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Why I Care About the New Wild

M. Sanjayan is a conservation biologist and an executive vice president of Conservation International.

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M. Sanjayan is a conservation biologist and an executive vice president of Conservation International. He’s also host of the National Geographic–produced television series EARTH: A New Wild, premiering February 4 on PBS. Sanjayan traveled to 15 countries over five years to shoot the five-part documentary.

What do you mean by your show's title, A New Wild?

The new wild is the realization that we humans are part of nature and that saving nature is really about saving ourselves. Nature isn’t something out there, far away. It’s living, breathing. It’s part of us.

Why is this new wild so important?

I love nature. I live in Montana; I grew up in Africa. Wild places are almost places of worship for me. But love alone isn’t enough to save them. And in some cases, as we show in the program, when nature is taken off track, the consequences for human life are epic. I don’t think people quite get that. If we did, we wouldn’t make the decisions we do.

So is there anything that gives you hope?

In this show we discover stories where there is a way out. We show you, front line, when giant pandas—one of the rarest animals on the planet in one of the most crowded places on the planet—go back into the wild. You see how communities in Bangladesh still manage to tolerate tigers—animals that kill their family members. In Austin, Texas, the whole city celebrates bats. In New York Harbor oysters are coming back to life in the shadow of skyscrapers. I’m left with a sense of optimism that when you understand nature, you absolutely can harness that power to make both nature and our lives better. 

Episodes of EARTH: A New Wild will air at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, February 4, and 10 p.m. ET on February 11, 18, and 25 on PBS.