If you're not watching Weird Creatures on the Science Channel, you're missing out on some truly bizarre stuff.
From the rainforests of Borneo to the Australian outback, host Nick Baker explorers some of the remotest corners of the Earth every Wednesday at 9PM. On last week's premier episode of the third season, Nick flew to Australia just after breeding time for a rare sighting of an extremely endangered fish — the leafy seahorse.
On the next show, he drives to Mexico's Baja peninsula in search of the elusive mole lizard. We caught up with Nick for a few questions about his experiences shooting and exploring for Weird Creatures.
FoxNews.com: How do you choose which creatures to spotlight?
Nick Baker: It's quite easy really: I've always been sticking up for the biological underdog and I've got one of those filing cabinet brains that remembers seemingly pointless things — the consequence is a 'head library' full of odd, unusual and ugly creatures amassed over 30 plus years of being me.
Some of my quests have been almost childlike odysseys to answer a question, such as 'does the Candiru fish really swim up and lodge itself in those sensitive parts of a human's anatomy? Does it fit? Is it physically possible? and then the obvious one: Why?
Others are more recent. I might be flicking through a scientific journal, wildlife magazine or field guide to an exotic country and I see something that I've not noticed before — if it passes the initial 'it's a freak' test then onto the list of Weird Creatures it goes.
Thenext part is filtering the list down. Usually this involves me and the production team sitting around a table hammering it out, until we have a list of animals that we all agree are weird but we realistically stand a chance (even a slim one) of filming in the 10 days or so it takes to make each episode.
FoxNews.com: What sort of pets does a guy like you have? I’m thinking three-toed sloths….
Nick: I have loads of pets (in the loosest sense of the word). I have in the region of 60 snakes — ranging from large Boas and Pythons to some of my favorites, the odd and slightly unusual sand boas, which incidentally make rubbish pets as they spend all of their time buried under the soil!
I have a few tarantulas, scorpions, various cockroaches, preying mantids, snapping turtles, big-headed turtles ... and at the moment I'm breeding some giant Asian silk moths on my office desk.
The Mexican salamander the Axolotl is an animal I've bred for some 30 years of my life, but recently I discovered they are in big trouble in the wild. So as part of this series I headed to Mexico City (the only place on Earth that this animal is native) and discovered a story that really moved me: This film may be the last one made of the wild animal before it goes extinct!
I'm also in the process of writing a book called Bug Zoo for DK books, which involves me keeping many smaller common garden creepy crawlies. This bug zoo is currently taking over my spare room! I don't have dogs or cats — I'm allergic to the former and the latter eat the wildlife that I'm rather fond of in my garden!
FoxNews.com: Any creatures you regret having tracked down? Too ugly, too mean, too dirty…
Nick: None of the creatures have been too weird, ugly, or too disgusting to film. The whole point of the series is to show people creatures that rarely make the limelight. Give them a biological freak show on one hand, but with the other we point out some of evolution's unsung heroes.
The show is part a celebration of biological diversity and sometimes a heavier message of conservation and extinction. The weirder the better, as weird is what weird does. If you look odd, by definition you are different, which means you've got a good back story — either you've taken off down some evolutionary line in response to an extreme environment or as a solution to a particular survival challenge.
The only thing that holds us back is how much time we can invest in the film — there's a planet of extraordinary creatures out there even stranger than the ones we've filmed so far, it's just they are so far from the travelled path or so rare that getting a glimpse becomes a massive logistical challenge.
I'm not done yet though; there's plenty more material out there although for some it will be a race against time as the odd and ugly ones don't generate much in the way of conservation sympathy!
FoxNews.com: On your trip through Mexico for this premier episode, did you guys run into the chupacabra?
Nick: No, we didn't see the chupacabra. We did see a few mangy dogs though!! It's amazing how weird a familiar fluffy looks without its fluff — which is ultimately what I feel this modern cryptozoological phenomena is!