Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan

Dom's Wild ThingsThe first season of Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, finished in the UK early this year and on BBC America this Month.  It was a short season, with only 8 episodes.  Each one saw my favorite hobbit off to an exotic region of the world in search of rare animals. The sort of animals you don’t see on TV. Creepy crawlies, reptiles, spiders, scorpions, etc.  These aren’t the cutest of animals, I must say.

Now I love all animals, wish them all well, don’t eat them, don’t wear leather.  But there are some animals I just want to stay away from me.  They can go be happy and healthy somewhere else.  Almost every one of the animals on my list have been featured on this show.  On the other hand, there are plenty of TV shows (and internet videos) that feature the cute and the cuddly. Very few show us giant beetles, water bugs, centipedes or huntsman spiders.  And (not to sound like the most stereotypical of bleeding-heart liberals) they are really important to the ecosystems, and less likely to be protected because they’re just not as appealing as a koala bear. More exposure for them and all the cool things they can do is a good thing. So, I approve.  Plus, Dom is awesome. Had a crush on him since Fellowship of the Ring.  So, obviously I was always going to watch and like this show.  There’s no point in me reviewing it because it’s a forgone conclusion. Yes, I liked it.

Here’s a brief rundown of where Dom goes and what he sees:

In Vietnam, he comes across a few incredibly dangerous snakes, saves a lizard from being someone’s dinner, swims in a crocodile-infested lake, and finds the elusive Giant Water Bug:

giant water bug

In Episode 2, he continues on to Laos in search of the Giant Huntsman Spider.  This is a creature that could give me nightmares for the rest of my life, but Dom is thrilled to see it. Along the way he encounters another reticulated python, a beautiful green tree viper, and a very dubious fireworks festival.

Dom and tree viper

Episode 3 takes him to Namibia (near S. Africa) in search of a Black Hairy Thick Tail Scorpion.  He also meets some snakes (he always finds snakes), an adorable meerkat, a gecko and monitor.  He eventually finds what is the most terrifying scorpion I’ve ever seen–excepting the 10-foot long model of one at the Natural History Museum in London–and messes about with it until it’s angry. He does that a lot.

Episode 4 is in search of a truly disgusting creature, the Scolopendra.  Gross! I can’t help it, this guy is yucky.

scolopendraI really dislike the centipedes I get in my apartment.  Imagine the same thing, but big enough to eat a bat–to snatch it from the air.  Well, you don’t have to imagine, because you get to see it in this episode.  I had to close my eyes. While in Venezuela, Dom finds an adorable three-toed sloth, snakes, tarantulas, and a beetle larva the size of a banana.

In episode 5, Dom heads to Cameroon to find a Giant White Goliath Beetle.  As usual, he encounters snakes and other bugs and insects along his way.

Episodes 6 and 7 deal with swarming animals, Army ants and Giant Malaysian Honey Bees.  It’s ridiculous, the power that these animals can exert as a group, and the way that they work together like a school of fish to ward off or fight predators.  Amazing and terrifying.  Here’s a colony of the honey bees, defending their honeycomb:

honey beesWe also learn about a bird called the Honey Buzzard, who is simultaneously brilliant and a huge jerk.  He wants the honey, but obviously would like to avoid being stung by (literally) thousands of bees.  So he waits for another animal to wander by near the hive, then agitates the bees before flying off.  The bees zoom out to attack the unsuspecting animal below, and the honey buzzard descends on the unprotected hive.  Sometimes the honey buzzards work in pairs and one will act as a decoy.  This is some seriously brilliant hunting.

In the final episode, Dom heads to Guatemala to find the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard.  This is a huge lizard that is incredibly venomous, and so dangerous that locals have all sorts of myths and legends. They believe if you step in the animals shadow, you will die within 24 hours.  They also tend to kill all lizards they find, assuming they are Beaded Lizards.  It’s a pretty intimidating animal:

Guatemalan Beaded Lizard

I loved seeing all of these animals and learning more about them. I will freely admit that I spent a lot of time (a LOT) watching through my fingers. I’m terrified of snakes, and all nature shows really enjoy the strike shot.  It’s the nature show version of porn’s money shot.  We see cobras, rattlesnakes, vipers, all striking right at the camera.  No thank you. But, I still watched. And would watch again.

Dom is a great host, even if you don’t have a crush on him.  Evidence: My boyfriend liked the show.  And he’s not really into animals.  It’s just a cool show where you learn things you wouldn’t really learn elsewhere. Dom is brave (this bravery resembles stupidity sometimes), smart, funny, and passionate.   This isn’t a show he was approached to do, this is a passion he’s held all his life, and it is obvious.

While watching, I was overcome with reactions that seemed very similar to how I felt when I used to watch Steve Irwin.  There’s a real sense of ‘why the fuck is he doing that?’ and ‘that isn’t a good idea!’.  I sincerely hope Dom doesn’t come to the same sort of ending as Steve Irwin. He definitely likes to push the boundaries of what seems safe, and it totally makes sense that he has said the biggest difficulty in getting a new season for the show is negotiating with insurance companies.

On the other hand, there are moments that sort of make you think that reptiles and bugs might be a lot more docile than most mammals–and are certainly more docile than we imagine them to be.  In one particular moment, in the very first episode, Dom has what can only be described as a cuddle with a HUGE reticulated python.

Dom and a pythonDom picks up the snake and they sort of snuggle in the tree until the snake falls asleep–I am not making this up.  Part of the reason he fails safe doing this, Dom says, is that the snake is so big that he doesn’t even consider Dom a threat.  The snake is more than large enough to kill him.

It’s an amazing moment, and really made me think about my fear of snakes.  After all, can you think of a mammal that would let you do that?

And all through the series, Dom picks up venomous and dangerous creatures that could easily bite, sting, or squeeze him into some serious injuries…but they don’t, for the most part.  Part of that is that Dom seems to be able to read their body language and discern when they’re really irritated and when they are quite calm.  I’m amazed that people can do this–it took me 2 years to figure out what it looks like when my cat is irritated, and I have the scars to prove it.

Suffice it to say, I loved this show.  I really hope they manage to make a second season. Dom has said he’d like to get Billy Boyd and other friends from LotR and Lost on the show with him, and that would be spectacular.

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