In a world less superficial

Telly-Talk

in bear haven Charles Vandergraw in ‘Stranger Among Bears’.

Phantoms in the Brain (National Geographic) draws one by its interesting description. How would you feel if you were convinced that — your wife was an impostor, or that your right arm belonged to your husband — it goes. And there you have the charismatic neurologist Dr V S Ramachandran taking viewers on a dramatic journey through the human brain, seeking answers by examining a range of bizarre neurological disorders in perfectly ordinary people.

A recent episode had him interacting with Graham who is suffering from a condition called blind sight after an accident at the age of eight left him with brain damage. Graham cannot see, except on his left, but he can sense objects and very accurately guess in which direction they are being moved. All of us have blind sight, he informs us, but don’t realise that many times we are not seeing things, just sensing them. A perfect example is when we drive while all our attention is on the friend sitting next to us and gossiping. The familiar road and traffic are simply being sensed. Very fascinating!

Safari Sisters is the next programme this reviewer catches on Animal Planet. It follows Lindy (13) and Penny (11), the two daughters of Emmy-Award winning wildlife filmmaker Kim Wolhuter who tread the path first laid by their grandfather, the first game ranger in Kruger National Park, considered a legend by many in South Africa after he survived a lion attack many years back with the help of just a knife.

In this particular episode, the girls participate in a rhino translocation and assist Malilangwe’s Rhino Program leader in monitoring the rhino’s health during the capture operation. They help in taking the rhino’s temperature, thermometer placed in the, ahem... bottom, learn that the horn is made of keratin (just like their hair) and watch while a hole is drilled in the rhino’s horn and a transmitter fitted inside. “No, it doesn’t hurt. It is just like cutting a nail,” their father tells them, adding sensitively that he hopes this will be the worst experience the rhino will have to endure at the hands of man.

Also on Animal Planet there is Stranger Among Bears, a fascinating look at retired science teacher Charles Vandergaw, 70, who chooses to live six months of the year alone in a remote homestead in Alaska that he likes to call Bear Haven. Black bears and grizzlies routinely visit him looking for food, and at any given time there might be half a dozen or more bears on the property. The satiated bears succumb to Charlie’s affections, often taking walks with him, allowing him to pet them and even sit astride them. Charlie’s personal photographs show him playing with grizzly cubs and standing remarkably close to mating bears. On occasion, he has even nursed injured bears back to health.

Once a bear hunter, Charlie Vandergaw decided to hang up his gun after a life-changing encounter some 20 years ago. Charlie had lived for 20 years with the bears without being ordered to stop, largely because Bush Alaskans accept odd behaviour in their neighbours in the absence of serious problems. However, the internet tells me, that in recent years, Charlie reports having been swiped at and even knocked unconscious by large bears. Here’s wishing him and his breed a long life. Also, wishing more people would watch watch him do it.

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