Episode 1207—Air Date: February 12, 2012

This week on National Geographic Weekend join host Boyd Matson as we expose the greed and blood of the ivory trade, surf the rivers of Idaho, investigate increasingly commonplace extreme weather conditions, conserve the ocean biodiversity by eating, evade invasive pythons in Florida's Everglades, dive 60 feet below the sea to the Aquarius Underwater Station, dance with walruses, rappel a mile underground into Earth's deepest cave, and get schooled by Chinese youth in ping-pong.





       At least 25,000 elephants were killed this past year. In the worst period of elephant killing in over a decade, Bryan Christy writes about how the ivory trade has exploded in recent years and how—despite the highest amount of ivory seizures in years—it continues unabated. Although substitutes have been made for all of ivory's practical uses, the use of ivory in religious objects persists. Currently, the ivory supplying the Buddhist jewelry industry in China produces 15 billion dollars a year, and is rising by 50 percent annually. These figures do not account for Catholic, Muslim, and other religions' uses of ivory in religious paraphernalia. 

       Chris Peterson spent most of his youth in the ocean. Growing up in Oahu, surfing defined who he was and what he stood for. After suffering tragedy, Peterson abandoned surfing and hasn't been back to the ocean in six years. He surfs again, however, finding solace and strength, this time on the rivers of Idaho. 

       Tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and massive heat waves. In recent years extreme weather has wreaked havoc upon communities all over the world. Everyone is noticing the change, and everyone is asking the same question: What's up with the weather? The cause of it all, says Peter Miller, is probably us. Since 1970, the Earth's temperature has increased one degree, a significant enough change to cause frequently higher average temperatures and more unpredictable weather patterns. 

       Barton Seaver, a National Geographic fellow and chef, is all about eating locally and seasonally. According to Seaver, "There's a time and a place for things." A fresh, great-tasting peach is only right in the warm summer months, while in season. That being said, he encourages people not to be "caged in by this philosophy." Frozen foods, despite the stigma that many people have for them, are often frozen at peak ripeness to preserve all of their nutrients. These are affordable, and healthy to have during the off-season months. As Boyd so elegantly says: "Eat it fresh in season, eat it frozen out of season." 

       David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd about a recently caught wild Burmese python almost 18 feet long that contained a special surprise: 87 babies! 





       Ever dreamed of living underwater? Sylvia Earle, National Geographic explorer-in-residence, spent a week living beneath the sea at the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory. Aquarius is a huge cylindrical tank with various rooms sitting 60 feet underwater that was designed for extended underwater reef research. Now part of the reef itself off Key Largo, this station is critical to conserving the world's reefs, which are now half gone. Unfortunately, the future of Aquarius is in question, as the federal government has ceased funding. Earle explains her experience and how important it is to keep Aquarius in operation. 

       From the Norwegian Arctic, Boyd meets with Elyse Lockton to talk about walruses. Not the most attractive of Earth's creatures, the blubbery, scruffy-faced marine mammals are highly specialized hunters of bivalves (clams, mussels). Lockton describes their complex feeding habits and "touchy-feely" social interactions. Although the polar bear is the poster child for the disappearing Arctic, Lockton points out that the walrus is also in significant danger from climate change. 

       Although many humans have spent their time and effort reaching peaks and summits over a mile above the Earth, Ieva Keirate went the opposite way, heading over a mile underground in one of the deepest caves on Earth. In total, Keirate and her team spent seven days underground, camping, eating, and living within the cave. Moving through it required climbing, hiking, and rappelling. Along the way, Keirate collected microbiological samples to evaluate humans' impact on the cave's ecosystem. Described as the Everest of caves for cavers, there are often people traveling within it and setting up camps and as a result are negatively affecting the underground ecosystem of the cave. 

       After dominating his opponents with ease at ping-pong in college, Christopher Beam thought he would continue winning when he moved to China. Enrolling in a ping-pong academy, the top of its kind, he was totally unaware of the skill and seriousness of the sport within China. He was never prepared for the humiliation he would receive at the hands of China's youth. 

       In this week's Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd describes his personal experiences with wild African elephants and talks about humans' wanton destruction of them for mere jewelry.