Crocodile Expert Brady Barr

Dr. Brady Barr

Dr. Brady Barr speaking at the Garde Arts Center.

The editors of Animal Fact Guide had the pleasure of attending a talk this evening given by Dr. Brady Barr at the Garde Arts Center in New London, CT.  As a herpetologist with the National Geographic Society, Barr has experienced a multitude of close encounters with reptiles in the wild.

In one entertaining story,  Barr recounted an episode where his team was trying to measure the speed of Komodo dragons using a radar gun.  His role was to run around with strings of goat meat tied around his waist to entice the large reptiles to give chase.  And chase they did!  Barr was chased left and right by the dragons, who took turns wearing him out.  Finally, out of breath, Barr took refuge up high in a tree.  Komodo dragons can be extremely dangerous creatures as their mouths are filled with many strains of bacteria, making their bite very hazardous.

Although Barr works with many reptiles, including salamanders, geckos, turtles, and snakes, his main passion is with crocodilian species: crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials.

On many occasions, Barr has gotten up close and personal with crocodiles, often called upon to relocate “nuisance” animals.  Barr and his team have captured many crocodiles known to attack people and have relocated the animals to wildlife preserves and zoos.  By doing so, Barr saves the creatures from being exterminated by the locals.

Throughout his presentation, Barr stressed the importance of conservation, noting that many reptile species are at high risk of extinction.

To learn more about Barr and his adventures, watch Dangerous Encounters on Nat Geo WILD. You can also buy the Best of Dangerous Encounters with Brady Barr DVD from Amazon.

Unlikely Animal Friends 2

Polar bear and dog play

Polar bear and husky play (photo credit © courtesy of National Geographic Channel)

Last year, National Geographic Channel aired a program about unlikely animal friends.  Premiering Friday, January 7, 2011 at 9pm EST is a second installment of bizarre animal pairs: Unlikely Animal Friends 2.

The one-hour special takes a look at friendships between a sheep and an elephant, a goat and two dogs,  huskies and polar bears, a leopard and a golden retriever, and a lion, tiger and dog.

Watch a sneak peak here about an orphaned elephant calf befriending a sheep:

Saved from the Spill on Nat Geo Wild


An oil impacted Brown pelican being cleaned at a Wildlife Rehabilitation center in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. (Photo Credit: USFWS/Greg Thompson)

National Geographic is once again at the forefront in documenting conservation efforts. This time their cameras turn to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

From National Geographic:

With oil actively gushing into the Gulf’s waters, National Geographic Explorer and wildlife expert Mireya Mayor, together with adventure underwater cameraman Andy Casagrande, join the extensive mission to save struggling creatures at the center of the crisis. Dive into the sludgy mess across the Gulf region with Mireya and Andy as they work to rescue pelicans, sea turtles, dolphins and many other creatures that use the Gulf as a migration superhighway. Along the way, they investigate the science behind the toxins and the anticipated impact they will have on coastal life for years to come. From the marshlands of Louisiana to the beaches and coral reefs of Florida — the beloved home state of both Mireya and Andy — watch their race to protect the injured creatures from an uncertain future, and follow their investigation after the oil spill was ultimately contained.

Tune into Nat Geo Wild on Tuesday, October 5 at 9pm ET/PT for Saved from the Spill.

Expedition Wild Returns

Next Monday, September 27 at 9pm ET/PT, Expedition Wild with Casey Anderson will return to Nat Geo Wild.  The first episode takes place in Yellowstone National Park during the spring.

From National Geographic:

In Yellowstone National Park, baby season is in full swing, and Casey is prepared for the unpredictable. As grizzlies devour elk calves, vigilant mothers must defend their vulnerable newborns from aggressive predators.  Witness the animals learning new skills as newborn bighorn sheep traverse treacherous cliffs and young bison learn to swim. Casey sets out to find ravenous bears as they emerge from their dens, and witnesses a feathered family drama while introducing an orphaned great horned owlet to new siblings. The long winter may be over, but the spring drama is no less wild!

Watch a video of baby bighorn sheep and baby pronghorns:

Watch a video of Casey placing an orphaned great horned owlet with a new family:

Wildlife Photographer Presents “Polar Obsession”

Polar Obsession by Paul NicklenNational Geographic wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen came to the Garde Arts Center in New London, CT on April 16th to talk about his experiences capturing images on the polar caps.  Animal Fact Guide editors P.A. Smith and Abi Cushman had the pleasure of attending.

Often Nicklen was exposed to harsh conditions while on expeditions, many times risking his life to attain his captivating images.  Yet Nicklen relayed these powerful stories while interjecting humorous remarks.  His anecdotes were hugely entertaining and inspiring.  He spoke of his up close encounter with an enormous female leopard seal who tried to feed him penguins.  At one point, the seal had placed a dead penguin on his head waiting for him to eat it, and he’d continued to take photos of her with the lifeless bird resting there, all the while tearing up with laughter. In the photo, you can see the penguin’s feet at the top of the frame.

Throughout his talk, Nicklen stressed the simple truth that man-made climate change is negatively affecting both polar regions.  The dramatic loss of the polar ice has an enormous impact on entire ecosystems.  It starts with the microorganisms that inhabit the multiyear ice (ice that builds up over several years).  These phytoplankton are eaten by zooplankton, and in turn they are consumed by fish. Next in the chain are larger animals such as whales and seals.  Without the ice, the phytoplankton cannot thrive, and the ripple continues throughout the chain.  Many of the animals towards the top of the chain, such as polar bears, also rely on ice for breeding and hunting.

In light of this sad situation, Nicklen urged the audience to get involved in conservation, to start a revolution and save these ecosystems.

To learn more about Nicklen’s work and view his amazing photographs, purchase his book Polar Obsession. It contains many of the stories behind his photos.

Garde Arts Center, New London, CT

Editor P.A. Smith in front of the Garde Arts Center in New London, where wildlife photographer Paul Nicklen spoke.

Inventor of Crittercam Presents “A Wild Point of View”

Greg Marshall: A Wild Point of View

Crittercam inventor Greg Marshall speaks about his invention at the Garde Arts Center in New London, CT.

Greg Marshall, the inventor of Crittercam (a compact camera/data collecting device that attaches to animals), came to New London, CT on March 19th to speak about his invention and the insight it has provided into animal behavior.  Animal Fact Guide editors P.A. Smith and Abi Cushman, who reviewed the Crittercam exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science last summer, had the opportunity to attend this fascinating presentation.

In his talk, entitled “A Wild Point of View,” Marshall described how he first came up with the idea of Crittercam. On one expedition, he noticed a suckerfish attached to the dorsal fin of a shark.  He noted that the shark appeared to behave in a way unaffected by the suckerfish, and from there, he made the connection that it was  possible to attach a camera in an unobtrusive manner as well.

Throughout the presentation, Marshall stressed the importance that the Crittercam not impact the animal.  This was essential not only for the well-being and safety of the animal but also because they wanted to be sure to collect true data about how animals actually behave in the wild. If the animals acted differently in response to having the device attached to them, the data they collected would be compromised.

The Crittercam, which has become more and more streamlined and compact  as years pass, collects more than just video imagery.  The device collects a wealth of data such as temperature, light levels, pressure, and audio.  This supporting information allows scientists to more fully comprehend what they see in the video footage.

Greg MarshallThis unique view into animal behavior has led to many new discoveries.  For example, they learned about the feeding patterns of several marine animals.  In the instance of king penguins, they found that the penguins would dive deep and look up towards the ice to spot the fish silhouetted by the light shining through.  In this way, they acted in a similar way to a hawk circling above land and swooping in to catch their prey, but in reverse.  In the instance of humpback whales, they discovered that the whales would dive deep, drive fish towards the surface,  blow bubbles around the school forming a “net” to herd them, and then use their fins to scare the fish into their open mouths.

Marshall delivered an excellent presentation, providing interesting and sometimes humorous anecdotes about his experiences in the field. If you have the opportunity to hear him speak in your area, we recommend you attend.

You can also view the Crittercam exhibition which is currently on display at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago until April 11. From May 22 to January 5, 2011, you can see Crittercam at The Wildlife Experience in Parker, Colorado.

For more information, see National Geographic’s Crittercam website and National Geographic’s Crittercam event page.

Unlikely Animal Friends

Orangutan and dog

Photo provided by National Geographic Channel.

Many of you may be familiar with the story of Christian the lion, a YouTube sensation (and if you’re not, you really should see it). This Saturday, September 26 at 8pm ET/PT, the National Geographic Channel is showcasing several heartwarming stories about animal bonds, including the tale of Christian the lion, in its program, Unlikely Animal Friends.

The one-hour special will also feature an orangutan and a hound dog, a tortoise and a hippo, a cat and a crow, an elephant and a dog, and more.

For more info, see NationalGeographic.com