Charles Foley and Jon Hall talk to mammalwatchers, biologists, conservationists and those with a passion for observing and protecting the world’s wild mammals. Episodes will be released every two weeks or so. Look for “mammalwatching” (one word) on your podcast platform.Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on SpotifyListen on Stithr
Charles and Jon talk to Professor Jo Setchell from her home in the UK. Dr Setchell, a distinguished primatologist and anthropologist, has studied primates in Cameroon, Gabon, the DRC and Borneo and has particular research interests in sexual selection among Mandrills and primate conservation. Destined for a career in primatology from the age of two, when she was inseparable from her toy monkey, Jo’s fascinating research has proved important for science and conservation. And some work – such as discovering that the reddest male Mandrills are a sort of simian Brad Pitt – has cast a whole new light on Mandrill romance.
Charles and Jon talk to recently converted mammalwatchers about their early mammalwatching experiences. Admittedly, some of our guests might deny they have been converted but we know different.
We talk to Steven Arthur, Cheryl Antonucci‘s partner, about being stalked by Swamp Rabbits in Missouri. We hear about a trip to Guyana that could have gone very wrong for Ian Thompson, his partner Tracey Watchurst, and their kids Josie and Ben. And Amber Melhouse talks about the romance of wading through a guano-filled bat cave with “wildlife enthusiast” Jon.
Charles and Jon are joined by Season 1 podcast veterans Mac Hunter and Cheryl Antonucci who starred in the first two podcast episodes, along with professional birding – and now mammalwatching – guide Carlos Bocos who dialed in from his home in Spain.
We talk about guides: the benefits they bring to conservation, trips and to mammalwatching more generally, as well as the skills every good guide needs. Carlos also offers his thoughts on what makes for a good client and reveals that some clients can be quite difficult. Shocker! Any resemblance – to birders living or dead – is purely coincidental.
Jon finally gets the chance to interview his co-host Charles Foley. Charles shares adventures from a life spent working with African Elephants in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park with his wife Lara. His thirty years of research has generated many advances in our understanding of Elephants, including the long-term impact that poaching can have when it kills all of the older animals in a family. Elephants do indeed have long memories, and so remembering where water can be found might be critical to a family’s survival during drought. Charles also explains why it is a good idea to check the tyres on the truck if you plan to propose at sunset in the African bush. And – if you do forget – why it might then be a good idea to check only after your partner says ‘yes’.
Charles and Jon talk to Russian biologists and mammalwatchers Karina Karenina and Andrey Giljov (aka The Travelling Zoologists) from their new home in Paraguay. In a journey that runs from the Russian steppes to the Paraguayan chaco, they talk about their work to save Russia’s Saiga Antelopes and the role mammalwatching has played. They discuss how their experience as biologists has helped them to develop new techniques to watch mammals around the world. And we learn that Long-beaked Echidnas make wonderful pets.
We talk to Christopher Scharf about his 30 year quest to photograph the planet’s most iconic wildlife – a project that is destined to be a time capsule of 21st century wildlife observation. Chris talks about some of the near mythical mammals he has seen and the near mythical adventures along the way. We hear how a quest to photograph a Markhor required an undercover journey into Afghanistan disguised as a local. He explains why finally seeing a wild Sumatran Rhino this year – after repeated attempts – still wasn’t enough to take that species off his bucket list. And he recounts some worryingly close encounters with both Tigers and tapirs.
We report back from the inaugural mammalwatching meeting in Asturias, Spain. Join us as we watch Brown Bears, Common Genets and Broom Hares and chat with the participants. In a podcast first you can share the ecstasy of people seeing lifer mammals, followed by the agony when one – a water vole – is devoured by a bear before being fully identified.
We interview Dr Robert Shumaker, the President and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo. Rob is a renowned expert on primate cognition (i.e. primate behaviour and intelligence), a widely published scientist, and a leader in the zoo world. He talks to us about his fascinating research on Great Ape cognition and the very fine line between the abilities of humans and other apes. Rob discusses the future of zoos in the US and the rapidly expanding conservation efforts of the Indianapolis Zoo, and tells enthralling tales of orangutans outwitting both him and their keepers.
December 25 1914: as World War I is raging, British and German troops along the frontline lay down their rifles, and cross the trenches to play a friendly football match.
September 2022: the mammalwatching podcast brings a second, arguably greater, testament to the human ability to heal wounds, cross divides and search for peace despite many years of conflict. Yes, Charles and Jon lay down their binoculars to reach out across the barbed wire and welcome a birder onto this podcast.
And not just any birder: we are joined from the Netherlands by Arjan Dwarshuis who holds the world Big Birding Year record for his epic 40 country and 6852 species trip in 2016. A professional birder, Arjan is an author, very successful podcaster and conservation champion.
In a (worryingly!) enjoyable chat we talk about some of Arjan’s favourite mammal sightings, his Big Year and why birding is now officially cool.
It would be crass to put ourselves forward. But if you are inspired there are Nobel Peace Prize nomination forms here. The three of us are ready to share the award https://www.nobelprize.org/nomination/peace/
Charles and Jon interview the original Batman, Dr Merlin Tuttle, from his home in Austin, Texas. Merlin has spent 60 years studying – and working to help – bats around the world and his photos and research have been featured in multiple National Geographic articles, the journal Science, and many other places. He founded and led Bat Conservation International for nearly 30 years, left BCI, then founded Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation in 2014 where he remains active. He is a true legend.
In a fascinating chat we hear about his skill in training bats (and one bat’s particular skill in training Merlin), and how he believes the secret to conservation success is from trying to win friends not battles. He also remembers that time he risked being eaten by a pride of lions so he could photograph a bat with a Mohican haircut.
From binoculars to bat detectors, and from thermal scopes to thermarest pillows, we all have our own preferences for mammalwatching gear. We are joined by Charles Hood and Fiona Reid to discuss the kit we use and share some packing hacks that can make life a little more comfortable on a trip ….. because any fool can be uncomfortable in the bush!
We had so much to talk about we decided to split this episode into 2 parts, though we didn’t make a video.
We interview Tony Friend, legendary West Australian mammalogist, from his home in Albany, Australia. Tony talks about almost 40 years of work to save some of West Australia’s iconic and wonderfully-named mammals including species like the Chudditch, Woylie and Dibbler. (And if you want to know what they look like you’ll need to listen!) Tony talks about the rediscovery in the mid 1990s of Gilbert’s Potoroo, a rabbit-sized kangaroo that was thought extinct for 100 years, that was hiding in plain sight. And he describes his role in ensuring that this, the world’s rarest marsupial, survives today.
We interview Rob Foster from his home in Ontario, Canada about his work in the Canadian boreal forests and his frequent run-ins with Black and Grizzly bears. He describes an astonishing encounter with a predatory Black bear that he fought off for over 45 minutes in the back-woods with only a single can of bear spray and a pocket knife. He also dispenses good advice on how to protect yourself from bears if you are alone in the woods.
We interview British economist turned conservationist Terry Townshend from his home in Beijing about the work he has done over the past 12 years in China and some of the mammals he has encountered along the way. Terry describes stumbling on the Valley of the Cats, and its Snow Leopards, thanks to two students who overslept their alarm. He explains why he thinks Tibetan people are some of the happiest and wealthiest on earth. And he recalls a mesmerizing encounter with a family of Pallas’s Cats was the best birthday present ever.
We interview world famous Danish mammalogist turned wildlife photographer Mogens Trolle from his home in Copenhagen. Mogens talks about the philosophy that underpins his photography and choice of subjects, as well as his earlier work as a wildlife guide then researcher in Brazil. He describes greeting a herd of 3000 migrating Saiga on the Russian steppes and coming face to face with a Jaguar in the Brazilian Pantanal. And he explains why the most sociable primates have the most interesting faces.
Charles and Jon interview Chris & Mathilde Stuart – renowned wildlife researchers and authors – from their farm in South Africa. The Stuarts have had the sort of life many mammalwatchers can only dream of, searching and surveying for wildlife in much of Africa and beyond, including areas which had barely been studied before they arrived. They have written about 30 books and several apps over their long career. During this episode they explain how much work is involved in writing their field guides (answer: a lot!). Chris talks about rediscovering the Arabian Tahr in the United Arab Emirates, and Mathilde explains why her willingness to fill her pockets with frogs and small mammals was key to their budding romance.
Charles and Jon interview Regina Ribeiro, arguably Brazil’s top mammalwatching guide. Regina talks about her journey to become one of Brazil’s first female wildlife guides, and runs through her own list of the Brazilian Big 5. She also talks about what can go wrong when you have to take a minibus along the Transpantaneira.
We talk with Vladimir Dinets, naturalist extraordinaire, about his adventures travelling the world searching for wildlife. We hear about a quest to Pakistan to be the first biologist to see a Woolly Flying Squirrel in the wild; and how 48 hours inside a Mexican hollow tree is the perfect place to recover from the flu and look for black Jaguars. And he remembers his first near death encounter, when a 14 year old Vladimir had to battle a monster bear in Siberia. Plus we hear from Howard Frederick about the animal behind his recording of the mystery mammal in episode 18.
On New Year’s Eve 2021, Ellesmere and Sierra Foley sat down with Patrick and Katy Hall to reflect on the highs and lows of growing up in a mammalwatching world. Ellesmere reveals the real reason to visit the Louvre, and Patrick gives tips on how to stare down a Tassie Devil. Sierra has an overly-close encounter with leeches. And Katy makes a shocking confession about feeling “lucky” to have had a mammalwatching childhood!
Plus see if you can identify a mysterious mammal call that Charles plays at the start of the episode. More than 99% of mammalwatchers won’t know the answer.
Charles and Jon interview Bob Pitman, a marine ecologist from Oregon who has recently retired after spending more than 40 years working with the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Bob has seen more cetacean species than anyone else on the planet – over 80 species of whales and dolphins in the wild – and has only a handful left to find. During a fascinating interview Bob discusses some of his work researching Killer Whales including the day he had a snowball fight with a pod of Orcas. He also talks about memorable encounters with mythical species like Pygmy Right Whales and the ghosts of the seas: the beaked whales.
We interview Vivek Menon founder and Executive Director of the Wildlife Trust of India. Vivek is a distinguished conservationist, scientist and author of the Field Guide to Indian Mammals (required reading for any mammalwatcher heading to the sub-continent). During more than 30 years of conservation work Vivek has had many adventures around the world. He talks about getting drenched while kayaking alongside breaching Humpback Whales, being pounced on by Clouded Leopards and having a Chimp decorate his head with parts of a colobus monkey.
We interview Nils Bouillard, a young Belgian biologist who specializes in bat acoustics. In 2019 Nils set out to spend a year traveling the world to try to record as many bat species as possible. His Big Bat Year, the first of its kind, took him across 6 continents and 400 bat species. Nils talks about what drew him to bats and a Big Bat Year, and the many adventures he has had along the way including that time he caught bats with a Sinaloan drug cartel looking on.
We interview Wendy Panaino from the field in South Africa, about her research on one of Africa’s rarest, most endangered and most endearing mammals: the Ground (Cape) Pangolin. Wendy’s ground breaking research means she probably knows more about this species than anyone in the world and she shares some of her findings with us, including an explanation of how one even starts to study an animal this hard to find. Wendy also describes some of the other fascinating mammal species that she encounters, nonchalantly shrugging off the perils of spending nights alone wandering through the Kalahari desert following pangolins and avoiding lions.
We interview Tomer Ben-Yehuda and Alex Meyer, two 30-something mammalwatching friends about their adventures and misadventures around the world. We cover the full spectrum of mammalwatching emotions: the thrill of seeing a White-bellied Pangolin in the Central African Republic; the blissful relief of a last minute Maned Wolf sighting in Brazil, and the agony of standing on top of a nest of biting ants while waiting for a porcupine to reveal itself. Plus Tomer finally reveals the shocking truth behind why he and Alex earned the nickname “The Hard Boys” in Uganda.
We interview Russ Mittermeier, world famous author, mammalogist, conservationist and primate watcher. Russ takes us on a trip from a Tarzan-loving kid watching monkeys at the Bronx Zoo to a Tarzan-loving scientist discovering new species of primates in the jungles of the Amazon and Madagascar, and becoming the first person to see all 80 genera of primate in the wild. We hear about why mammalwatching is a force for conservation good, the thrill of coming face to face with a Tiger on his first day in the forests of South-east Asia, and how tales of Yetis inspired Russ’s hunt for a White Uakari.
We talk to Lisa Dabek, senior Conservation Scientist at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, and Founder and Director of the globally renowned Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Lisa has received numerous awards and accolades for her work. The most recent include two from the IUCN. In 2019 she won their prestigious George Rabb award for conservation which she received in 2019 ‘In recognition of her outstanding leadership and innovation in the conservation of one of the most overlooked groups of mammal species, the amazing tree kangaroos, and her over three decade commitment to conservation and local people in Papua New Guinea’. And just last month – September 2021 – she was awarded the IUCN’s Harold Jefferson Coolidge Memorial Medal given to individuals who have made ‘internationally significant contributions to effective conservation’.
We discuss Lisa’s remarkable success in setting up PNG’s first conservation area, and working with local communities to protect the superb mammals it contains. She also explains how difficult it is to see, let alone study, tree kangaroos, especially when someone with a score to settle just cast a spell on you.
We interview Martin Royle about the vision behind his ecotour company Royle Safaris. We talk about how much work has gone into designing tours that actually see (rather than search for) Javan Rhinos and Siberian Tigers, plus the cascading conservation benefits that come from small scale ecotourism. And we hear about some of Martin’s adventures along the way, including that time he thought a Tiger had eaten his friend.
We interview father and son Hari and Venkat Sankar about their mammalwatching adventures at home in California and around the world. We talk about how Venkat got the mammalwatching bug when he was 14 after a very close encounter with Wild Dogs; Venkat’s love for rats and bats; and how their relationship survived the Puma that Hari saw but Venkat didn’t.
In this two part interview, we talk with George Schaller, widely regarded as the planet’s greatest living field biologist.
Some follow a career in wildlife biology and dream of discovering new species. Others of uncovering new information on our most charismatic animals. While some yearn to make a genuine impact on conservation. George Schaller has made enormous contributions in all of these areas in a career spanning 70 years.
His pioneering work with Mountain Gorillas showed the world for the first time that they were a gentle – not savage – species, and it paved the way for Dian Fossey to begin her work. He went on to work with a set of mammalwatching bucket list species from Snow Leopards and Tigers through Giant Pandas and Gobi Bears. In the early 1990s he helped discover the Saola – the “Asian unicorn” – in Laos, and one of the most remarkable species discoveries of the 20th Century. He has also helped set up over 20 protected areas including the 200,000 square mile Changtang Nature Reserve on the Tibetan plateau.
He has won countless awards and written 15 books, one of which – on Lions – won the USA’s National Book Award. Legendary does not do him justice.
We interview José G. Martínez-Fonseca about his journey from part-time bat catcher in Nicaragua to studying for his PhD in biology in Arizona. Highlights include some of his legendary exploits in the field, risking life and limb to capture mammals on the move for the greater good of science and mammalwatchers everywhere.
We interview Peter Zahler about 35 years’ work conserving wildlife in the field around the world. Some of his many achievements include his work in Pakistan where he ran a world-renowned project to save the Markhor from extinction, and rediscovered the Woolly Flying Squirrel, a beast no scientist had seen for 70 years.
We interview scientist, author, artist and tour operator Fiona Reid about a lifetime catching, painting and studying some of the world’s least known mammals. Highlights include bat glamour makeover tips, how to photograph a flying fox’s teeth and why a plane crash is much more frightening if you’ve checked your luggage.
Episode 4, 18 June, 2021 – We interview scientist and conservationist Dr Tim Davenport from his base in Tanzania about his many mammalian achievements and adventures during 30 years in Africa. Highlights include a Giant Pangolin rodeo, a flatulent gorilla, and his key role in discovering the Kipunji monkey in Tanzania: one of the most exciting mammalian discoveries of the past 100 years.
Episode 3, June 1 2021 – An interview with Jon Hall about 30 years of mammalwatching and 16 years of mammalwatching.com, seeing a Giant Panda in the wild, and looking for Markhors while hiding from the Taliban.
Episode 2, May 18, 2021. We interview Cheryl Antonucci about her love of primates, the mountains of Ethiopia and why more women don’t have a mammal list. Don’t miss her encounter with some drunk gorillas.
Episode 1, May 6, 2021. We interview Professor Mac Hunter about a lifetime researching and watching mammals, and his 30 year quest to see every family of vertebrate animal. Highlights include some randy Right Whales, an invisible Aye-aye and that time he almost didn’t see a Numbat.