When the motto of your TV adventure series is “the wilder the better,” you’re bound to have some close calls with nature’s most dangerous creatures.
This becomes abundantly clear in the second season of “Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan,” which kicks off Tuesday with startling footage of a disoriented elephant that suddenly charges toward the show’s hapless cameraman.
Actor Dominic Monaghan, host of “Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan,” is pictured in Toronto on May 29, 2012. — Photo by The Canadian Press
Monaghan says the terrifying encounter occurred after he and his crew had watched a veterinarian conduct emergency surgery on the massive beast. Moments after the doc administered an antidote to reverse the anesthetic all hell broke loose.
“What we all assumed as a film crew was that the elephant was going to get up and give us a gentle nod in our direction and say ‘thank you,’ and walk off into the African sunset,” Monaghan says in a recent interview in Toronto.
“But instead it woke up and was confused and didn’t know what had happened and saw a bunch of humans standing around it. And the closest person to the elephant was Frank, our cameraman — he had a big camera on his shoulder so he was very conspicuous — and the elephant tried to kill him.”
Such is life in the wild.
Looking back now, it’s clear Monaghan and even his seasoned Kenyan guides underestimated the peril they were in.
But despite how unpredictable some beasts may seem, the former “Lost” star says all animals communicate very clear warnings if you listen carefully enough.
“Anytime you get hurt or bitten by an animal it’s your fault,” says Monaghan, an “enthusiastic animal lover” whose personal pets include snakes, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, a praying mantis and chameleons.
“Because most human beings are smarter than most animals ... If you push it to the limit where an animal will bite or sting or attack you it means that the animal has told you pretty clearly ‘Leave me alone,’ and you haven’t. And then it shows you who’s boss.”
All you can do at that point is hope your own survival instincts carry you through. In the case of the charging elephant, Monaghan says everyone made a beeline for the cars, but he and his crew got there too late.
“They just drove off. They left us,” he says, able to make light of the situation now.
“When (Frank) saw the cars drive off he was like, ‘Oh no,’ and then his balance went and then he fell over. But it worked for me because I thought, ‘Well, if Frank fell over that means that I’ll be OK because he’s much slower than I am.”’
Luckily, their medic jumped in to distract the elephant, which eventually lost interest and wandered off. No one was hurt, says Monaghan.
The elephant tale isn’t even the focus of the season 2 premiere, which begins with Monaghan intent on finding the aggressive giant spitting cobra.
Other episodes see “The Lord of the Rings” actor head to Brazil, Zambia, Thailand, Japan, New Zealand and Australia to get a good look at creatures including carnivorous ghost bats, the world’s longest-fanged snake and a deep sea creature considered one of the ocean’s most poisonous predators.
And there are more dicey encounters. Monaghan says he needed nearly 40 stitches in his arm for another animal run-in that will be revealed in later episodes.
“I tried to control this animal too quickly and what I should have done is waited and watched and seen where this animal was in space and what it wanted to do and how angry it was and how surprised it was and how scared it was,” says the actor-turned-amateur animal wrangler.
“But instead I wanted to start a scene so I was, ‘Oh, check out this animal!”’
Nevertheless, Monaghan says he and his crew are extremely careful. A medic travels with them and carries anti-venom and other treatments, and they always know where the closest hospital is — although sometimes it can be a day away, Monaghan admits.
“We’re as safe as we can be. In a show and a world that can sometimes be dangerous.”
Season 2 of “Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan” premieres Tuesday on OLN.
—By Cassandra Szklarski