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Interview: Dave Salmoni

We chat with zoologist hunk Dave Salmoni ahead of his new show Deadly Islands...

Meet Dave Salmoni – a world-renowned animal behaviour expert, zoologist and bona fide hunk.

His new show Deadly Islands – premiering tonight on the Discovery Channel – sees him visit some of the world's most remote islands to investigate how and why their native inhabitants have been so spectacularly successful at surviving, despite the harshest of conditions.

Blending the brilliance of a natural history documentary with an incredible investigative twist, this six-partseries has Dave turn predator-detective as he set to sold some of the big mysteries surrounding the world's most successful natural-born killers – sharks and bats and bears, oh my!

In the first of our two part interview, GT sat down with Dave to get to grips with what the show is really about.

In your own words – what’s the new show? What’s it about and what’s your role in it?
Deadly Islands is what I consider to be a healthy mix between blue chip natural history documentary, so it’s a show that is big and beautiful and really highlights animals. My role is to drive the story line, So we chose islands that each one had its own little level of mystery. I then take you along and we try to figure it out and get a sense of adventure. I feel like if I’ve done my job right, you’ll look at me as another one of your buddies. I try to be relatable as possible, I’m just that one buddy that has a few skills in the bush; knows animals a little bit, knows how to live on these deadly islands and taking you along for the ride. You’re either going to sit there thinking “I’d really like to be on an adventure with Dave” or you’re going to sit back and think “I do not want Dave’s job!”

Speaking of the islands, seriously... There's Shark Island and Grizzly Island... Who names these things?! Did you literally just pick dangerous animals and then found islands named after them?
I wish!

We saw the Killer Whale Island episode…

That’s a great example. So we knew of the island and we knew of the mystery – we knew that there were elephant seals disappearing from this place. I had all my expectations on what I thought might be going on but we really couldn’t tell till we got there. The whole show is me going “this is the mystery, and this is what we’re going to try and find out”. Clearly, Killer Whales was something I thought would be part of the solution to this problem, What other predator that could be having this kind of effect in the area? We want people to recognise what they’re expecting to see but also I don’t want to promote some form of tourism. Part of this whole idea is to impress upon you how amazing this wild untouched space is and it would be hypocritical of me to impress upon you how amazing this place is and then invite you to ruin it with eco tourism. So it’s not called Grizzly Bear Island, it’s not called Killer Whale Island, it’s not called Shark Island. But when I say we’re going to Shark Island, you know you’re going to see a shark mystery.

Speaking of dangerous animals, your previous TV show Rogue Nature was all about dangerous animals interacting with humans. How close to full on life threatening danger have you been in your career?

One of the most terrifying moments was during the elephant sequence. In rouge nature, We got walked into a herd of elephants that had been killing people, it’s the whole reason we were there. There were moments in Rogue Nature that I was faced with what you do right now will deter whether you live through this moment or not. In Deadly Islands, there’s a moment like that with the sharks, grizzly bear, and even situationally. We are on top of a volcano that was very difficult to get up, we had limited water, limited food and the weather starts coming in and we realise that we can’t get down unless we have better conditions. We have deadly environments, we have deadly animals, and we have these situations where there’s no helicopter coming to save us, there is no 911 to call. The closest we have is an 18 to 16 hour action plan. when you’re this close to a shark, 16 hours is a long time away.

We was getting the Steve Irwin crossed with Bear Grylls kind of vibe...

What we’re going for is certainly the adventure. Bear Grylls’ is what you identify with awildlife adventure sense, absolutely. And Steve is a great example of “look how amazing this species is, look how amazing this behaviour is.” That’s what I was reaching for...

Deadly Islands will air on Discovery Channel UK tonight, from 9pm.

Words Dominic Holbrook

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