Hi, I’m Jonathan Baillie, and I’m the chief scientist and SVP of science and exploration at the National Geographic Society. I joined the Society after working for 20 years at the Zoological Society of London. While I was there, I founded the EDGE of Existence program, which focuses on Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species. Along with getting my degrees in conservation biology, a lot of my fieldwork has consisted of: monitoring western lowland gorillas in Gabon, developing ecotourism sites in Central Africa, searching for extremely rare endemic birds in the Gulf of Guinea, and conducting behavioral studies of desert baboons in Namibia. My work has been fundamental in defining the status of the world’s mammals. I figured Earth Day was the perfect day to hop onto Reddit to help answer any questions you might have about our planet. Ask me anything!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/2mdshcu5fct01.jpg https://twitter.com/NatGeo/status/988092612237299712

Thank you so much for you questions: I have to run

Comments: 106 • Responses: 9  • Date: 

lee-rol-yi-sus73 karma

Thank you for all the hard work you guys do to help our our planet’s animals! My question: what is the most amazing thing about gorillas and why?

nationalgeographic132 karma

Gorillas share about 98% of our DNA

nationalgeographic160 karma

They also have unique nose prints - like our human finger prints

Kufflink3862 karma

What was your most arduous location/duration/situation during your career in the field?

nationalgeographic210 karma

I had many - I was held up at gunpoint when I was traveling through the rainforest of Gabon. The passenger we had given a ride ended up knowing the person with the gun and all was ok.

Dubb198249 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA! What was the most interesting thing you learned while conducting the behavioural studies on baboons in Namibia?

nationalgeographic198 karma

We were habituating a large group. I would go out every day and follow them for hours - so they would basically realize I was not a threat and let me observe them - it was a little hot and I always wore a large white hat. The group started getting used to me and I could sit with them. One day in the afternoon I took my hat off and they all went wild and started barking and running. It was as if I was a different creature. I then put my hat bak on and all was quiet.

NateDawg42344 karma

Have you ever made any crazy discoveries that no one else has ever discovered?

nationalgeographic113 karma

We were searching for Attenborough's long beaked echidna in the Cyclops mountains - it was thought that it may have gone extinct - we found the nose pokes - it was still there.

nationalgeographic100 karma

I also found a new species of crab at the top to the mountains on Principe in the Gulf of Guinea

rmf_ftw34 karma

Greetings from Malaysia. Have you studied orang utans? or planning to?

nationalgeographic68 karma

I have not yet studies orang utans, but have worked to protect their habitat - focusing on trying to reduce the impact of oil palm plantations. I helped with a platform called SPOTT that increases transparency - ensuring oil palm companies follow their legal obligations.

Aceisking1231 karma

Do you think there will come a time that we have to genetically alter species in order to keep them from going extinct?

Like making honey bees resistant to insect and weed killer, or coral that can withstand a lower pH?

nationalgeographic75 karma

I hope we can avoid this, but in some ways it is already happening with cross breading species or sub-species. I hope in the future we can focus more on addressing the threats than trying to modify animals.

alleycatyeah13 karma

How would primates interact with other animals that they don't compete with or have to watch out for?

nationalgeographic27 karma

There are more then 600 species of primate and they are all a little different. Some are very shy and have little to do with other species and some are very social.