By CHELSEA JENSEN
BBC America’s Richard Hammond specifically looks to get out of his comfort zone and he found quite a few ways to do just that at an animal sanctuary in Kailua-Kona.
Following a morning dumpster-dive for produce, the host of the network’s “Crash Course” got up close and personal with a 275-pound grumpy, old reptile nearly twice his weight. The growling African spur-thigh tortoise, appropriately named Goliath, needed to be placed on his back for a physical, cleaning and some shell repair work, said Ann Goody, curator of the Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary.
“It was pretty funny, you could see he was so out of his comfort zone,” said Goody, who gave Hammond the crash-course in being an exotic animal keeper. “Before everything he did he would ask ‘what are the odds of me getting killed?’”
The scene is just one of many filmed for the show at the nonprofit animal sanctuary that is home to zebras, nene, hawks, owls, flamingos, primates and reptiles, as well as many other rare, endangered and exotic animals. The episode premiers at 5 p.m. Monday on BBC America.
Viewers around the world may recognize Hammond as the charismatic auto expert on the world’s biggest car show, “Top Gear.” Now he is the host of BBC America’s “Crash Course” — a show in which Hammond has just days to master operating heavy equipment.
The show, which began airing in April, is produced by BBC Worldwide Productions. It airs first on the American network, and then goes online before BBC International picks up the episode.
In the second season, Hammond takes “Crash Course” to a new level, according to BBC — immersing himself in uniquely American, and often terrifying, vocations with the hope of attaining mastery in just days.
“He learned everything (in those days) that a keeper-trainee would learn in a month to two months,” Goody said. “It was a difficult thing to teach and for him to learn because it is so alien.
“I think he would make a great volunteer because no matter what he is doing he is giving his all.”
Goody said the show’s producers contacted her via email in July about the possibility of a filming a show at the sanctuary. After much back and forth, including developing a variety of conditions, the show was a go. Hammond and a production crew of about 15 arrived on island in late August for three days of taping, of which two Hammond took part in two 12-hour days.
The sanctuary was not compensated by the show for the taping. However, “Crash Course” did make a $2,000 donation toward animal care and education, Goody said. Three Ring Ranch also received rights to all raw footage, including still and video, for its educational purposes.
In addition to learning the skills needed to run the sanctuary, Hammond and crew took part in the August release of three Hawaiian stilt, or aeo, at Four Season Resort Hualalai, Goody said. The three birds, then chicks, were rescued in May by an angler who watched feral cats chase them into the ocean off Honokohau Small Boat Harbor.
“A release is overwhelming and joyous and to share that on television with the world is very cool,” Goody said. “The timing was spectacular.”
Established in 1998, the Three Ring Ranch is a private, nonprofit exotic animal sanctuary situated on 5 acres above Kailua-Kona. Its goal is to assist youth in becoming environmentally responsible through teaching about the island’s ecosystem and humans’ impact on it.
“I wish, and I desire that it will bring a great deal of awareness and education about the sanctuary,” she said. “This is another educational opportunity to remind our people in Hawaii to keep remembering when they see injured wildlife to call Three Ring Ranch.”
The state and federally licensed sanctuary is also an amnesty station where people can turn in alien species.
For more information on the sanctuary, visit threeringranch.org. For more on “Crash Course,” visit bbcamerica.com.
Email Chelsea Jensen at email@example.com.