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I was naked in the dark with a deadly scorpion; He's one of Wales' leading animal authorities and a passionate adversary of wildlife crime around the globe. And now Dr Rhys Jones is to return to our screens once again in a new hardhitting series of BBC One Wales' Wildlife Patrol. Here the Cardiff-born ecology expert talks to Nathan Bevan about his most unforgettable cases.

MY RUN-IN WITH A DEADLY AFRICAN PUFF ADDER "MY most memorable wildlife encounter happened in Kenya a few years ago.

"Not many people know this, but I'm far more knowledgeable about Kenyan ecology than I am the British one.

"Anyway, I was out there doing a piece to camera about sea turtles when this guy rang asking for my help.

"He said he'd heard I was in the country and that something had just killed his dog right there on his front porch.

"It had also scared off some local Maasai guides, which made me think straight away, 'Only one thing spooks the Maasai - that's snakes'.

"So we travelled a day and half to get to him, upon which point I found his dog lying with two big puncture wounds in its chest.

"I knew straight away we were dealing with a puff adder, which is one of the world's deadliest snakes and packs a poison so bad you wouldn't even make it as far as the hospital.

In the end we found it underneath a rock down this dry riverbed - it was a good 3-4ft long - and we managed to drive it about five kilometres away before letting it go.

"As I was picking it up with a stick, though, it spun around and lunged at the producer and he made a noise the likes of which I'd never heard before.

"To this day he'll swear blind that what you can hear on the footage is the sound of one of the sound girls screaming."

THE LEOPARD ALARM CLOCK "WHEN I'm in Kenya I like to sleep inside a mosquito net.

"It's not a tent as such, just this thin material that just about covers your body and stops you from getting bitten during the night.

"It also allows you to hear all the wildlife going on around you as you lie there.

"Then, early one morning, I got woken up by this terrible meaty, musky smell.

"I slowly opened my eyes and turned my head and looking right down at me from behind was a leopard, sniffing me.

"Somehow I knew straight away it wasn't going to hurt me, it was just checking me out to see what I was.

"But my movement must have spooked it because off it ran into the darkness.

"Glorious creature."

THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS THAT STARTED IT ALL "I grew up in a single-parent family on a council estate in Cardiff's Fairwater.

"Me and mum use to go out and about to spot wildlife and, one Sunday after we'd had a really big dinner, we went down to some nearby fields.

"Well, it wasn't long before I'd fallen asleep under a tree - not long after which I felt something putting pressure on my foot.

"It was the biggest female grass snake I'd ever seen - it was longer than I was tall.

"Acting on instinct, I kicked it off and it went into the tributary, landing with a big splash.

"I remember feeling awful because I thought I'd drowned it.

"But, after about 10 minutes, I saw it break out from a bush on the other side of the bank.

"Its colours in the sunlight were incredible and I fell in love with snakes from that moment on."

NEARLY GETTING STUNG BY A SCORPION WHILE NUDE "OH, that was horrendous.

"We'd been camping in this really bone-dry, dusty place over in Africa.

"It was full of this plant whose name ironically translates from the original Swahili as 'friend'.

"I say ironic because it's covered in barbs that embed themselves in you if you brush past it.

"So we were itching, stinking and sweating the whole time and were desperate to get out of there and have a shower.

"So we made our way down the coast to where Ernest Hemingway once stayed in order to clean ourselves up.

"After washing, I went back in my tent and lay there completely nude, trying my best to cool down.

"Then I decided to do one last check for any mozzies that may have gotten in - and the last thing my torch spotted in the darkness before the batteries fizzled out was the sight of a deadly yellow scorpion scuttling toward me across the floor.

"Luckily, though, I managed to thump the light back on in time to grab it by its stinger and chuck it outside.

"However, being naked in the pitchblack with a scorpion on the loose is far from a good situation to be in."

THE RHINO DEATH THAT BROKE MY HEART "I'VE an amazing relationship with some of the rhino in Kenya.

"One in particular, called Max, was so gentle and loving he'd let you hug him and would follow you around.

"And in 2011 we had him dehorned - which initially provoked a lot of outrage - but we had to do it in order to save him from being killed by poachers.

"I remember flying home to Cardiff afterwards and reading that Max had still been killed, slaughtered for the measly centimetre of horn he had left.

"They took a machete to him - I couldn't look at the picture, it was too much.

"I vowed then that I do everything in my power the get the men that did things like that, and I've assisted police in investigations all over the world.

"I'll never stop until they're all caught."

Rhys Jones's Wildlife Patrol is on BBC One Wales on Friday, August 14, at 7.30pm
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 8, 2015
Words:914
Previous Article:Ready, steady, bake.
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