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Dominic Monaghan checks off beastie bucket list in 'Wild Things'

SHOW PATROL

March 24, 2014|By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol | RedEye

When you're working with wild animals, sometimes things don't go exactly as planned.

"I've been hurt quite a few times by animals—stung and bitten and scratched and stabbed," actor/adventurer Dominic Monaghan said. "This year I have about 40 stitches in my arm from an animal that I meet. I had to get sewn up a few times, so it does happen."

Neither the stitches nor any of the other injuries have dampened his enthusiasm for hosting "Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan," which returns for its second season at 9 p.m. March 25 on BBC America. Each episode finds Monaghan and his crew heading to another far-off land to find animals that the nature lover wants to introduce to the world.

This season, the former "Lost" star goes to Kenya to play with the giant spitting cobra, to the Australian Outback to find a ghost bat, to Brazil to meet the titan beetle, and to New Zealand with his "Lord of the Rings" pal, Billy Boyd, to expose the giant wetapunga. Along the way, Monaghan and crew come across creatures great and small—many of which are on his personal bucket list of animals to see.

"This season, I went to find my favorite snake in the world, which is the gaboon viper. That was pretty special," he said. "Swam the [Great] Barrier Reef with arguably the world's most venomous creature, the box jellyfish. That was kind of an ambition of mine, too. And swam with sharks as well, which was pretty rad."

Monaghan and guides in each locale identify critters, and then he interacts with them. In the premiere filmed in Kenya, a local veterinarian takes the team on a side trip to operate on an elephant that has been injured by a poacher's arrow. When the six-ton beast comes to, it charges Monaghan and his cameraman, Frank Vilaca.

Despite the unpredictability of the animals and his injuries this season—he isn't allowed to reveal what animal caused him to get all those stitches until later in the season—Monaghan says he feels safer interacting with them then driving on the treacherous roads his team is forced to use.

He also says he can't think of an animal he doesn't want to encounter. Well, there is one.

"Maybe a One Direction fan," he said. "They scare me more than anything else."

Monaghan talked more about operating on the elephant, meeting other animals and having a spider species named after him.

I love your exuberance when you do the show. How genuine is that, or are you just getting viewers excited?
It would be kind of difficult to put that on, you know? I mean I tend to work from passion. I'm not very fortunate enough that I can't do that. So one of the things that I'm passionate about in my life are all over the show: football—or soccer as you guys call it. I'm very passionate about young people. There's culture, there's food, there's travel and then there's also the animals. And I can't really fake excitement.

Speaking of exciting, how great is it to have a spider named after you like you did after the first season?
Yeah, actually it's fantastic, especially in the field of science for people to know that. I know a lot of anthropologists; I know a lot of biologists. I know a lot of herpetologists. So that's a great honor and something I don't take lightly. It's something I'm sure will be one of those things I'll be able to tell my grandchildren about...

MORE HERE: Dominic Monaghan gets wild thing all his own 

Were you surprised when you found that or did you know?
I was with a biologist who was looking for stuff. He was collecting specimens outside the cave and I was helping him. He said, "if I find a new species, you can name it." If you find something yourself you can't name it after yourself. It's a faux pas in the biology world. So I said, "Oh, great. That sounds fantastic." I didn't think that we'd find a new species. So a few months later ... he emailed me and said it was indeed a new species and said, "I'm gonna honor that promise that I gave; we're gonna name it the Monaghan spider."

I often think, "Is he crazy?" Have you ever actually thought that yourself? "Why am I doing this?"
No, not really. It's something that I want to do. I love animals. I love the show. There's no animal that I wouldn't want to have an experience with just because it was dangerous or scary. I mean just because something's dangerous that doesn't make it any less scientific. Just because something has the ability to hurt you doesn't mean it's not important. So those things override any sense of danger. But I'm not scared of animals. I don't have a fear of animals; it's a natural thing to be curious about animals.

The crazy stuff is like driving at night, flying on strange planes—those kinds of things are way more scary than hanging out with the animals.

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