Dr. Carin Bondar can cross having her own TV show off her bucket list.
The Chilliwack biologist, writer and presenter is the host of World’s Oddest Animal Couples, a heart-warming new TV series about relationships between humans and animals, and animals of different species.
The show features “the unique bonds that form between species,” she says. “It’s an incredible show.”
“We went all over the world finding one person with an animal, or two animals of different species, and documenting their unique bonds and how they form.”
World’s Oddest Animal Couples premiered on Netflix on Aug. 1. Each episode features six to eight stories. One is about a man and a bear, another about a blind lab and a jackal, and one is about a woman and a baby baboon.
“It’s really timely because you can’t conclude anything but emotion and friendship and love from these stories.”
There’s the story about a goat, Mr. G, who was separated from his best friend Jellybean, a donkey, during an animal rescue. For days Mr. G wouldn’t eat and experts could find no scientific reason for him not to be eating. They figured he was depressed and missed his friend, so the two were reunited. As soon as the Jellybean’s trailer arrived on the farm, Mr. G immediately stood up and started wagging his tail. Within minutes Mr. G was eating right alongside his best friend.
Another story about a dog and some cats tells of how a fast-pawed whippet taught orphaned cheetahs how to hunt.
Then there’s Rocky the southern rockhopper penguin. She was found in South Africa, thousands of miles away from her much-cooler home around the southern Atlantic Ocean. She was brought to a seabird rescue centre and put in an enclosure with dozens of other penguins — but not rockhopper penguins. None of the other penguins liked her because she was different, and so Rocky befriended one of the centre’s female staff members. Their bond is nothing short of loving.
“It’s so tender and it opens our eyes,” says Bondar. “These relationships make you really have to redefine what we think animals are capable of. When trust is truly established between species, anything is possible.”
She filmed about 20-plus stories and was away in Namibia, the U.K., South Africa and across the U.S. for about three weeks per episode. Some stories did not make it onto the show, but the majority did.
Bondar has been a presenter on many other animal shows and TV channels including Discovery Channel’s ‘Outrageous Acts of Science’ and ‘Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World’, National Geographic Wild, and her own web series Wild Sex.
The two-part World’s Oddest Animal Couples series was filmed by Animal Planet, then Netflix bought the rights to air the show.
“It’s a dream come true really. Even if we don’t make more I’ll always be so thankful that I got to do it. It was on my bucket list,” says Bondar.
If that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she recently released her second book, Wild Sex.
“Wild Sex is based on my YouTube series of the same name.”
In 2013, she presented at TEDGlobal, an annual TED Talks conference, and got the proposal to write a book about animal sex from there.
It’s currently in the top 20 zoology books on Amazon, plus it’s the number two ‘hot new release’ in zoology on Amazon.
She read 800 scientific papers and books to write Wild Sex.
“It’s a serious book, it’s a real study,” she says. “It’s on the process of (animal) sex broken down in to three parts: finding a mate, having sex with the mate, and the aftermath like dealing with the offspring.”
It isn’t as simple as one may think when it comes mating in the animal kingdom.
“It’s shockingly easy to be human when it comes to the way we have sex,” says Bondar.
She makes a lot of anecdotal references with humans in her book, such as: “imagine leaving your children with a babysitter who proceeds to wound them fatally for your discovery when you come home.” That would be sea birds who do that.
“You will be shocked and horrified, and thankful to be human,” she says.
Wild Sex can be purchased on Amazon, and World’s Oddest Animal Couples is available on Netflix.
Dr. Carin Bondar recently received the Public Education Award from the Canadian Society of Zoologists in recognition of her Wild Sex YouTube series and online/social media presence, plus she was nominated by the University of the Fraser Valley for a science award from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.