Survivor-Like Contest Raises Money for Charity

Durham Warriors Survival Challenge pic

Durham Warriors Survival Challenge
Image: durhamwarriors.org

Leveraging over 25 years of experience working with animals, Josh Ruffell is a Los Angeles-based freelance animal trainer and consultant who has worked on films such as Bad Boys 2, Hidalgo, and Cheaper by the Dozen. From 2005 to 2008, Josh Ruffell served as a wildlife consultant on the CBS show Survivor.

Now in its 34th season, Survivor has developed a large following of fans interested in attempting the team-oriented challenges that those on the show complete. Only a select few each season are chosen to appear on the show’s remote locations around the world, but one former winner of the show, Bob Crowley, allows fans and Survivor alumni the opportunity to compete in similar challenges at his farm in Maine.

Hundreds of fans gather at the farm each year to watch contestants take part in the Durham Warriors Survival Challenge, which raises money for the Durham Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization which provides financial support to military veterans. The four-day event functions the same as Survivor in that, upon losing a challenge, one tribe must vote a member out. Survivor alumni Adam Klein, Susie Smith, and LJ McKanas, among others, attended the 2017 event, which was won by Bethany Sass, a Chicago-based accountant.

Helping Endangered Sea Turtle Species

 Southwest Fisheries Science Center pic

Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Image: swfsc.noaa.gov

A graduate of Moorpark College’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program, Josh Ruffell has over 25 years of experience working with animals in a variety of settings. Josh Ruffell specializes in working with reptiles.

After a 2004 study of data from 32 different index sites, assessors from Southwest Fisheries Science Center found a 48 to 67 percent decline in the number of nesting mature female green sea turtles over the previous three generations. That conclusion led the International Union for Conservation of Nature to list the green sea turtle as an endangered species. The decline in the green sea turtle population is attributed to the growth in commercial harvest of the turtles and their eggs as well as pollution and diseases such as fibropapillomatosis (FP), which causes tumors to form on their mouths, eyes, and skin. More than one-fifth of dead green sea turtles found in Florida from 1980 to 2005 had FP tumors.

However, a recent study published in the U.S. Geological Survey detailed a breakthrough in FP research, in which scientists successfully engineered the skin of green sea turtles in a laboratory. Consequently, they were able to grow the virus that causes the cauliflower-shaped tumors in the turtles, which in the future should lead to better-tailored treatment options for turtles affected by FP. It was the first time ever that researchers were able to grow the skin of a non-mammal.