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Interview With Jeff Corwin

Aired July 26, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Jeff Corwin, the animal guy who puts the wild in wildlife TV, risking life and limb in jungles, deserts, rivers and oceans, to get as close as he can to some of the world's most exotic and dangerous creatures. And now he's brought some of them here, from the scaly to the smelly, from the puffed up the poisonous, they're all part of a truly wild hour with Jeff Corwin, next on LARRY KING of the jungle LIVE!
It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE -- we love these kind of programs, and especially looking forward to meeting Jeff Corwin, the wildlife biologist, the Emmy-winning TV host. His new program is "Corwin's Quest." It airs Wednesday nights on the Animal Planet. He's author of "Living on the Edge: Amazing Relationships in the Natural World," there you see its cover.

How did you become you? Why are you a biologist?

JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: You know, Larry, ever since I was a kid, I've always had a fascinating interest in creatures. Now, I remember, my favorites of course are the snakes -- just like your son, he loves snakes and I love snakes.

KING: Both of them (INAUDIBLE).

CORWIN: So when I was, like, 6 years old, I was -- you know, I grew up in the city, my father is a Boston cop. And we used to go visit my grandmother in the countryside. And I was rummaging -- about 6 years old -- rummaging through some logs, and at the bottom was this coiled-up mass with scales and a flickering tongue. Instinctively, I reached out and grabbed it. It grabbed on to me, and I walked in with this legless thing, about as long as my body, hanging up my arm, and my grandmother looked at me and she screamed. She said, get out of the house! I was like, no! Everyone said, why? And I said, because I love it.

And ever since then, I've been attached to snakes. Sometimes, you know, not wanting to be attached to them.

KING: Why biology and not zoology?

CORWIN: Well, actually, zoology is a term within the science of biology for someone who specializes in animals. It's actually a term that's actually not used too much anymore, but wildlife biologist tends to be someone who specializes in working in conservation and animals.

KING: But unlike others, like Jack Hanna, you're not a zoo keeper, right?

CORWIN: I'm not. I've never worked in the zoo. I have many colleagues that work in zoos.

KING: What do you do? I mean, before television?

CORWIN: My background -- my background before TV was research. And I also worked in nonprofit organizations. And I spent a lot of time working in education.

But from about the age of 16 to about the age of 28, I spent most of my life living in a rainforest in Central America, where I eventually did my graduate work.

KING: Doing research (INAUDIBLE)?

CORWIN: I did work on bats and snakes.

KING: You're crazy, right?

CORWIN: No, I am crazy. I am crazy.

KING: Bats and snakes?

CORWIN: I did. I did a vertical distribution study with (INAUDIBLE) on bats, basically trying to figure out all the complexities with bat ecology. And then with snakes, I've always been fascinated by them. So you know, from like 14, I was going to schools, trying to teach people about these animals. And it really has followed me through to the career I have now.

KING: How did the TV show begin?

CORWIN: Well, I was sort of struggling. I was wondering, like, do I want to be a longtime researcher or do I want to be a professor? And through a documentary experience, Bob Ballard, who you've probably met, you know Bob? A good friend of mine, he was sort of like a mentor to me, and he had this program, "The Jason Project," and he featured my work when I was in my 20s. And that was sort of the catalyst. The light bulb went off. And I said, this is what I want to do. Of course, I spent four years hustling, and now this summer will mark 10 years doing it.

KING: Ten years.

CORWIN: Ten years.

KING: But "Corwin's Quest" is new?

CORWIN: Totally new. It's -- this is my dream job. This is the thing I've always wanted to do.

For the last 10 years, we've been crafting all these different sorts of shows, from Disney to Animal Planet with the awesome Discovery family. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to take the viewers that watch TV to the ultimate experience when it comes to witnessing animal behavior.

So what we do is we've crafted a show where each episode takes place in multiple countries. And we're looking at these different themes. For example, we could be looking at stuff like predation, and that journey into the world of predators will take us from great white sharks off the coast of South Africa to North American predators to, you know, army ants or snakes in Central America. And it's all done in one episode.

KING: Every -- once a week, every Wednesday?

CORWIN: Every Wednesday at 9:00 p.m., you can see me doing this.

KING: We have a clip of you having your teeth cleaned by a live shrimp.


KING: I want to ask you about this. Let's watch.


CORWIN: Just look at this piece of coral in this little guy. Guess what? He's the one I need, the cleaner shrimp.


And that, my friends, is what to do when you can't find a toothpick in the barrier reef.


KING: That's wild.

CORWIN: Yeah, that's wild.


CORWIN: Yeah, I haven't had cleaner teeth, but I lost about two inches of gum tissue.

KING: Let's meet a few animals with Jeff Corwin. Here is a tree hyrax, is that it?

CORWIN: Yeah, this is a really, really cool creature. The objective that we're trying to do with the show is to introduce people to the fascinating world of animals, and show that how each creature, right, has its own unique nuances, its physical characteristics that gives it the edge.

And this is a tree hyrax. And my question to you is, when you look at this, Larry, right, what comes to your mind? What sort of animal would you imagine this would be?

KING: A big skunk.

CORWIN: Like a skunk or maybe a rodent?

KING: Yeah.

CORWIN: Well, what I want you to do is look at the feet. Check out the feet. You can actually feel them.

KING: They're like little feet.

CORWIN: Yeah, feel that?

KING: They're like human feet.

CORWIN: And actually, the hyrax, which is so amazing, is a relative of elephants.

KING: What?

CORWIN: This is the closest living relative of elephants on Earth today. And you can actually see almost the elephantine like toes with this creature. And if you were to look in the mouth, you'll see tusks.

KING: Yes!

CORWIN: As an elephant would have tusks. See those right there?

KING: Yeah.

CORWIN: And again, this animal takes it to the next level. So when many million of years ago, when elephants split off, and you had this group that went to the plains of Africa, they split off again. Some of these dassies, these hyraxes, went into the rocks, but this one actually climbs into the treetops. It's actually arboreal, which is quite extraordinary when you think about it.

KING: Let's meet a Fennec fox.

CORWIN: Hopefully, they won't meet.

KING: We got these all scheduled. A Fennec fox. They would -- they do not well together?

CORWIN: They probably would not. Would have sort of the dance of predator and prey before us.

This is an awesome creature. This is the quintessential desert survivor, the Fennec fox. This is an animal you find living in the deserts of Africa. And what is so amazing about this Fennec fox is its ears. The ears on some Fennec foxes can be as wide as they are from tip to tip as this creature is from nose to the back of its body. And those ears are such an important part of this creature's survival. They're like satellite dishes, that are picking up any bit of sound.

But another adaptation that is just so awesome about this fox is that if you smell it, there is very little smell. You don't get that intense canine smell. This creature does not produce a lot of urine. If you're living in a desert, you don't want to waste water. So this creature survives by having very efficient kidneys. I mean, it's just an extraordinary creature, and absolutely adorable.

KING: Animals are amazing.

CORWIN: You know, when you think about it, there are millions of creatures that inhabit our Earth. And out of the many millions of creatures that call our planet home, we have only identified about 10 percent of them beyond their name.

KING: Our guest is Jeff Corwin, the author of the new book, "Living on the Edge," the host of the new program, "Corwin's Quest."

And as we go to break, a clip from "The Corwin Quest," where Jeff demonstrates something you might not have known about bats. Take a look and listen.


CORWIN: These bats are now pouring out of this cave. And it's only going to get thicker. As thousands upon thousands of bats turns into millions of bats invading the night sky.

Actually with me, I've got this really cool tool. It's a little bat detector. And if you're wondering what you're missing, listen to this.

That's what you're not hearing.



KING: Our guest is Jeff Corwin. Before we get to the little skink here, concerning the bat thing. Someone told me that you are a descendant of Dracula?

CORWIN: It is true, Larry. I am a direct descendant of Dracula. It is true. On my dad's side, we have some Hungarian, Rumanian ancestry. And you can trace it back to Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes, so yeah.

KING: You are -- you have Dracula blood?

CORWIN: I do, yeah.

KING: This could be part of your fascination.

CORWIN: It could be. It could be a new schtick for me, too. Probably, yes.

KING: Why do you think he turned into a bat?

CORWIN: Good question. Well, actually, he belonged to an order called the Draculs, the dragon order. But he actually didn't connect to a bat until Bram Stoker wrote, you know, the great book.

KING: And now we have the Batman movie, which shows -- and I haven't seen it, but they say as a child, young Bruce Wayne was afraid of bats.

CORWIN: And look what he did. He conquered his fear.

KING: You're not afraid of bats?

CORWIN: No, just entertainment attorneys.

KING: What's a skink?

CORWIN: A skink is an awesome reptile. This is a lizard, OK, that you find in the jungles and deserts of Australia and Papua-New Guinea. But what I love about this skink, is that if you hold out your hand, right -- hopefully he won't do this (INAUDIBLE) -- but we'll see if he'll do it -- you will probably eventually see is that this really cool long blue tongue will come out. And what this animal uses that tongue for is not only for tasting, but for defense. If he feels threatened, if he feels like he's under attack, he blows up his body larger than life and he sticks out this carpet-like blue tongue. And it serves as a warning to predators to keep at bay.

It's a bluff. He's harmless. He's not poisonous.

KING: It's a bluff?


KING: OK. From the skink, we move to the binturong. By the way, do you know about hippopotamuses?

CORWIN: I do know about them, yes.

KING: Someone told me to ask you. Are they strange, hippopotamuses?

CORWIN: You know, hippopotamuses are really, really awesome animals. What is so cool about me, what I think about hippopotamuses is the fact that their skin is pink. And a lot of people used to think that they were getting sunburn. But what they're actually doing is releasing this liquid from their skin that actually serves as a sunscreen.

KING: What is this?

CORWIN: This is a binturong. This is a relative of mongooses. It's one of the longest of the viverrians (ph), this mongoose family.

KING: He has a smell. It stinks.

CORWIN: But smell is -- now, what comes to your mind? Think.

KING: Popcorn.

CORWIN: Popcorn, exactly. What's so cool about it...

KING: You're bugging me now! Don't bug me! He smells like popcorn.

CORWIN: What is so cool about the binturong is that this guy is arboreal. You can actually find these guys living in the treetops. He has got a prehensile tail that he can use to adhere himself to the trees. And he's huge. I mean, he's just an absolute monster, but they're just really amazing. And they have these very, very powerful teeth that they use to crush things.

KING: These are not fierce (ph), right?

CORWIN: You know what, that's an excellent point to bring up. Something like a binturong would not make a good pet. Good pets, cats, dogs, things like that, not binturongs.

KING: How about viscacha?

CORWIN: Viscacha...

KING: He's going to kill you!

CORWIN: He's got me.


CORWIN: There you go! Ten minutes!

KING: ... binturong. What's this?

CORWIN: This is a viscacha. I don't know if they are throwing this food for me or for the animals. This is delicious.

What is really cool about this viscacha...

KING: This is a viscacha, OK.

CORWIN: Viscachas are a rodent, one of the largest of the chinchillas. You find these guys living in South America. They handle really arid conditions. They love the desert. Love to be grooming themselves with the sand to keep themselves parasite-free. And they live in these extended families. But I mean, a real sizable rodent. And they've been known to occasionally eat talk show hosts! Only joking. Yeah.

KING: You're a sick man, Jeff.

CORWIN: You have no idea!

KING: (INAUDIBLE) how sick you are. You may have been in the rainforest...

CORWIN: Too long.

KING: ... and you may be a descendent of Dracula, but the elevator Jeff does not stop.

CORWIN: You have no idea.

KING: OK, let's meet before we depart from this segment, a bufo frog. Goodbye. Oh.

CORWIN: This is one of my favorites. This -- you can touch him. He's absolutely cool. And you know, what I love about this guy...

KING: Oh, cold, too. Nice.

CORWIN: .. when you first look at him, what comes to mind is like one of those pottery toads, right? But he's alive and he's real, and this thing is weighing over two pounds. And what this South American bufo marine toad does is that when he feels under threat, he bloats himself up with air. OK? And when that doesn't work -- you can actually listen. Listen. You can hear him. Watch his nostrils. He is actually inflating and he's actually getting, right before you, he's becoming blimp-like. OK?

KING: He's getting bigger.

CORWIN: He's getting bigger and bigger. And he will almost increase his size by half, you know? And if that defense doesn't work, he's got these pads right here, and they produce a terrifically toxic poison. So if he's being swallowed -- now look at how much bigger -- feel how heavier he is now.

KING: Oh, yeah, yeah.

CORWIN: And he's increased in size. So, you know, at this point you give him a little beano, he deflates and he's back to normal.

But what's just amazing is he's got this great defense of being bigger than life, but then he's got the backup poison. No claws, no talents, but he is potentially lethal.

KING: The poison would kill?

CORWIN: It could kill a large vertebrate, such as myself, a big animal such as myself. No creatures out in South America would mess with this animal.

KING: We'll be right back with Jeff Corwin. This is fascinating. Don't go away.


CORWIN: Finally, after this long journey, we have arrived. We are at the perfect place. And now, my friends, it is time for the moment of truth, which means it's time for us to get in the water with these powerful reptiles and hopefully experience their bellow.

Look over my shoulder. This is exactly what it's all about, guys. All this bellowing, all this grunting and posturing. In the end, it leads to this, courtship. Absolutely extraordinary. (END VIDEO CLIP)


KING: We're back with the wonderful Jeff Corwin. Before we meet our next creature, tell me about this rattlesnake and two cell phones.

CORWIN: Well this was an experiment I wanted to prove and show how these animals are plugged into their environment. You know, Corwin's quest is about unraveling natural mysteries. Animal Planet is about connecting people with animals. So we try to do it with a rattlesnake.

KING: And we're going to show it.


CORWIN: But this investigation into sound, I'm going to need, hmm, let's see. One rattlesnake. And two cell phones. One set to ring. The other to vibrate. OK, let's give it a try. First, the ringing. See that, guys? Nothing. But. Look at that. Look at that. Check out the snake. He is reacting to the vibrating phone. He's actually sliding over to the phone. He's tasting the phone that's vibrating.


CORWIN: What do you think of that. Isn't that cool?

KING: That's wild.

CORWIN: Yes. Basically, what he's doing, he is deaf, he has no external ear openings. He's actually sensing the vibrations that come through the ground. And that's just one part of that show. Basically, it's about how animals use sound. So for that one episode, we go from Florida to these creatures, to Africa to vervet monkeys to tell that story.

KING: I've caught some snakes in my life. And now, Jeff, we meet a skunk.

CORWIN: We do. Probably the most feared creature.

KING: Feared?

CORWIN: Feared, of what they can do.

KING: I had one in my house.

CORWIN: What did you do? How did you get rid of it?

KING: Got rid of them. I don't know how they got them out. Guys came. They didn't kill him.

CORWIN: Well what's really cool about these skunks is that these animals belong to the same group as the weasels. OK. They belong to the polecat family. And what is awesome about these animals is that their defense, of course, lies right here.

KING: The smell.

CORWIN: The smell. And they can shoot out a cloud that travels 12 feet. And of course, there's so many chemicals -- like phosphorus and toxic chemicals, that if you get this stuff on you, you're in serious trouble. In one of the episodes we did, a show on smell, we actually get nailed by the skunk and analyze the chemical makeup of that to, sort of, actually, unravel the mysteries of why this animal is so feared. But of course, he has the warning. So like, if you look at him, Larry, I mean, what is the warning that basically says stay away?

KING: Tail.

CORWIN: It's the tail and the colors. He's got sort of the black. And that's his defense. I'll turn him that way.

KING: Don't let him spray! If he sprays me, Jeff, you'll never be back!

CORWIN: We have to -- it's sort of like a bagpipe, you know? But no. He won't spray you.

KING: Say good-bye to the skunk. And now we meet Jackie Gleason's favorite, the raccoons.

CORWIN: Now these are cool animals. You can actually hold one if you want.

KING: Yes. Little raccoon boy.

CORWIN: Now raccoons belong to the family that's basically our masters at dealing with adaptation.

KING: Don't tick me off.

CORWIN: I think you're going to need to nurse him now. That's probably -- But what these raccoons do is that they've been able to adapt to so many different types of habitats. You can find them living in wild pristine habitat. They have adapted to city life. And they also, sort of, the example of how do people learn to live with wildlife. As you've encountered with skunks on your property. This is a creature that people make calls to animal control about all the time. What do I do about the raccoons. The secret is to learn to live with them and accept them as a part of your backyard.

KING: Do you think one more in this segment. The euromensics (sic)?

CORWIN: Euromastics. Now this, to me, is such an awesome lizard. When I look at this, I see a dinosaur. This is the Egyptian euromastics. They live a very, very long time. They are herbivores, they are mostly just eating plants. Very territorial, but just an amazing animal. And what you should look at, Larry, look at the flatness of his face. And that flat face, that very narrow profile, is his secret to survival, because that allows him to get access to vegetation that most animals would miss.

KING: Everything is about survival, isn't it?

CORWIN: It is about survival. Because the alternative to survival in the natural world is extinction. The ultimate price a creature pays or a species pays for not being fit.

KING: You love creatures.

CORWIN: I am amazed by them. My life would be empty without them.

KING: And yet we only know 10 percent of those in the world?

CORWIN: Well actually, we know of more than that, but we've only identified, out of the millions of reptiles, mammals, birds, insects living on our planet, we've only identified 10 percent beyond their name.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Our guest is Jeff Corwin, the wildlife biologist, the Emmy winning TV host. His new show is "Corwin's Quest," Wednesday night on the Animal Planet. The book is "Living On the Edge," and boy, does he. Don't go away.


CORWIN: I'm here in Florida searching for a big bellowing gator, so that I can get in the water with it. I think our first contestant has just made an appearance. Now, this is an American alligator.



KING: We're back with Jeff Corwin. An amazing guy. Tell me, before we go to the next animal, about the rubber snake with the monkey.

CORWIN: Well this was a show about sound and language. And what we discovered with these vervet monkeys is that they actually have a language with 70 different words. They have a word for leopard, they have a word for snake, they have a word for eagle, OK? And we tested that theory with the rubber snake to show the complexities in the life of a vervet monkey.

KING: Let's watch.


CORWIN: They're curious. They're coming to say hello but they notice something. Something peculiar. Just a rubber snake. If we get this snake to ground level, right in front of them. Look at that, look at that reactions. See his reactions. And hear that. That is the word for snake in vervet, alerting the other vervets to the presence of this rubber snake.


KING: We're back with Jeff Corwin and our next animal is a Bush Baby.

CORWIN: Which is sort of a nice segue from the Vervets. This is actually a primate. This is a -- this right here is a Bush Baby. Now, what is so cool about this critter -- by the way this is what they feed me, too. They took away my per-diem and now I'm...

KING: Fig Newtons and raisins?

CORWIN: And bugs. But...

KING: There's bugs in there?

CORWIN: There's bugs in -- This is a master hunter. What's so cool about the bush baby is that much of his life is spent active at night. he's nocturnal and you can see why he's got those giant eyes and those big eyes on the bush baby is how he is able to see his prey and it's how he's able to stay active at night.

Now, Larry, this bush baby has never been my friend. I've worked with him a lot and he always likes to take chunks of flesh out of my hand, which hopefully, won't be coming. He's also a master jumper. I've seen this guys in Africa -- we were filming there recently, working with bush babies and you can actually see these guys jumping 15, 20 feet plus from tree to tree. And when they hit the ground, they actually can hop slinky-style to get from one place to the next.

KING: All right. So they stand up, too.

CORWIN: Yes. It's pretty cool. I mean a really neat animal.

KING: Neat animal. All right, now we meet from the bush baby, to another baby, a baby lynx.

CORWIN: Here we'll get right -- the bugs. Here have some bugs. There you go. OK. Now this is a cool animal. This right here is a Siberian lynx and when you see this creature, to me the most awesome adaptation is the short tail and the feet.

They tell you that this is a creature that is a master at living in a snowy world, because if you had a long tail, you'd have to deal with things like frostbite. But having these great massive paws, their basically like snow shoes.

KING: How big does he get?

CORWIN: This animal could be pushing 40, 50, maybe even 60 pounds and having a body length of upwards to three or four feet. And animal -- when this animal is an adult, it would be powerful enough to take down a deer or a nature-show host.

KING: And now we meet a three-foot alligator. My boys are going to love this. Boys will be on later in the last segment. I like this. Not a crocodile, an alligator. CORWIN: No. This is the American alligator and certainly something -- a reptile familiar with many people. But what I love about the American alligator is that he's the quintessential success story when it comes to what we can do when it comes to conservation.

As you know, not even 20 years ago, this creature was on the brink of extinction. But because of good conservation laws, he's come back and he's made an amazing comeback. And now you go to places like Florida, you go out there and you can see many, many alligators surviving in a very successful fashion. But this creature, someday could be pushing upwards to 12 feet in length.

KING: He's a baby?

CORWIN: He's a very -- he's probably about three or four years in age and of course, what's awesome about this gator is that when he's in predator mode he lays very low with only his eyes revealed above and he moves in -- maneuvers in and nails his prey.

And the other thing that's cool is you can actually see when -- watch him when his eye opens -- watch when it opens there. See that lens slide back?

KING: Yes. Yes.

CORWIN: It's called the nicitating membrane. It's like a windshield wiper. It's keeping that lens clean of debris and it's short of like a diver's mask when he's underwater. And for me, the best experience I ever had was actually seeing them on our show -- with "Corwin's Quest," we actually witnessed them breeding. Actually emitting sound waves. You think of these as sort of being ancient primitive reptiles, but these animals have a complex language that they themselves use to find territory...

KING: Do you believe animals talked to each other?

CORWIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. Of course, they communicate to establish territories. They communicate when it's time to reproduce and have a family. They communicate when it's time to defend. Their language is not always vocal or verbal. It could be odors, it could be colors. It could be pheromones. But never underestimate the communication and complexity of a creature.

KING: As we go to break, let's see what Jeff saw in the middle of the Everglades one very dark night.


CORWIN: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. At first glance, it looks like the Milky Way, but friends, these are not stars. These are eyes. Eyes of alligators and there is no way that you'll get me in this water at night. Day time: Different story, but night: You'll be on the menu.




CORWIN: Yes. Now, these are the critters that I brought you to Costa Rica to see. They are about one-million-times smaller than the Bruto (ph) the water buffalo. When it comes to breaking down leaves, they'll put that big animal to shame. Guys, meet the leaf cutter ants.

This huge tree is clearly their latest victim. Massive.


KING: We're back with the incredible Jeff Corwin. Now, tell me about this bee thing.

CORWIN: Well, we did a thing on smelling. It was interesting. You mentioned about communication, about how animals can share information and these creatures do it. The bees do it with odors.

They have a complex language of smells and what we want to show is how we can actually manipulate their behavior by taking this bee compound, this bee smell that they produce and I was able to manipulate the swarm from one area to the next. And actually work with these creatures that have a reputation of not being very friendly.

KING: Why do they bite people?

CORWIN: As a defense, basically and it's a sting.

KING: They're afraid of you?

CORWIN: Yes. It's a sting. basically, when they feel under threat, their defense is for us, very painful, but for them it's the ultimate, ultimate defense, because when they sting you, they die.

Yes. Absolutely. When the bee flies away, the stinger separates from the abdomen and then you have a dead bee, but when they're stinging -- when a bee stings you, it's not stinging you to protect the individual bee. He's protecting the colony. He's like the Marxist quintessential communist member.

KING: Giving up his life for other bees?

CORWIN: To save the community, the colony.

KING: Porcupines.

CORWIN: And of course...

KING: Wow, neat eyes.

CORWIN: This is a creature you want to handle very ginger -- ginger hands -- in fact, I probably won't even touch him, but...

KING: I know.

CORWIN: But his primary defense, to me, which is so extraordinary...

KING: Maybe he's defense tonight?

CORWIN: It's defense. It is, but what makes him a survivor -- and we just did a show on survivors -- we're looking at how animals go to the edge to pull out these amazing things to survive in the ecosystems that they live in. And how he does it, is that is fur, over 30,000 of them have been modified -- these individual hairs -- these triggers, have been modified into quills. And what happens is -- can I see one of those gloves? I'll try to do this. So imagine if this was a predator and you came in too close. See? Look at that.

KING: Oh, boy!

CORWIN: You can see how the quills come out like that. And these individual quills...

KING: And they'll hurt.

CORWIN: And they hurt. And they're barbed. So when they break off into the flesh of the would-be predator, they, by nature, are actually drawn into the flesh, into the bloodstream. And predators such as wolves, coyotes, bears have fallen prey through inexperience by dare messing with this rodent.

By the way, one of the largest rodents living on the planet, and he survives because of very pokey hair.

KING: And now it's time to go from the porcupine to the 10-foot python.

CORWIN: Which now, I'm smelling like the ideal prey. A -- what's awesome about pythons -- and this is a really cool one -- this is an albinistic python. It doesn't have natural color, OK? It's basically missing that. He would never survive in the wild. It would be a target for would-be predators.

What is amazing about pythons is that when it's time for them to take predator, they've got the tongue to taste, to find the prey. They've got heat sensor pits around the lips that actually pick up the heat radiating from prey, hook teeth to hold on, and constriction. They wrap around without limbs, without legs. They squeeze the life out of the prey.

And we have seen many awesome python on our show. And we did a show on giants that will be coming up soon. We go from blue whales to reticulated pythons. And we extracted almost a 20-foot retic python out of a chicken coop in Borneo.

KING: But they are not poisonous?

CORWIN: They're not poisonous. They don't need venom. Their edge for survival is their ability to crush the prey and hold on with very sharp teeth. And no ears, by the way. As with the rattlesnake, no ears. No eyelids.

KING: In other words, it can't hear.

CORWIN: Cannot hear.

KING: And now, beaded lizards. These are venomous.

CORWIN: They are venomous. And to me, this is one of the ultimate adaptations. This lizard, this miraculous reptile is native to the deserts and lowland forest of places like Mexico. And it is one of only two lizards in the world that are venomous. You have got the Gila monster and you've got the beaded lizard.

KING: Meaning they could kill?

CORWIN: It could. But its venom is used not as a defense, but as offense, to take prey. What this creature will do is when it's time to eat -- and I'll try to carefully...

KING: Wow!

CORWIN: ... hold on to him there. And what he does is when he wants to hunt, he latches on to the prey. He massages the prey with his lips. He's got very sharp teeth. And there are funnels going down his teeth, and the venoms pours, weeps out of the gums and is massaged into the prey, and that's how he kills his food.

Unfortunately, despite having great defense and great venom, these creatures, such as the Gila monster in the deserts of Arizona, are disappearing very quickly because of habitat loss and overcollection.

KING: And he's Mexican.

CORWIN: And this is a Mexican, a Mexican beaded lizard.

KING: And we will be back on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE with the amazing Jeff Corwin. Don't go away.


CORWIN: Come on, buddy. Whoa! He has got quite a strike! My gosh! The simple request of rescuing a giant reticulated python from a village in Borneo has turned into an eight-hour demolition job.

Snake has been getting his vitamins, huh?

This is a mighty, mighty, mighty long snake!



KING: We're back with the incredible Jeff Corwin. Now we meet an opossum, right?

CORWIN: This is an awesome animal, Larry. When I think...

KING: Playing possum.

CORWIN: ... of playing possum, when I think of sort of the ambassador of the South, this is what comes to my mind. This is a Virginia possum. What is awesome about this beast, Larry, is that he is a marsupial. It is actually equipped -- females are equipped with a pouch, OK? And in that pouch, they can store their babies. And when she gives birth, she has up to a dozen babies. And when they pass from her body and make their way into the pouch, you can fit a dozen of them in a tablespoon. That's how small they are.

But look at this. This is an amazing adaptation. It has a prehensile tail, a fifth limb that it can actually swing by. So it has its front claws and it's got a prehensile tail.

KING: Wow. You're very involved in conservation projects, right?

CORWIN: I am. You know, to me, I think the ultimate obligation we have as citizens of today is to ensure that our children, my daughter, your very handsome boys, will grow up to have all the accesses to natural resources, to sustainable use, to cherish. And I think it is the ultimate sin to take away these beautiful riches of our country.

People often ask me, where is my favorite place to travel? Doing -- we spent 14 months during "Corwin's Quest." We traveled around the world. And my favorite place to be is in North America. And we lose sight of what we have.

So I work with organizations like Conservation International. I work with Defenders of Wildlife. Defenders of Wildlife is a great organization to be connected with.

KING: That's great. Let's meet a wolf pup. This is a wolf!

CORWIN: And this is a creature...

KING: What happened to his leg?

CORWIN: He actually broke his leg and he is in a cast. He was messing around with some other wolves. And he is now sort of in a cast. And he's doing well. And within about six weeks, we will remove that cast.

But what's so cool about this wolf is that this species of animal has been finally introduced to its original habitat in the American West thanks to organizations like Defenders of Wildlife.

KING: So he's back in the loose in Wyoming?

CORWIN: He's back. And what is really cool about Defenders of Wildlife, this organization, is that they focus on having a real-world approach to protecting resources and meeting the needs of the people that live there. KING: I know them well. Wolves are great animals.

CORWIN: They are fantastic animals.

KING: Do they still go and kill cattle?

CORWIN: They do. They do. And there are programs out there that deal with that. But, ultimately, you might have a few rogue wolves, but what would the American West be without this incredible creature? The ultimate predator. And he apparently has taken a fascination to my...

KING: Ear.

CORWIN: My ears. Good thing they're not lactating.

KING: All right, one more in this segment. My little boys, Chance and Cannon, return to LARRY KING LIVE in the last segment, but we will meet a monitor lizard.

CORWIN: This is an awesome Australian monitor. And he is a giant, an absolute giant. You know, one of the goals for us at Animal Planet is to get people outside of the box when they think about animals. We always veer to the cute and the cuddly. But why is this monitor any less important than a panda bear or a tiger? So the goal of our network is to understand that life is better with these animals.

KING: Where is he found?

CORWIN: This guy is from the deserts of Australia. And of course, look at that. Look at that tongue.

KING: What is coming out of that thing?

CORWIN: Look at that. It's just his tongue. What's amazing about this tongue is that -- check it out, Larry. Look at the -- look at the tip of the tongue, right?


CORWIN: And what is it -- what do you notice about it?

KING: It's forked.

CORWIN: It's forked. What other creatures have a forked tongue? The other reptiles with forked tongues? Snakes, right? These are direct descendants of snakes. Or snakes are direct descendants of lizards. In fact, snakes evolved from lizards. And the closest snake-like relative is this awesome creature right here, the monitor.

But, unfortunately, this is a creature that very well may disappear with the loss of habitat.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Jeff Corwin, the host of "Corwin's Quest," on Animal Planet. The author of "Living on the Edge," out in paperback. And my little boys will join us. Don't go away.


CORWIN: We got two adolescent gorillas here, and there's a little baby back there. So far, I think I've seen two females. And the rest of them young offspring ranging from this big to this big. But the real giant is the silver back. The big male. Oh. Wow.



KING: We're back with two of my small children joining Jeff Corwin. They are, on your left, Chance King, first grade. On your right, Cannon King, kindergarten. Our special guest is Jeff Corwin. You boys love animals, right?

BOYS: Yes.

KING: Yes. You having a good time today?

BOYS: Yes.

CORWIN: He rocks.

KING: He rocks. What animal is your favorite animal?

CORWIN: Cats, snakes, dogs?


KING: Dogs, yes. OK. Let's bring out one. Let's bring out a baby kinkajou.

CORWIN: Now this is a really cool animal. Guys, you can actually touch him if you want. You want to feed him?

CHANCE KING: Yes. I want to feed him.

CORWIN: You got your rabies vaccination, right?


CANNON KING: That's grapes.

CORWIN: Yes. This is a really cool animal.

KING: Feed him, Cannon.

CORWIN: Yes. This is actually -- you saw the animals we brought out today. If you saw one animal that was most like this, what would it be Chance? What was it? Did you think it might be the monkey?

KING: Yes.

CORWIN: What would you say if I told you this was, in fact, more closely related to the raccoon. This is Central America's version of the raccoon. You know we talked about prehensile tail? Cannon, hold up your arm like that. What you'll see is that he can actually use his tail like a fifth limb. He's perfectly arboreal so he can, actually, climb the rain forest -- those trees and hold on, as he finds his food. And imagine if your ear was a little flower. He could stick his nose in that ear with that tongue. Pollinate the flowers, extract the venom -- the venom, the nectar that he needs for survival.

KING: And now we meet a hedgehog.

CORWIN: This is a really cool creature. All right. Chance, hold out your hand. Remember we talked about defense being important for survival? Go like this, right?


CORWIN: No, no. Like this. It kind of pricks a little bit, doesn't it?

KING: Are you okay? Yes, you're okay.

CORWIN: All right. Cannon, you go that. Go at it this way. See, you have such a way with children. I terrify them. Isn't that nice. But like the porcupine, what he does is he has these quills, OK, these small little projections right here. But they're not dangerous. They don't come out like the porcupines. It rally can't hurt you, but if you're a predator -- I mean, now that you felt him, Chance, would you ever want to eat him?


CORWIN: No. Of course. And that's his defense

KING: Get back on the chair, Chance.

CORWIN: Want to try one more time?


CORWIN: Are you sure?

KING: You want to try it. If you do it that way, it doesn't hurt.

CORWIN: But these animals are insectivores, they're eating a lot of insects.

KING: Don't run, Chance.

CORWIN: I got you, kid. Come on, give me your best.

KING: OK. Finally, let's meet a 75-pound scota (sic) tortoise.

CORWIN: Sulcata Tortoise. Why don't you put him right here guys. KING: You've got a big fund raiser July 9th in Boston, right?

CORWIN: Yes. July 9th. We have an awesome fund raiser. It's for a museum that I'm founder of, the name of the museum is called The Ecozone. The Ecozone is a museum that specializes in protecting the wetlands in Massachusetts. So during the day time, I'm doing two live performance of the South Shore Music Circus and Susan Tedeschi, with me at nighttime, at the -- we're having this awesome gala to finish this -- July 9th in Norwell, Massachusetts for The Ecozone.

KING: This is quickly, we're running out of time?

CORWIN: Sulcata giant tortoise. So guys, what's his defense?

CHANCE KING: His shell.

CORWIN: His shell, his carafice. If you got this, you got the ultimate helmet, don't you? And, of course, you know he's a tortoise, because do you see any, like, web feet?


CORWIN: You do see web feet? No you don't. Look. He's got like elephantine feet. If he had web feet, he'd spend his life in the water. But this is a land reptile. And an awesome one indeed. Cool, huh? You can touch him.

KING: You can touch him. Like a rock, Chance. Look at that face.

CHANCE KING: Does he move?

CORWIN: He's making a noise. He's got a little gas.

KING: Now, boys, look at the camera, because before we sign off, here's Jeff Corwin with an anaconda. Watch.


CORWIN: Look at that. Look at this. Look at this. An anaconda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is this big.

CORWIN: You think so?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I think it's bigger than I saw last year.

CORWIN: I think what we should do is we should grab it by the tail. And I'm going to pull it up a little bit. So you guys watch the head.


CORWIN: OK. I want you guys to work near the head. Pull it out. All right. Look at the size of her. Dear, sweet, merciful potato. She is enormous.


KING: What did you just ask about the anaconda?

CHANCE KING: If he can eat people?

CORWIN: He does, deadly hug. Then he squeezes, and then he swallows his prey hole. And that's how he survives.

CHANCE KING: And you can't breathe.

CORWIN: And you can't breathe. He just crushes the life out of his prey. Pretty cool, huh?

KING: You wouldn't want to meet an anaconda, right?

CORWIN: I bet if you did you'd like it. As long as you were in the boat and not in the snake.

KING: Jeff, you were terrific. Say thanks to Jeff.

CORWIN: Thanks, guys.

KING: Say thanks. Don't be too exuberant. Jeff Corwin, you get used to this, wildlife biologist, Emmy winning TV host. The new program "Corwin's Quest" airs Wednesday nights on Animal Planet. Author of "Living on the Edge." Thank you, Chance. Thank you, Cannon. Next is Aaron Brown and "NEWSNIGHT."


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