A crowd favorite is Jungle Jack Hanna

Late Show with David Letterman guest Jack Hanna
Credit: Left photo: Erin Whittaker (Grand Canyon NPS on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic | Right photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from Washington D.C, United States / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Gen

Dave retires in 2015

will Colbert have Jack?

Millions of viewers know that David Letterman is the longest running late night talk show host in the US. In Canada, about six people know that honour belongs to Ed the Sock. On April 3rd, Dave announced he'll be retiring in 2015.

At first I came up with five women who could fill Dave's shoes and then I came up with five men for the job. I've been heartbroken ever since I learned that Stephen Colbert is the guy they picked.

For the past few days, I've been mulling over what I loved most about David Letterman's talk shows (and kids, I watched him when he had a morning show).

One of the most hilarious and entertaining were Jungle Jack Hanna segments where he showcased wild animals. I also appreciated the fact that many of these creatures I'd probably never see otherwise.

So, I felt it fitting to put together my top 10 list of rarely seen creatures that Jack Hanna has brought onto the Late Show for your enjoyment. I include some notable facts about these creatures and some footage I found on YouTube (that I hope will remain available to the public to view).

10. Cheetah

About the Cheetah

The cheetah definitely is the world's fastest land animal. It can reach speeds of over 110 km/hr (70 mph) in just over 3 seconds.[1]

Cheetahs are vulnerable to extinction[2] and although I've seen baby cheetah cubs featured on many talk shows, it's rare to see an adult one. I had to include this gorgeous animal that Jack Hanna brought onto Dave's show. The video was uploaded in 2010.

As Jack pointed out, cheetahs are quite different than leopards. Leopards climb trees and hunt primarily at night. Cheetahs, on the other hand, have poor night vision,[6] yet they have claws that do not fully retract (which act like cleats). They will chase down their prey even in desert heat during the day. Those dark lines (that look like black tears streaming down their face) act as an anti-glare for hunting in sunlight.[3]

Interestingly, cheetahs cannot roar, but they can purr, whine, hiss, growl, and make a chirping sound.[3] Also, they cannot climb trees.[4] Most cheetahs have solid black spots whereas leopards (and other large cats) have rosettes. Only the king cheetah variation has rosettes.[5]

9. Honey Badger

The honey badger (also known as ratel)[7] is able to chase a lion away from its prey[8] - incredible given a honey badger's size compared to a lion. It has truly earned a place in the Guiness Book of World Records as the most fearless animal.[9][10]

The short snippet of one on Dave's show merely showed it "marking its territory" with a humping motion. Apparently, in the wild, the honey badger not only uses its sharp teeth and claws to chase away predators, but it produces a stinky odor from its anal gland.[8] (Hmmm, I know someone like that).

Most sources I found stated the honey badger is a carnivore[9][10] (meat-eating), however one source classed the honey badger as an omivore[8] (meat and plant-eating) since it will also consume berries and roots. I assume when there's no other creature it can tear apart.

The honey badger has practically no predators, except for humans, leopards, lions, and pythons. Yet to qualify that further, purportedly a leopard attacked an old female honey badger that had one blind eye and was nearly toothless - even so, it took about an hour for the leopard to kill it.[11]

For entertainment value, I also included the viral video made by "Randall" titled The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger[12] (next). Fortunately I found a clean version (since some bad words were in the original version).

This hilarious video went viral

Note: All bad words have been bleeped out.

I wonder about two things

A couple of questions came to mind as I listened to Randall (his last name isn't publicly known).

1) How come bee stings or snake bites do not appear to affect the honey badger? 

It turns out their skin is really thick and rubbery - even a blow with a machete can't scratch it.[8][9] So, I'm assuming that a stinger, teeth, or claws do not actually pierce its flesh. And, as Randall pointed out, their skin is loose[8] (which probably helps it to wriggle free).

2) Do they attack humans?

Well, word is only if they feel threatened or cornered[13] - but I wouldn't chance it. In India, the honey badger has been reported to dig up human corpses.[7]

White Tiger, Springhare, and Albino Python

The first 3:46 seconds showcases these creatures:

8. White Tiger

What fascinated me about the white tiger is that they still produce eumelanin yet lack pheomelanin (which gives them the orange color). So technically, they are not considered albinos.[14]

Sadly, breeders and exhibitors who are bent on profiting from this unique creature have inbred them. This has resulted in numerous genetic problems. What's more, from the litter of cubs (which includes orange ones) many breeders have inhumanely destroyed cubs that aren't white.[15]

7. Springhare

In 1996, the springhare was listed as "vulnerable"[16] however its current conservation status is "least threatened/concern."[16][17] They resemble a small kangaroo crossed with a rabbit - yet they are unrelated. Springhares are members of the rodent family.[16] A fascinating fact is they have flaps on their ears - which they close to keep sand out.[17] Gee, wish I had those sometimes, don't you?

6. Albino Python

When Jack Hanna brought an albino python on Dave's show, he said there were only 10 of them in the world. Since then, it has become the most widely available morph.[18] They are incredibly strong and have often been dumped by owners who can no longer handle them once they grow into full size.[19]

5. World's largest snake (scroll to 1:27 mark)

18 years old, 24 feet long, weighing about 304 lbs:

I'm not a fan of owning snakes - especially big snakes. There have been human fatalities involving pythons, the world's longest snake and reptile. They aren't venomous, instead they squeeze the life out of their prey and then swallow it whole, hence the term constrictors.[20]

Komodo Dragon, Scorpion, and Black Jaguar

The first 7:15 mins of this video features them:

4. Komodo Dragon

Here's the deal with these Komodo dragons. Their teeth are covered almost entirely by gingival (gum) tissue that gets cut during feeding - causing blood to mix with their saliva. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria to live in its mouth.[21] Scientists have found 50 different bacterial strains in their mouths (including 7 considered highly septic).[22] They are the largest living lizards.[21][22]

In 2009, researchers found two glands in the lower jaw of a preserved Komodo dragon skull using MRI. It is believed to secrete numerous toxic proteins. This would indicate the Komodo dragon is venomous. These secreted proteins were found to inhibit blood clotting, lower blood pressure, cause muscle paralysis, and induce hypothermia - leading to shock and loss of consciousness.[21][22]

3. Scorpion

It appears that scorpions are found in almost every type of terrain, including mountains, caves and along the seashore. They dwell in the ground, in trees, near rocks, and on sand.[23] There are over 2,000 species of scorpions in the world. Apparently, all scorpions are venomous - and even small ones can inject the same amount of venom as adult-sized ones.[24]

2. Black Jaguar

The black jaguar is one of three animals termed a panther (along with the black leopard and cougar). It's unclear whether or not the jaguar is related to the leopard - as British zoologist Reginald Pocock concluded. The DNA evidence is inconclusive and studies of similar species vary.[25]

The bite of a jaguar is indeed powerful - with a 2,000 lb. force. That's twice the bite strength of a lion. Only about 6% of jaguars are black.[25]

The rare open-shirt, sparse chest-haired, um

Katy Perry Russell Brand
Credit: Maegan Tintari (...love Maegan on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Whoops, wrong photo...

My man-servant said he thought I was looking for strange creatures featured on Letterman.

And the number one rarely seen creature featured on Letterman is (drum roll please):

1. The Snot Otter

Even though Jack Hanna also brought a river otter with the snot otter - they aren't related. The snot otter (aka hellbender) is a type of giant salamander which can grow over 2 feet long.[26]

They have an amazing sense of smell - able to detect a tiny drop of earthworm scent in a 40 gallon tank. I wouldn't pick one up, their teeth can break human skin. Their eyesight is poor, yet their bodies contain light-sensitive cells.[27]

Snot otters (like snot) have remained pretty much unchanged for over 160 million years.[26] As fascinating as that fact is - what impressed me most is that they breathe through pores on their skin.[26][27]

Since Jack Hanna couldn't seem to locate the eyes on his snot otter, I searched high and low for a photo that shows them (next).

Credit: Kerry Wixted on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Ozark snot otters are an endangered species

Find out more from National Geographic:

Looking for the perfect Letterman memento?

Get a "Late Show with David Letterman" T-shirt:

From the CBS store, this fabulous T-shirt is one you'll lovingly remember to wear whenever you are missing David Letterman on the Late Show. Made of 100% cotton, navy blue with yellow lettering, it usually ships within 4 to 5 days.
Note: There is also a matching travel mug and coffee cup available on Amazon.