Human Behavior In Bonobos

May 7, 2014
Alaina Abplanalp Photography via flickr Creative Commons

Frans de Waal is a distinguished biologist, university professor, and author who specializes in primate social behavior. For years, he’s been bucking prevailing ideas about the nature of human morality and ethics. Over decades of research, he’s found evidence of altruistic and empathic behavior in a number of species, concluding that there is a biological foundation for human morality that emerged from our animal origins.

Spring Sunlight

Apr 11, 2014
Dave Anderson

Daylight floods a rural NH valley. A rooster crows in the village. The morning songbird chorus features mourning doves, red-wing blackbirds, a cardinal. The symphony will soon swell with grouse drumming, wood thrush flutes and a crescendo of warbler songs.

Strong sunlight of lengthening days is the catalyst that controls circadian rhythms influencing production of hormones - in birds, wild mammals and people.

wanderingnome, stuart anthony & ckpicker via flickr Creative Commons and via

Today on Word of Mouth, lions and tigers and bears - in cages. We're delving into the exotic pets debate. Then, on to a truly wild animal, but one whose population is dwindling. In the second half of the show, we hear from a man who spent seven years - yes, seven - transcribing the entire King James Bible by hand. Finally, Virginia sits down with Humaira Awais Shahid, journalist and human rights activist fighting for women's rights in Pakistan.

Listen to the whole show and click Read more for individual segments.

The Exotic Pets Debate

Apr 2, 2014
via Lauren Slater / National Geographic

From kangaroos bred in captivity to trained tigers, exotic pets come from all walks of wildlife…and ownership of wild animals is increasingly becoming a hot debate.  Exotic pet owners defend their right to care for critters from venomous snakes to angry chimps. Animal rights advocates meanwhile, are doing what they can to stop the purchase of exotic pets and place current ones into safe, accredited sanctuaries.  Both camps appear to share a love of wild animals. Lauren Slater  joined us to talk about the exotic animal ownership debate. She wrote "Wild Pets: The Debate Over Owning Exotic Animals" for National Geographic. Listen to Virginia's interview with Lauren Slater here.

Taylor Quimby

Does your cat sound like a wailing woman? Your goat like a screaming man? Your dog like an unzipping tent? Or does your beloved pet make some other odd, funky, or hilarious sound? We want to hear it! Here's how to share your weird pet noises with us:

Sara Plourde / NHPR

Check out the graphic below to find out what white-nose syndrome is, how far it is spreading, and why it is such a concern for animal conservationists.

Vernal Equinox Means Equal Night

Mar 21, 2014
Abigail via flickr Creative Commons

The Vernal Equinox has arrived! For one brief moment, everywhere on planet Earth, day and night are equal: 12 hours from sunrise to sunset and sunset to sunrise.

The length of daylight compared to dark, is known as photoperiod. Seasonal changes in photoperiod  trigger a lot of changes in plants and animals. Many plants are known as short-day species; they flower after the summer solstice when days are getting shorter. Plants that bloom in spring are known as long-day species.

Logan Shannon

While it may be March, it’s still very much wintertime. If you’ve been cursing the snow and ice and desperately longing for spring, you’re not alone. But let’s look at the bright side - all that frozen water offers certain opportunities that just aren’t available in the spring. And I’m not talking about expensive and time consuming snow-sports, I’m talking about wildlife tracking. To give you an introduction to tracking, We  headed for the woods of Barrington, New Hampshire with Dan Gardoqui, one of the founders and directors of White Pine Programs, a nature connection non-profit in Southern Maine.

Bill Ohl, Hatmanu florin, & whittlz via flickr Creative Commons and Pearl and the Beard

Today's Word of Mouth broadcast delves into the hows of character creation. Then we speak to the creator of everyone's favorite chat feature. You know, the one that says "So-and-So is typing." (Thankfully he doesn't leave you hanging on those three little dots...) We leave acting and writing for a musical treat with the band Pearl and the Beard. Finally, it's all about the cute with the author of a new book about interspecies relationships.

Listen to the full show, and click Read More for more on each segment.

Taylor Quimby

While working on an upcoming story, producer Taylor Quimby got this audio of his dog, Angel-Rose, begging for attention.  He thinks she sounds like a tent zipper.  What do you think?

Sarah Thomas

The Word of Mouth Saturday broadcast is your shining beacon of awesome at the end of a snowy week. Whether you're wearing headphones under your winter hat or you're listening in a snow-covered car, we have the segments that delight and enlighten. You may even forget we have six more weeks of winter! Listen to the full show, and scroll down for links and more.

Meet Ben Kilham, 'Bear Whisperer'

Oct 29, 2013
Lauren Gesswien / Courtesy of Ben Kilham

From ThoughtCast comes a story about the bear whisperer of Lyme, New Hampshire, Ben Kilham, and the abandoned black bear cubs he has rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.


As the curtain falls on another season of superhero blockbusters, Hollywood is already hard at work re-booting  "Batman," "Captain America," and the "Fantastic Four" franchises.  More than sixty high-profile superhero films have been released since the surprise success of "X-Men" in the year 2000.

Joe Hanson points us to a more enduring source of awe-inspiring acts: nature. Hanson is a biologist who writes and hosts the PBS. video series “It’s Okay to Be Smart.”

Travis S. via flickr Creative Commons

Fifteen-thousand years ago, nearly 100 species of large animals known as ‘megafauna’ roamed the amazon forest before going extinct. A team of researchers from oxford and Princeton University studying the ‘megafauna’s’ effects on the ecosystem discovered that they were crucial in maintaining soil fertility.  Chris Doughty is currently a lecturer in ecosystem ecology within the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, and lead author of a recent study: “The Legacy of the Pleistocene Megafauna Extinctions on Nutrient Availability in Amazonia.”

via Monadnock Lyceum

Life is not a commodity, but a community.  Animals are not our possessions, but our elder siblings, guides and teachers in the larger family of which Homo sapiens is merely a junior member.  Reverend Gary Kowalski shares the journey that led him to appreciate nature as the primordial sacrament and to rediscover the ancient knowledge evident to indigenous people (reconfirmed by the findings of modern biology) that other species are not so different from ourselves, but share in the emotional depths and psychic capacities that make us most fully human.

Therapy Dog, "Angel," Lives Up To Her Name

Jun 22, 2013
Courtesy Sarah Kirsch

Sarah Kirsch rescued her dog, Angel, from the Concord-Merrimack County SPCA, and enrolled Angel in a program to become a therapy dog through that organization. Now certified, Angel makes regular visits to nursing homes.

The presence of a therapy dog can have a significant impact on the residents.

Kirsch and Angel were directed to one resident, Pearl. Though she seemed to be unresponsive, her roommate informed Kirsch that she really did like dogs.

Sean Hurley

Animals have long played a part in human therapy and healing; from dogs trained to assist the disabled, to all manner of animals making visits to hospitals and nursing homes. For one Vermont woman, it’s a horse that’s helped her heal; not from physical ailments, but from the emotional and spiritual scars of abuse. Sean Hurley brings us her story.

There are many ways to ease the pangs of loneliness, illness, and old age –among them, spending time with a friendly animal companion. More than ten thousand animals are currently registered as care workers in the United States - only fourteen of them however, are llamas. I recently spoke with llama trainer Niki Kuklenski of J.N.K. Llamas about how this unusual animal is playing a role in human therapy.

Check out a video from Colors Magazine that shows Niki's llamas in action.


E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How are populations of African elephants faring these days? What conservation efforts are underway and are they working?-- Libby Broullette, Salem, MA

Baby Black Bears Nursed Back To Health

Mar 30, 2013
Benjamin Kilham

It's cuddly work, but someone has to do it.

The Kilhams are those someones. Last spring, black bear specialist Benjamin Kilham, his wife Debbie, and his sister Phoebe, who together operate a bear rehabilitation sanctuary near Lyme, New Hampshire, took on the care of twenty orphaned black bear cubs - much higher than their usual number of charges.

Royal BC Museum in Victoria

E - The Environmental Magazine

iStock Photo

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is the purpose of National Wildlife Week, which I understand will take place in March 2013? -- Melissa P., Burlington, NJ

Hemera Collection

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What are some tips for keeping my dogs and cats healthy?-- Kim Newfield, via e-mail

Believe it or not, our pets may be exposed to more harsh chemicals through the course of their day than we are. Researchers at the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that pet dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people.

Nothing exceptional here via Flickr Creative Commons

Today when dogs do a disappearing act, infrared cameras, tracking devices, and social media help owners keep tabs on wandering pets. These security technologies are a growing part of the 56-billion dollars spent annually on America’s pets.

Kirk from Wolfeboro

In his book, New Hampshire’s Ben Kilham describes what he has learned in his twenty years studying these creatures.   Contrary to their image as solitary and not-that-intelligent, Kilham finds bears capable of altruism, and cooperation. He even finds them possess a complex communication system, as well as social  behaviors that at times look a lot like ours.


gLangille via Flickr Creative Commons

More than three decades ago, the Mountain Gorilla project started a tourism project to save the threatened gorilla population from poaching. The project hired poachers as park rangers and demonstrated that live gorillas were much more valuable as tourist attractions than dead ones. Since then, gorilla tourism has added hundreds of millions of foreign tourist dollars to state coffers in Central Africa, and the great ape populations have seen a modest rebound.

Brian_Kellett via Flickr Creative Commons

Recent studies out of Duke University have discovered that everyone’s favorite lab rat, the humble mouse, has a penchant for singing – and more importantly, singing in a way.  Producer Taylor Quimby is Word of Mouth’s always willing investigator of strange science, and he has the story.

Check out Cinderella's singing mice. They are true heroes:

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Do environmentalists think the Endangered Species Act has been a success or failure with regard to protecting biodiversity in the U.S.?-- Ron McKnight, Trenton, NJ

While that very question has been a subject of debate already for decades, most environmental advocates are thankful such legislation is in place and proud of their government for upholding such high standards when it comes to preserving rare species of plants and animals.

Photo Credit Atelier Teee, via Flickr Creative Commons


Part 1: A Horse of Exactly the Same Color and Jumping for Gold...Someday

Produced with Zach Nugent


Jul 18, 2012
Photo Credit Sad Diego Shooter, Via Flickr Creative Commons

Remember how people used to joke about online dating? What once was an easy target for digs about desperate singles and social pariahs is now a success story for oodles of couples and dozens of highly profitable dating services.  Among the unabashed masses of online daters these days is an unlikely demographic – the animal kingdom. Reyhan Harmancy is a staffer at Buzzfeed, where she wrote about how zoos use online dating methods to profile and pair species together.