Learning About South African Traditional Medicine on ‘Freaks and Creeps’

Written by Rachel Scherr, Associate Producer of Freaks and Creeps

My whole career I’ve loved working on host-driven animal shows.  So when I got the call asking if I’d have any interest to work on a host-driven show about the world’s weirdest animals, I was immediately intrigued.  They sent me Lucy’s blog and then I was hooked.  It was so funny!

What I didn’t expect before working on this show is how edgy the content would be.  Immediately I was thrown into researching the proboscis monkey.  The proboscis is known for his honker of a nose, but also has a chili-pepper penis that is always erect, and a chronic gas problem. Our next episode featured a very strange animal called an echidna.  I found video about this creature’s really strange male reproductive organ and believe me, had it not been a scientific study, it would have been highly inappropriate! These are the kinds of subjects that would get your computer confiscated at any other job!  But this is my life, and believe me, it makes for some really interesting happy hour talk!

But there’s more to the show than that … South Africa presented a more serious set of topics. It actually caused quite a bit of concern, as we feature the muti trade. The traditional healing custom is controversial because it uses many endangered animal parts. It is illegal to collect from these protected animals, but traditions mandate using those items. So many of the animals at the muti markets are collected by poachers. But as hard as it is to swallow from a Western cultural perspective, these traditions originated long before these animals were endangered. There are other things that factor into the animals’ declines. So should we, Westerners, judge these people for continuing their practices when we probably have had a heavy hand, one way or another, in causing the animals’ endangered or vulnerable statuses? This is a very complicated issue and a hard dance when you only have a 50-minute show, which is not focused solely on this issue at hand.

Because of this natural conflict in creating this show, we had to limit the use of one of my favorite scenes. During her travels, Lucy goes to a Sangoma (traditional healer) training school. The students there are getting ready to graduate and are performing a trance dance to connect to their ancestors. The music and dancing is awe-inspiring. The dancers give themselves over completely to the rhythm of the drums, as if nothing else exists. It’s truly a very National Geographic moment and the footage is brilliant.


Catch the rhythmic dancing of the Sangoma students and more on Freaks & Creeps: Africa’s Freaky Five on Tuesday, July 31st at 10P on Nat Geo WILD.


  1. Scott
    August 14, 2012, 10:56 pm

    When will Freaks and Creeps return? I somehow managed to tune in on the first episode and I was hooked and now it’s gone? Lucy Cooke is an amazing, charismatic host and really makes the program. Please, please don’t take this show away! It’s one of only two programs I have a reminder set for so I won’t miss them!

    Thank you for your time.

  2. Cara Schnieder
    August 24, 2012, 2:05 pm

    You started this obsession of mine. I just need to know when I will have more fuel. I was so excited for this to start and after a couple of shows, I get nothing? I can’t take it any longer. Scott above and I need to know when will this beauty return. Lucy, You ROCK and I want to personally thank you for your time and energy. I am so jealous 🙂 The episode which featured those beautiful vulture was one of my favorite. It looked so peaceful and serene flying with them. If you ever need assistance, email me. WILL WORK FOR FREE!

  3. Laurie
    November 4, 2012, 12:35 pm

    My family and I really loved the first three shows! Hope to see more!