Dangerous deeds

Last Updated : 31 July 2010, 11:57 IST
Last Updated : 31 July 2010, 11:57 IST

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You are biting your nails as Donald Schultz approaches a venomous snake, all ready to grab it by its hood in order to extract a few blood samples. The jungle seems to be his playground as he walks comfortably, never intimidated by his surroundings or the possibility that he at any time might encounter a dangerous creature. Nothing less than an edge-of-the-seat thriller, Discovery Channel’s latest offering Wild Recon is a ten part series that features Donald Schultz, world-renowned venom expert, writer, photographer and adventurer who blows you away with his daredevil antics. Whether it is collecting lethal jellyfish tentacles off the remote coasts of Australia, chasing and relocating charging elephants in Sri Lanka, or bringing down a 600-pound wild African lion to get a blood sample in South Africa, Donald is fearless in the world-wide pursuit of bio-specimens for research and promising scientific discoveries that he hopes will help find a cure to life-threatening diseases.

His love affair with dangerous activities extends beyond his work, and he tries to incorporate the two whenever possible. Donald is an avid skydiver and a highly specialised scuba diver too. What makes the Wild Recon fascinating is that it’s not just Donald’s journey. You feel it’s your own, where you tag along with him discovering new species, their natural habitat and how integral they are to the eco-system. On August 6, the show premieres on Animal Planet at 9 pm. Excerpts from an interview with the host:

Why should people watch ‘Wild Recon’?

My friend Devon and I have been working with different conservation groups and companies to get samples of animals from exotic locations for a number of years. Wild Recon showcases our work in this field. Deadly snakes are my forte, but me and my team have worked with everything — right from sharks, rhinos to giraffes, spiders, and monkeys. This show will capture the kind of work and lifestyle I’ve lived for the last few years and hopefully people watching it at home people will appreciate how some people run around and risk their lives to aid research for the betterment of humans. The series was definitely a learning curve where we learnt to interact with snakes while working with the camera simultaneously so that we were not risking lives.

Have you ever felt scared during any encounter in the wild? Are you scared or intimidated by any animal?

Yes, a few times. While dodging elephants in Sri Lanka, I had a narrow escape as these animals went wild. I have also been bitten by  highly venomous snakes. In retrospect, these experiences seem easy, but when I am actually on the field, tackling these creatures, it’s a different ball game altogether. Every moment is fraught with danger because working with big animals like rhinos, elephants and sharks can be dangerous. But I love doing what I do! The only creatures I used to detest working with were spiders. They scared me. Having said that, as I’m really inquisitive when it comes to animals, I have recently developed an interest in these crawly creatures. My fear has turned into affection!

Any particular creature you find fascinating?

I enjoy working with certain types of fish; usually big predatory fish and some snakes as well. The slender loris needs a special mention, which is a nocturnal monkey in Sri Lanka. This animal is slow-moving, delicate and absolutely gorgeous. When I found it, I felt like a six-year-old kid who gets all excited and happy when he discovers something new. Another creature I adore is the king cobra.

Were your ever attacked or injured during the filming?

I was bitten by a sea snake in Costa Rica during my research. It’s the fourth most venomous snake in the world. I was extremely angry after I got bitten as it reflected my failure as a professional, but one learns from such experiences. Also, I was attacked once by an anteater in central America due to which, till date,  I cannot use a part of my right thumb. My mom thinks I am crazy and gets extremely upset whenever she sees me injured. It all sounds scary, but all these problems have never dissuaded me from doing my job. The work I do on Wild Recon is literally my life’s work, which I have dedicated to be with animals. I’ve been going on these adventurous missions for years and now the series spotlights the jeopardy that I enjoy in collecting these samples on behalf of the research community.

So your work is your life?

Well yes, but I try and balance it as much as possible by involving myself in creative pursuits like writing and travelling. As for the adrenaline junkie in me, he loves skydiving and riding motorcycles.

Do you have pets?

I’ve got a few snakes and spiders that are scientifically significant and are used for venom research.

Published 31 July 2010, 11:57 IST

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