer Nick Nichols has a major article on the work of the Trust and wonderful photos of the elephants.  This week on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend”, I talk with Nick about his pictures and how the story of the elephants really got to him.

I visited the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust myself a few months ago, met some of the baby elephants, and did an interview for my radio show with the head keeper Edwin Lusichi.  This is a video of that interview along with footage of some of the elephants.

The Penis Gourd

How many people can say they have a penis gourd?  Of course most of you probably never even realized such an object existed or if it did that there was the possibility of having one in your possession, or even the desire to own such a thing.   In my, “Matson Museum of Overpriced Artifacts,” as it’s affectionately know I of course have one.  I also have hundreds of other unusual, unnecessary, and of limited value items in my ever growing memorabilia collection obtained while traveling around the world.

The penis gourd however was one of the items I focused on when I was forced to move things around in my office after a recent water leak.  I talk about some of those items in my collection, but especially the gourd on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend.”   By the way, for those who were wondering, it is a real artice of clothing worn by men in some parts of New Guniea.  The story from the radio show can be seen in this video.

Poop Spitting Competition

“Trust me on this one kids, spitting impala poop is really an honest to goodness game in South Africa.”  As might be expected I had a little trouble at first trying to convince the 15 kids with me that putting an impala dung pellet in their mouth would be fun, but eventually I got them all to try it.  The verdict on the fun factor is still out.  The kids, between the ages of nine & fifteen, were winners of the National Geographic for Kids magazine “Hands On Explorer Challenge.’  They were competiting with thousands of kids across the country who wrote essays about how they explore in their own backyard.  The winnners and one parent each got to go an trip with National Geographic.  This particular year the we took the kids to South Africa.

The Kids got Nikon cameras as part of their prize, and we brought along one of our Geographic photographers to teach them how to take pictures, and a writer to show them how to keep a journal and write about their experience.  My job was to help enhance their experience & encourage them to be even more hands on in their exploring.  Neither they nor their parents could have imagined that would include poop spitting.

The South African game is called Bokdrol Spoek which loosely means, “spitting buck droppings.”  It’s usually played with either impala or kudu dung.  The traditional competition requires dropping the poop pellet in a shot glass filled with some type of alcohol, downing the shot, catching the pellet in your teeth, and then seeing how far you can spit it.  The roll is included in the official distance.  I decided we could skip the drinking portion for the kids.  I mean you have to draw the line somewhere with nine to fifteen year olds.

This video has the highlites of our competition.  I’m posting the story now because I talk about things to do with poop, from research to games, on my radio show National Geographic Weekend this week.  Also last weekend we had some friends over for a backyard safari party, and at the end of the evening I produced a bag of impala poop  collected on my last trip to East Africa.  Despite the consumption of alcohol at this event, the adults were somewhat more reluctant than the kids to believe poop spitting was really a game.  Finally I got some of the people to try it, but I not sure they ever believed it’s a competiton with an official world championship.

Headhunter Lets Me Keep Mine

Face to face with a headhunter and we both keep ours on our own shoulders.  People haven’t been actively cutting off heads in Nagaland for more than forty years, but when one former headhunter starts to show me how he killed his enemies in long ago battles, I have the thought that he might suddenly forget it’s no longer the good old days and decide to take one last head….mine.  I tell the story of my trip to Nagaland and visiting with headhunters on my radio show National Geographic Weekend.  This video has the story as well as pictures from my Nagaland adventure.