Conservation news

Graham Sibley leads new podcast celebrating endangered species

  • On Endangered Species Day, May 21st, a group of award-winning actors, the Los Angeles Zoo, the University of Montana, and Mongabay will release a new podcast, “Endangered: Short Tales for The Nearly Forgotten.” Endangered, a podcast anthology that celebrates species that are on the verge of extinction, was created, written, directed and produced by Emmy-nominee Graham Sibley, the actor who starred in Dark Web and Sully, among many other projects.
  • The podcast includes a diverse set of guests, each of whom donated their time to represent a little-known endangered species. They include Nik Dodani, Ana Claudia Talancon, Juan Pablo Espinosa, Emmy-nominee Scott Turner Schofield, Sydney Vienglaung, Noah Watts and Tuli Amakali. Emmy-Award winning sound designer and mixer Kyle O’Neal is designing and producing the series.
  • Species featured in the first seven episodes include the fairy possum, the black-footed ferret, the saola, the African white-backed vulture, the axolotl, the humphead wrasse, and the golden dart frog.
  • In an interview with Mongabay, Sibley said his inspiration for starting the podcast was raising his kids amid the pandemic.

On Endangered Species Day, May 21st, a group of award-winning actors, the Los Angeles Zoo, the University of Montana, and Mongabay will release a new podcast, “Endangered: Short Tales for The Nearly Forgotten.”

Endangered (endangeredtales.com), a podcast anthology that celebrates species that are on the verge of extinction, was created, written, directed and produced by Emmy-nominee Graham Sibley, the actor who starred in Dark Web and Sully, among many other projects. The podcast is targeted toward kids, but also appeals to adults with its narrative storytelling and facts about each of seven featured animal species.

The golden terribilis dart frog, the world’s most poisonous frog, is featured in one of the episodes. Photo credit: Rhett A. Butler

“With the pandemic shedding a new light on the fragility of human health and society, the animal kingdom shows us that celebrating and honoring diversity can be a vital tool for survival. By doing so, we will create a stronger system in order to fight disease, nourish our species and ultimately rise in today’s evolving, global marketplace,” said Sibley via a press release. “This podcast is a way of celebrating not only endangered animals but diversity within the human community as it’s reflected back to us through these amazing animals.”

The podcast includes a diverse set of guests, each of whom donated their time to represent a little-known endangered species. They include Nik Dodani (Dear Evan Hansen, Atypical), Ana Claudia Talancon (Top Chef Mexico), Juan Pablo Espinosa (Half Brothers), Emmy-nominee Scott Turner Schofield (Studio City), Sydney Vienglaung (Z-Nation), Noah Watts (Assassin’s Creed III) and Tuli Amakali (Conversations About Nothing). Emmy-Award winning sound designer and mixer Kyle O’Neal (Westworld, NBC’s Debris) is designing and producing the series.

Species featured in the first seven episodes include the fairy possum, the black-footed ferret, the saola, the African white-backed vulture, the axolotl, the humphead wrasse, and the golden dart frog.

Species featured in the podcast. Graphic courtesy of the Endangered podcast.

Sibley told Mongabay that his inspiration for starting the podcast was raising his kids amid the pandemic.

“Early on in the pandemic, I remember holding our boys, looking out our window in the living room, and asking them ‘What are you guys going to do? How are you going to make this world a better place?’” he said. “Then I began asking that same question of myself and couldn’t come up with a good answer.”

While his twin boys would nap, Sibley would read about endangered animals and became fascinated by “the parallels between the more obscure species and our humanity”. So, he started writing short stories about them.

“I was interested in putting a storytelling spotlight on some of the more obscure species before it’s too late,” he told Mongabay. “Then, as the movement surrounding George Floyd’s murder took hold, I was forced to open my eyes to my own privilege and I felt this burning desire to do something that I deeply believed in — and celebrating our amazing human diversity and having these animals reflect that felt really right to me. “

Graham Sibley

Sibley hopes the podcast will raise awareness about these endangered species and spur people to take action. To make it easier for people to do something to help, each ten-minute episode highlights a non-profit organization working with the featured species.

Sibley spoke with Mongabay about the podcast during a conversation ahead of its launch.

Mongabay: What is your background?

Graham Sibley: Most of my childhood was spent in Michigan but then the last few years of high school my family moved to Portland, Oregon. Looking back, I think that experiencing all of Oregon’s natural beauty later in childhood was really formative. I didn’t have a lot of friends moving across the country that late in high school so I remember getting in the car and just driving until I got lost. I’d explore the forests, the gorge, the mountains — I really fell in love with nature there. I am also an actor too but I didn’t really embrace that part of myself until college.

Mongabay: What inspired you to start the Endangered podcast?

Graham Sibley: My wife and I had twins is the short answer. But the pandemic is also a huge piece of my inspiration.

Early on in the pandemic, I remember holding our boys, looking out our window in the living room, and asking them “What are you guys going to do? How are you going to make this world a better place?”. Then I began asking that same question of myself and couldn’t come up with a good answer.

The boys were still napping twice a day at this point and I had become fascinated with forgotten endangered animals. I would read about them during nap time and after we put the boys down for the night. I enjoyed discovering the parallels between the more obscure species and our humanity. So, I decided to write short stories. I was interested in putting a storytelling spotlight on some of the more obscure species before it’s too late.

Then, as the movement surrounding George Floyd’s murder took hold, I was forced to open my eyes to my own privilege and I felt this burning desire to do something that I deeply believed in — and celebrating our amazing human diversity and having these animals reflect that felt really right to me.

Mongabay: What is the format of the show?

Graham Sibley: It is a hybrid anthology podcast. There are seven narrative short stories that are fable-esque, you could say. Each episode ranges in length but they hover around ten minutes a piece — there is a narrative story read by actors and sound designed by the brilliant Kyle O’Neal. Then, at the end of each episode, there are up-to-date facts about the featured species and a call-to-action.

Mongabay: Who’s involved with the project?

Graham Sibley: Some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. There are over forty of us all over the world working for free on this podcast. When Kyle said yes everything fell into place. Kyle is a really special guy who happens to have an Emmy for his work so he was a huge catalyst. With Kyle on board, that gave us the engine we needed to make this a reality.

After Kyle agreed, I called my friend Chuck Rosenthal, who is one of my favorite visual artists in the world. Chuck’s incredible body of work is all about reflecting our humanity back to us through anthropomorphizing animals. I knew with these guys bringing the stories to life we could have a cool show so I began asking actors all around the world to join us.

Casting was really important. We wanted to find the most authentic actors we could to represent each of the species. I spent many hours researching different performers all over the world to find just the right actor. Tuli Amakali, who reads a story about an African White Backed Vulture, hosts a podcast in Windhoek, Namibia. Noah Watts is a Crow actor and musician who lives in Billings, Montana. The list goes on and on.

Our cast is incredible and they helped attract Peter Lichtenthal, who came on as a biodiversity consultant. Then, Lisa Mills came on as our Scientific Advisor and brought us to you guys, Mongabay Kids and the University of Montana and then finally The Los Angeles Zoo came on board.

I also want to shout out to the most amazing woman named Janice Hwang, who is running our website and social media campaign. Without Janice, all of this work would not be out there like it is.

Mongabay: What do you hope people take away from the podcast?

Graham Sibley: I hope our audience learns a little about each unique species and takes away the importance of celebrating life on earth. We all need each other to survive. It’s one big planet and we’re all so connected now. I hope that people will listen to these stories and inch a little closer to each other. I also hope our boys see this project someday and it inspires them to do something good for our world.