Dec 6, 2017

Saving Animals

One place you absolutely, positively do not want to be if you're a healthy, middle-aged American lobster: trapped in a suburban grocery store in western Pennsylvania. But that's where this week's podcast begins.

It doesn't stay there long, though. Bonnie Hazen and Toni Leone take us on an adventure that carries us by car, by plane, and by boat toward a deeper understanding of those mysterious protective feelings that sometimes sweep over us -- well, some of us -- when we encounter our fellow animals -- um, okay, some of them. Trevor Corson, author of the bestselling The Secret Life of Lobsters, assists.

Then we travel to 1911, and look at a box with a dead raccoon that showed up in Washington D.C., at the office of Gerrit S. Miller. After pulling it out and inspecting it, he realized this raccoon was from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, and unlike anything he’d ever seen before.  He christened it Procyon minor and in doing so changed the history of Guadeloupe forever.  

We move from the storage rooms of the Smithsonian to the sandy beaches of Guadeloupe, chasing the tale of this trash can tipping critter. All the while trying to uncover what it means to be special. 


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JAD ABUMRAD: Wait, do we want to -- we should run on just a classic intro.




JAD: Hey, I'm Jad.


ROBERT: And I'm Robert.


JAD: I got to be honest, I have no idea what we're about to do.


ROBERT: This is uh ...


JAD: Whoa. What's this? Are we on a boat?


ROBERT: No, but we're gonna be. This actually -- story actually starts in a supermarket.


JAD: Why did you give me the boat? As a tease?


ROBERT: Yes, it's a tease. It's a classic tease.


JAD: So give me some supermarket, then.


PAT WALTERS: I'll give you some supermarket.


ROBERT: That's Pat Walters. I asked Pat a few weeks ago to ...


JAD: Hi Pat, by the way.


ROBERT: Oh, yes. Pat Walters's a regular person here.


JAD: Pat is one of our producers.


ROBERT: I said we're going -- I want him to look for stories about old lobsters.


JAD: Why?


ROBERT: Well, I'm not gonna tell you that right now, but you'll see later on why.


JAD: Come on, give me a hint.


ROBERT: No, I'm not gonna give you a hint. But he found a lady.


PAT: If you could just introduce yourself.


BONNIE HAZEN: What do you want me to say?


PAT: Whatever you wanna say.


BONNIE HAZEN: Okay. Hi, I'm Bonnie Hazen. I'm a registered nurse. And ...


PAT: And Bonnie told us a pretty crazy story.


BONNIE HAZEN: But just to tell you briefly, what happened was I had just gone to our grocery store.


PAT: Just any old day? It wasn't a ...


BONNIE HAZEN: Just any old day. Nothing special about that day.


PAT: And where is this? Where is this, just ...


BONNIE HAZEN: In McMurray where I live. Little McMurray, Pennsylvania. We're about 15 miles south of Pittsburgh.


PAT: Okay.




ROBERT: The year, Jad is 19 ...


PAT: 1990. August of 1990.


BONNIE HAZEN: So I was looking around, you know, admiring the new seafood department. And I noticed this tank ...


PAT: A lobster tank.


BONNIE HAZEN: And there were only two lobsters in the tank.


PAT: One she says was really small. But the other one ...


BONNIE HAZEN: This huge behemoth that was just so massive.


PAT: How big is big in this case?


BONNIE HAZEN: He was, like, from the tip of my finger to my elbow.


PAT: Oh!


JAD: That's big.


PAT: Yeah, so she sees this big lobster, and she's like, "That tank is way too small."


ROBERT: She thought the lobster looked cramped.




PAT: So she goes over to the guy behind the seafood counter, and she's like ...


BONNIE HAZEN: I asked somebody, "Well, what are you gonna do with this big lobster?" And he kind of just let me know that it was a promotional for the new seafood department.


PAT: Oh.


PAT: Like, it was just this big lobster that would get sent around to different supermarkets when they wanted to attract attention.


BONNIE HAZEN: You know, I just made a few more inquiries and worked my way up to the store manager. And he referred me to the vice president or the chain, and ...


PAT: Oh, straight away?


BONNIE HAZEN: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Because they didn't -- they couldn't answer my question. I probably was a little bit of a pain.


PAT: Right.


BONNIE HAZEN: Like, what are you going to do with him?


ROBERT: This is the moment where the manager of the store decides okay, we have a complaining lady. I think I can solve the problem. He makes her an offer.


BONNIE HAZEN: The bottom line was that I could have him if I could arrange for him to return to Maine.


JAD: She could have him if she could somehow get him back to Maine?


ROBERT: Mm-hmm.




ROBERT: I don't know why. I guess all lobsters are from Maine, he thought. So that's the offer.


BONNIE HAZEN: Like, okay, how do I do that?


JAD: That's a good question.


ROBERT: Is this an unusual experience? I mean, this is one case.


TREVOR CORSON: This -- this actually has a long history of people rescuing large lobsters.


ROBERT: That's Trevor Corson, he's the author of, what is it, The Secret Life of Lobsters?


PAT: Yeah, The Secret Life of Lobsters.


TREVOR CORSON: Some people may remember the story of Mary Tyler Moore.


ROBERT: No, I don't ...


TREVOR CORSON: In 1994, Mary Tyler Moore developed a crush on a large lobster, 12-pounder.


ROBERT: Who was named Mr. Grant?


TREVOR CORSON: No. He was named Spike.


ROBERT: Spike?


TREVOR CORSON: In Malibu, California, in a restaurant called Gladstone's, she put up $1,000 for the right to rescue him.




TREVOR CORSON: A thousand dollars! And then Rush Limbaugh heard about this, and he called the restaurant and offered $2,000 for the right to eat Spike.


ROBERT: Well, so what did the restaurant do then?


TREVOR CORSON: It refused.


ROBERT: It refused.


TREVOR CORSON: Still refused. And there's been other cases since then.


PAT: Trevor told us that he's actually read about dozens of these lobster rescue stories.


ROBERT: But our lobster story is the original lobster story.


JAD: The very first!


ROBERT: I don't want to make the claim forever for sure, but I'm just saying is that if you Googled it, this is your opening lobster.


JAD: All right.


ROBERT: So it's still 1990.


JAD: Yeah.


ROBERT: Bonnie, having now left the supermarket, she's at home thinking now, "Hmm."


BONNIE HAZEN: I really -- I don't know what to do.


JAD: And she doesn't have the lobster yet.


PAT: She has no lobster yet.


BONNIE HAZEN: That was when I started calling some of the local animal organizations, Animal Rescue League, and the ASPCA. Just locally trying to see if there was anybody out there that could help. And there really wasn't. They're -- they're more into mammals.


PAT: They've probably never even heard of such a thing.


BONNIE HAZEN: No. No. They basically told me forget it.


JAD: So, what are we talking weeks of research here?


PAT: Seven hours.


JAD: Really?


BONNIE HAZEN: Oh, I was on the phone for hours.


PAT: Little obsessed.


BONNIE HAZEN: But I had the time and it was kind of fun.


JAD: So this has become a project for her.


ROBERT: Yeah, it's a project.


JAD: Yeah.


BONNIE HAZEN: So then I called the Cousteau Society, because I was a member of the Cousteau Society. And they suggested I call our local newspaper.


JAD: Ah, the press.


BONNIE HAZEN: The article appeared Saturday morning paper.


PAT: Oh, really?


BONNIE HAZEN: I have it right here. Cruisin' Crustacean.


PAT: Cruising, like cruise -- like, cruise?


BONNIE HAZEN: Yeah, not "Cruising," but "Cruisin,'" C-R-U-I-S-I-N. Crustacean. "McMurray Woman Talks Supermarket Into Releasing Large Lobster." I really didn't talk with them. I'm just quoting now. "Yes, it's a long story. It began Friday morning when Mrs. Hazen entered the Giant Eagle Supermarket. There in the store's newly-opened seafood section she encountered Nick."


JAD: Nick?


PAT: Oh, the lobster has a name.




JAD: Nick.


BONNIE HAZEN: "Nick, clearly the king of crustaceans was lounging in a large circular saltwater tank along with several lesser lobsters." There was just a little one.


PAT: Yeah.


BONNIE HAZEN: "Something in the way Nick moved spoke to Mrs. Hazen, so she spoke to several Giant Eagle employees. Mrs. Hazen, who describes herself as environmentally active, told them she thought Nick might be happier back home in Maine than on someone's CorningWare." I really didn't say that. "'Don't worry,' Mrs. Hazen was told. Nick was a professional lobster. 70 years old.


JAD: 70 years old?




TREVOR CORSON: Well, we don't actually know. There's no way to technically age a lobster perfectly. Estimates are from fifty to a hundred years for those big suckers.


JAD: Wow!


BONNIE HAZEN: "I'm not an environ --" I didn't say this. "I'm not an environmental crazy. I eat lobster, but I think they're over-harvested. Nick must be set free." I didn't say that either.


PAT: I see you pounding your fist on a desk. Nick must be set free!


BONNIE HAZEN: "'They told me I could have Nick if I promised to take him to the ocean.' Mrs. Hazen has no money for such a trip." Sounds like I'm destitute. Anyway, I guess that's what appeared then in the Saturday paper.


PAT: And that could have been the end of it. But ...


BONNIE HAZEN: Saturday morning, we got an early phone call. And there was this woman on the other end of the line.


TONI LEONE: I'm Toni Leone.


BONNIE HAZEN: And she was saying she was in town ...


TONI LEONE: For my dad's funeral.


BONNIE HAZEN: And she was returning that afternoon to Maine.


JAD: No!




JAD: To Maine?


ROBERT: Portland, Maine.


TONI LEONE: So I figured I'll just bring him back with me.


ROBERT: But why would you even think to do something like that?


TONI LEONE: Because he was a massive lobster in a teeny-weeny tank that literally he could barely move in.


ROBERT: Now, there's one other thing. Remember, she was back in Pittsburgh for her dad's funeral.


ROBERT: So was this in any way an homage to your dad?


TONI LEONE: Oh my God, he loved lobster. He absolutely loved to eat lobster.


ROBERT: To eat lobster?


TONI LEONE: Yeah, he would eat them like crazy.


ROBERT: But he also loved that his oldest daughter would do things that none of his other kids would ever do.


TONI LEONE: Yeah, he would know that I would do something like that. He would expect me to do something like that.


ROBERT: So anyway, Toni and Bonnie they're on the phone.


PAT: And at first, Bonnie is actually a little suspicious.


BONNIE HAZEN: I said "Are you sure you're not just saying that to eat them," because I mean -- you know?


TONI LEONE: I said, "No, I wouldn't eat anything this big. He's -- you know, he's too old."


BONNIE HAZEN: Oh, she reassured me and she sounded very nice. So we agreed to meet at Giant Eagle. Of course now, I'm getting my daughter, my youngest daughter. "Oh, we gotta hurry up! Hurry up! Get up and dressed! We got to go to Giant Eagle!"


TONI LEONE: And the woman met us at the store.


BONNIE HAZEN: Because she had a, I think it was a two o'clock flight or something like that.


TONI LEONE: She was there with the manager, and ...


BONNIE HAZEN: I didn't know there was gonna be a photographer there from a local TV station in Pittsburgh. Anyway, Toni bought the biggest styrofoam cooler she could find.


TONI LEONE: Which really still was a little too small for him.


BONNIE HAZEN: He could barely fit.


TONI LEONE: But we got him in there, taped it up as best we could.


BONNIE HAZEN: Put him in a van and away they went.


TONI LEONE: When we got to the airport, we get up to the reservation desk, handed him to the stewardess and she put him in a chair in first class.


ROBERT: What kind of a -- wait a second.


TONI LEONE: We were in coach. This lobster's up in first class.


ROBERT: [laughs]


ROBERT: So the plane then touches down in Portland, Maine, where the wildlife police are waiting.




ROBERT: Is anyone able to determine what everyone here seems to have assumed, that this lobster comes from Maine?


TONI LEONE: No. In fact, it probably wasn't caught here.


ROBERT: Why do you say that?


TONI LEONE: In Maine, you can't catch big lobsters like that. That's illegal.


TREVOR CORSON: Because the big lobsters are the ones that make more babies.




TONI LEONE: They have size limits that they have on their lobsters.


ROBERT: So you are bringing a lobster then to a venue that you reasonably suspect is a foreign place.


TONI LEONE: It's a foreign country.


PAT: Wow!


TONI LEONE: But he could make friends.


ROBERT: So the next morning ...


TONI LEONE: The Harbor Patrol called and said, "Do you want to go with us? We're gonna put him in the water." So we jumped on their boat.


PAT: And a newspaper reporter went out in the boat with them that morning, too.


BONNIE HAZEN: Okay. So this is from Maine.


PAT: Bonnie read it to us.


BONNIE HAZEN: "Just after 1:00 p.m., as the Marine Patrol boat docked in 30 feet of water, Toni Leone carefully drops Nick over the side. She watched him sink in the choppy fog-shrouded waters, then grinned. "I'm glad he made it." Isn't that nice?


ROBERT: It is nice. But here's the real deep question here. When we look at our fellow creatures and we decide well, who can we -- who do we want to protect? We include some groups and we exclude others. Seems almost entirely arbitrary. For example, why would someone save this lobster?


TREVOR CORSON: Yeah. I mean, a lot of series not cuddly by any stretch of the imagination. Certainly not soft.


ROBERT: I mean, was it -- was it its beauty? Well?


TREVOR CORSON: I actually think that -- that lobsters are very attractive.


PAT: Really?


ROBERT: Do you always think that?


TREVOR CORSON: I have always thought, you know, they're -- a lobster is like -- it's -- how can I say this appropriately for radio? They're muscular and curvaceous at the same time. They're like Popeye arms, those claws. And then there's that nice curving tail, and I just think that lobsters are ...


ROBERT: Do have like a hunky lobster calendar? Lobsters of 2008?


TREVOR CORSON: I'm not -- I'm not talking about that on the radio.


JAD: That's -- that's just weird. That can't be the reason why people keep saving lobsters.




ROBERT: No, I don't ...


JAD: So what is it?


TREVOR CORSON: I think that it has partly to do with our obsession with longevity.




TREVOR CORSON: When it's -- when it's one that's that big and that old, suddenly the rules are changed. Here is -- here is a creature, you know, that has made it through all the tests of life and it deserves our respect now.


BONNIE HAZEN: He was -- he was unique. He was special, and I just felt that, I don't know, he just didn't deserve to be in that tank at his age.


PAT: Yeah.


BONNIE HAZEN: Everything kind of converged at that moment. And that's the only way I can explain it is just kind of went with it.


JAD: A story about lobsters. Thank you, Pat.


ROBERT: I thought of dropping Pat into the ocean along with Nick, but when I had him upside down I realized he was kind of attractive in his own right, and ...


PAT: As if you could pick me up.


ROBERT: [laughs] Okay, coming up we move from the sea to dry land where we're gonna meet yet another animal. In this case, the animal has stolen not just the hearts but frankly the minds of an entire Caribbean nation. So you should stay tuned for that.


[ELIZA: Hey Eliza here. It has been a while since I've read Sloan. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at]




ROBERT: That lime doesn't cut it very much. Like, it's really powerful.


SIMON ADLER: It's basically straight rum, yeah. This is a very traditional Guadaloupean drink called Ti' Punch.


ROBERT: As in punch?


SIMON: As in punch.


JAD: Ready?


ROBERT: Mm-hmm.


JAD: Hey, I'm Jad Abumrad.


ROBERT: I'm Robert Krulwich.


JAD: This is Radiolab.


ROBERT: Today, we're gonna go off to an island.


JAD: Yeah, small little corner of the globe.


ROBERT: Which in its very surprising way is trying to figure out how to understand itself.


JAD: Buffet itself.


ROBERT: And protect itself.


JAD: Against the whims of the wider world.


ROBERT: Yeah, exactly.


JAD: Comes to us from our reporter Simon Adler.


SIMON: So I went to Guadaloupe a couple -- a couple weeks back, which is this French overseas department. Basically, a territory of France.


ROBERT: And where's Guadaloupe?


SIMON: Guadaloupe is this series of islands in the Caribbean. Bit east of Puerto Rico and 400 miles north of Venezuela, more or less.


SIMON: Okay. So just landed. The runway we landed on here was -- was just bordered on both sides by these super lush green walls of flora. I have no idea what they were.


SIMON: And the story I want to tell actually starts on a watermelon farm.


SIMON: It's okay if I park here? Okay.


SIMON: Owned by this couple Sully and Lois.


SIMON: Thank you so much for being willing to do this.


SIMON: They look to be in their late-40s. Sully had on a pair of glasses, t-shirt and cut off blue jeans.


SULLY: I'll just introduce you to my wife.


SIMON: And Lois ...


LOIS: Bonjour. Nice to meet you.


SIMON: Very nice to meet you. How are you?


SIMON: Was wearing one of those floppy hats and big rubber boots.


SIMON: You -- you were born here in Guadaloupe?


SULLY: Yeah, I was born in Guadaloupe, yes.


SIMON: In what part of Guadaloupe?


SULLY: I was born in Pointe a Pitre.


SIMON: So after growing up in Guadaloupe and graduating, Sully decided to get off the island for a bit. Went overseas for work.


SULLY: In Guyana, it was ex-British Guyana.


SIMON: Met Lois.




SIMON: And fell in love.


SULLY: It's true.


SIMON: Anyway ...


SULLY: Then I came back to Guadaloupe 20 years ago to establish myself in a farming area.


SIMON: And did you buy this farm right here?


SULLY: Actually, I didn't buy it. The land was in the family for a long time. Okay, so I decided just to give them a hand, you know? And then we ended up staying so, you know?


SIMON: Oh, so it wasn't planned that you would be ...


SULLY: It wasn't planned at all. Not at all.


SIMON: And eventually they kind of fell in love with farming.


SULLY: We enjoy it. It's a new, a different way of living, you know?


SIMON: They've got, like, 60 acres of land, these rolling hills bordered by the ocean filled with their crops.


SULLY: Tomatoes, sweet peppers, pumpkins and watermelons. Watermelons our main crop, yeah.


SIMON: So Sully and Lois took me out to their actual farm.


LOIS: So this is the -- oops! These are what we have to have a still.


SIMON: And there in this field, I was surrounded by just hundreds and hundreds of these enormous watermelons.


SIMON: These are huge!


LOIS: Yes, they weigh about 20 to 25 pounds.


SIMON: And this was actually why I was there. Because these watermelon in this field for the past 15 years have been under attack.


SIMON: This one -- this one is ...


LOIS: Yes.


SIMON: Another one that was punctured, and ...


LOIS: This one is fresh.


SIMON: Oh, man! Okay they've been here recently.


LOIS: Yes, like last night. It's still red, it's still fresh.


SIMON: And there's this golf ball-sized hole bored into the side of it.


LOIS: It has a diameter of maybe two inches.


SIMON: And the watermelon itself had just been emptied out.


SIMON: It's incredible! It's like they ...


LOIS: It's like a deflated ball. And you walk on and it's the same thing and the same thing and the same thing.


SIMON: This field was just littered with hollow watermelons.


LOIS: This is the worst attack we've had in about three years. As I said, they did it especially because you were coming.


ROBERT: I'd like to ask this, because I think it's time. Who or what is doing all this?


LOIS: Raccoons.


SULLY: It's raccoons.


SIMON: Raccoons.


ROBERT: Raccoons.


JAD: Of course, raccoons.


SIMON: Yes, those masked bandits with -- with those little tiny hands.


ROBERT: And the adorable sort of ...


JAD: No, not adorable at all.


SIMON: I think they're kind of ...


JAD: No, they're so not cute. No, no and no.


SIMON: But -- but even if you think they're horrible, you have to give them that they are clever.


JAD: Yeah.


SIMON: They were -- they were sneaking into Sully and Lois's field at night, finding the biggest, ripest watermelon in the patch, boring a tiny hole into it, scraping out the juicy innards.


LOIS: They just scoop it out.


SIMON: And chowing down.


LOIS: It's a fiesta.


SIMON: And for Sully and Lois, this was a huge problem.


SULLY: You're pissed off. Anyway, on a quarter of an acre you are able to lose a third of it.


SIMON: Oh, so a third of the watermelon crop would just be ...




SIMON: Meaning ...


SULLY: It could go up to 20 percent of your revenue. Yeah, sure.


SIMON: Thousands of dollars.


SULLY: So we couldn't stand -- this loss is too much, you know? We had to do something. We had to fight.


ROBERT: So what do they do?


SIMON: Well, so 15 years ago Sully and Lois declare war.


JAD: Meaning what?


SIMON: Well to start with ...


LOIS: We put an electric fence around our field.


SIMON: Zap them, keep them away.


JAD: Okay.


SIMON: But pretty quick ...


LOIS: They know to put a branch and walk on the branch and get into your field anyway.


SIMON: They built a sort of bridge.


JAD: What do you mean, they would walk over the branches?


SIMON: Yeah.




SIMON: So then they've got to try something new. This time, they're like ...


SULLY: We have to be there at night chasing them ...


SIMON: We'll blast music at them, we'll run around.


SULLY: With music.


SIMON: At one point, Sully even stooped to just throwing rocks at the raccoons.


LOIS: He picked up a rock and he just bam!


SULLY: I'm a good pelter, but you can't stay in the field all night long.


SIMON: So next thing they decide to try is okay, let's put some traps out in the field.


SULLY: We tried to trap some, but they're very smart.


SIMON: These big, metal, sort of tripwire cages.


LOIS: But one day there was no trap. We found the trap in the woods and it was all bent up.


SIMON: Wait, they run away with the trap?


LOIS: With the trap, yes.


SIMON: The raccoons were actually destroying them. [laughs]


SULLY: Sometimes we look at them and say, "Oh, shucks."


SIMON: So for their final attempt they decided okay ...


SULLY: We had to try the dogs.


SIMON: Guard dogs. Put guard dogs in the field. But ...


LOIS: The next day when we came ...


SULLY: It was -- it was ...


LOIS: It was carnage. It was -- it was a massacre.


SIMON: The raccoons killed one of your dogs?


LOIS: Exactly. All of his intestines were outside. So it was a duel to the death.




SULLY: Yeah, really!


LOIS: So you know what kind of animal you're dealing with.


JAD: This confirms every feeling I have about raccoons. They are not just clever, they are fierce and amoral animals.


ROBERT: There is good and bad in everyone, and these were obviously not very nice raccoons. And if I were in Lois and Sully's position, of course ...


JAD: You would shoot these raccoons? Is that what they did?


ROBERT: Well, or poison them. Something.


SIMON: Well, yeah. I thought that if anybody would be onboard with -- with some sort of eradication campaign, it would be Sully and Lois. Right. But when I floated this idea by them ...


SIMON: If I was you, I would want to kill those raccoons.


SIMON: They just kind of looked at me funny.


LOIS: Killing them? It's a little -- a little harsh.


SIMON: But they're -- they're attacking your livelihood.


LOIS: Yes, yes.


SIMON: I just -- it's hard -- I'm trying to understand how you ...


LOIS: I know it sounds strange, huh? Because I myself, putting myself in your position, I would find it strange, too.


SULLY: It's just maybe a sentimental feeling, you know?


JAD: Wait, why -- why ...


ROBERT: Sentimental feelings?


JAD: What does that mean?


SIMON: Well, here's the thing. The people of Guadaloupe, they acknowledge that these raccoons are super destructive. They know that they are attacking not only watermelon farms, but -- but goat farms and chicken farms. That they're going and tipping over trash cans in downtown Pointe a Pitre. But -- but yet simultaneously, they adore them.


MAN: Raccoons is -- raccoons are very loved. They're so lovely.


WOMAN: Of course we love the raccoon.


MAN: Yeah.


SIMON: They put them on their postcards.


WOMAN: We just think it's so cute.


SIMON: Driving down their main highways, you see billboards where people's logos for their advertisements for their -- for their tire company is a raccoon. Like, it's everywhere.


SIMON: There is a statue of a raccoon.


SIMON: At the zoo!


SIMON: Bienvenue Zoo de Guadaloupe.


SIMON: They're the number one exhibit.


SIMON: Here they are.


SIMON: The first thing you see when you walk in.


WOMAN: We have many in the trees there.


SIMON: Oh, wow! Couple up there like monkeys!


SIMON: And on the way out of the zoo ...


SIMON: Can I follow you? Okay.


SIMON: When you walk into the gift shop ...


SIMON: Got a coffee cup with a raccoon on it. A snow globe with a raccoon in it. Keychains. Might have to get one of those.


WOMAN: People love the raccoon.


SIMON: People -- people are raccoon crazy on this island.


JAD: Why?


SIMON: Well, it's really complicated. It has to do with the history of the island, it has to do with who came to the island when and who gets to say what happens on the island. It has to do with -- with power. Like, who ...


ROBERT: You're talking about a raccoon here? That's still ...


SIMON: Yeah. All of these problems and ideas are -- are inside the raccoon's tail, in fact.


JAD: In his -- in his tail?


SIMON: The tail of the raccoon and the tale about the raccoon. Yeah.


JAD: What? You gotta unpack this for us.


ROBERT: Explain this a little better.


SIMON: Well, the trouble all started ...






SIMON: With this guy Garrett Miller.




SIMON: He was a scientist working at the National Museum in DC.




SIMON: This by the way is Blandin Guillaume. She works for the wildlife police. Spoke to my interpreter Sally Stenye and I. And she told us one day Miller was just hanging out in his office when a box showed up from Guadeloupe. And he opened it up and found ...


BLANDIN GUILLAUME: A very much dead raccoon.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Yeah, a sort of misshapen skin, and an accompanying skull.


SIMON: This is a Kristofer Helgen.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Curator of mammals at the National Museum of Natural History, part of the Smithsonian Institution.


SIMON: Actually has the same job that Miller had back in 1911. Anyway, this raccoon that Miller had in front of him ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Looked a lot like the North American raccoon, but it was small. And different in quite subtle ways. And so ...


SIMON: After some inspection, Miller ...


BLANDIN GUILLAUME: Baptized the Guadaloupean raccoon a distinct species.


SIMON: Scientific name ...




SIMON: Procyon minor. The Guadaloupean raccoon.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Putting a name on it and recognizing it as a new species implied a deep history of the presence of raccoons in Guadaloupe.


SIMON: Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years. And over these millennia, these raccoons had evolved into their own distinct species.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Found nowhere else on the planet.


ROBERT: So is that when the Guadaloupeans began to love raccoons? When they realized they had their own, you know, one and only?


SIMON: Yeah, but -- well, it took a while to catch on. I mean, this discovery was initially only being talked about in these arcane academic scientific journals. It's not like this discovery was on the -- was on the front page of the Guadaloupean Times or anything. But then in the 1980s, you know, conservation really came into its own. Scientists started worrying about -- about species disappearing from the planet. And in particular, they started worrying about this raccoon.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: These raccoons, you know, were being recognized as potentially endangered.


SIMON: Thought being they're only on these islands, there probably aren't that many of them. Like, we've got to protect these things. And so, since Guadaloupe is an overseas French Department, France decided to do just that. February 17th, 1989 ...


BLANDIN GUILLAUME: Legislation was created to protect the raccoon.


SIMON: And shortly after the passage of this law, Guadaloupe opened up its first national park.


BLANDIN GUILLAUME: And the raccoon became the mascot, the symbol of the National Park.


SIMON: And as the mascot of this new national park ...


BLANDIN GUILLAUME: It really became that symbol of protected species.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: It was celebrated.


BLANDIN GUILLAUME: People were like, "Okay, nice. We love the raccoon."


SIMON: And more than just a symbol of the importance of protecting the natural environment of Guadaloupe, over time the raccoon became in a way a symbol of Guadaloupe itself.


BLANDIN GUILLAUME: It's really that symbol for people. Like, you can definitely see it as the bald eagle in the US.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Aside from raccoons, you didn't really have hardly any other mammals that are native to these islands apart from bats. And so if the raccoon is the one furry critter running around that everyone can point to and say this is something special. You know, this is not the same as a raccoon you'd find anywhere else. That is an exciting thing. It's a powerful thing, and a point of pride, I think.


SALLY STENYE: I mean, we're not late in this time zone.


SIMON: Okay.




SIMON: Okay, very good to meet you. How are you?


NAMOURI JOSEF: You know, age doesn't help things.


SIMON: This is Namouri Josef.


SIMON: And you were born here in Guadaloupe?


NAMOURI JOSEF: Yes. Yes, indeed.


SIMON: She's an older woman, maybe in her 70s, wearing this pink floral dress. Her house was right on the highway with a field in the back, and that she says is -- is where the raccoons would hang out.


NAMOURI JOSEF: There was a whole bunch of them just, like, chilling in the area, because all this behind the house was sugarcane. They actually came and fed on the sugarcane. I loved seeing them. I mean, there was always some time of pleasure and excitement, like seeing those raccoons out there. And at some point, there was one that we really became acquainted with.


SIMON: At that point, she scooched her chair over and picked up this black and white photo that was -- that was sitting on her dining room table and inspected it.


SIMON: Can I see the photo that you have here?


NAMOURI JOSEF: Basically, what's on the picture is Sophie. And I'm feeding her bread that I dipped into milk.


SIMON: Sophie was a pet raccoon that Na had back in the late-'80s. And she talked about Sophie as if she were her child.


SIMON: You're making the gesture of, like, cradling a baby.


NAMOURI JOSEF: He would run around and, like, every time I called her name and everything, like, she would just, like, come running. I was really close to him and, like, when other people came to visit, they could see that had this rare wild animal with me.


SIMON: And at one point she got -- she got really quiet and grasped the photo very tightly.


SIMON: You're holding it to your heart.


NAMOURI JOSEF: When he died, I cried. I cried his name. It was really, really painful time for me. It's important sometimes to have something of your own.


SIMON: I almost got the sense that having this raccoon as its national animal was a way for Guadaloupe to distinguish itself from France.


JAD: What you mean?


SIMON: So Guadaloupe has always been pushing against France trying to declare some sort of a cultural or national independence. In fact, just a couple years before this law was passed.


[NEWSCLIP: A group called The Guadaloupe Liberation Army claims ...]


SIMON: This group that was fighting for independence from France blew up a section of Guadaloupe's airport.


JAD: Oh, wow. Really?


SIMON: A studio in the government-owned TV station. Even a Chanel fashion perfume store in central Paris.


[NEWSCLIP: The explosion tore out windows and doors and left racks of high-fashion clothing in shreds.]


SIMON: And it felt to me like in some small way, the raccoon had become a way for the Guadaloupeans to say to France, "This is ours, not yours." And because of that, it also became a point of tension between France and Guadaloupe.


JAD: Yeah. What do you -- what do you mean by that?


SIMON: Well, the morning after I met up with Na, I went to this police station.


SIMON: Good to see you.


SIMON: To talk to these police officers.


SIMON: Do you mind saying your name for me?


DAVIDE: Davide.


ANTHONY: Anthony.


SIMONE: Simone.


SIMON: As well as a couple others. All of them, but one were white and French. They were stationed here in Guadaloupe. And they took us up into this sort of war room, which was the second story of this bungalow-type building out in the middle of the jungle. Everybody was sitting around this makeshift boardroom table and pretty quick after the meeting started, they booted up this PowerPoint.


SIMON: They've got a PowerPoint up with a picture of a raccoon displayed up against the wall here.


SIMON: This image of a raccoon crouched down in this chicken wire cage.


ROBERT: So what's going -- what is going on here?


SIMON: Well, they're planning a raid to liberate this raccoon. In fact, they had the location where it was being held mapped out with -- with entry points designated. They even had the license plate number of the man believed to be holding the raccoon.


JAD: And why exactly are they doing this?


SIMON: Well, because as Anthony Groyo, the leader of this whole operation explained to me, the law passed in France back in 1989 declaring the raccoon as a protected species, it specifically outlawed killing raccoons, transporting raccoons and even ...


ANTHONY: Having raccoons for pleasure. You can't raise a raccoon as your own pet. Sometimes we're taking away a child of the family, literally. But in France, the law says they can't be held as pets. And as a police officer in here, I'm speaking as a police officer, I have to be here to enforce the law, period. No questions asked.


SIMON: And so once the briefing was over, they headed outside, strapped their pistols to their belts, threw the rest of their gear in the back of these SUVs and took off.


SIMON: Everyone is rolling out. We're in three vehicles.


SIMON: And 20 minutes later, we arrive at the top of this hill peering down into this lush, dense jungle.


SIMON: [whispering] We're walking down this driveway into the forest.


SIMON: We get halfway down the hill and ...


SIMON: Is someone here?


SALLY STENYE: Yeah, apparently someone is here.


SIMON: In this clearing we spot this man. He doesn't see us.


SIMON: There's a guy in a red shirt with a camouflage hat on. He's got his hand behind his back.


SIMON: The cops tell us it's too dangerous. You guys can't go any further. And so Sally and I duck behind some trees. And then Simone and Anthony, wearing a wireless microphone rush into the clearing to confront him.


[Anthony speaking in French.]


SIMON: Anthony started grilling him a bit. Asked him if he knew about the law. Said he did. And even though I was, like, 30 yards away, I could see that the guy just seemed confused. And pretty harmless.


SALLY STENYE: They're all good here. He's cooperating.


SIMON: Right away, he told them where the raccoon was.


SIMON: There he is!


SIMON: In this chicken wire cage behind this giant tree.


SIMON: Cute little guy.


SIMON: This rough-looking raccoon. They pull out a toolbox, wire cutters.


SIMON: Raccoon is grabbing the wire cutter.


SIMON: Like it thought it was playtime or dinnertime. They cut open the cage, reached into it with these thick leather gloves. And then they grabbed it by the neck and threw it into this kind of dog carrier box thing. And the mission is a success.


SALLY STENYE: It went as swimmingly as, you know, you can get.


JAD: I gotta say, this whole thing sounds a little, I don't know ...


ROBERT: A little much for this? For just releasing a pet?


SIMON: Yeah. No, agreed. But ...


SALLY STENYE: We're gonna go on foot, basically.


SIMON: Okay.


SIMON: Later that morning, we went on this second raid.


SIMON: What are we expecting from -- from this scenario?


SIMON: And the seriousness clicked into place for me.


ANTHONY: It's really a different setting.


SIMON: We walked into this courtyard surrounded by maybe 10 houses, many of them made of sheet metal.


SIMON: And do we know where the raccoon is supposed to be?


ANTHONY: It's right there under those trees.


SIMON: He pointed at this pile of trash surrounding this enormous white cage. And there inside was this golden-looking raccoon.


ANTHONY: So there's houses all around. So we need to see who is really in charge of this raccoon.


SIMON: But before the officers could do anything to free it, a crowd started to gather.


SIMON: A woman has just arrived.


SALLY STENYE: She's asking basically what's going on.


SIMON: Three or four people showed up, heads started poking out of windows. And -- and Sally overheard one of them saying ...


SALLY STENYE: That someone snitched and said that there was a raccoon in the area.


SIMON: He said someone snitched?




SIMON: And I suddenly realized that all of the officers were very on edge.


ANTHONY: So we're just going to leave.


SIMON: Why can't we just take the raccoon?


SALLY STENYE: Just for safety reasons. They don't want to stay here too long.


SIMON: And we got out of there.


SIMON: So tell me what was going on in that second situation, because I -- a lot of it was over my head.


SALLY STENYE: I mean, it's really understanding the context, the setting. I mean, this is not just the police. I mean, it's white police forces coming into an overwhelmingly Black and poor neighborhood that has a lot of, you know, significance in this context.


SIMON: In fact, when I was talking to Na about this the night before, she said that if police officers had ever come to try to take Sophie ...


NAMOURI JOSEF: I mean, they would have had to take me in as well. I would have taken my husband's gun and I would have -- you know, I would have shot.


JAD: When we come back from break, the tale thickens.


ROBERT: Yeah. We'll be right back.


[TIMOTHY: This is Timothy Frantic calling from Stillwater, Minnesota. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at]


JAD: I'm Jad Abumrad.


ROBERT: I'm Robert Krulwich.


JAD: This is Radiolab. And we're back with reporter Simon Adler. He's telling us the story of the Guadaloupean raccoon, which as we just heard for the people of Guadaloupe is both a point of pride and a point of tension.


SIMON: We are in the back rooms here.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: We are beyond the public areas, exactly.


SIMON: And to understand what happens next ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: We're going up to the sixth floor of the museum.


SIMON: We have to go to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History here in the US with mammalogist Kristofer Helgen.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Where we are now is what's called the Type Collection, the world's largest library essentially of dead mammals.


SIMON: I have to say for such a grand place, it's a little visually underwhelming.


SIMON: Basically just a bunch of locked white cabinets.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: But that said, it's the behind-the-scenes area where, you know, the real treasures are stored.


SIMON: Can we take a quick detour so I can explain what he means by that?


ROBERT: Mm-hmm.


JAD: Sure.


SIMON: Okay. So scientists, taxonomists, their job is to name and differentiate species, right?


JAD: Mm-hmm.


SIMON: So how do they do that? Well, let's -- let's talk about sharks because sharks are kind of cool animals, right? Imagine there's this shark species. It's swimming around, it's having a great time. And at some point, half of the sharks in this shark population decide to leave, to go somewhere else. I don't know. They go to deeper waters or to a different ocean. They get cut off from the -- their previous shark family. They don't see them for a long time. And over thousands or maybe a million years, they actually start evolving on their own as sort of a new -- a new type of shark.


ROBERT: So they become different enough that they've become a new species.


SIMON: That's what the scientists come in and try to figure out.


JAD: And how do they make that determination?


SIMON: Well, so basically it's a comparison game. They compare them to the old sharks. Do they look the same? Are their dorsal fins taller or shorter? They'll look at how they -- how they behave in the water, how they move through the world. Is that different? Nowadays, they'll even just do genetic work. And if they decide it is a new species of shark, at that point they do this sort of wacky thing that I had no idea about. Once they've decided that this -- this shark is a new species, scientists will go and kill one of these sharks. They will stuff it, put it in a box, and then they will store it in a locked cabinet in a natural history museum somewhere.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Because ever after for hundreds of years, that specimen becomes kind of a gold standard, the definition of that species. There's a different key for types than others. Every kind of moth or mite or mollusk or mammal, you know, every oak tree, every kind of zebra, somewhere in the world there is a museum cabinet where locked down there is a physical specimen of that organism.


JAD: That's -- so it's like -- it literally is like the natural museum histories of the world are like the library, the card catalog of life.


ROBERT: Card catalog of life.


SIMON: Yeah. And the room that that Helgen took me into in the sixth floor of the Smithsonian, it was just cabinet after cabinet after cabinet after cabinet filled with these type specimens, including ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: The Guadaloupe raccoon type specimen.


SIMON: The very specimen Miller inspected back in 1911.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: So here we go.


SIMON: Helgen bent down and opened this one particular cabinet.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: I'm pulling out a big metal drawer ...


SIMON: And inside ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Look, here it is.


SIMON: This is it right here!


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Here it is, right in front of you.


SIMON: This sort of ratty-looking, taxidermied raccoon.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: It's maybe not the most pretty sight. You know, the ears are a little bit broken and bitten off.


SIMON: Some of the stuffing was coming out of the belly.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: But that's probably how it arrived.


SIMON: Now, Helgen first saw this raccoon back in 2000. And one of the first things he did was ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Turned it over and looked at it, and it's small.


SIMON: Maybe like 18 inches long.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Something like that.


SIMON: Just like Miller had reported. But then he popped open this little white box that had the skull in it.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: And take a look. What do you see here?


SIMON: He pointed at these fine white lines crisscrossing the dome.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: These are open sutures which show that the skull's still growing.


SIMON: In other words ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: It's not an adult.


SIMON: Which to Helgen was a big deal, because ever since being a kid he was suspicious of the Guadaloupean raccoon.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: It didn't -- it didn't add up to me. I just had a suspicion of, you know, these Caribbean raccoons didn't make sense.


SIMON: He said if you look at islands, they usually don't have just one native mammal species walking around. This made Guadaloupe an outlier. And so ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: I'm gonna put it on this tray.


SIMON: The fact that this thing was a kid meant that there was nothing special at least about its size.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: And by the time I laid my hands on this one and looked at the skin and skull, I'd seen so many raccoons in museum collections that, you know, I knew their skulls and teeth really well. And so when I saw this, one of the first things I noticed is that there was just nothing that looked any different to me from the common raccoon, the North American raccoon.


SIMON: And so Helgen decided to do some genetic work. He compared the DNA of these Guadaloupean raccoons against North American ones.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Did the math. We made the comparisons, and our clear answer came through. Not only are these, you know, not very different, they are just simply North American raccoons.


JAD: You mean Guadeloupean raccoons are the same ones that come and torment my garbage cans?


SIMON: Exact same raccoon.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: You know, common, literally garden-variety raccoon that we have in our own backyard.


SIMON: Now for scientists and conservationists ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: It is a real turnabout, you know? It goes from being distinct, special, endemic, you know, found nowhere else, to just the opposite. Invasive species.


SIMON: So when Helgen started publishing papers on the raccoon in 2002, conservationists were excited.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Because raccoons they can have real impacts. They will do things like eat sea turtles, birds' nests, bird eggs, including of some that are potentially endangered. They'll eat the ...


SIMON: Wait, so they were -- they were hurting actual endangered species?




SIMON: And so now that -- now that they have proof, now that they are certain that this raccoon doesn't belong here, then they feel finally we're going to be able to go out and start doing something about this. Protect the actually special ones, get rid of this one sort of faker. But putting conservation aside, what you've got is this native to the island national icon animal that has suddenly become ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: An interloper, brought there within the last 200 years.


SIMON: Probably just on a boat.


JAD: Huh. Well, given everything that you've told us about the colonial history, how did the Guadaloupeans react to this?


SIMON: Well ...


KRISTOFER HELGEN: Well, we went down in 2004 ...


SIMON: Helgen and his mentor.


SIMON: ... to Guadaloupe. And we talked to some people associated with the zoo and with the government management of the park. And it was just a very brief conversation.


SIMON: He made sure that they had heard the news.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: You know guys, this raccoon that's found only in your country, it's not what you thought it was and it doesn't belong here. And I remember that the message that came back to us was essentially, "Thank you very much, but we're gonna -- we're gonna hold onto our raccoon."


SIMON: Meaning, according to Blandin Guillaume ...


BLANDIN GUILLAUME: There was no major communication campaign held to make sure that the population knew that there was a change in status.


SIMON: The government never really told anyone. And when someone did say something ...




SIMON: Like Gerard Berrie here. He's a native Guadaloupean, long time conservationist.


GERARD BERRIE: `You know, a few years back I was interviewed by a reporter, and I told him what I knew for a fact. And everyone was just saying, you know, off with his head. Some of my friends were like, "How could you possibly say this? You know, you should not have said this. This is -- this is bad."


SIMON: And so for over a decade now, nothing has changed. The laws haven't been amended. And because the government's kept this so hush-hush, many people on these islands still don't know the truth.


SIMON: Well, so my understanding of the story is for many, many years there was this thought that ...


SIMON: In fact, I accidentally broke the news to Na.


SIMON: Very recently it was discovered that no, in fact, it's the -- it's the same species that lives in the United States. Does that -- does that change your feelings about Sophie or about the Guadaloupean raccoon in general?


NAMOURI JOSEF: You can find it in the United States? But wait, so is it possible that maybe it was brought to the United States?


SIMON: The scientists say that it was brought here from the United States.


NAMOURI JOSEF: I mean, I always thought that the raccoon was really endemic to Guadaloupe. It is kind of sad for me to know that it's not endemic to Guadaloupe. I mean, I wish it would have been so, to be honest.


SIMON: And then I had the even less-enviable task of informing Na that just this past July ...




SIMON: The EU passed this regulation.


[CLIP, EU REPRESENTATIVE: We recognize that we cannot act on all the thousands ...]


SIMON: Basically, a blacklist of invasive species.


[CLIP, EU REPRESENTATIVE: ... whose negative impacts concern the European Union.]


SIMON: The thing is, particularly in Germany the raccoon is terribly invasive. These raccoons have actually been called Nazi raccoons as they spread from Germany throughout the continent. And so the raccoon made the list. And that means that member states like France, and thus very likely overseas agencies like Guadaloupe will have to start managing or even eradicating them.


SIMON: From the folks I've spoken with, there's a good possibility that in the next year the raccoon is going to change from being a protected species to being a species that can be hunted, trapped and killed.


NAMOURI JOSEF: No, no, no! It kills me. It kills me the thought that, you know, people could start hunting raccoons. Like, we have to protect them. No, no, no, no, no, no. Sophie.


ANGELIQUE CHAULET: It's not a specific species? Yeah, okay. Got it. I just don't care.


SIMON: Angelique Chaulet, owner of the Guadaloupe zoo.


SIMON: You don't care?


ANGELIQUE CHAULET: No, I don't care. It's just the raccoon of Guadaloupe.


SIMON: But it's kind of an imposter, isn't it? It kind of tricked everyone, didn't it?


ANGELIQUE CHAULET: He's not responsible of the person saying it was another species. People make an error. He didn't do anything.


LOIS: You must respect the animal, you know?


SIMON: Even Sully and Lois, the watermelon farmers from the beginning of this story, said at the end of the day ...


LOIS: If let's say they say, "Okay, as of this date the raccoons are no longer whatever. I don't see myself taking a rifle, running to the field and just lying in wait to shoot them. No.


SULLY: Just that we have a few type of wildlife, you know, no snake, nothing. So, you know, is the bigger one, biggest one. So people adopted it as a national animal. That's it.


SIMON: It's one of those if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with type situations?


LOIS: [laughs]


SULLY: Could be.


LOIS: That's a good one.


ANGELIQUE CHAULET: So as a pragmatic person, I know it's an invasive species today. I know it. But I know also I think it's cute and I think I like it. So what is the best balance to find? You see? I don't know.


ROBERT: It's kind of interesting that we in America love the bald eagle, a kind of wretched bird that steals other people's nests and is generally a vulgar animal, actually. But we never think of it that way, because we've given it majesty and we give it -- you know, in its talons there you see you both, you know, peace and war. It has been -- we have dressed it up.


JAD: It's given America.


ROBERT: And I think every time a nation chooses to identify with some wild thing, it's mostly really about the people identifying, not about the animal.


JAD: Yeah. I totally agree, but I see, like, this -- like, you have this fact, right? There is a fact here that the raccoons didn't show up a million years ago or whatever.


ROBERT: Right.


JAD: It's probably -- it was probably more like 200 years. That's most probably a fact.




JAD: But then there's the stuff on top of that which is like, are they natural? Are they invasive? Do they belong here? Those don't feel like facts, those feel like judgments. And like, who gets to make those judgments? The scientist? I don't know.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: I certainly didn't realize the extent that this was a deep-seated cultural battle in which I was, you know, entering.


SIMON: You have inserted yourself, yeah, strongly.


SIMON: Again, Kristofer Helgen.


KRISTOFER HELGEN: It's just the same information, you know, different responses. And ...


SIMON: I think that one of the deep questions of that -- of this story lives in that, which is, like, you came to a scientific truth and the question becomes should that scientific truth win the day?


KRISTOFER HELGEN: I mean, as a scientist, you know, I would say yes. As a conservation biologist, I would say yes it's important. It shows us that taxonomy really matters. This animal didn't belong and, you know, really perhaps it should be removed from the island. But at the same time, it's really a question for Guadaloupe. You know, this is their island, these are their animals running around on it. And it can be very challenging for scientists like myself to come to terms with but that's how the world works.


SIMON: One more thought before we -- before we go. Is that all right?




SIMON: Before Helgen officially sank or dethroned this Guadaloupean raccoon, there's actually another guy with a similar hunch. This Parisian mammalogist named J.M. Ponds. And in one of his papers he wrote that, "Even if it can be proven that the Guadaloupean raccoon is no different from the North American raccoon, that the best answer might not be its reclassification or eradication but instead its isolation." He wrote that its quote, "Insular distribution prevents gene exchange with the mainland and is likely to warrant different selective pressures that should favor short-term genetic differentiation that may lead to a long-term speciation process."


JAD: Wait. What does that mean?


SIMON: Meaning if they were able to keep these North American raccoons on Guadaloupe isolated long enough, maybe someday they could be reclassified yet again, this time as real Guadaloupean raccoons.


SIMON: What's your response to that?


KRISTOFER HELGEN: I forgot that Ponds said that, but -- you know, I like it, but I have to say you are gonna be waiting a long time.


SIMON: [laughs] That's gonna take awhile.


ROBERT: We want to give super super thanks to Sally Stenye who was our translator and got Simon everywhere he needed to go, and made sure that it all worked out. and to Allie Pannell here in New York who helped us make sense of the whole thing before we left. So we owe her a huge debt.


JAD: Thanks also to Herve Manuel, David Xavier Albert, Lawrence Baptiste Salamo and Florian Kershner.


ROBERT: And to Bernie Biaume.


JAD: And most especially, thanks to Simon Adler who reported and produced the whole story.




JAD: I'm gonna read you guys this one paragraph real quick before we go sign off.


ROBERT: About what?


JAD: Because you know how we were arguing about whether the raccoon is a good creature or an immoral creature? And I was looking for ammunition on the internet to find -- to read to you guys.


ROBERT: Oh, that was -- that would be productive.


JAD: And I found this thing -- I found this thing. It's in a blog called The Truth About Raccoons.


ROBERT: Oh, boy.


JAD: And it's -- and it contains this paragraph, which I'm pretty sure is not true. But it goes and I quote, "Raccoons are one of the only land mammals who can also walk on the bottom of riverbeds holding their breath for up to an hour." What? "They eat both live prey and carrion and consume up to 20 pounds of raw meat at a time, then go without food for a week. Their skeletal structure is found in no other animal, and that combined with their ferocity and complete lack of moral fiber make them perhaps our most dangerous enemy." I rest my case.


ROBERT: That was no case, that was just propaganda. That was hate speech.




[SALLY STENYE: Hi, my name is Sally Stenye from Guadaloupe Interpreters. So I'm reading the staff credits right now. Radiolab is produced by Jad Abumrad. Dylan Keefe is our Director of Sound Design. Soren Wheeler is Senior Editor. Jamie York is our Senior Producer. Our staff includes Simon Adler, Brenna Farrell, David Gebel, Matt Kielty, Robert Krulwich, Annie McEwen, Latif Nasser, Malissa O'Donnell, Arianne Wack and Molly Webster. With help from Tracie Hunte, Valentina Bojanini, Nigar Fatali, Phoebe Wang and Katie Ferguson. Our fact-checker is Michelle Harris. All right. That's it. Thank you. Bye-bye.]


[ANSWERING MACHINE: End of message.]