February 9th 2013 | Zoologist

Jim Fowler

Jim started his career with animals at John Hamlet’s Birds of Prey in Florida as a trainer and lecturer. Stints in Africa and South America studying the Harpy eagle gave him invaluable field experience.
© Caravette Productions Ltd.

00:00:00 - 00:00:08

I’m Jim Fowler. And I was born in 1930 and quite a while ago, and I was born in Albany, Georgia.

00:00:10 - 00:00:13

And what did your dad do for a living and your mom?

00:00:16 - 00:00:37

Good question because my father had a lot of influence on my life, but he was a senior soil scientist for the Geological Survey originally. But he was one of the few soil scientists that really started identifying soils way back in the 1919 and 20.

00:00:38 - 00:00:39

And your mom?

00:00:39 - 00:01:05

My mother was born in Kansas. Her last name was Frazeur, F-R-A-Z-E-U-R. And that’s a French Huguenot, but she was born years ago in the, well, in the late 1800s in Kansas. And her name was Ada Frazeur. Yeah.

00:01:05 - 00:01:07

She’s a stay at home mom or?

00:01:07 - 00:01:55

She was a… Well, I’ll tell you one thing about my mother. Apparently, when she was married to my father in Indiana, that’s where they met. My father had gone to a school called Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, which is a Quaker School. And we grew up in the Quaker tradition. And I think my mother was a school teacher at some academy in Indiana. But her mother said to her, she said, “Look, don’t marry this guy “because he’s gonna be an invalid.” He had come back from World War 1 and they got married and he had hip problems and all kinds of stuff. So she went ahead and married him and they had five children, five sons.

00:01:56 - 00:02:02

Some of us were born in Georgia where he was assigned. Yeah.

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Are you the oldest, middle?

00:02:04 - 00:02:31

No, I’m next to the youngest. I’m the one that when you said, “How do I fit within the family?” I’m the next to the youngest son. And one of the… I’ve got three brothers that are my height or taller, but I’m the one that had to do all the work and wash the dishes because the young one always complained that it was always his job, and the older ones were to so-called mature to do housework like that.

00:02:33 - 00:02:37

What was your child like or your childhood growing up with your brothers and sisters?

00:02:37 - 00:03:36

My childhood was, it’s a different time in those days. We had a lot of freedom to do what we were interested in, and express ourselves. I hope we can still do that now. We didn’t have television, but we did have a lot of radio. (clears throat) But anyway, I was always interested in outdoor adventure, and the outdoors probably through my father. He used to take us out in the forest in Georgia and the, what we call the creek swamps, which are pretty remote. This area I was born in, we had a house in town in Albany, but he had bought this plantation in 1920 for $2 an acre, about a thousand acres, which is relatively small today, because we’re surrounded by big quail hunting plantations. That’s the center of the quail hunting area.

00:03:36 - 00:04:24

And some of those are 15 to 20,000 acres. So I’m saying that because it was quite remote and we had a lot of wilderness all around us. And I remember the joy in going out and he would point out everything to us, you know, to me, and I was always pretty fascinated with it. One of my earliest memories is driving 12 miles out of dirt road to the plantation, and probably in (indistinct) in the middle 30s, and there was a 12 foot alligator trying to cross the road. There was a cut in the Red Clay of Georgia over here. And that alligator was trying to climb up the bank. So it was pretty impressive for me. I was probably four or five years old.

00:04:25 - 00:05:11

I always remember that. And so anyway, in the fourth grade to answer your question about how I got an early interest in the outdoors. (clears throat) I wrote a paper in the fourth grade in Virginia where I was at that time my father was relocated up to the USDA, US Department of Agriculture in Virginia. And I wrote a paper on birds of prey. I got out the encyclopedia Britannica which was the Google of it’s day. And I wrote an essay on falcons and falconry and the eagles and all that sort of thing. And from that time on, my main interest was birds of prey. And I used to…

00:05:11 - 00:05:36

I remember during December 7th, Pearl Harbor, you always remember where you were at that time. I had a great horned owl and a little kestrel in my back porch in Maryland where we were staying. And I remember that very well, ’cause I was training even at age 10 or whatever. I was training birds of prey that early.

00:05:36 - 00:05:40

So were you a kid that brought home a lot of animals?

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Oh, boy! Did I?

00:05:43 - 00:06:27

I brought home… Yeah, I did bring home awful lot of animals and oh, you know, I’m the kind of guy that would have possums around, young possums I was raising. Unfortunately, a lot that is prohibited today. And I worry about that, because if you really can’t have a connection with a part of this world, it’s very unique and very important to us, which is the natural world, you gotta form some deep connections. And I think my ability to go out and bring some animals back to the house, I always took good care of them and was very important in fixing me on that whole world of nature.

00:06:27 - 00:06:29

Your mother supported you when you would bring home the snakes?

00:06:29 - 00:07:24

Well, with five sons, she had a problem to begin with. And, but I guess I was the one that was so involved in the outdoors. Yeah, I had a lot of different things in the house and, but I remember training birds of prey primarily. I once… But I started learning about the outdoors and learning about animals that are very young age. I remember one time I found a possum, that was probably a bit in hibernation, but it had dug a little hole and covered itself with leaves. And I found that nest of the possum which I didn’t realize they did that. And I took it home and raised it for awhile, and I had all kinds of weird things later on in life.

00:07:24 - 00:07:57

I had some pretty strange animals ’cause I used to lecture all over the country. Well, over the Eastern United States with things like, well, I had a pair of giant anteaters named Lawrence and Florence. And I used to lecture with a tamandua, a cheetah. I had a young cheetah I went around with. So I’ve always had a lot of animals with me. So as you were growing up in Albany, Georgia, there was this influence of animals.

00:07:57 - 00:08:03

Was this because of the Four Mile Run area that you were near?

00:08:03 - 00:09:16

Well, you mentioned Four Mile Run that was in Virginia in Falls Church. I remember that very well because for a while my father when he was based in Washington, we lived in Falls Church and Four Mile Run was just a little ways down the road from us. And I used to hang out down there. I remember very distinctly in Four Mile Run I learned how to catch frogs. And what you do is you take a stick or a sapling, a small one, and you take a fishing hook and you take a little piece of red cloth and you put it on the hook, and then when you see like a little piece of bamboo, you see the frog, you can dangle that in front of the frog and he jumps up and grabs it, and you can bring them on shore and then release him again. But I used to hang around that creek a lot. And then later on in life, it must’ve been like 15 years ago. They asked me to narrate a film on that same creek because now most of that creek is going through culverts and pipes under water.

00:09:16 - 00:10:07

It goes from Falls Church all the way to the airport, national airport. And it comes out into a kind of a fresh water lake there. So I had a lot of fun reminiscing about that creek, ’cause that too was a place that I learned awful lot. I used to go down to the creek and I would find holes in the bank where there were weasels living, and I would trap the weasels and take them back. And I used to, I remember at a very early age, I must have been first or second grade. I used to catch a crawfish in the creek and I loved being down there. I used to stay away from people quite a bit in those early days, but that’s probably where I built up a real interest in the outdoors.

00:10:08 - 00:10:12

When was your first experience with exotic animals?

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Was it at a zoo or how did that occur?

00:10:19 - 00:10:46

I started getting involved with a lot of the, what’s the best word for, you know, some of the species that are here on the planet with us that are predators or whatever. And I had the freedom to do that, which was fascinating. In today’s world, you’re so regulated especially in that field. It’s very difficult to raise anything.

00:10:46 - 00:10:51

It’s really even difficult to raise your younger brother, much less an animal if you know what I mean?

00:10:52 - 00:11:19

It’s getting very complicated, but I did have at a pretty early age, I had a cheetah named Arthur that I actually… That cheetah was given to me by one of the curators at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. And I used to raise, his name was Arthur. But I started getting involved with some of the exotic animals pretty early on.

00:11:20 - 00:11:23

By the way I people ask me how I got started?

00:11:23 - 00:12:09

But one of the problems I went to a college in Indiana called Earlham College, which is a Quaker school in Richmond. And it was a Liberal Arts College. And I had been to a private school named Westtown School in Pennsylvania. It was also a very high quality Quaker school. And just to inform you about some of the education that the Quakers were known for. I guess that one of the top colleges in America was named, it was Swarthmore. Well, that’s a society of friends at Quaker, and Haverford and a lot of those schools are all Quaker. They had really good science in the Quaker schools.

00:12:10 - 00:12:34

I think Earlham was maybe number two in producing PhDs in science. So I had that exposure at Earlham College, but it being not at university I could be fairly flexible in my interests. And so what happened was that I tell people that I caught a disease at Earlham College when I graduated in 1952.

00:12:35 - 00:12:38

And so they asked me what the disease was?

00:12:38 - 00:13:53

And I without hesitation I say, “Well, my disease was that nobody told me “what I couldn’t do.” Now, if I wanna get an applause, if I’m speaking to a group and I say, “I got that disease nobody told me what I couldn’t do.” And I said, “And let’s hope is always that way in America.” And boy, I get a tremendous applause when I do that. But anyway, it’s true. Nobody told me what I couldn’t do. So not too long after graduation, I went down to a place in Florida called Birds of Prey near Ocala it was near Silver Springs and I was training cheetahs and flying eagles and the falcons before the public, it was an attraction. And that’s when I started expressing myself because somebody came through there, he seemed a little strange, but he wanted me to go to Africa with him and do a film. Well, I would’ve given my right arm to get to Africa. So I pushed off to Africa and got to live with the Kalahari Bushman. And then I came back to America and decided to go study the giant harpy eagles in the Amazon.

00:13:53 - 00:14:30

I was the first person to study that. And that’s because I had the freedom to do basically what I express my interest. And that’s a very rare interest. Oh, there’s one other thing I needed to talk to you about. (chuckles) My brothers don’t necessarily believe what I’m gonna tell you. But one of my brothers is a nuclear physicist, quite well known. And I have a brother who was a geomorphologist in the oil business. And I’ve a quite a variety in my brothers, but they don’t necessarily go along with what I’m gonna tell you.

00:14:30 - 00:15:30

In the fourth grade I mentioned, I wrote a paper on birds of prey, later on in life, I found out that the name Fowler is a quote in the Bible. It says,” Be aware of the snare of the fowler.” And my father and mother were kidded about that a lot. But when I graduated in college, I ran into person that knew genealogy. And he told me that I found out that my name Fowler back in the middle ages, the family symbol was somebody with a falcon on their fist on a gloved hand, which was falconry training birds of prey. So my name, however, it happened really means what my passion in life was. So my other brothers don’t necessarily believe that, but they joke about me and my strange life. And they say that I’m a soldier of fortune or something like that, I don’t know. Let me back just a second.

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00:15:31 - 00:15:34

What was the first zoo that you remember going to?

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Oh, that’s interesting. In Virginia.

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I met a guy who was turned out to be a mentor of mine. And he worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. And he also was connected to the National Zoo. He brought in animals from different parts of the world.

00:15:58 - 00:16:04

And I might add that this guy had a tremendous gift of the gab, if you know what I mean?

00:16:04 - 00:16:48

And I used to go up into the mountains of Virginia, the Appalachians, and he would use me to go over the cliff to a peregrine falcon (indistinct) and film the chicks and things like that. But he was a real visionary. His name was John Hamlet. And so wait a minute. Now, I gotta get back on the question because I started rambling a little bit. The first zoo that I went to, okay. Yeah, the first zoo, he used to have a lot to do with the National Zoo. I remember one of the first times I went to the National Zoo, I was watching a rhino.

00:16:50 - 00:17:31

For some reason this just lingered in my perception of the natural world. But that’s where I learned that rhinos eject their urine backwards. You don’t wanna be standing behind a rhino because at the National Zoo I saw somebody who was walking by, and the rhino really blasted them because… Isn’t that strange how things, you know, once you first learned at zoos that rhinos (laughs) urinate between their legs backwards. That impressed me. And but I also remember the National Zoo the birds of prey exhibits there. And I used to go there really quite frequently.

00:17:31 - 00:17:33

How old were you then?

00:17:33 - 00:18:15

Well, I was in about 14 or 15. I think I’d gone to the zoo before that, because my parents were obviously zoo goers. And I remember the National Zoo very well. It had a lot of buildings at the zoo. In those days a lot of the zoological parks had a lot of structures and things like that. Now, I’m more interested in open areas and displaying nature, not just some animal that housed somewhere in a confinement. Now, when you could go on a school in Earlham College or before. Yeah.

00:18:15 - 00:18:17

Were you involved in sports?

00:18:17 - 00:18:52

Very much. In fact, I don’t know. That’s a good question. Was I involved in sports because I was actually suited up. I was going into professional baseball, the Yankees and the Phillies, both who had offered me a big bonuses when I got out of high school. I was in high school near Philadelphia. So I expected to go into professional baseball, but Earlham College, I played all the sports. I was a four-letter man and I messed my knee up playing football.

00:18:52 - 00:19:51

So I didn’t wanna go into professional sports right out of high school, ’cause I wanted to have the fun of playing in college sports, collegiate sports. But by then, when I messed my leg up playing football, I had a hard time. I did go back and did a little work with the Yankees then, but I knew I couldn’t really play professional baseball. So I switched everything over to the outdoors and zoology and enjoying the natural world. (clears throat) I had a cheetah on the farm in Georgia. Oh, wait a minute. Let me back up a little bit, because I remember I had that cheetah yeah, when Marlin Perkins was at the Lincoln Park Zoo and we started Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in 1962. It went on the air early 63.

00:19:51 - 00:19:56

But I had that cheetah. I used to raise that cheetah down in Albany, Georgia on my plantation.

00:19:58 - 00:20:00

Do you wanna start that again?

00:20:00 - 00:20:03

No. (indistinct) Okay.

00:20:03 - 00:20:09

You had mentioned your first job, and was your first job working with animals?

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I guess, where you were getting paid at the Ocala Florida Raptor Sanctuary?

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Was that your first?

00:20:15 - 00:20:55

Birds of Prey. It was called Birds of Prey. John Hamlet’s. (indistinct) John Hamlet Birds of Prey. Well, John Hamlet had been my mentor when I lived in Maryland, when I was like 14 or 15. And he also was very well connected with a Protection Research Center, which was a great federal place there in Maryland, you know. And so my major professor at Earlham College who had also worked at Patuxent of all things. So we sorta knew everybody knew each other and Hamlet was, he was the key to the whole thing.

00:20:55 - 00:21:42

Anyway, I was too tall for the draft when I got out of the college. They wouldn’t take you if you were around six foot six. Now, let me just tell you a little bit on the side. If somebody was shooting at me, I could dig a foxhole just as fast as somebody who was five foot six, but they had these strange rules and also my knee was so bad I was not inducted into the military. It was in the days of the Korean episode and all that sort of thing. So I hung around the Georgia farm for awhile. And then I got a job with… I got a call from this guy, John Hamlet, and it was pretty fascinating how I met him.

00:21:42 - 00:22:23

I mean, remet him because it had been four or five years since I went out to college. I had no contact with him. And the biology class from Earlham College wanted me to guide them through Florida. And I was down in Albany, Georgia on the plantation. So the whole biology class came by, and I took them for a tour through the Okefenokee and down to Florida. And I stopped at Ocala, Florida to see Silver Springs and show him that. And I heard about this guy who had a farm, a little rural area near Ocala and had a lot of animals. Well, it turned out to be my mentor from Maryland named John Hamlet.

00:22:23 - 00:23:08

And he had been, by the way, he was the person that the US Fish and Wildlife Service sent over to Asia to bring back all the monkeys that were the Salk vaccine research monkeys. There was an island off South Carolina where all those monkeys were kept, but he’s the guy they sent over there to bring them all back. Then he had decided to start his own attraction called John Hamlet’s Birds of Prey. So it’s very interesting that I went out there, and not having seen him for about five years. And when I went to this little farm that he had, I noticed there were cheetahs around and eagles and all that stuff. So I knew exactly who he was.

00:23:08 - 00:23:13

And sure enough, when I walked up to the door, he remembered me, how you doing Jim?

00:23:13 - 00:23:51

And he was a very interesting man. He had this knowledge of how to train an animal and how to handle it. He could do that with just about any…. And he was very good with people as well, if I might add. So there I was reintroduced to him and he was the kind of guy that wouldn’t write letters very much, but he did send me a letter and asked me to come down and help him start at this place called John Hamlet Bird of Prey, South of Ocala. So that was probably… Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that. That was probably my first job.

00:23:51 - 00:24:14

But I also pride myself on having been around the world and done some pretty interesting things before I ever had to pay income taxes. I never made enough money to really, (chuckles) till I was about 35 years old. I think that’s pretty interesting. But I had a nice biodiverse life up till that time.

00:24:17 - 00:24:20

Now, at the Bird of Prey Center, what they have you do?

00:24:20 - 00:24:21

Were you just a trainer or?

00:24:21 - 00:25:04

I was trained. I was a trainer and I also was lecturing. That’s where I started taking animals and being on local television and things like that. But I also started realizing that communication. I had an indication in those days, that communication was probably the name of the game. We have to learn to communicate. I wasn’t so passionate about saving wildlife in those days or the natural world. I remember it was my interest, but I hadn’t quite figured out that this is the message that we had to get out to the public.

00:25:04 - 00:25:36

But I started at Birds of Prey. I would… The Today Show came down, Dave Galloway. There used to be a program called Wide Wide World. And I did that very early on. I was flying falcons and doing all kinds of things there. But it introduced me to try to figure out how to communicate with the public there, that’s, you know, as a lecturer and as a trainer you had to know how to treat people. So that was quite a challenge.

00:25:38 - 00:25:51

Probably, dealing with the public is much more dangerous than anything I ever did on Wild Kingdom because. (laughs) Yeah. Yeah. So you’re there, you’re getting an exposure to television. Right.

00:25:51 - 00:25:54

And what plans where you’re thinking about for yourself?

00:25:54 - 00:25:59

You’re saying I’m gonna be here for a long time, or maybe there’s more out there I want to try and do?

00:26:01 - 00:27:07

Well, I think I had the… It could have been because of my father and mother and having four brothers or so, but I was fairly independent and I knew I didn’t plan what I was gonna do. I think I was fairly irresponsible and not looking into the future very far, because I was living a life that I enjoyed. And I probably didn’t even know that it was an unusual type of life to live because it was my basic interests and passions I was following that. So I can’t remember. I wasn’t making very much money, but I stayed with this guy John Hamlet and his wife. And so I didn’t have any much expense there, but I was introduced at the Birds of Prey to quite a variety of situations that I had to learn how to adapt to. But I was also the person that he relied on, to go out and do some trapping.

00:27:07 - 00:27:38

In those days, we would go to a place south of Tallahassee, Florida called Alligator Point. And that was a main migration route of raptors including the (indistinct). (phone ringing) Oh, boy! Sorry about that. (indistinct) (laughs) I’ll turn this off. Are talking about… You’re living a lifestyle, you hadn’t really thought about the future. Right.

00:27:38 - 00:27:44

You were enjoying your passions, you’re here in Florida. Were you thinking about…

00:27:44 - 00:27:48

You weren’t thinking about the next step beyond that?

00:27:49 - 00:28:48

And… Well, I wasn’t… Yeah, I’ll continue that– (indistinct) I’ll continue that thought of my progression and I call it the evolution of awareness. As you go through life and you’re lucky enough to follow your passions, which I was, you do change in your perceptions and your awareness. And I was in that period, but I had a very much of an interest in trapping. When I was a kid in Maryland. I mean, in Virginia, I remember going out and trapping rabbits and all kinds of things. Making my own traps, you know, using apples or rabbits and a couple of my brothers were interested, my younger brother were interested in that too.

00:28:48 - 00:29:33

That was back in the days of Four Mile Run. And we had a little farm so it was possible to go out there. I remember if I might reminisce a little bit, I will go back to that and then answer your question. The neighbor had a big Jersey bull and I found out later on in life, you know, Jersey bulls will really do you over. They’re pretty dangerous at times. But this bull lived in the pasture right behind her house. And I remember seeing the son of this older gentlemen that live next door. I remember the son, the Jersey bull came after him one time.

00:29:34 - 00:30:40

Well, males I learned later on in life are full of baloney. They posture a lot and they try to, you can bluff a male, for example, an elephant, but you can’t bluff a female. So bulls are especially, the big males, a bull elephant. Later on in Africa from this experience in Falls Church, Virginia. I did a whole sequence for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on bluffing bull elephants they charged, but if you don’t run, they wonder what’s happening. And this sounds like it’s getting off the subject, but it really isn’t. Anyway, one of the chief wardens of what was then Rhodesia, he didn’t know that I knew something about this, but he wanted to show me how to bluff bull elephants and that’s all on camera. But by the way, the bull back in Virginia when I was in my, probably my 10, 11, 12 years old, I never forgot seeing the son of this old man that had a farm next to us.

00:30:41 - 00:31:29

The bull came after him and he hold off and kicked it right between the eyes when it was about to hit him. The bull hesitated and this guy kicked the heck out of him, and the bulls are turned around and then slunked went open away. So I learned then not necessarily to run from the male animal, because you might be able to bluff it. That bull later on was in a pasture that I used to walk through. And I had to, that’s where I learned a little bit about handling some very large animals. Oh, you’re bringing back memories because they older gentlemen there, his name, last name was Mr. Lewis. He was up in years. And I remember he’s the one that taught me how to eat possum.

00:31:30 - 00:32:21

And he actually, he used to eat possum and raccoon. But apparently the saying is with a possum, you have to take a rock and you put it in with a possum and boil it. And you boil it for quite a while until you can take a fork and stick in the rock, then you throw the possible way and eat the rock. But I remember he told me joked about that story once, but he did actually each possum, they’re a little bit oily, but they’re not bad if you’re hungry enough. But so I just started learning things like with the bull and how to get survived and the outdoors and things like that even in Virginia. Now, you’re doing the work in the Birds of Prey Sanctuary. Yeah. And you’re conversant with now television.

00:32:21 - 00:32:21


00:32:21 - 00:32:24

Can you tell us about your first meeting with Marlin Perkins?

00:32:24 - 00:32:25

How did that occur?

00:32:25 - 00:33:11

Well, that’s… I can tell you about that because that’s indelibly marked in my mind for a lot of reasons. I used to watch Zoo Parade. I had been to Africa. I had had a lot of experiences with Aboriginal people. I lived with some Kalahari Bushmen for quite a while, and I was hired to go to Africa by strange gentlemen who had been part of the… Well, I was in Africa when Sputnik went over the skies. But he had had a lot to do with the American programs of satellites.

00:33:11 - 00:33:31

And he said that he was getting an ulcer. So he wanted to go back to Africa. He had been there before, and he had been a hunting lions in Africa before. So he hired me to, he knew I knew a lot about trapping ’cause he had come to the Birds of Prey attraction in Florida and met me down there.

00:33:31 - 00:33:33

So he said, would I go to Africa with him?

00:33:33 - 00:34:49

And on the freighter halfway to Cape town, he said, “By the way, Jim, “I want you to live trap a lion “so that we can release it in a big compound. “And I wanna be the first white hunter to shoot a lion “in a full charge on camera.” Well, in those days lions were vermin in this particular area where we were up in, it was near Angola and they were killing some people. So the paramount chief of a country called Barotseland gave us permission to kill a few lions ’cause they were making dinner out of some of the local Africans in the villages. So anyway, (laughs) I got involved in a thing like that, in Africa and was quite successful which I won’t get into that whole story now. But it gave me the confidence when I came back from Africa, I was on the… I was 25 days on a freighter coming back with a lot of animals and hit the perfect storm up in Boston. And then eventually made my way down to New York ’cause they wanted me to do The Today Show. The freighter company wanted me and set it up.

00:34:49 - 00:35:35

And I had all kinds of animals with me there. But anyway, then I decided to do the first studies on the harpy eagle in the Amazon. And when I came back, this all frankly, this has a lot to do with how I met Marlin. It may not sound like it, but. (chuckles) Anyway, I came back and I had studied the harpy which is the largest eagle in the world. I had feeds on 30 pound monkeys among other things. And it’s a forest eagle. It has wings that are shaped more like one of the acceptors. The wings are around it because they push the air.

00:35:35 - 00:36:25

They’re not necessarily a soaring eagles, so the wings are fairly short and very broad like a goshawk or a Cooper’s hawk, one of those. And it flies and attacks animals within the upper canopies of the forest. So it’s a very unique eagle. And the ones that I trapped there, they’d probably never seen a human before. Well, they might’ve seen them in a distance or rarely, but they weren’t necessarily afraid of us. And I designed a trapping system and was successful climbing trees that were 200 feet tall. I would set up a big botnet traps up on the limbs. And I do that at night, it’s because I didn’t wanna scare an eagle or anything like that.

00:36:27 - 00:37:29

So the local Indians who were quite Aboriginal they thought I was crazy, totally crazy. They said I’d never climbed the trees, but I did that with spurs and then I brought those eagles back to America and I was on The Today Show with Dave Galloway. And it so happened that Marlin Perkins, who I’d met in Silver Springs, Florida when he was down there. I think I mentioned the story where I did a Zoo Parade show in 1954 or five in Florida. And my mentor, John Hamlet said to Marlin and I’ll have the boy go get the eagle even though I was in my mid-twenties, he was calling me a boy in those days. Anyway, I brought the eagles back and I had them at that Birds of Prey area, but I went to New York and took them on the Today Show. And Marlin Perkins had gotten, it was the sort of the end of Zoo Parade in those days.

00:37:29 - 00:37:32

And so Marlin, they were trying to figure out what to do?

00:37:32 - 00:37:35

What’s the next step for Marlin Perkins?

00:37:35 - 00:38:33

Well, the first thing he did was to, he tried to go to the Amazon and do a live show in the Amazon with Ross Allen. In those days, the equipment was so big and so heavy. They had to have like seven or eight porters to carry the camera equipment in the forest. (chuckles) A recording machine was like this big. So it didn’t quite work out. So then he went over to the Himalayas with Sir Edmund Hillary to climb up in the… Toward Mount Everest up in the Kilimanjaro area. And they were gonna study to see if they could find the abominable snowman, which is pretty unique considering Hillary is a very serious type of scientist and Marlin. I guess they thought they could go over there, and either prove it or disprove the existence of the Yeti.

00:38:34 - 00:39:31

So they came back and they found out that, (chuckles) the real truth about the Yeti was there was no such thing. There was a skullcap they thought it was from, it was rumored that it was from the Yeti. It turned out to be the skull of a goat-antelope called, Oh, golly, I can’t remember the name right now. Cerel. And so they just proved that. And then they found out that, when the sun is on this side of the shady side of a ridge, for example, you’d see some fox tracks. But when they went over to the top of the ridge, into the sunlight, due to the process of high altitude melting, it doesn’t turn into a liquid, it’s called ablation. Well, those fox tracks because of the sunlight would elongate and that’s what they were calling the track of the snowman.

00:39:31 - 00:40:00

So Marlin came back, it’s him and Hilary. And they talked about the fact that there was no such thing there. And of course, their book didn’t sell very well. There was a Englishman named Lord Hunt that knew a little bit more about marketing. So he came back, wrote his book and said there were Yetis and snowman all over the place in the Himalayas, his book sold but Marlins didn’t. So when– So they decided then to do World Kingdom.

00:40:00 - 00:40:06

So your first experience with Marlin was when he came down to Florida?

00:40:06 - 00:40:22

That was the first experience. That was your first meeting with you. Like two or three years later he called me after I came back from The Today Show, he had seen me on The Today Show ’cause he and Sir Edmund Hillary were in Chicago and I was in New York with those eagles.

00:40:22 - 00:40:30

And I got a call from Marlin and said, would I come to Chicago and do the pilot film for a Mutual Omaha?

00:40:30 - 00:41:04

Well, it wasn’t a Mutual Omaha in those days, for Wild Kingdom. And I actually got in on the ground floor helped design the name and the program and the format. There were about three or four of us that started World Kingdom. Well, he calls you on the phone, says, “Jim, do you wanna work with me?” I mean. That was it. And of course, I hadn’t planned any of that. In fact, I got to tell you a little side story. It’s more personal, but it has a lot to do with Marlin Perkins.

00:41:04 - 00:41:47

I was funded to go down and study the harpy eagle by a wonderful woman who had a lot of resources. They had a plantation at Albany, Georgia, and I was dating their daughter. And the idea is she put up $3,000 for me to go to the Amazon and study the harpy eagle and then come back. And I think she expected me to marry her daughter. We were very close. She was a great, great woman, but they were from a little different section of society than I was. They were sort of the high society type horse type people. And I was a little uncomfortable because I had been living with Aboriginal Indians and all that.

00:41:47 - 00:42:44

So I came back to Albany, Georgia, and it was a time when it was either put up or shut up. So I remember (chuckles) going over there and we actually, her name was Tuli. I can use that name and we broke up ’cause she never thought I’d ever get to Chicago. They lived right next to Lincoln Park and one of those big mansions. So it was highly unlikely that I, Jim Fowler would ever leave Albany, Georgia with all my animals to go up there. Well, wouldn’t at the day, next day after we broke up, I got a call from Marlin Perkins. I was in Georgia and he wanted me to come to Chicago and I ended up (chuckles) driving to Chicago with a sort of an old antique Citra French car called a Citroen that I had. And I put all my animals in my black Citreon.

00:42:45 - 00:43:22

It looked like a Bonnie and Clyde car. They’re very, very wonderful car. They’re kind of the used to be the Paris police car with a V on the front, and Charles de Gaulle would run around in them. And I loved that car. It was front-wheel drive. And so I loaded it with animals and I headed for Chicago. And of course, when I drove up to the Lincoln Park Zoo and I had a cheetah named Arthur and I had a big snake with me. I had two harpy eagles, monkey eating eagles, and I had two giant anteaters named Lawrence and Florence.

00:43:22 - 00:44:07

I used to lecture with these all over. So I think Marlin had second thoughts when he saw me with this old French automobile full of animals. I had to take a hose and sort of wash it out after that trip. I remember that cause the animals had done pretty good number on it, but I also had a peregrine falcon with me. So anyway, the end of the story, Marlin had me do the pilot film for a World Kingdom. The first one did they use to sell the series. And it was on that filming out in Lincoln Park with a big crew. It was one of my first really exposures to big time television other than The Today Show.

00:44:08 - 00:45:06

And he wanted… They wanted me to fly the eagle, the harpy, which was wild caught. It was an adult and they wanted to do the story. The first show for Wild Kingdom was named “Attack and Defense”, which is even then television, you know, like the dramatic part of the natural world. So that was a logical story. Don Meier, who was a producer, was very, very skilled and very smart and trying to film something that had enough action so that the television stations would love it or sponsor. So I was flying the big harpy eagle in Lincoln Park with a light line attached to it. I didn’t want anything to happen because a monkey eating eagle flying around Chicago in those days looking into baby carriages might have been problematic.

00:45:06 - 00:45:57

So I didn’t wanna take a chance, now I got to explain to you an eagle can’t look down at his leg. There’s set of (indistinct) around the leg, but the eagle does know he’s attached to anything. They had no idea of that, so that light line, nylon line was for my comfort. I gotta finish this story cause it was an epic story about the first pilot film for Wild Kingdom. They love my flying the eagle with this creons. That line is called a creons, ’cause they were doing high speed, slow motion and all kinds of stuff. This eagle has seven foot wing spreads and we’re flying over to me to land on the fist. And Marlin was standing beside me, and then I had the eagle fly to Marlin once I remember that, but it was very dramatic.

00:45:57 - 00:46:03

So they said to me, would I take this line off the eagle and let it fly free?

00:46:04 - 00:46:58

I’d trained this eagle by the way, in the Amazon. And I had taken it on lecture tours and things like that, but it relied on me. I was the object that was feeding it. And I could get into the whole philosophy of trapping and training. When you train something like that, what you do is you lower the flight zone. So normally an animal has a flight zone where if you get that close, they’ll take off and run away from you. But when you train something, you lower that flight zone down to zero, then you gotta be careful because in the case of an eagle or some of the big cats, you have to be a little bit concerned about the attack zone. It’s the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt.

00:46:58 - 00:47:55

And I had to be very careful that the eagle couldn’t reach out off my arm and grab me in the stomach even though it was perfectly relaxed when it was with me. They do have an aggressive, competitive attitude. I don’t try to judge an animal. I judge it according to what I see and what I learn, not as another human being. That’s probably saved my life a few times. (chuckles) Anyway, the eagle, I didn’t wanna let her off the line. So I finally said, all right, I’ll fly this eagle that weighs 20 pounds, seven foot wings spread, talents big enough to break your fingers in your hand.” I said, I’ll fly it from a limb down to my fist. We’ll see how it goes, and I may take the line off. Now, today with digital cameras, you can erase anything you want to, but in those days on film, it was hard for them to take the line off out of the scene.

00:47:56 - 00:48:37

So anyway, I had the line always down on the ground and I would walk over it. So if anything happened, I had access to it immediately. Well, the eagle was starting to fly down to me. There was an associated press photographer over here, taking photographs, and the eagle was coming in, and it was a wonderful shot. All of a sudden the eagle went that way. I looked over and a little old lady had broken through the security line tape and she had a little white, fluffy-haired poodle with her. And the thing that was interesting. the lady and the poodle had the same kind of hairdo.

00:48:37 - 00:48:59

So I didn’t know which one the eagle was going after, but it was in a beeline, (laughs) hopefully that, well, I thought it was a poodle. I glimpsed at the… I dove for the line, but I looked at the Associated Press photographer. And he had a look of glee on his face because he knew he was gonna get a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph.

00:49:00 - 00:49:04

Can you see that headlines on the Chicago paper?

00:49:04 - 00:49:57

Jim Fowler’s eagle consumes a little white fluffy poodle in Lincoln Park. That would’ve been the end of my career in Chicago with Marlin. So anyway, I dove on the line, cut me right down in the hand. But I saved the life of whoever it was eagle was going after. I can just imagine that lady at the next ladies club meeting saying, (clears throat) “I was walking little fluffy “in Lincoln Park and this giant pterodactyl “came out of the sky and went after us.” She disappeared, just like that. I don’t know where she went, but that was my first introduction (chuckles) to Wild Kingdom and also to Marlin. And I was lucky that the eagle didn’t grab something ’cause it would have been on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. So you were comfortable appearing on television ’cause you had had some training.

00:49:57 - 00:50:25

Yeah, I had training on television. And I was very comfortable in being Marlin sidekick. Marlin, by the way, I wanna back up a little bit. One of my sister-in-laws was very stewed and she had been watching through the 50s. She had watched Zoo Parade. Marlin’s show. Marlin was a household name in the 50s. He was very well-known.

00:50:25 - 00:51:15

And of course he had that look that was recognizable. His rather astute white hair, et cetera. She said to me, when I got back from Africa, she said, “Jim, you really ought to get tied “in with Marlin Perkins.” I hadn’t thought about that much before that, but she was the one that saw that my life it might be something he was interested in. So I ended up doing the pilot film. It took about a year for that pilot film to find a sponsor. Marlin and Don Meier used to go around the country talking to different potential sponsors and, (laughs) bless their heart. Quaker Oats was in the running for a long time. Looked like we were gonna be sponsored by Quaker Oats.

00:51:15 - 00:52:12

And then Marlin went out. They had had in Zoo Parade, Mutual of Omaha had done a couple of commercials on Zoo Parade. So Marlin had Don Meier went out to talk with the chairman of the board of Mutual, whose name was VJ Scott. And he had the astuteness to realize that there’s a connection between protecting your life from dangers through insurance, and also how animals are protecting themselves in the wild. So that was one of the reasons why the Mutual of Omaha picked up on sponsoring Wild Kingdom, and a Quaker Oats was out of the running. I would have been eating Quaker Oats for 30 years if it hadn’t been for Mutual Omaha. (chuckles) When you did the pilot and Marlin and Don were trying to sell it. Yeah.

00:52:12 - 00:52:14

You’re in Chicago?

00:52:14 - 00:52:14


00:52:14 - 00:52:16

What are you doing?

00:52:16 - 00:52:17

You don’t have a joB, do you?

00:52:17 - 00:52:18

Or do you?

00:52:18 - 00:52:56

Well, I had a friend who was… Goes back he had been my major professor in college in Indiana, and he had a farm. So I would go until something happened. I was staying on his farm with all my animals doing a little bit of lecturing and that sort of thing. But it didn’t, it took, yeah, they were peddling that film for about a year. That was 1961, I think when we did the pilot. 62 and then the show was picked up. We were on the air early 63.

00:52:56 - 00:53:06

I think January, 63. Let me back up a minute, because you said that you were in Africa, you brought animals back on a boat.

00:53:06 - 00:53:12

And my question is, why were you collecting animals in Africa to bring them back?

00:53:12 - 00:53:14

Where were they going?

00:53:14 - 00:53:16

Good. Where was the…

00:53:16 - 00:53:20

Was there any memorable experiences about acquiring these animals?

00:53:20 - 00:54:16

Well, when I came back from Africa, I was there. I was not there to… I didn’t plan to go to Africa to catch animals and bring them back to the United States. As I said, I didn’t necessarily plan in the future too much, but I had been working at the attraction in Ocala, Florida named John Hamlet’s Birds of Prey. So naturally I was gonna bring back some birds of prey and ended up down in Florida with those. I overdid it a little bit because I had a leopard, a young leopard with me, and all kinds of some other things from Africa. But I also had lectured, even before I went to Africa, I was lecturing with some animals. And I ended up in New York when I came back from Africa.

00:54:16 - 00:55:11

I did The Today Show, and I think I’ve mentioned that. And even then I had a big eagle called the Cape sea eagle. It was actually the African equivalent of our bald eagle. And it’s called the African fishing eagle. And I had one of those on The Today Show when I came back and I was horrified because Today Show used to have that big plate glass window which these days now they’d gone back to that. But if you remember, the people would stand outside the window and look into studio. And I got back about ready to fly my African fish eagle that also had about a six or seven foot wing spread. And I looked out and everybody out of the window were waving with their hands.

00:55:11 - 00:56:03

Well, that was my signal to bring the eagle to my fist. And the eagle was very frustrated ’cause it thought all these people through the plate glass window are calling for it. And it almost flew off of me, my fist out to some of them would have crashed into the window. Also the Today Show had a chimpanzee named J. Fred Muggs. And I told the trainer, I said, “Don’t you ever let that chimp get out “when I have my animals out or my eagles.” Well, sure enough my Cape’s eagle was looking down the hallway, and J. Fred Muggs was looking up at the eagle. So I was worried there for a while. It wouldn’t work, but it went over very well, all my eagles with my different animals on The Today Show. But I knew I was gonna go back to Florida.

00:56:03 - 00:57:02

And that’s why I brought some of these. But also I’d been lecturing now. Let me just add this, when I was in New York with all the animals, (clears throat) I went to an agent in New York that somebody who knew me had recommended it was the Colston Leigh Lecture Agency, which was one of the top ones in the country. And I took my eagles up there and showed them the eagles. They immediately hired me to be one of their people because there had been a well-known captain, his name was Captain Knight and he was from Great Britain. And he brought his eagle over on the big ship, the Queen Elizabeth, whatever it was called. And he would lecture around America with a golden eagle and he had passed away. So they wanted to fill in for him, and I saw my brochure just the other day.

00:57:02 - 00:57:29

It was called Jim Fowler’s Lightning in the Wild. And I have that. One of my only brochures left with me. And I had on a bush hat and I had to holding a big eagle. And so I got into some very, very interesting travels by traveling around to different universities and clubs and things like that lecturing with my birds of prey.

00:57:29 - 00:57:32

Now, you were involved at a low budget film?

00:57:33 - 00:57:33

In Africa.

00:57:33 - 00:57:35

What was your role?

00:57:36 - 00:58:16

Well, I was trapping lions and this guy wanted to be the first white hunter to shoot a lion at full charge. And so we had an open compound. It’s quite a story the attempted to live trap lion. We’re lucky we didn’t all get killed. The lion eventually charged the full length of the compound. By the way, the compound was shaped. So a camera les looking into it wouldn’t see the walls, and it was shooting down, so you didn’t see the back back. It was a fence that had been thatched.

00:58:16 - 00:58:58

So you couldn’t see that on your camera. And the lion did 250 feet in three and a half seconds, much faster than anybody ever thought. And the guy missed him, who was gonna shoot him. (laughs) There’s a technical reason he missed the lion. I had told him, I said, look, when you’re shooting down, he wanted to stand up, because he knew there was a hole we dug. So at the last minute, if he missed, he could jump down the hole in the ground and save his life, hopefully. At least that was one possibility. So in order not to see the hole, he had to be standing.

00:58:58 - 00:59:38

Normally, if something’s gonna come at you, you kneel down, so your trajectory is flat, but if you’re standing up you have to point your gun at a point on the ground in front of the animal that’s gonna kill you. That’s hard to do. So he missed the lion, he also had a rifle that was a 458 Magnum. That’s an elephant gun. That’s enough to break your shoulder almost. And he had shot it so many times. I think he was getting scared of it, so that didn’t help either. So he missed the lion, the lion (laughs) went out in the forest and…

00:59:38 - 01:00:26

But you see in those days it was some people say, oh, you wouldn’t shoot a lion. Those days the lines were vermin in this area, Barotseland cause they were killing some of the humans and cattle and everything like that. So anyway, I shot the lion and I was the one invited over by all the chiefs, the local chiefs. It was a big celebration and cause he missed and that’s part of the story. But anyway, that’s the reason I went to Africa and I ended up obviously having a lot of other experiences. I was flying. I trapped some eagles and I was flying falcons in the big prairies near camp. And one day a group of Kalahari Bushmen without us even knowing they were there.

01:00:26 - 01:01:06

They were very secretive. They came over and were watching me, this eagle coming back and landing on my fist and they became intrigued ’cause they’d never seen anybody who could take an eagle and go out and hunt with it. I was hunting jackals. And so they invited me to go to their camp and I sort of bummed around with them for quite a while and learned a lot about people that don’t even know we exist. And that was one of the thrilling parts experiences that I had in Africa in those days. Did you ever… You had worked at the Bird Sanctuary. Yeah.

01:01:06 - 01:01:12

Did you ever– Yeah, it was not really a sanctuary. It was attraction. It was like a theme park. Yeah.

01:01:12 - 01:01:18

Had you ever thought about wanting to work in a zoo or become the head of the zoo at that time or was that?

01:01:19 - 01:02:02

I never thought of that. I didn’t need a lot of money. I never went after financial rewards. I was more or less able to do things that I really enjoyed doing. And I didn’t think of going… I was fascinated by the zoological world, but I never really saw that, I was more interested in even then and communicating with the public and I was doing quite well lecturing around different universities and things like that. You mentioned you were on The Today Show.

01:02:02 - 01:02:03

Did they approach you?

01:02:03 - 01:02:05

Did you approach them?

01:02:05 - 01:02:08

How did you get that initial, Today Show a big deal.

01:02:08 - 01:02:09

How did you initially get there?

01:02:09 - 01:03:08

It was a big deal. Well, I was introduced to some of them when they came down to do Zoo Parade, and some of those people knew some people on the Today Show. But also when Dave Galloway, when I was at this Birds of Prey attraction, I think I mentioned that there was a show called Wide Wide World. And when they came down, some of the producers and directors and I got to know each other. And then later on, they’re the ones that sort of encouraged me to come up and do The Today Show. And I remember when I came back from Africa, I did a article in the… It was a scientific paper on Birds of Prey that I did on the harpy eagle. It was in the profession of zoology and science.

01:03:08 - 01:03:55

This a little booklet was called A-U-K, AUK. And I’d written an article for AUK on the harpy eagle, the first studies of the herp eagles. And one of the producers from The Today Show had heard about me and knew me from that original Zoo Parade Show and also Wide Wide World when they came down. So they, I think in this case, I let them know, oh, I know what… Sorry. I know what it was. Sorry. I was in Life Magazine, the whole story, the harpy Eagles and some big photographs. And the writer for the Life Magazine had interviewed me and had the whole story.

01:03:55 - 01:04:05

And the Today Show saw that story in Life Magazine. That’s where it was. You were doing a lot of things. You were here were there.

01:04:05 - 01:04:08

In 1960, you went back to school for a graduate degree?

01:04:12 - 01:05:01

No, I had the opportunity. Oh, I was given an honorary doctor’s degree, but I don’t think that was in 1960. I think that was a little bit later after I’d been on Wild Kingdom. But I had an opportunity to go ahead with my graduate degrees. I could have done a master’s degree on any of those things, but I had then had began to have experiences, real life experiences. And I started realizing that you really don’t wanna become too detached from the academics. You either have to decide to do the experience and the adventure and the academics. You have to bring them along together.

01:05:02 - 01:05:21

Well, I got a little heavy on the adventure (chuckles) and the experience, and didn’t really go back and do the… I could’ve gone back and got a master’s degree, but I didn’t do that. But later on for Earlham College, I got an honorary doctor’s degree. From all those birds of prey that you work with.

01:05:21 - 01:05:23

Why did you choose the harpy?

01:05:24 - 01:06:01

Well, the harpy was… Actually, I had seen a harpy eagle, I think it was in the national zoo. It was a crippled harpy eagle that had only one eye. And if you ever see harpy, you never forget it. They’re very spectacular. The biggest eagles in the world. And John Hamlet, my mentor in Washington had also worked with a harpy eagle out of the wild. We had one for a while in Florida I think it was the same one with only one eye.

01:06:02 - 01:06:27

So that’s how I got fascinated by the harpy being in the attraction, the Birds of Prey attraction in Florida and working with the one there. And there were only… By the way, there were only like two, maybe three harpy eagles in zoos in America when I decided to go do the first studies in the wild. Yeah.

01:06:27 - 01:06:30

What was it like when you were studying these animals in their natural habitats?

01:06:31 - 01:07:33

Well, first of all, I think that I have to go back to that old saying in Earlham College, when I graduated from a Liberal Arts College, nobody told me what I couldn’t do. I didn’t know that I didn’t think that it would be that difficult. I have learned in life that if you are successful at a few things, it gives you the self-esteem to go try something else. And I think the fact that my first trip to Africa, that was the kind of guy that would give him my right arm to get to Africa. And I had always learned how to adapt to new situations. I think through sports. I’d had some success with sports, even though it was a fairly small college and I’d been opportunity to play professional baseball, but I think some of that rubs off on you. And so you dare to try something else.

01:07:33 - 01:08:19

And Africa was sort of a jumping point when I came back from Africa and started doing The Today Show and had all the animals and things like that. It gave me the self-esteem to think that I could go to the Amazon, even though I never knew much about it. And I had encouragement from two people. I was in… Let’s see. Now, wait a minute. I had already done these studies on the harpy eagle before I did Wild Kingdom. But I had gone to the Field Museum in Chicago and talked the curator or birds, I think his name was O’Neil in those days.

01:08:19 - 01:08:42

And he told me quite a bit about British Guiana. And that’s why I decided to go to British Guiana. And he introduced me. There was a gentleman who was director of the Natural History Museum in Georgetown, British Guiana. By the way, that’s a sleepy town that’s, you know, it’s pretty amazing town, Georgetown.

01:08:42 - 01:08:50

But so when I first went down there, I went over to the museum and met him and got some ideas on where harpy eagles might be?

01:08:50 - 01:09:33

I did a lot of research. So I have to credit two people, O’Neil at the Field Museum in Chicago, but also Dean Amidon who was curator of ornithology at the American Museum. And he’s the one that really encouraged me to go ahead and do this down in Guyana. I’d met him and he was the kind of guy that would encourage a young person to go do some of these things. So I consulted with Dean Amidon quite a bit, as my trip was developing as a learning more about harpy eagles, I would communicate with him.

01:09:33 - 01:09:44

How have things changed for the harpy eagle from when you did your original research to today in that area?

01:09:44 - 01:10:52

Well, I just talked to one of the guys who has been very involved in what’s happening and now it’s called Guyana. And it’s frightening because in the big mountains, they’re called the Conoco mountains and they’re near a town called Lethem, L-E-T-H-E-M. And that’s up on the Takatu River, but the Conoco mountains is where I first found out about where they nest and that sort of thing. And the thing is scary. My friend had done several expeditions up the really unexplored area, the Essequibo River. And I’d been on that river in 61, 62. (indistinct) It’s the kind of place, and I don’t mean to get off on another subject, but it’s the kind of plays when you’re going up in a canoe. Actually, they have these little bigger dugouts that are actually human from a tree, a silcon tree.

01:10:53 - 01:11:56

It’s not unusual to see a jaguar lying on the rocks near the river totally unafraid of you. They’ve never seen a human before. And that’s how wild it is. Well, the Chinese now there’ve been a couple of different countries and logging groups that have been trying to make a deal with Guyana on harvesting the timber in these very remote areas, near the Conoco mountains, which is where I set up my camp. It’s really frightening in the last three or four weeks, the Chinese have made a big bid and we’ll bring in an awful lot of machinery to harvest these four or 500 year old trees that are part of the rainforest canopy. And that’s horrifying. So there’s a well known scientist named George Schaller and Rabinowitz. They’re both from the New York Geological…

01:11:56 - 01:12:26

It’s now called the Conservation– (indistinct) Conservation, yeah. Well, they’re down in Guyana as we speak ’cause they too are really trying to do something to keep the Chinese from coming in, and harvesting some of this totally remote Virgin rainforest where I was working with eagles. And I just heard about that three days ago. So it’s really on my mind and it’s very frustrating. How do you…

01:12:26 - 01:12:35

As a person who knows the value to human beings of these forests as they stand, how do you compete with something about that?

01:12:35 - 01:12:37

Or how can you have an effect on it?

01:12:37 - 01:13:14

It’s really frightening. But that’s a whole nother subject, but anyway at least they’re working on it. And also the nature conservancy and others have worked in Guyana trying to save these, put these big forest into national parks. The trouble is (chuckles) not to get into politics, but the president, the current president of Guyana is the one that really is trying to make it happen to cut the forest. So they’re up against a real problem. Going back to the television. Yeah.

01:13:14 - 01:13:17

What was your impression of Marlin?

01:13:17 - 01:14:16

Why did you consider that you want to– Marlin was one of the people that might be called one of the original type zoo directors. And I don’t wanna say old type zoo directors, but Marlin was very dedicated. He was a very… Not only was he dedicated, but I got a lot of influence from Marlin from his dedication. He was really a dedicated scientist and he could talk forever about reptiles. That was one of his specialties, but when Marlin was on location working with an animal, and I think you could see this on Zoom Parade. You could see the enjoyment in his eyes, how he reacted to different animals. And that was really great to be able to work with somebody who was not only well in the field, but somebody that really was dedicated and enjoyed what he was doing.

01:14:17 - 01:15:04

I think Marlin was very good. He had suffered, I think a little bit by being too identifiable to the public. He was very recognizable and been a household name. And when that happens, you see some things happening. Of course, nowadays with some of the Hollywood stars it’s pretty hard to insulate yourself from reality. I mean, you have to keep yourself connected with reality. And Marlin was interviewed so many times. I do the same thing, but you fall back on stories and things that you feel comfortable with, but you gotta be careful because that can catch up with you if you say the same thing too many times.

01:15:04 - 01:15:37

But Marlin was very good at that. And he… Personally, he worked very closely with people. He was good with people. But let me give you a compliment about Marlin. I was around the world with Marlin and some very adverse situation. I mean, things like elephants chasing us in camp at the middle of the night and things like that. Once in Zimbabwe, actually it was just turning into Zimbabwe.

01:15:37 - 01:16:23

It used to be Rhodesia. We had a camp and we had been catching giraffes. And so I had to be in a Land Rover and you take a noose on an end of a stick at you, it used to be about a half grown grown giraffe. And we caught it and put it into a boma which is kind of a fenced in area with logs. And there were about 20 or 30 Africans were sleeping on the other side of where the giraffes were. And Marlin, Don Meier and myself, in fact, Marlin’s wife, Carol was there in the middle of nowhere in Africa. And in the middle of the night, I heard a lot of screaming that was going on. And by the way, there were thunder and lightning and all this.

01:16:23 - 01:16:43

It’s quite an evening. And a group of elephants were trumpeting coming into our camp. Well, I had to make the decision. I always like to get out of my tent so I can see what’s going on. Marlin and Don Meier has still stayed in their tents with all this confusion going on.

01:16:43 - 01:16:44

Well, guess what?

01:16:44 - 01:17:31

It turned out that a group of lions had come in, to try to kill the giraffe. And the elephants were chasing the lions right to our camp. (laughs) So you get to know somebody pretty well when something like this is going on. I was standing outside of the tent, because I didn’t wanna be, you know. And anyway, the lions had gone over the corral fence, killed the giraffe, and they were trying to pull the giraffe back out over the fence and all this mayhem was going on. And finally the elephants chased the lions away. But the thing that I remember about it so well is that there were like 20 or 30 Africans asleep on the ground not too far from the giraffe. They never even woke up with all that’s going on.

01:17:31 - 01:17:51

(laughs) But Marlin… Let me say this about Marlin. This is very, very true about him. I never heard on any of those trips. I never heard Marlin Perkins complain about anything. He wasn’t the kind of guy that complained about any conditions. Yeah.

01:17:51 - 01:17:54

Did he discuss your role on the show when you first did it?

01:17:54 - 01:18:26

Did he say, this is what I want you to do, this is what you’re gonna expect. No. (laughs) He never discussed any roles. I think what they did… I think he was happy that I was a zoologist. I wasn’t just the front man, see. I got involved in some pretty heavy duty stuff ’cause my background in Georgia and Africa and the Amazon and all that kind of stuff. But I think Marlin was… He acted like he was pretty comfortable with me.

01:18:26 - 01:18:53

And I had to sort of play a role as a backup person with Marlin, which was fine with me, but I was more or less focusing on the fact that I was a zoologist and he was a scientist too. He was a herpetologist. I think that was one of the things that I respected him, and I think he respected me. Yeah.

01:18:53 - 01:18:57

What was your role with the producer Don Meier?

01:18:59 - 01:19:46

Well, I knew from the very beginning of the Don Meier, it had a lot of experience. And Chicago used to be the center of television, the central focus. And Don Meier was the producer that started Dave Galloway off. They used to be in Chicago. Hugh Downs, Don Meier was his producer for quite a while. So he had had a lot of background experience and Don Meier had the unique ability to understand what it was that people would enjoy looking at. Now, we were one of the first groups I think. Don Meier realized that the narration was secondary to what you’re seeing.

01:19:46 - 01:20:35

In those days on film it was so overpowering to watch the action. You didn’t wanna be talking abstractly about something on your narration that didn’t have anything to do with what you’re seeing. That’s one of the first rules, even when you’re lecturing, you gotta talk about what people are seeing and not be too abstract because the animal is so powerful. People are gonna think about it and look at it, and not listen to what you’re saying. So we would often… I did some of the writing and, but you’d have to really write and comment about what was being seen. I think that’s one of the things that Don Meier was smart to do. He would time the time between the commercial breaks and the half hour length of the show.

01:20:35 - 01:21:18

And Don Meier would build visually up to a point of action just before you went to a commercial. So you would build the action with the narration and then you’d go to commercial and you’d do another segment. And Don was very tuned in to all that. And he also knew how to, I think the real trick is telling a story. And so he was… No, he was experienced producer. And I used to, when I first went to Chicago, I stayed with him out in Winnetka, Illinois. And certainly I had to respect Don Meier a lot.

01:21:21 - 01:21:42

He would sometimes go on location, but and it’s interesting now that we’re talking about it, that Don Meier didn’t necessarily give rules and regulations, but he was very quick to spot what made good television?

01:21:42 - 01:22:48

And when I started going on location, I often was able to work as a director as well as being on camera. That’s a little hard to do. Marlin by the way, he was on camera, but Marlin didn’t necessarily get involved in the format of the show or what we should be doing. I opened my big mouth probably a little too often because I had a lot of interest in the format of the show and what makes good television. And I could recommend that if we did this, that or the other while we were in Africa, we might do five or six programs in Africa over a month and a half period. We would try to pick several shows if we went to a far off place like that. And I can say that I had something to do with that, because by that time I knew pretty well what was good television what wasn’t. Don Meier was very, very good from a financial standpoint.

01:22:50 - 01:23:05

He was funded by Mutual of Omaha so much for show, and he knew how to allocate that, and keep the costs to a minimum when we went to location. Yeah.

01:23:05 - 01:23:12

Did you over the years working on Wild Kingdom, did your working relationship between you and Marlin change over the years?

01:23:13 - 01:24:43

(sighs) My relationship with Marlin Perkins, I always… I got to know Marlin’s family quite well naturally, and I really respected his wife, Carol, who just passed away a few weeks ago, a month or so ago. Carol was sort of the person behind the scenes you might say, who really was dedicated to Marlin and gave him a lot of his strength, I think, to do what he was doing and supported him. I think if my relationship with Marlin changed for a while, I stopped doing Wild Kingdom in the 70s and then Mutual of Omaha insisted that I get back in the show in the 80s. And when Marlin wasn’t feeling very well, I was back in the program and then I became so-called a host after Marlin passed away. But now, I think Marlin and I, we… I remember one time Marlin enjoyed martinis occasionally. And but I remember (laughs) sometimes the pressure of filming in the studios, you know, we were down in St. Louis quite often.

01:24:43 - 01:25:28

We’d have to take flights down and do the program. The lead-ins to the show were often done in St. Louis at the end of the Wild Kingdom. And I remember sometimes they went out and had a few more… Don Meier, I don’t wanna hesitate to say he enjoyed martinis too. But I’ll just tell you one thing I remember about Marlin, one time at O’Hare field, Marlin had had a few too many martinis and I had too, and I had to prop Marlin up going down the hallways at O’Hare field. I was sort of guiding him and I wasn’t walking to settle either. Thank goodness that the National Enquirer didn’t see us out there, but I helped Marlin long and a few times. Yeah.

01:25:28 - 01:25:31

Marlin was very formal in some ways.

01:25:31 - 01:25:36

He wasn’t the kind of guy they would just pat you on the back saying, see how the hell are you?

01:25:36 - 01:26:05

Marlin was very astute. And that’s why I say he was very comfortable as being one of the original type of zoo directors. There’s one way to describe Marlin. So dedicated to the world of zoos that you could see that come through. And he was able to express himself personally to you, but he wasn’t the kind of guy that you would a slap on the back and go out and have a drink with all that.

01:26:05 - 01:26:10

Now, were you comfortable being the second guy to Marlin?

01:26:10 - 01:26:19

Oh, I had no problems with that. I really…

01:26:19 - 01:26:22

Well, was I the second guy to Marlin?

01:26:22 - 01:26:24

Did I have a problem with that?

01:26:24 - 01:27:25

Not really. I had stopped doing the show in the 70s, and the thing that was very (laughs) interesting, Don Meier was a fanatic on how you use your voice. Don Meier had been an announcer. He had a wonderful voice and he kept trying to, when we were narrating, he would be very meticulous about how you said something. And also Marlin’s voice was a little higher, and Marlin was also a good narrator, but we had narration sessions that went on and on, because you had to say things just the right way. Interestingly enough, which is an insight into Marlin and Don Meier. When I left the show in the 70s, they would lookout… They actually went out and advertise for somebody from the zoo world who could be on the show, be one of Marlin’s assistants.

01:27:26 - 01:27:42

And there was a guy who was with a Colorado Fishing Game. I forgot his name right now, Dick Benny, I think his name was, yeah. And he was a tall guy like I was, and he was on with Marlin for some of the time when I left.

01:27:42 - 01:27:43

But guess what?

01:27:43 - 01:28:13

Don Meier was so strict about the voice and the appearance of people that there were like eight or 10 people from the world of zoos that were interviewed and they never made it, there with Don. You had to be have just the right kind of voice and the right appearance. I don’t think Marlin necessarily was that critical, Don Meier was. So they finally, when I went back in the show in the early 80s, they had tried to get other people to be on the program, but it didn’t work out.

01:28:14 - 01:28:17

The question of course is, why did you leave the show?

01:28:18 - 01:29:11

Well, I was evolving and changing in my world. I never thought it was any big deal to be on Wild Kingdom. I really didn’t. I was doing things that I enjoy doing, and I wanted to try to perfect myself in other areas. And I went off in the seventies and did a program with a group in New York City. I went to New York and I had not been involved with the urban life. And I thought, hey, I better learn a little bit about being urban. So I ended up of all places in New York and I went off and did a film on the Cape Mountain Zebra with another producer, and that was very successful.

01:29:11 - 01:29:56

That was an hour documentary. I started doing some documentaries, but it gave me a chance to perfect my ability as a producer, director and to pick some programs that I thought were really important. And I didn’t make much money. I was still living in New York on a fairly low salary, but I was with some exciting people in the film world and also in the world of advertising. I went with a guy named Steve Frankard who had been head of Young & Rubicam. And he had the vision of understanding that we could do some things together. Somethings together.

01:29:56 - 01:29:59

What was the run of Wild Kingdom?

01:29:59 - 01:30:50

It was basically until about 89 from 1960, early 63 to about 89. And then Mutual of Omaha, by the way, had me on a program called “Spirit of Adventure”. And we did quite a few hours specials all over the world. It’s interesting that Mutual of Omaha began supporting me, even in the 70s when I wasn’t doing Wild Kingdom. They would have me go around the country and promote the show. And then we did this program called “Spirit of Adventure”, and that was produced by John Wilcox who had produced “The American Sportsman”. So I got involved in that and we did programs in Africa and Russia. This was after World Kingdom.

01:30:50 - 01:30:57

And I went to Lake Baikal. Did a story on Lake Baikal. We had some pretty fascinating programs.

01:30:59 - 01:31:06

Now, were there things on the television show that you couldn’t do, but you wanted to do?

01:31:06 - 01:31:08

Were you constrained and telling stories?

01:31:10 - 01:31:12

During the Wild Kingdom period?

01:31:12 - 01:32:11

Yeah. Ah, let’s see. I think I was smart enough to leave. I made a lot of suggestions on programs, because I had already been to Africa and the Amazon and all that before I started Wild Kingdom, so I could add to that and make suggestions. And Don Meier, I think he felt pretty good about that. Also I enjoyed on Wild Kingdom, you gotta be careful if you’re a talent in front of the camera. You gotta be very careful with the people you’re working at with the editing process, ’cause they like their own turf if you know what I mean. But I was the guy that had the ride hard on editing staff of the Wild Kingdom, because some of those people as talented as they were, they didn’t necessarily know about the world of animals.

01:32:11 - 01:32:51

And I had to be very careful in how I suggested. I said, “Hey, that would never be the case in the world, “in reality.” So I had to keep them on that track of being real. And you’re walking a very fine line there. But I did have some concerns sometimes about the editing process and also the writing. Yeah. I had to make sure that it was something I could say was real, was factual. I didn’t wanna present fantasy to the audience. Could you describe the typical, if there is one filming day.

01:32:53 - 01:33:31

Typical filming day. Yeah. Well, we would occasionally on location, Don Meier was smart enough to say, well, let’s do three or four different programs while we’re in Africa or while we’re in South America or whatever or even out in the Western if we went to Alaska, we would try to get several shows to put together in Alaska. And so I was part of the research team that would come up with some of the ideas and then he had, we had staff members who were associate assistant to Don Meier who did a lot of that too.

01:33:31 - 01:33:37

But it took a lot of research to find out who, what, where and when?

01:33:37 - 01:34:33

And it was great that we worked with local wildlife organizations often. For example, when we went to New Zealand the red deer is up in the mountains in New Zealand. And we knew from some research that there was a capture group, commercial capture group who would fly helicopters up into the mountains in New Zealand and catch these red deer that had proliferated throughout the whole island. See there… Well, let me back up. There were no native, very few native mammals to New Zealand or birds. I mean, they’re all very unique. So what they did when there was nothing filling the ecosystem, they brought in these red deer and other animals, exotic animals in New Zealand.

01:34:33 - 01:35:52

And they started overpopulating the areas, especially the red deer up in the mountains. So we got involved with the head of the helicopter company who had a freighter anchored off doubtful sound down on the coast. And he had flies helicopters from there, and his people would catch these red deer, take them down to a deer ranch there quite a few, very big, a well operated deer ranches in New Zealand. Of course, the venison was sold in Europe and all over the place. So it was an ideal show. And I ended up being the guy who ended up in the helicopters and had to go down a chain, a hundred feet down to tie up the red deer after we darted it, you know, it would go under the effects, and I would go down with their capture team and help tie up the red deer and then we would… (laughs) Boy, you talk about some nervous times. I remember luckily I had climbed trees in the Amazon and everything else. But luckily I had to go back up a tree they’re called beech trees there, and climb from the bottom up with no ladders or anything.

01:35:52 - 01:36:53

And then break off the limbs at the top of the tree, which were quite small up there. Then the helicopter would come in about a hundred feet up, and come down and you would go from the top of the tree up to the skid of the helicopter. That’s how they got you out of there, ’cause… And you had, by the way, fascinating that you had to use a chain to go down to tie up the deer and put it in a sack because if you used a rope and it was in a forest and the rope got caught on a limb and the helicopter started going up, that rope would stretch and when it came loose go through the rotor blades, and that would be the end of you. So the chain didn’t have that flexibility. So learning how to climb down a chain a hundred feet long is pretty interesting, you had to put around your foot certain way to go down. So I had that experience of climbing the trees in the Amazon, so that wasn’t a big deal. But then they invented a system where they had a net gun that a net that shot out of a gun.

01:36:53 - 01:36:54


01:36:54 - 01:37:44

And as you were in the mountains at 7,000 feet and the deer running, you would bring your helicopter up, and I would fire this net gun over the animal, and then they would put the skids. It was usually quite angled. So they’d put the skid down and you’d jump out and tie up the red deer. But often there was a 7,000 foot cliff within 20 feet of where you were standing. (laughs) So you had to be pretty careful about what you were doing. That was the kind of action that was perfect for Wild Kingdom. And we looked for situations like that with the wildlife department. And later on, they use that same system with helicopter capture out in Colorado. It was in Colorado Fishing Game on mountain goats.

01:37:44 - 01:38:00

And so we use that situation, but that’s one reason I think that Wild Kingdom was successful that we got along well with some of the departments of wildlife around the country and around the world. Yeah.

01:38:00 - 01:38:07

Can you describe maybe something up your mind from a funniest time that happened to you while doing that filming?

01:38:08 - 01:39:08

There were so many different times. I was trying to think of some of the funniest times (chuckles) that we ever had. Well, there were a lot of things that didn’t work very well. And if you don’t mind a little storytelling, I can tell you a couple of those stories. I was once in Zimbabwe, Rhodesia actually, and I was with a guy who was a trained military man. He was an antiterrorist type of guy that had gone to a lot of instruction on. They had terrorists coming into Rhodesia in those days. And the man’s name was Tommy (indistinct) and he was also a warden, but he had been trained in anti-terrorism and he was the guy driving the Land Rover when we were trying to catch your giraffe.

01:39:08 - 01:39:45

And this was a pretty big giraffe. There were three Africans in the back of this open Land Rover. And at that time I had the camera and I was trying to film all this. I was sitting in the passenger seat and the trouble is, Tommy was a pretty energetic type of guy. So he was doing about 40 miles an hour trying to keep up with the giraffe, trying to work his way through with the Land Rover. And all of a sudden, just as I was about to get the rope over the giraffe, he hit a… No, I wasn’t with the rope, I’m sorry. I had the camera.

01:39:45 - 01:40:48

The Africans had the loop and the long pole and I was filming. But he hit a hole in the ground that was dug by an aardvark quite deep. Well, this caused the Land Rover to come to a automatic stop. So three Africans went 20, 30 feet over our heads and broke their collarbones in front. My camera went up in the air and then came down on my head and I was knocked out. And there was a big cut in my scalp, but Tommy (indistinct) who we used to call, awful offered while I was unconscious, he being been trained in… Anyway, I’m talking about this warden named Tommy (indistinct) who was a pretty energetic type of guy. So when I was knocked out by the camera coming down on my head, apparently there was a lot of blood.

01:40:48 - 01:41:45

So he wasn’t sure whether I’d had a concussion or what. So I woke up a little bit later at 90 miles an hour, trying to get to the hospital in what was in soldiery ’cause he didn’t know quite what happened, but he had his survival kit with him. And his survival kit, the first thing he did was to shave all the hair off on that part of my head. And then he had something called Plastic New Skin that he sprayed all in my hair, in my head, you now, it was kind of like putting stitches up there. And I woke up in this Land Rover on the way to the hospital which was a hundred miles away at high speed and I started felt my head. It was just a superficial cut on my scalp, but he thought he’d broken my skull. And my God, I was on camera. And yet he had shaved my head and sprayed this Plastic New Skin in my hair.

01:41:45 - 01:42:03

So I couldn’t be on camera for a while without a hat. And it was quite an experience, but it was also rather hilarious when I found out what he had done to me. A lot of people like to hear stories.

01:42:04 - 01:42:08

One of the first questions they asked me is what almost killed you?

01:42:08 - 01:42:24

A reporter. That’s generally they’re interested in conflict or dangerous situations usually. And it’s a little bit funny. I can think of other things… I’ve gotta think…

01:42:24 - 01:42:28

That’s a good question is what were some of the funniest things?

01:42:29 - 01:43:28

But one of the most, it was so funny what was happening to me, but I have some Amerindians in the Amazon. This was actually before World Kingdom. And they had heard that I wanted to film in big anaconda, but I didn’t tell him to bring it into camp, I was gonna go to where it was. That’s one of the things you have to be careful about is how you express something to some people like that. So one day they brought on in an oxcart pulled by oxen, wooden wheels. They brought a 22 foot anaconda in our camp, and they had lasted this with Leather Lassiter’s. So they had injured the snake somewhat, and also just bumping on a gravel rocky road with a wooden wheel cart that has no springs on it. It’s pretty rough on the snake too.

01:43:28 - 01:44:16

So anyway, they brought it into camp and I had to dig a hole in the ground and let this snake come back and try to recover from all the damages it obviously had. And I put it in there for about a month and it started obviously feeling better. So I said to my cameraman, who was not an experienced wildlife cameraman. He was from Bell Aircraft up in New York State. And but he was the kind of guy had good equipment. He had Airflex cameras and all like that. He loved to go out at his cost on a vacation. So I had brought him to the Amazon, and he was probably the worst person I could have ever chosen for coming into the Amazon.

01:44:16 - 01:44:55

He was scared of spiders. He just about went crazy when he saw a snake. And here it was I wanted him to film me trying to measure this big snake. Well, he refused to do it for a month or so. And finally, (chuckles) I convinced him that he would get over behind the tree, about 60, 70 feet away. And I would bring the snake out and try to measure it. I thought it even then, this was actually before Wild Kingdom, but I knew what would be a good shot on camera. So anyway, I went in to get the snake and this thing had not only recovered.

01:44:55 - 01:45:26

It was very aggressive. In those days a snake that big would be this high off the ground, ready to strike, you know, defend itself. And I was not afraid of big snakes. It’s knowledge or fear is a lack of knowledge, actually. So I knew what I had to do. I had to take a stick with a hook on it, a hooked limb and pull the snake’s head toward me. And then you have to drop the stick and grab the neck of the snake.

01:45:27 - 01:45:28


01:45:28 - 01:45:57

But that’s a little bit like doing this. And if you do it wrong, you’re in trouble. As I was pulling the head over this snake was six feet off the ground, ready to strike. Getting it off balance, I started to drop the stick, but my elbow hit the door. And the snake struck at me. He got my whole hand in his mouth. Well, the snake that big has teeth about that long. So the worst thing you can do is they’re like grapple hooks.

01:45:57 - 01:46:42

You can’t pull out. If you pull out, you’re gonna end up with gangrene and that area. So I had to let the snake have my hand and I had to grab the tail because even then I knew that the danger point of a big constrictor like that, is that they get the tail around you. They wrap your tail first. If they ever get that tail on your rib case, you’re done for cause they could break all your ribs and suffocate you. So I had to let the snake have my arm and he proceeded to swallow my arm up to the shoulder. By the way, I was telling this story to a comedian on television. I think he was sitting in for Johnny Carson name, Alan King.

01:46:43 - 01:47:04

And it was a very exciting spot because I had taken into the studio in New York, two 12 foot anacondas that I had brought back when they were babies, and they had grown to be 12 feet. They were in the museum at Earlham College and I borrowed them to be on the show with Alan King in New York.

01:47:04 - 01:47:12

And I noticed he was a little nervous and I was telling him why people are afraid of snakes?

01:47:14 - 01:47:50

And I had two snakes there. This is the kind of thing I used to do on television. I put to show him why he was afraid of snakes, I put or why people work. ‘Cause I didn’t know at that time that he was deathly afraid of snakes. So I put a red ribbon around one of the anacondas neck and interesting enough, he would get near the one with the red ribbon, because that was a anthropomorphic symbol. You know, something we humans are do. But he wouldn’t get near the snake that didn’t have the red ribbon on. And I proved a point with that.

01:47:50 - 01:48:20

And so then I started that story about the snake swallowing my arm. It was 22 feet on. Oh, by the way, I expected some help from my trusty Indian guides companions. They ran off in the jungle and they never did come back. So I was there left with this snake swallowing my arm. My cameraman, I looked around and he had his hands over his eyes. He wasn’t even filming it. He did film a little of the snake releasing me.

01:48:20 - 01:48:50

But anyway, so I had to handle the whole thing myself. And I told Alan King, I said, “Yeah, Mr. King, when the snake had to me up “to the shoulder,” I said, “I was wondering, should I go in like this?” Well, he got sick on the show. Alan Green. I mean, Alan King turned green. They cut to a commercial. They wouldn’t even let me come back and tell the rest of the story. (laughs) He lost it. He was just about passed out.

01:48:50 - 01:49:23

And he, I saw him 10 years later at the US Tennis Open and he remembered me instantly. And he said, don’t tell me any more of that story. But anyway, the snake I… Bryant Gumbel once asked me, he said, “How in the heck did I got loose?” And I told Brian, I said, well, there’s a trick to that. I said, you have to see. I try to think of the big picture all the time. And I knew those snakes have been programmed genetically. If something is struggling, they’re all they’re going to do is tighten up.

01:49:23 - 01:50:06

‘Cause a big snake doesn’t have anything else to do. They don’t have to take their kids to a soccer match, they don’t have to pay taxes. So if necessary they’re built so they can keep tightening and keep that pressure on you for as long as they want. So you have to stop struggling. That’s the key to the whole thing. And Bryant was very interested in knowing how could stop struggling at a moment like that. Well, that comes from experience. And I had learned before that, by the way, in some pretty serious situations that one of the biggest dangers when you’re in trouble with an animal or any situation is that you might go into shock.

01:50:08 - 01:51:14

You often will. If you go into shock, you lose control. And that’s the way some animals kill other animals. I don’t wanna get off on another subject, but if a buffalo’s that weighs 2000 pounds is attacked by four or five lions, the lions jumping on his back, they don’t break his neck, but when they bite into the buffalo and put the talons in there, the animal goes into shock. And often that buffalo is, it may be nature’s way of assisting in the death of something, predation. ‘Cause often that buffalo is unconscious before it’s killed because of the shock of being bitten or that’s why a tooth or a clause, (clears throat) excuse me, such a dangerous situation to being bitten (indistinct). So I know how to keep myself from going into shock, but you have to focus on what’s happening. And so by not struggling, the snake decided it didn’t wanna have me for lunch.

01:51:14 - 01:51:27

And I was able to break some of the teeth and get it backing off of me, and I was able to get it back (chuckles) in the holding area. There’s one more little addition to that story.

01:51:27 - 01:51:28

Do I have time to tell it?

01:51:28 - 01:52:39

Of course. All right later on I got the snake back in the holding area and it broke loose when it got really healthy and a kitchen apart, snake that weighed over 200 pounds, and I could see the trail going through the forest. It was about that wide, and I followed it and it went in there and then didn’t encounter a temporary encampment for the Indians. And I could see a big area where there had been a struggle and the Indians were very angry at me because they had lost their favorite dog. And that snake (laughs) had gone over there. Apparently, what had happened, the dog came out barking at the snake and the snake then was very hungry. Thank goodness it didn’t use me as it’s meal, but the snake then when the dog turned to run and when the snake struck, the snake got it on the backside and with his grapple hooks his jaws and the dog wasn’t as smart as I was. See, the dog kept struggling.

01:52:39 - 01:53:02

The Indians told me they’d heard the sound of the dog for two days, but they wouldn’t go near see what was happening. Well, the snake had wrapped the backside of the dog, but the front end was still audible. Like I say, the snake could hold on for a long time. Well, then the snake swallowed the dog and you could see the track that was going off into the wet area. It was about that wide.

01:53:02 - 01:53:11

So sometimes I wake up two o’clock in the morning and wondering let’s see if that snake had gotten me, could he have done any real damage?

01:53:11 - 01:53:45

But so that may be funny in some aspect, it was funny because the cameraman and the Indians ran away from the situation wouldn’t even come back. They lost it, because they considered a big snake that got an advantage over me. They considered it, what they call the canaima spirit. They give spirits to animals that certain ones that, especially when they take advantage of somebody like me. what do you think…

01:53:45 - 01:53:47

Why was Wild Kingdom popular?

01:53:48 - 01:53:49

These are good…

01:53:49 - 01:53:55

Well, they’re good questions especially when he asks why Wild Kingdom was popular?

01:53:55 - 01:54:57

I think it came on at a time when there were lots of people that were looking, because it was a time where people could do a lot of the things that they wanted to do. We weren’t as regulated in those days. And I have people come up to me from all walks of life. I was speaking in Oregon and the State of Washington to a group of wildlife biologists in the area, it was a convention. And there were about 300 people there. And 75% of those fairly young biologists said that they’d gone into that profession because of Wild Kingdom and seeing me. People were able to follow passions and have a pretty good, interesting life. And I think people are looking for a pretty good interested live, that’s one reason that a lot of people enjoyed Wild Kingdom.

01:54:57 - 01:55:50

It showed them a part of the world that was interesting and fascinating and gave them some hope that some of them that they could actually do that. I have a lot of people on airplanes even today. It’s amazing number of people that still remember chapter and verse on Wild Kingdom. But I think that was one of the things that gave them certain people and interests that they hadn’t had before. And a perspective on life on the planet. I think that’s probably (indistinct), but it was also real. We weren’t… Hey, listen, those shows, I hate to complain about television today, but shows like “Survival” and these other reality type shows, I don’t see much real about them.

01:55:51 - 01:56:24

They prey on our fellow human beings by trying to create animals that are dangerous to humans. A lot of television now is so commercial. It’s going after an audience who don’t know anything about the natural world. They’re killing alligators in Louisiana. They think that’s a big deal. That’s not a big deal that’s kinda foolish to show. And anybody can go out and shoot an alligator for crying out loud. But that’s not what the natural world is all about.

01:56:24 - 01:57:23

I’m a bit discouraged now about, they have programs called “When Animals Attack People”. Animals are the last thing that people have to worry about. The incident of a person being damaged by an animal is so small that it’s dramatic when it happens, you know, Siegfried and Roy, or the woman up in Stanford that got bitten. But is it so rare that the media exploits it, and they’re now teaching a lot of people who have no connection with the natural world that being out in the outdoors is dangerous. And that’s unfortunate because we’ve got the challenge of the 21st century is to get people to enjoy the outdoors and reconnect families and children with the world of nature. That’s the challenge. If we don’t respect and enjoy the world and nature, we’re not gonna really save much.

01:57:23 - 01:57:28

Was Wild Kingdom on a tight budget because you had to be part of the shooting crew?

01:57:30 - 01:58:10

It wasn’t… Wild Kingdom. Yeah, I think we did have a budget we had to look very carefully on. But Don Meier had the ability to do things for the right price. He was quite a negotiator, and also there had to be enough money left over that didn’t go into the production who obviously rewarded Marlin Perkins in Don Meier. Some of the rest of us, (chuckles) I never complained about it. I was pretty happy, but some of us weren’t really paid that much money.

01:58:10 - 01:58:11

Well, so what?

01:58:12 - 01:58:15

Getting these experience and everything else.

01:58:15 - 01:58:20

But you did other jobs other than being the personality on camera?

01:58:20 - 01:58:50

When I was doing Wild Kingdom, I was pretty well full time with Don Meier. But I did, before the show was really bought, I had been lecturing quite a bit around the country. And that’s why I had all my animals with me and I continued to lecture not so much during World Kingdom, but before and after, yeah. You have said you have to use television for what it is. Yeah.

01:58:50 - 01:58:51

What is television to you?

01:58:53 - 01:58:56

The question about what is television?

01:58:56 - 01:59:40

No, I think the trick and the key and people in our position who have an interest in a mission trying to get out some important things about the natural world. We have to use television rather than it use us. And you gotta know how to do that. Often a television host will try to lead you into things that are funny or dangerous, or there are total misconceptions about animals and you have to understand what your mission is, if you’re gonna appear on television, and know how to handle the host and handle the situation. So you’re using it rather than it using you.

01:59:42 - 01:59:44

Can you give me one example of that?

01:59:46 - 02:00:43

Yeah, the Conan O’Brien is a pretty good example and Today Show. Today Show allowed me to use Today Show to promote the natural world. Although they’re fairly sensitive about how I present an animal and what I say about it, but they know that that I’m a serious person. A host should always be the one that makes makes fun and all that sort of thing. Not the person who’s actually controlling the animal that’s on with you. I always seem to be the kind of guy that people say, we want you to appear in our convention, or we want you to come speak to our school and they say, by the way, bring your animals. So I have to realize that they could care less about me. They want the animals, which is not quite true.

02:00:43 - 02:01:47

But I have to limit myself and make sure that I capture the attention of the audience with the animals or with a film that I show. And then I can say something of value, and by the way, I evolved quite a while ago into somebody who wants to pass on a message rather than just say, this is a snake or that’s taboo or whatever. It goes beyond that for me now. So I have to know how to use television. On The Today Show, I was able to maybe have a minute and a half before about the animals out to say somebody a value, but once the animals come out either on Johnny Carson Today Show. I actually was on Seinfeld once. And that’s not the show you can really say much about philosophy or anything like that. You gotta go with the action on Seinfeld.

02:01:47 - 02:01:52

But nevertheless, I think I was able to show some respect for what I had.

02:01:52 - 02:02:04

I had a hawk on Seinfeld that went after George and which was, you know, and that show the story is often, you can’t quite figure out what the show is?

02:02:04 - 02:02:36

But Kramer was sitting there wanting to do a talk show in his apartment, and they were at the restaurant and Jerry said, or rather Kramer said to Jerry, he said, “Jerry, my show is not going very well. “I think I’m gonna get Jim Fowler and his animals,” And Seinfield said, “Oh, you’re never gonna get Jim Fowler.” And so Kramer said, yeah. He said, “I practically raised his kids.” So my kids appreciated that. So I’m sitting there with a hawk on the fist.

02:02:36 - 02:02:41

And my first line was where the cameras?

02:02:41 - 02:03:40

See I thought it was a talk show and there were no cameras around. And then the George had accidentally run over a little squirrel. And his girlfriend who was in the car made him take it to a vet because he had injured the squirrel. And so it ended up, it was costing him a lot of money ’cause it supposedly they had to bring special tools from Australia all the way up to New York to operate on the squirrel. And George he heard I was in the studio, at Kramer studio. So he appears with this squirrel in a sack. And then my big line was, “Hey, you idiot, hawks, eat squirrels.” And then the hawk comes over after George and they cut to a look on his face with scratches all over him. But the beautiful thing about that production, they cut to each person’s face as the hawk flew in front of me, the look on their face.

02:03:40 - 02:04:16

And that’s been rerun an awful lot. I’m now down to residual payments. Each time that’s shown of about $6 and 50 cents. But that’s using… What I’m really saying is that television, we have to work with it. It’s not gonna go away. And the greatest way to influence public opinion is using the media. But you don’t see people from the world of science and natural history.

02:04:16 - 02:04:36

You don’t see them on Sunday morning television. You see a bunch of baloney on Sunday morning television, you know, what’s happening in Hollywood or somewhere else. But we’ve got to learn to use television to make points in a way that people watch it, and learn about it. That’s a big challenge.

02:04:36 - 02:04:49

Well, speaking of that, when you were doing Wild Kingdom, was there any backlash from the animal rights groups or you had personal experience with these folks?

02:04:49 - 02:05:32

No, in fact, the head of the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle. I think his name is. He says that he got his interest in animals in watching the Wild Kingdom. See the point is we were… It was reality what we were doing. We weren’t molesting animals. You gotta understand from an animal rights standpoint, most of the animal rights people, especially the radical ones, judge an animal is having human emotions. So they want you to treat an animal like it’s some human being, and if you don’t do that, then they think you’re being cruel somehow.

02:05:32 - 02:05:34

Now, everybody should be an animal, right?

02:05:34 - 02:06:07

So I mean, an animal has the rights to be respected as an animal. But that doesn’t mean that you have to make it, into a human being. You gotta respect an animal for what it is, not because it has human characteristics. So I use that. I know how to pet an animal and be nice to an animal and hold it. So I have never gotten any flack from any animal rights group. Never have. You’ve organized animals into three groups.

02:06:07 - 02:06:08

I think you were talking about that.

02:06:08 - 02:06:11

Can you tell us what they are and what the meanings are?

02:06:11 - 02:06:28

Well, when you’re speaking about wildlife and the natural world and showing animals to people, one of the things that you learn very quickly is how ignorant people are of animal behavior, and what’s really going on?

02:06:29 - 02:06:47

We go around and talking about dolphins being so intelligent that they can sooner or later communicate with us. We’d like to see animals that have the ability to act like a human. I mean, it’s very rampant.

02:06:47 - 02:06:56

Most of the reaction from people to an animal or based upon how cute it is, isn’t it adorable?

02:06:56 - 02:07:33

And the things that look cute and adorable aren’t gonna hurt us. The most popular animal in the world today is probably the panda. And the second one is the koala bear. Well, both pandas and koalas can really take your part. They’re not as cute and lovable as they may look. So what I’m really saying is that, most of the public’s reactions to animals are very, very superficial. I mean, look at us. Here we are a species on this planet that have gotten control really of the planet.

02:07:33 - 02:08:44

We’re the custodians of all life on this planet. We can blow off a atomic bomb and kill everything there is alive on this planet if we want to. But we are in danger of liking those animals that we think we can understand that they look a little human, but something that doesn’t look human like a rhino or many of the insects and things like that. See, a rhino is pretty hard to say a rhino looks cute. We don’t necessarily worry about their populations as much as we would a monkey or something like that. It has more of an anthropomorphic appeal to it. So when I’m in front of people, I have to realize that their first tendency is to try to judge the animals very anthromorphically, like this is cute, this is dangerous, this is a killer. And unfortunately in the zoo world, unfortunately in the past, I’m afraid that some of them have not taken a lead in this area of communication.

02:08:44 - 02:09:14

People will often walk through the zoological park from one end to go out the other end. And they say, this animal is dangerous, that one looks mean. There is no such thing as being mean in the natural world. And that one is spectacular, that one’s cute. We always use human terms. We walk in out of the other end of the zoo and our judgment of the natural world is based upon our reflection as a human being.

02:09:14 - 02:09:22

And that’s unfortunate because we haven’t learned what really happens on this planet that sustains life on the planet?

02:09:23 - 02:10:03

So I think the three things are that I have to contend with all the time. I know there are certain animals that I can show to people that the reaction is yuck. Wow, that’s disgusting or whatever. And that’s fairly appealing on television. People like extremes on television. There are another group of animals that are so spectacular, like a eagle with his wings out, people are all struck and they don’t say, I shouldn’t use the word all, ’cause that’s the third category. But they’re so fascinated by it. They don’t know what to say.

02:10:03 - 02:10:37

Then there’s the third group which I call the aww animals. When you bring it out, people say, aww, it’s cute. It’s looks loving, it’s a baby. These are all animals. But the shocking thing is that’s about the level of the human interpretation of the world around them. It’s based on human emotions and that’s sad. We gotta break through that, and reveal what really works in a biodiversity world.

02:10:39 - 02:10:41

What is an ecosystem?

02:10:43 - 02:10:47

What is it that sustains life on this planet?

02:10:47 - 02:11:41

If you ask people to name even three or four of the basic laws of nature that allow life to be on this planet, they don’t even know what you’re talking about. And that’s true by the way of a lot of scientists, because scientists have to talk to their peer groups to make sure that the paper they write is approved by the peer groups that accepted. And they spend most of their time talking to each other, but I’m afraid that scientists have not become good communicators. Carl Sagan was a good communicator. He got out to the public, but he was scoring. He was looked down on by some of the scientific community. So you don’t see very many knowledgeable scientists who know how to communicate with the public and influence public opinion.

02:11:44 - 02:11:48

When with Wild Kingdom, did you get feedback from the viewers?

02:11:49 - 02:12:51

Oh, well the feedback is always excellent. I mean, it amazes me that even the animal rights groups don’t seem to… There were a few times that Wild Kingdom got involved in doing stories about animals where some of it was created, because there weren’t too many humans in it. But most of the while came to was what you saw is what happened. Sometimes you had to show a lion creeping through tall grass in order to build up to a scene. Let’s say you had a camera with only one lens. And when that lion took off and chased a bunch of zebras, you had a continuous shot of that, but it may be the zebras got off in the distance a little bit, or you didn’t have time to get a closeup of a zebra. So you come back and you take a closeup of a zebra, maybe somewhere else and you edited that in.

02:12:51 - 02:13:49

The real trick in Wild Kingdom at one time there were some, oh, they were some disgruntled photographers who used to work for Wild Kingdom that said some of it was staged. Well, this is a very interesting subject because when you stage, there’s a big difference between staging reality and faking it. Wild Kingdom never faked anything. But occasionally there was some staging. And Marlin once was accused by some of these photographers of staging some things, but only staging but faking. Never faked on Wild Kingdom, but sometimes to enhance a shot or an experience you had to use cut-ins that were what really happened so that it made it more alive to the audience. Enhanced it as the right word.

02:13:49 - 02:13:53

Can you talk about the disconnect between people and nature?

02:13:53 - 02:13:54


02:13:54 - 02:13:56

Why is that significant?

02:13:56 - 02:14:28

I mean… Well, it’s the old story of, we’re only gonna save what we love and things like that. And there are so many, this is a very competitive world we’re living in, based on economics. If you could make a bucket something, you’re gonna build it. (clears throat) By the way, I don’t think it’s off the subject, but with all the terrorism and the political controversy that’s going on.

02:14:28 - 02:14:32

(coughs) Guess what they’re building in?

02:14:32 - 02:15:16

In our end they’re building a theme park in Iran to make money. And so (clears throat) often, excuse me, I’m gonna have to get a drink. The power of economics often override everything else. And we have to be very careful about that, ’cause economics are the real power I think in the world. and we gotta pay attention to that. Your question again. Give me the question again. Well, just that you talked about this disconnect– Oh, disconnect.

02:15:16 - 02:16:14

(indistinct) significance of it. Yeah, I mean, the significance of the disconnect is that there’s so much competition for people’s time, which is based on economics. If you can make a bark at something, a new kind of park that people can go to, you know the park in Hong Kong we were talking about with 7 million people going there spending their money. That’s very competitive with… That doesn’t get you in the outdoors. We luckily… Well, we have everything, actually shopping malls are our biggest competitors, and there’s a reason for that. Human beings are programmed genetically to go out and look for prey.

02:16:15 - 02:16:59

My wife’s a good example. She goes to a shopping mall. She stalks her prey, she captures it and then brings it back home and possesses it. And that’s a very basic instinct. That’s why people now are jogging and shopping malls because we are also focused on tribes and being around a lot of our own kind of people, you know, family groups. So shopping malls are really the place where a lot of the social activity occurs now. So we have to learn to compete with that. The State of Florida now are so concerned about people being disconnected with the natural world.

02:17:00 - 02:17:19

The Wildlife Commission is called are very concerned because they’re wardens and they’re very staff people, people are out there doing the good work. They rely on money from fishing and hunting licenses in order to get their salaries.

02:17:19 - 02:17:20

So guess what?

02:17:20 - 02:18:36

If people don’t go out and buy hunting and fishing licenses, they’re gonna be out of a job. So now they’re promoting and I’m involved in this, with the State of Florida are family-oriented centers where families can come out and learn how to enjoy the outdoors and do different things. Hunting and fishing. It’s not only hunting and fishing is birdwatching, camping, climbing, all these exciting things to do, canoeing. All these exciting things to do in the outdoors we’re gonna try to promote six or seven of these family-oriented centers in Florida. They want that to grow into Alabama and Georgia and other places. I think is a great idea, regardless of whether it’s based on economics or not, you know, like getting hunting and fishing money for licensing. We’ve got to learn that any way we can get people in the outdoors and reconnect with the reason why open space, wildlife and wilderness is important to humans, we humans, we’ve got to do that, whether we like hunting or not.

02:18:36 - 02:18:38

How can zoos assist in that?

02:18:38 - 02:18:39


02:18:39 - 02:18:40

How can zoos assist in that?

02:18:40 - 02:19:23

Oh, boy! I’m gonna talk a little bit about how zoos can assist in the right kind of mission that affects public’s and wants people to get back involved with the world and nature. Well, it’s time that… Zoos have evolves in their missions. There was a time when obviously when zoos were just presenting weird looking animals to the public, collections that came from some of the private collections originally years ago. That’s changed. We have to have a stronger reason now to have a zoological park. And I’ve been talking quite a bit to some of them about this.

02:19:23 - 02:20:03

See, there are two problems. First of all, a zoological park generally a zoo has to be funded either by the city, which is a political organization or by beneficials from foundations or private individuals that realize the importance of a zoological park. Now, I’m one of the few people that’s publicly known that really promotes zoos. I’m in favor of them, because if you have a big urban center and they have no connection with the world of nature, that’s not gonna work.

02:20:03 - 02:20:09

And at least zoological parks will tell you what else is on this planet?

02:20:09 - 02:21:10

And they do talk. The St. Louis Zoo is a good example. They have a big Nature Science Center at the St. Louis Zoo, and they talk about biodiversity, the miracles of nature, all these things that are wonderful to know about. But there’s something missing. And I’m hoping to in the right way convince some zoological parks that there is another mission that’s even stronger. And the first thing you have to do, you have to figure out what are the messages of the 21st century who will affect emotion, human policy without being controversial. Zoos can’t be controversial. So you’ll never see hardly any zoo in America that’s gonna take a strong stand on a subject that may get them in trouble, either with the political structure that they get their money from or from a benefactor.

02:21:10 - 02:22:02

So there are missions and I wanna talk about that a little bit of what the mission of zoological park should be. The overall mission should be that they should reconnect families and children back with the importance of the natural world, open space, wildlife and wilderness. But it’s not because of the animals hardly enough. We tried that for the last 20, 30 years, and it doesn’t seem to be working too well if we just talk about how wonderful animals are, how unique, how strange or how they’re disappearing in the wild. We’ve got tigers in India now that are maybe down to about 1500 in number. And I don’t see too many people concerned about tigers disappearing out of India.

02:22:03 - 02:22:16

And the reason is this, we have failed to connect what you see in the zoological park with why is that important to human welfare?

02:22:16 - 02:22:18

And this is the big point.

02:22:18 - 02:22:33

If we’re gonna talk about how the earth works, if we’re gonna talk about the natural world, wildlife, wilderness and open space, we have got to connect it with how does it benefit our lives, human welfare?

02:22:34 - 02:22:41

Unfortunately, a human being is pretty interested in what’s in it for us?

02:22:41 - 02:22:53

And if we can’t tell people at a zoological park, what’s in it for humans, we’re gonna miss it. I’m a little disappointed in the last 40 years that I’ve been active.

02:22:54 - 02:22:56

Why hasn’t things changed?

02:22:58 - 02:23:05

Why isn’t the public more interested than they are in the reality of wildlife, wilderness and open space?

02:23:05 - 02:23:58

Why is it that a survey was done two years ago by a group that said that less than five percent. Sorry. (clears throat) These survey found out that less than 5% of the American public spend more than a half an hour a year thinking about the welfare of open space, wildlife and wilderness. It’s because there’s so many other activities that are being programmed to us. Looking at internet, playing golf, hanging out, all that is competing. Shopping mall everything is there for the taking based upon economics and rewards and material things. So it’s very difficult for those of us who realize that wildlife and wilderness, is important to humans to get that point across. And it’s getting real serious.

02:23:58 - 02:24:14

And I would recommend the zoological parks look into this, because I’ve had a chance to design some arguments. You have to have strong arguments in the 21st century.

02:24:14 - 02:24:20

Why is open space, wildlife and wilderness important to people lives?

02:24:20 - 02:24:34

Now, I’ve never heard any major conservation organization and maybe I’ve missed it, but I’ve never heard a zoological park focus when you go through and see an exhibit, why is that important to humans?

02:24:34 - 02:25:20

That has to happen. And I think zoological parks have to open up. Education is a very ambiguous term. I’d like to comment on the difference between information and education for a minute. It’s very important. We humans are so good at information, and the reason is, when we get out of universities, we use information to get jobs, to do research, but primarily to get jobs. you’ve got be loaded down with facts and figures. And we spent an awful lot of time in our educational system coming up with facts and figures which really are information.

02:25:20 - 02:26:16

We humans are incredibly powerful in doing this. We can research, we can come up with the facts, biodiversity, the miracles of nature. We build a system that goes to the moon based on facts and reality of what we’ve learned. But I don’t see that as necessarily being education. Here’s the difference, at the Bronx Zoo in New York, they have a wonderful classroom and they bring people out of one classroom from the Bronx and they put them in a classroom at the Bronx Zoo, and somebody comes out with a king snake and a frog and they show it. And then they tell you why a rhinoceros is so dangerous because it’s got that big horn out there. And you can learn things like or a rhinocerous eats thorn bush. You can learn that at the Nature Science Center, at the St Louis Zoo.

02:26:16 - 02:26:49

You can learn about biodiversity and all that. But here’s the difference. (clears throat) In my opinion, I’ve come down to see the difference between education and some of the information that we’re so good at. Information is not necessarily education. Here’s the difference, information is when you sit on a hot stove the first time, it comes right up to your backside. Education is when you won’t sit on the hot stove the second time. Big difference. Education as to affect your life.

02:26:49 - 02:27:12

And that’s what missing. A lot of the information that we learned in universities, you don’t learn communication and universities. That’s the problem. That’s why many scientists are focused on the details and information, but not so much on how it affects your life. You have to learn how to communicate.

02:27:12 - 02:27:16

You have to learn about what the messages of the 21st century are?

02:27:16 - 02:27:27

So I’ve been working a lot on that. So anyway, education if I’m not mistaken, has to really affect your life. If it’s gonna educate you. So we gotta start learning the difference.

02:27:30 - 02:27:38

I’ve worked on what are the arguments for saving wildlife, wilderness and open space?

02:27:38 - 02:27:45

What are the arguments that you can go to somebody working for a living, trying to feed their family?

02:27:45 - 02:27:50

Why would they be interested in open space, wildlife and wilderness?

02:27:50 - 02:28:38

Well, here’s the challenge, that survey that they did a couple of years ago is one of the reasons why from a county commissioner to the president of United States, during their political campaigns, the most important people in our society, there is no platform that says how we treat the earth is important to us politically. That’s why there’s very little said about it in a campaign that how we treat the earth is something important. And the reason is, is that the politicians know that the American public is not informed. They’re beginning to be more informed now than they used to be. I’ll admit that. But they’re still not informed where that’s a priority in their lives.

02:28:38 - 02:28:46

Because nobody’s telling them how they can contribute and why all this is important?

02:28:46 - 02:29:20

Why open space is important to humans, the conservation groups and the zoological parks aren’t talking about this. Now, I may be… Who am I to come up with some arguments, but if I can I wanna say three arguments, why it’s important. And I think this will is one reason that works in our society today. The first argument for why something should be saved is always economics. You gotta face that in our world today.

02:29:20 - 02:29:21

Guess what?

02:29:22 - 02:30:27

Tourism, ecotourism and nature-based tourism is one of the most powerful generators of revenue. You go visit the Olympic National Forest or the North Georgia Mountains and the money you spend filters down into the restaurants, the motels into the system. And that’s money that tourism generates. Tourism generally in our country is the second most powerful industry. I think agriculture may agriculture may rate more, but see the point is it’s not just beach tourism. It is natural world tourism that generates a tremendous amount of income for people. (clears throat) We’re taking advantage of that more and more with parks, you know, in zoological parks, 140 million people attend zoological parks every year in America. Well, the money they spend there should filter down (clears throat) into the community, which I’m sure it does (clears throat) through jobs and other things.

02:30:28 - 02:30:52

So number one argument that somebody will understand probably is based on the visitation of the natural world and what we call nature-based tourism. The second most powerful argument for saving open space, wildlife and wilderness, in my opinion, is something called quality of life.

02:30:53 - 02:30:59

How many times have you ever heard somebody even discuss what is quality of life?

02:30:59 - 02:31:27

We don’t do that in our scientific world. We don’t talk to the public. The politicians don’t even talk about it. Quality of life is something that’s different for different cultures around the world. But in our culture, we have to start questioning, is quality of life just based upon shopping malls and hanging out and going to sporting events and using the internet.

02:31:27 - 02:31:30

Is that quality life, playing golf?

02:31:30 - 02:32:34

Or does it have something with visiting the natural world, which is our basis of reality. And I wanna make it a little side issue about that. One of my personal grieves I’ve found out that we humans are the only species on this planet that can program ourselves with fantasy. Think about that for a little while. Our cartoons, our Hollywood movies, our television is all fantasy, and we’re using fantasy in a spectacular way to get audiences, but it’s programming ourselves with fantasy. The natural world is the basis for our insight into reality. And quality of life, you know, in Eastern Europe, if I can say so, they were so… A family couldn’t go up a creek in Eastern Europe and have a family experienced like a picnic on the edge of the creek.

02:32:34 - 02:33:10

All the creeks were industrialized and pretty well polluted. No matter what your material wealth is in America, if you have the love of nature in your heart, and you can take your family up a creek and have a picnic that adds substantially to your quality life as a family unit. And using the outdoors as a reservoir of utter reality is so important to learning how the planet works, how life is sustained on the planet.

02:33:10 - 02:33:18

If you erase that, you’re gonna have a lot of people that don’t even understand why the natural world is important to us?

02:33:18 - 02:33:20

And I could get more into that.

02:33:20 - 02:33:21

But guess what?

02:33:21 - 02:33:53

The third argument is, this is very powerful and I’m pretty amazed at some of our organization. There’s a group called the International Conservation. It’s called ICC. Coalition. And they came out. They had me as the master of ceremonies at a big convention in Washington. And the theme was, it was called Natural Security.

02:33:54 - 02:33:55

And guess what?

02:33:55 - 02:35:04

I’m amazed. I’m really, really positive and happy that they finally come up with this. Every major social tragedy on this planet from Haiti, to Somalia, to Afghanistan, to Iraq are happening because we have destroyed our natural resources in those areas, so that you have having have nots. The have nots through the media they see what we Americans have. They get envious and envy turns into hatred. So when you destroy the natural resources of an area, one of the biological laws of nature, by the way, that affects humans as well, is that when you destroy your resources and the land, the habitat can’t support the species, you have what you call a tipping point where everything begins to fail. And that’s exactly what’s happening to many of these countries that have destroyed their re… In Haiti you can…

02:35:07 - 02:35:45

Most of the trees are cut down. There used to be wild pigs in Haiti, and we brought down in all our fancy knowledge. We brought down some of the hybrid pigs that we grew up here. They all died down there. They couldn’t go out and root up insect or anything like that like the wild pigs were. Well, when you destroy the trees and the resources, and you start erosion, Haiti’s in big trouble. They have people there that have almost nothing. And then you have the other end of people that have a lot.

02:35:45 - 02:36:18

It’s happening in Asia right now. And it’s all because we, humans are capable of destroying the natural resources in an area very quickly. In Asia… In Afghanistan, that’s a good example. That place has been trampled by human beings for thousands of years. And it used to be a very green area. It’s no longer green. In fact, that goat can hardly make a living in some of these countries that have the most terrible social tragedies in the world today.

02:36:18 - 02:37:16

So now, if that’s not a strong argument for learning how the earth works and keeping wildlife, wilderness and open space for the sake of humans in existence, I don’t know what is. The bigger picture, what happens when we humans overcrowd beyond a certain point and we start taking over 50% of this planet with our developments in our housing and our concrete. It’s downhill after you get the 50%, and we have to start learning how the earth works. Now, there’s a very interesting thing about that. We have to start a de… We’re now aware to the point that we can identify some of the basic laws of nature that allow life to be on this planet. When I was in universities, I studied some of that when I was in college,.

02:37:16 - 02:37:17

But guess what?

02:37:17 - 02:37:18

It’s never talked about.

02:37:21 - 02:37:33

What could possibly be a stronger mission for science than to identify the basic laws of nature that are, by the way, not controversial, how this earth works?

02:37:33 - 02:37:39

What are the basic laws of nature that allow us to sustain life on this planet?

02:37:39 - 02:37:42

How could anything be more important that?

02:37:42 - 02:38:21

You ask the average person or even a scientist, they don’t even know what three or four of those are. There are quite a few of them. I’ll give you one example. If you wanna determine whether we should drill for oil up in the Arctic, you have to know some of these biological laws. Zoos have an opportunity to lead in this area and inform the public of what these natural laws are, that are not controversial. They won’t get them in trouble if they talk about them. The first law of nature is that the sun is the fuel for everything on this planet.

02:38:24 - 02:38:25

And guess what?

02:38:26 - 02:38:56

It all starts with what we call the phytoplankton in the oceans. The phytoplankton due to the reaction of the sun, it’s got a chlorophyll. It’s… We don’t know whether it’s an animal or a plant or both, but it’s a very small organism that’s proliferates in a natural system in the ocean. And it produces most of our oxygen.

02:38:56 - 02:38:58

How many people know that?

02:38:58 - 02:39:44

If you destroy the ocean and start contaminating it, you’re gonna weaken the phytoplankton. The big gaps in the ocean today where there’s no phytoplankton, places like New Jersey where they’ve dumped millions of tons of garbage out there. They don’t realize that they’re taking a chance on reducing the quantity of oxygen that’s on this planet. It’s much more. Oxygen originates more in the oceans than it does in the forest of the Amazon. It’s really the oceans have the effect on the weather. They have the effect on oxygen and things like that. So here’s the thing that’s fascinating.

02:39:44 - 02:40:44

Once you know that law, you know that the phytoplankton is consumed by small organisms in the ocean. Then the larger organisms, the smaller fish will eat those organisms. And it goes right up to the point where the fur seals Pribilof Islands can only be sustainable at a certain population. Because by the time the ocean, the life forms in the ocean get big enough for the fur seal to feed on. They’re restricted in the number of fish, for example, in the fur seals case that can support a population of fur seals. So if you don’t have the phytoplankton creating the food chain from the small things up to the big things, you’re not gonna have the fur seals on the Pribilof Islands. Let me bring you from big picture you’re talking about to a little narrower it down a bit. Okay.

02:40:49 - 02:41:00

As you’ve looked at some of these things that you’ve talked about and started to think about them. Yeah. You’ve gathered this from your travels all over and seeing those things. Exactly.

02:41:00 - 02:41:06

Now, on a more personal level what was your family life like while you’re doing this?

02:41:06 - 02:41:08

Did they participate?

02:41:08 - 02:41:09

Were they involved in your work?

02:41:09 - 02:41:11

How did you balance that?

02:41:11 - 02:42:16

Well, I was lucky to be able to take some of my family with me. Marlin Perkins on his travels his wife insisted on going along, and I was able to take my wife and my kids when my kids were six and eight years old. I had them on the Zambezi River in Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, and I had him washing elephants. And I must say, you’re risking certain things. I came back to my camp. I was in a warden’s camp and it was fairly open and the elephants used to come through it occasionally. And so the wardens knew what to do, but anyway, I came back to camp around noon and I noticed something was going on in my tent. Well, an elephant had found a orange that my family or my wife had left in the tent and he was picking up the front of the tent with my wife and two children inside the tent.

02:42:17 - 02:42:51

And I knew how to bluff elephants. So I got out of the car and rushed over there, and tried to bluff the elephant. It was a male. Had it been a female, especially with a calf, we’d all be in trouble. But I was able to extricate the two kids out from the back of the tent, but I couldn’t get my wife out all the way. The holes weren’t big enough. (chuckles) So she got bounced around a little bit with this elephant trying to get to the orange. That taught everybody a lesson. And I’ve had my kids once.

02:42:52 - 02:43:38

I’ll never forget Mark got it. My son Mark got educated pretty quickly because we were in a open Land Rover once driving through an area along the Zambezi. And we had some wardens up ahead of us and some African scouts. And they had rifles with them, because in that area they’re quite a few lions. And if you’re gonna walk across country, you gotta carry a weapon with you. Anyway, out of nowhere, I heard an elephant screaming and a cow elephant had something against us. Who knows what her experience had been in the past. And she was running very fast at an angle trying to catch up with us behind us.

02:43:38 - 02:44:29

She was gonna try to kill us. And the thing is (indistinct). (chuckles) The driver, my cameraman, he didn’t quite understand what was going on. And I looked around the first thing I knew my son’s eyes were pretty big and the closest the elephant God, the bigger his eyes were. And luckily the truck ahead of us had a bunch of wardens, African scouts in it. But we were blocked. We were on the last of the convoy and my driver finally figured it out and we were able to pass where these African scouts were. But she was gaining all this, and my son was educated very quickly about when he saw the rifles come up in the truck ahead of us and our guys stand up with a rifle.

02:44:29 - 02:44:54

It all became real to them. So they’d learned a few things on these trips. Yeah. They must have thought it was pretty cool for dad to be doing all this things. Well, yeah, I don’t know. I think they do now. Yeah. Yeah, and of course then when you’re involved in it, it’s a little there.

02:44:54 - 02:45:18

I took them quite a few (indistinct). I took my daughter to the Antarctic once when she was quite young, and my son went around a lot with me, my wife loved to travel, but she also was a… She’s a wildlife artist. My wife, Betsey. And artists have a different kind of reality as you probably know.

02:45:19 - 02:45:27

I’m a scientist, and sometimes the details that I look at, aren’t that important to a artist, right?

02:45:27 - 02:46:04

So she could see a different big picture than sometimes than I was. And she enjoyed the companionship with the Africans or natives or in a remote situation or wardens. She’s very social. In fact, I called my wife, miss big apple. She loved crowds. I never did do very well with crowds, but Betsey is pretty much at home with crowds. She grew up in Chicago, actually, Peoria, Illinois. And then it was in the advertising business in Chicago.

02:46:04 - 02:46:44

So she knows big cities. My son and daughter, amazingly enough, because we did live in the middle of New York City for awhile. They grew up part of the time there. I finally got them out to an area in Connecticut that has a lot of forest and ponds when they were going to school. But they have adapted to being in the crowds very well and driving and heavy traffic. I would have been scared to death, but anyway, the urban environment has helped them a little bit. We’re gonna break in a minute but if you weigh in on my last question.

02:46:44 - 02:46:50

And then we’ll break is, how did you first get involved on the Johnny Carson show?

02:46:51 - 02:46:52

Interesting. Yeah.

02:46:52 - 02:46:55

How did I get involved on Johnny Carson show?

02:46:57 - 02:48:03

I’ll think back on that a little bit, but one of the first times, I think that it was when Wild Kingdom was just beginning and the Johnny Carson show was in New York. And I had met somebody from NBC because they were interested in promoting Wild Kingdom and they told the Johnny Carson show about me. And I remember the first time I was ever on the… And of course, Wild Kingdom was trying to get some promotion too for the show. But the first time I did Johnny Carson, (chuckles) I went out with three-toed sloth, a baby. And I remember Johnny really loved that, because it moved very slowly and all that kind of stuff. And he said, boy, that would make a great pet because it never does anything, you know. That was one of his comments.

02:48:03 - 02:48:45

But so I actually got to know one of the, what do you call on the, not the, well, the talent coordinators. Yeah. And I met her and she realized that when I came out with some of the animals, the ratings went up. People loved that. According to Ed McMahon, before he passed away, I was the first guy to really introduce wildlife and animals into those talk shows. And I guess he’s right. Yeah. ‘Cause I started doing Carson on a regular basis after that.

02:48:45 - 02:49:36

And so that’s one way, I think I got involved through NBC and you know, it was because I was able. And I had also had experienced being on television and lecturing and showing wildlife in a serious way. I wasn’t the kind of guy that just threw something out there and tried to scare people. I had a message. And Johnny respected that. Let me say that about Johnny, Johnny respected people that had serious concerns. Now, he would also occasionally tell me, he said, look, we know all about that stuff, the ecology and ecosystems, we don’t need to talk about that. ‘Cause the scientists would come on, and talk about that stuff.

02:49:36 - 02:50:12

So I had to cut down a little bit, but Johnny being from Nebraska, he had a basic interest in the natural world. And Johnny Carson’s talent was that he didn’t ever try to be funny. Johnny knew what television was all about. Some of the guys on now who I like a lot like Jay Leno. But Jay Leno, the producers and the directors have him. They think it’s funny to take a little wolf puppy and stick it in the face of the bandleader. Johnny would never do that. That’s not funny, that’s contrived.

02:50:12 - 02:50:18

The funny things are things that happen unpredictably. And after lunch we’re gonna about that.

02:50:18 - 02:50:19


02:50:19 - 02:50:24

After lunch we’re gonna talk about (indistinct). Okay. Well, let me just finish off one thing about Johnny.

02:50:25 - 02:50:30

Okay, because you asked me how I got started?

02:50:31 - 02:51:27

The first time I was on Johnny Carson, there was a very vivacious woman that was gonna be on, and Oh, God! I had her name all in mind. Wait a minute. First time (laughs) I did Johnny Carson, there was a vivacious woman who was a singer and she was jumping around backstage and she loved my animals, my God. And she said to me, Jimmy said, I’ll never forget this. She said, Jim, I have a parrot at home that keeps losing its feathers. I said, when I come up to her apartment and help treat this parrot so it wouldn’t lose all his feathers.

02:51:27 - 02:51:28

Boy, what a come on?

02:51:28 - 02:51:29


02:51:29 - 02:51:50

And I was too dumb to take her up on it. And she went out. This was her first appearance, I think on television. And my God, I had her name in mind. And now you gotta help me on this and I’ll come back to it. Well, let’s have lunch and then we’ll come back to it. Yeah, okay. We’ll come back to it.

02:51:50 - 02:51:56

Tell us about the ZAA, the Zoological Association of America when?

02:51:56 - 02:51:57


02:51:57 - 02:51:59

And why did it begin?

02:51:59 - 02:52:49

Very good. There are some people in the zoological world of captive animals. We call them capt… I don’t call animals captive, by the way. I call them out of the wild. Because, and I don’t, by the way, I know this a little off the subject, but I don’t call animals wild animals either, I call them wildlife. We have a habit of calling animals, wild animals, and all that does is to influence the media and the public into the fact that some of these animals can hurt us. And I’m out there trying to say, animals are not the thing that we should be worried about as far as danger to human life.

02:52:49 - 02:53:22

The USDA now thinks that animals are dangerous to people and all like that. But that’s a little bit off the subject. I think the ZAA started. I was with Pat Quinn and some of the original people. And one of the reasons is that it seemed to some people who have wildlife parks in the private sector, it seemed to them that the AZA I think wanted to get rid of the private sector. They didn’t really want… I think that’s still their policy. They don’t wanna have private individuals.

02:53:22 - 02:53:35

It’s better for the AZA if they controlled everybody with animals, then they could sort of regulate the whole thing. But there were some people like Saulsbury and Pat Quinn and quite a few.

02:53:35 - 02:53:39

The gentleman that used to be at San Diego, what’s his name?

02:53:39 - 02:54:19

Not Kilmer, but… (indistinct). Yeah, Kil… Yeah. Very experienced people that felt that there was a need to get away a little bit more from the bureaucracy and include some of these people who had wildlife reserves and small zoos and things like that. They were basically being, I think what I hear ignored by AZA. AZA have some very strict (clears throat) rules, of course, (clears throat) which they have to be, (clears throat) excuse me. They have strict rules that they have to try to get everybody to follow, and you know their breeding policies and things like that.

02:54:19 - 02:55:17

Well, the more you get involved in regulations, the more I think, confusion you’re gonna create with some of these private people. Now, I being a private person, having worked with animals and as a lecturer, I was able to get our lecture organization into AZA, I mean, into ZAA, I’m sorry. AZA would never let us get involved with them. So that’s one reason I went toward ZAA. I think that the ability to show animals to people, I’ve been doing it for 40 years. (clears throat) I’ve never had, (clears throat) excuse me. Yeah, I’ve been lecturing in front of the public for many, many years and I’ve never had an incident where an animal ever hurt anybody. But they’re so afraid of this happening.

02:55:17 - 02:56:03

That’s one reason why I think the AZA has excluded from their jurisdiction, the educational component. A lot of these people that go out privately and take animals before the public are some of the most dedicated people you’d ever meet. And they’re also good breeders. They’re providing a lot of, especially in the area of reptiles and things like that. They’re providing a lot of that. So I think the people that started ZAA felt there was a reason there to have an organization that could accept private individuals who were dedicated and really good educators. So I think that’s how it really started. It now is growing very rapidly.

02:56:03 - 02:56:15

A lot of people are retiring or removing themselves from AZA. See, there shouldn’t really be any competition between the two. They should all work together.

02:56:15 - 02:56:16

Is there room for both?

02:56:16 - 02:56:55

Absolutely, room for both. Absolutely. Because EAA, they’re managed by people as you probably well know in the zoo world, and you may know better than I do on this, but a lot of the directors in the zoological parks have changed too because of the board members and the control that the cities have over the zoo many of the zoological parks. They’re appointing financial people as the heads of zoos often because that’s really what it’s all about is the budgets and the debt and raising money.

02:56:55 - 02:57:00

How do these two places, these two organizations, how do they compliment one another?

02:57:00 - 02:57:36

Well, they compliment each other because there is a need for the big urban zoos. There’s no question. And it’s a little different story for the big urban zoos than it is for the, you know, there’s a guy that has a Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia called Mogensen. And he has some open areas and has some safaris and things like that. He’s doing a great job. He’s a real dedicated zoo person. But the ZAA is too regulated for him to be involved with them. There’s a real need for it, because at Chehaw Park in Albany, Georgia.

02:57:36 - 02:57:49

They had elephants, they had giraffes, they have a couple of rhinos right now, but the rhinos that they got through the AZA, they’re not breeders, they’re both two males.

02:57:49 - 02:57:58

But the AZA can delegate to the local zoological park what they can have and what they can have, right?

02:57:58 - 02:58:56

Well, they got rid of most of the animals at the Chehaw Park in order to meet the requirements of the AZA. Well, there are people in the ZAA who really don’t are more individualistic. I think what it is, and they don’t have the big budgets like they do in the big urban zoos. So there is a need for both of those organizations, I think. I mean, there’s no question that if you’re gonna have the kind of power that ZAA has in Washington and other places you gotta have some real professionals running it. And it’s not to say that ZAA don’t have professional people. They do. But here’s one of the differences, ZAA is very active in Washington, and going up against some of the over regulations that are occurring out of Washington.

02:58:56 - 02:59:34

And AZA also is, but AZA has always been the organization that wants to get rid of the private breeders. They don’t wanna support them. So that’s one of the differences. And I think there not to say that AZA don’t have the right to control everything, but I think it’s a mistake if AZA becomes a union type of a group where you have to be controlled as you are in a union. I think it’s a different ballgame. Did ZAA ever think about accreditation. Oh, absolutely.

02:59:34 - 02:59:36

They do accredit it?

02:59:36 - 02:59:53

They do accredit. They do all the things they should do. Absolutely. They’re very, very strict about it. But for example, my group, which is a educational group, we belong. we’re part of ZAA. And let me speak very quickly about that.

02:59:53 - 02:59:54


02:59:56 - 03:00:10

I have so many people that come up to me and I know other people, I know a guy in Indianapolis that gives about 300 lectures a year to schools and to young people. And he also is…

03:00:11 - 03:00:14

He gets around adults as well, right?

03:00:15 - 03:00:53

And see, I’ve lectured to every kind of organization you would think of for 40 years. I now have people coming up to me and say, when they were young, I influenced them when I brought some animals that they’d never even heard or saw before into their home or their school or their institution or whatever. And they say they never forgot it. That’s because a lot of people that are so cut off from the idea of the natural world, when you show them something that’s out there on this planet with us, it’s very strong educational opportunity.

03:00:53 - 03:00:56

Are you still involved with ZAA?

03:00:56 - 03:01:22

Oh yeah. And… I’m very involved with ZAA, but the point I’m making. I at one time had an organization called AWE, which was Ambassadors for Wildlife through Education. The trouble is there was an animal rights group in California that had the same initials. And I didn’t quite feel right about that. But now I have an organization we’re starting that I feel good about.

03:01:22 - 03:01:23

And guess what it’s called?

03:01:23 - 03:02:00

It’s called Spokespeople for Wildlife through Education. And the letters are SPEAK, S-P-E-A-K. I’ve come down, evolve to the point where I feel that communication probably is a challenge of this century. So all those people, they’re like a thousand people in America from nature science centers, from zoological parks, private individuals who wanna know how to go out and talk to the public. Many zoos will have what they call an education department, but a lot of those are so restricted. They can’t even go out and show an animal to the public.

03:02:00 - 03:02:11

I was surprised the other day at the Bronx Zoo, I went out there to visit Bahamian and what’s his name the assistant to Bahamian?

03:02:11 - 03:02:24

You mentioned his name a couple of times from the Bronx Zoo. Jim Doherty. Doherty, yeah. I had a great time with them and… (indistinct) Oh, okay. Sorry. Yeah. Well, let me tell you about that.

03:02:25 - 03:03:16

The zoological world is a big world and there should be room for several groups as long as they’re distinguished clearly you know the difference in them. Well, we know the difference in the AZA and the ZAA. ZAA is a smaller group, and many of them are private individuals that have wildlife parks that are operated privately that may not qualify for AZA. So in this case, I think there’s plenty of room for both groups. Frankly, it’s so important. (clears throat) Excuse me. The challenge of communication to the public is so important. There probably needs to be two groups, ’cause one group can’t probably do it all.

03:03:16 - 03:04:21

The people that belong to the AZA often are restricted in what they can talk about. They’re governed often by the city or by certain foundations and they have to sort of follow the rules sometimes. And some of those rules dictate that you gotta be careful and know what you say and what you’re talking about if you’re gonna represent a city. So generally zoological parks, the big ones can’t really get involved in any issue. And AZAA can’t do that, but ZAA they can speak out in Washington. They can have people on there that are really concerned about education and how you do it. And whether or not you have an elephant or whether or not you have some of the restricted animals. It’s very good to have an organization like AZA who sets standards, but ZAA also sets standards.

03:04:21 - 03:04:40

And I feel frankly, a little more clear being with ZAA than I did being with AZA. Interesting enough I’m one of the few public people who has promoted geologic parks, zoos all over the country.

03:04:40 - 03:05:08

And I speak at a lot of the zoos at their big gatherings and things like that, but I’ve never had the heads of the AZA ever give me a telephone call and say, “Hey, Jim, we really appreciate “that you’re out there promoting zoos in America.” Speaking of those small zoos and the private zoos, is there a role for small municipal and private institutions in the zoo world?

03:05:09 - 03:06:17

Well, there has to be, because we’ve got to make sure that we maintain the dedication and the evolution of how we handle animals and how we actually reached the public. We need to work on that. And I think it’s very important to have, I see the vitality of both groups let’s face it, but the AZA being a bigger organization and being often governed by people that are not necessarily experience was a world of wildlife. They’re looking at it more from a bureaucracy and you, well, you have to do that. When you look at the hugeness of the number of zoos, what are there 200 major Municipal Zoos in the United States. So you do need a solid organization, and you do need some regulations in order to handle that. And AZA is pretty good at that. They’ve got the director now as formally with a National Forest Foundation.

03:06:17 - 03:06:35

I happen to know him very well. But they are not as free to get new ideas and new concepts and go into the future. The 21st century. They’re not as free to do that as ZAA is. And I know that from experience.

03:06:36 - 03:06:45

Is there a place today for for-profit private for-profit zoos?

03:06:46 - 03:07:18

Well, I think listen is it depends upon their messages and their missions. You have to make money if you’re a zoological park, you’ve gotta figure out some way to sustain yourself economically. And I frankly am in favor of non-profits. I believe in that strongly, but the real combination in my opinion is when there is a privately-owned wildlife park that has the initiative and the creativity to do new things.

03:07:18 - 03:07:19

All right?

03:07:19 - 03:07:52

But the infrastructure, the restaurants, the motels, those can be… Oh, I’m sorry. The main structure should be under the non-profit, the animals, the land, that sort of thing, and the education. (clears throat) But the way a lot of the money is made and you get the backing is because of the hotels, the restaurants and the infrastructure that support the wildlife area. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. As long as you’re, I think the main emphasis on the wildlife is under the not for-profit.

03:07:52 - 03:07:57

What’s your opinion about recommendations for dealing with bad roadside zoos?

03:07:59 - 03:08:02

I think roadside zoos are a thing of the past.

03:08:03 - 03:08:10

But on the other hand, I think what really it boils down to, is how dedicated is that person?

03:08:10 - 03:09:16

See here’s the point, I don’t think it’s should be against the law to work with animals and grow up wanting to work with animals and raising young animals when you’re a kid and wanting to work with animals. I don’t think there should be a law against that. I do think there should be a law against clear cutting a forest, destroying a wetlands and those things, but not to wanna work with an animal. Many times it’s that person like Cathryn Hilker from the Cincinnati Zoo and Laurie, who did the work on the cheetahs in Namibia, Laurie Marker. Both of those people grew up with the opportunity to work with cheetahs and work with animals personally. Laurie Marker has done a tremendous job in focusing on the plight of the cheetahs in Africa. And she has a huge area now where they’re raising cheetahs. And she goes to the farmers right in Namibia and tries to get them to stop killing cheetahs.

03:09:16 - 03:09:57

And it’s working now, they’re using guard dogs and it’s been very successful. Cathryn Hilker is another example of that. I can name you many, many people who are outstanding, who when they were younger or private or even at a zoo, they were able to lecture and work personally with some animal that they became dedicated to. We don’t wanna end that we’ve got to have the flexibility, especially in the area of lecturing to be able to work with an animal and become dedicated. The whole trick is to become dedicated and connected with the natural world. Now, speaking of lecturing. Yeah.

03:09:57 - 03:10:00

How can zoos use media more effectively?

03:10:00 - 03:10:04

What can they do to bring attention to animals and conservations?

03:10:04 - 03:10:08

You do it, but now transfer that to how can zoos do that?

03:10:08 - 03:10:23

Well, first the zoos have to become educated as to what are the messages that they can use as education that are not controversial?

03:10:23 - 03:10:28

What are the messages that need to get out to the public in the 21st century?

03:10:29 - 03:11:10

That’s the challenge of those of us who are interested in the natural world is to learn how to communicate. Zoos, you’ll never see people, you’ll see occasionally somebody from a zoo like the one in Florida that’s the Tampa zoo. There is a spokesperson for that zoological park that gets out on television. And she’s very good at working when she’s showing animals, she works into the which ones are endangered and what we gotta do to help save them and things like that. I was trying to think of her name. I can’t remember it right now. You probably know. She’s on The Today Show some of the time.

03:11:10 - 03:11:18

National wildlife Federation has a lecturer with animals that he goes on some of the major shows as well.

03:11:18 - 03:11:21

But the trick is to find out what are the messages?

03:11:21 - 03:11:28

What should you really be talking about in front of the audiences today in order to influence public opinion?

03:11:28 - 03:11:31

That’s our challenge, and we’re not doing it.

03:11:32 - 03:11:41

I can tell you what zoos can do without becoming controversial and what their focus and what their mission should be?

03:11:41 - 03:11:45

But if you’ll go to some of the major zoos and ask what their mission is?

03:11:45 - 03:12:52

Is to obviously to breed animals and to keep endangered species from disappearing and a lot of good stuff. And they use the word conservation a lot I might add, but that’s not it. The real challenge of the zoological parks is, there are two things, but one of the things is to promote the idea. Every exhibit should include some comment about the basic laws of nature that support life on the planet. That nobody’s talking about these. It doesn’t pay to have a old lion sound asleep in front of a $5 million fake rock. By the way, I got in big trouble with this once by telling a group in Columbia, South Carolina, that I could do more with a mountain lion live on the stage in 15 minutes than they could do in a year with an animal lying sound asleep in its exhibit. I got in big trouble for that when I–.

03:12:52 - 03:12:54

I like that. Let me ask you this now.

03:12:55 - 03:13:06

Here you are talking about being able to do something with one animal as opposed to a $4 million exhibit, what do you think will have the most impact and get the message out of that conservation?

03:13:06 - 03:13:09

Is it a television program?

03:13:09 - 03:13:10

Is it a lecture or zoos?

03:13:10 - 03:13:12

I mean, how can (indistinct)?

03:13:14 - 03:13:18

Well, here’s what it is. It’s a combination there. You have to understand the public.

03:13:18 - 03:13:23

And but you also have to know what your messages for the 21st century are?

03:13:23 - 03:13:26

And you have to know what education is?

03:13:26 - 03:13:33

With that said there has to be a combination. In a zoological park, for example, at the Bronx Zoo in New York.

03:13:33 - 03:13:37

What is it 4 million people attend that every year?

03:13:37 - 03:14:20

Those are people that would have no connection whatsoever with the natural world. Now, the zoos have done a great job of creating a attractive background for animals. It’s wonderful. I mean, there are people out there that can duplicate cater rock, and duplicate a tree and give watercourse. It’s great because the zoos have learned over the years that you’ve got to make something look attractive, or people are gonna feel sorry for the animal that’s in it. One of the best examples is the panda exhibit at the Atlanta Zoo in Atlanta, Georgia. Here’s the problem. You walk by the Panda Exhibit and it’s absolutely stunning.

03:14:20 - 03:14:26

There’s a Chinese pagoda in the background to give it character.

03:14:26 - 03:14:29

And there’s a little bit of space, but guess what?

03:14:29 - 03:15:00

There’s nothing said about the connection between pandas, why they’re important to humans or why the wildlife welders and open space in China is important to the country of China where the Panda lives. There’s nothing said about why the panda habitat is important to the world. Okay, beautiful exhibit probably 10 to 15 million on this Chinese pagoda.

03:15:00 - 03:15:01

But guess what?

03:15:01 - 03:15:45

The panda doesn’t give a darn about a Chinese pagoda. He could care less. The panda would be just as happy on a flat concrete slab, but this is what the panda really needs. He needs space, he needs variety in his habitat, he needs food, he needs shelter, he needs an area to exercise, but he doesn’t need a Chinese pagoda. What he needs is somebody to tell the world that pandas being on this planet are important to human beings. We should go out of our way to make sure that the pattern doesn’t disappear from this world, because it’s important to us.

03:15:45 - 03:15:47

Now, why is the pad the important to us?

03:15:48 - 03:16:18

Well, there are a couple of things. And I mentioned some of them. The panda looks cute. It sits up. He uses his hands like a human being. So it’s probably the most powerful, most popular animal in the world right now ’cause it acts like us. The fact is the panda is not so pleasant when you work with him. I’ve been at Wolong up in the Panda Research Center up in China.

03:16:19 - 03:16:38

I’ll tell you what a panda will take you apart. They look cute but in fact they’re not so cute, they have to be very competitive with each other. And so that’s a little bit beside the point. The point is it’s a symbol of cuteness to the public, but that’s not enough to save it.

03:16:38 - 03:16:43

You gotta tell people why is it that we need open space in China?

03:16:43 - 03:16:47

And we need to keep the (indistinct). I’ll tell you why.

03:16:47 - 03:16:55

One of the main reasons that we’re just learning about some of these ecosystems and why they’re important to the world?

03:16:55 - 03:17:30

The Panda is a symbol of wildness. That’s one of the reasons that we need to keep the habitat. And the panda happens to be part of it, but it’s also to teach people about the incredible biodiversity that’s on this planet. The more we know about diversity, the more we can figure out how we humans can survive by respecting the biodiversity which we’re part of. Jim you talked about it. Yeah. You talked about zoo exhibits. Yeah.

03:17:30 - 03:17:33

And you think they’re positive and so forth. Yeah.

03:17:33 - 03:17:38

How did you get involved in the design and development of Chiho Park?

03:17:38 - 03:18:27

Well, here’s one of the things, the way I got involved with Chiho, that I was not restricted in any way by being an employee of a zoological park. I have worked with zoological parks all over the country and I’ve talked and I know a lot of the directors, I’m great friends and I promote zoos. But I wasn’t restricted by being confined to the philosophy of a zoological park. So I decided that what was opportunities in Albany, Georgia was to design something that would attract people to become reconnected with the natural world. Well, to do that, I had the opportunity there to use nature. The real thing I don’t pour concrete very well.

03:18:27 - 03:18:33

And I started thinking, how can I use nature with the animals that are found there?

03:18:33 - 03:18:34

And what is my mission?

03:18:34 - 03:18:38

What is my message that I wanna portray at Chiho Park?

03:18:39 - 03:18:46

Well, there are a couple of things. One of them is reconnecting families and children. I have to…

03:18:46 - 03:18:47

Guess what?

03:18:47 - 03:19:29

I can’t create an attractive park with just education. The normal concept of education. Chiho Park is competing was with a shopping mall for people’s time. So I finally worked it out that what I need to do, is combine education with adventure. Adventure is sellable. So the more you can bring people out to something that’s changing from the last time they were there, the more you can get them to come out and frequently come to the park and you can sustain yourself economically.

03:19:29 - 03:19:33

So I started thinking about what adventure can we have?

03:19:33 - 03:20:43

That’s why I designed an experience on a safari where I give the animals space, by the way, it doesn’t cost a whole lot to put a fence through the woods to meet all the USDA standards. But it does cost a lot when you’re trying to create in a small area something that looks like the wild, and many zoological parks don’t have the space to really utilize big open areas. They have to create smaller spaces. So I began to realize we had, in the beginning, we had about 800 acres at Chiho Park, and 500 of that was a recreation area. It had been a small state park and it was too small for the state park system. But I realized that we had 200 acres that we could turn into a safari area. I’ve been on many safaris in Africa, (chuckles) but this is not an ordinary safari. The whole concept of the facility that I tried to get built at Chiho Park and design was a bit of an adventure.

03:20:43 - 03:20:59

We put people in mobile cages and you have a safari vehicle. You gotta have a character. You gotta make people think they’re coming to a place that they’ve never seen before. It looks exciting in order to sustain your attendance.

03:20:59 - 03:21:00


03:21:00 - 03:21:24

So then I also had a safari camp designed for that, where you could come stay in a tented safari. And there was a little lodge like you would see in Africa, beautiful little lodge. And people could pay a couple of hundred dollars, which people would jump at the opportunity doing that. And I talked to Abercrombie and Kent Safaris.

03:21:24 - 03:21:27

So they would provide the tents and guess what?

03:21:27 - 03:22:15

It would be an introduction to what it would be like if you went to Africa. So a commercial tour group like that safari group thought that would be great ’cause they could actually show people what it’s like. Now, in the safari park and around the tented safari camp, I had some lions not too far away. So people could listen to the out of a lion roaring at night. And there were several components of this safari. One of them was the safari camp, but also there was a restaurant called Tree Tops that was out closer to the highway that people could come and start it was elevated. It was up on piling. So it was off the ground.

03:22:15 - 03:22:20

And so I had the whole thing design. So it was adventure.

03:22:20 - 03:22:30

Now, here’s the reason it’s adventure, if you have people in a mobile cage and you have large enough areas to the fences are all hidden, okay?

03:22:30 - 03:23:05

You can condition the wildlife to come over close to the mobile cage where the people are. If you have Hoofstock, the sides of the mobile cage can be open. They don’t have to be closed. But when you go in with a predator, the sides of the cage and protect the people inside the cage which is what you have to do with the USDA regulations now. So anyway, you’re creating an adventure because you don’t know what you’re gonna see. That’s the great element of it. It’s a surprise. And I wanna make a footnote to that.

03:23:05 - 03:23:47

I learned of all places, I learned on the Johnny Carson Show. I probably knew this before that, but the key to knowledge is often being put into a unpredictable situation where there is suspense. Unpredictability, any good book, any good Hollywood movie, once you get into an unpredictable story, you’re captured by it and you also remember it. If I was on Johnny Carson and I was on an airplane coming back, I would often be approached by people that saw the show.

03:23:47 - 03:23:55

And they would say, what was that animal you had called a binturong that was from the ecosystem in Indonesia?

03:23:55 - 03:24:47

They said, that what a strange animal was. They probably had no knowledge of wildlife, but if they saw Johnny in an unpredictable situation where it might have crawled on his head and put his big tail around his face, that hooked them. They remembered all of that, because it was unpredictable and spontaneous. Well, that’s what a safari is. You don’t know what’s around the corner. Now, the adventure comes in this way and unpredictability. We could, you know, there are quite a few line parks around, but unfortunately the drives who parks don’t really quite do it, because you may have a seven or eight or even more lions lying near the road. But and some of them are lying on the road, but you can’t really make personal contact with them.

03:24:47 - 03:25:33

And also (chuckles) sometimes they’re off where you can’t even see them when he goes through a through, and it’s also dangerous. You can’t have people open a window in a car. It happened at quite a few different parks. But in my experience, I don’t have a paved roads, by the way, I have roads that you go through up over a creek and over a sand dune pulled by a four wheel drive vehicle. And let’s say you have a place where there’s some broom sage, which is tall grass. Like you would have an Africa. Well, you know that they’re not 10 or 15 lions, but maybe they’re four or five lions lying over there or some other kind of predator. I’m using lions as an example.

03:25:33 - 03:25:39

And you drive up and people in the mobile cage say, “Hey, is this like it is in Africa?

03:25:39 - 03:26:41

“This looks like a safari in Africa you know.” Well, the people don’t know it, but as you leave, the lions have become accustomed to jumping up and following you, running after you, because they know they’re gonna get a food reward 50 yards down the trail. But you gotta have space to do this. You’ve gotta have some acreage. So I’ve been recommending for several years now to the zoological community or park community. I said, look, places like the Atlanta zoo, there’s only 25 acres. And you’ve got to change that. You can use the 25 acres as a kind of a environmental learning center or a nature science center to talk about a lot of the details with buildings and with artificial rocks. But you need to get before the land gets too expensive, you need to get 500 to a thousand acres outside the city where you can really show nature.

03:26:41 - 03:26:52

And you can show that animal with a natural background and give the animal the right to have space and green grass, and a place to live in like the one that came from.

03:26:52 - 03:26:57

Was this concept that (indistinct) that you’ve talked about enabled?

03:26:57 - 03:26:58

Did you do it?

03:26:58 - 03:27:47

Well, I never have had the never been in the catbird seat. The only way I can be in the catbird seat is to raise the money myself to build something there. And I did that with a oddly enough with a Birds of Prey park, one of the first birds of prey parks in the United States. And it was funded by a foundation. And it’s the only place that I know. Well, I know there to the Salt Lake City Zoo and I think Los Angeles have flying reptile. I mean, raptor programs. There’s a wonderful program at the LA Zoo where a condor comes off of a cliff and flies right down to the trainer.

03:27:47 - 03:28:38

But at the one in Albany, Georgia that I built, I’ve got a holding area. It’s up on stilts with a couple of a nighttime holding area and also preparation of food. But then I have another cabin on top of that. And that’s where the eagle flies out of completely loose, comes right over the head of the audience and lands on the fist of the trainer. And I fly falcons, (indistinct) and I fly great horned owls. But believe me, that kind of a facility where you have a holding area. I also have designed flight cages so that you can train in. The people can come there and see you training a bird of prey inside of a flight cage before it’s able to be completely really let loose.

03:28:38 - 03:29:11

I have another flight cage that’s 150 feet long for bald eagles. And you can see them come right down to you ’cause I have a bleacher inside of the flight cage. People could sit there and see a bald eagle come down and grab a fish out of the water right in front of you. So you have to keep people involved with something going on, if you wanna sustain the attendance. So what are the issues then in building or getting a wildlife park up and running.

03:29:11 - 03:29:12

What were you up against?

03:29:12 - 03:30:00

Well, you’re really first of all– (indistinct) Well, no, you have to have some space. If you do a proper wildlife park that’s got combines adventure with education. Oh, by the way, after the lions follow you and get a food reward, a bear come out of a tree over and get a hunk of honey. So things are happening, but you’ve got those people now in a point intellectually where they will listen closely to any educational facts that you give them. They remember it, because it was in the atmosphere of all of the sudden they saw something new and that’s the real key to it. But no, the things that hold you back are the staff that you have in the imagination.

03:30:00 - 03:30:09

And also, how do you raise the money within the limits of the city or the foundations that you have access to?

03:30:09 - 03:30:46

Right now I’ve had to go there some big plantations around Albany, Georgia, and I have set the stage so that they’re willing to donate, but unless I have the control, personally, if I tell them I wanna raise money for, let’s say one of my mobile exercise tunnels for exercise predators, if they donate and that money goes somewhere else, I don’t have control about where money goes, then I’m not being truthful to them. Does this involve…

03:30:46 - 03:30:49

Is that part of the Giggling Gorilla Productions?

03:30:49 - 03:30:53

No, but I know him very well.

03:30:53 - 03:30:55

What is Giggling Gorilla Productions?

03:30:55 - 03:31:24

I don’t know where… Well, I’ll tell you what Giggling Gorilla Productions is some friends of mine in California. He used to be the Mike. I’m trying to think of his name. Colbert. Mike used to be the curator of animals at the San Diego Zoo. And he had the imagination and his wife who’s very, she’s got a lot of imagination. They wanted to go out on their own.

03:31:24 - 03:31:40

So in the field of lecturing and doing films. I haven’t been able to really work with them as much as I’d like, but they named their production. By the way, they’ve done some real good children’s books and they have the potential to do some good filming.

03:31:42 - 03:31:52

Can you tell me the briefly some of the stories about how things went with like the, for example, one, the Largo Wildlife Preserve?

03:31:52 - 03:32:25

Oh, sure, yeah. Yeah. In life I think you have to try things. You have to work at it, you have to stick at. It’s not very easy to come up with innovative new situations in the world. Frankly, I was known primarily for my experience with Wild Kingdom. And sometimes there’s some people that say, well, just because I was some, they said I was an actor on Wild Kingdom. I wasn’t really an actor, I was heavily involved.

03:32:25 - 03:32:30

They think of what the heck does he know about presenting wildlife to the public?

03:32:30 - 03:33:30

See. But in spite of that, I was hired by ABC in the early 70s to design a part that they had purchased the land from a Ross Perot of all things (laughs) in Washington, DC. And I knew some of the upper management of ABC who bought it. So I was free to design one of the first safaris in the United States. It was called the Wildlife Reserve. And we did have an area of partially a through, but we also innovated a lot of things like lectures and wildlife demonstrations, flying birds of prey to the fists and all that sort of thing. And it was doing quite well, but it was at the time when the price of gas skyrocketed in the early 70s. And so it was tough to keep control of the entire park.

03:33:30 - 03:33:38

And it was finally sold I think to one of the amusement park companies, Great Adventure, I think it was, yeah.

03:33:38 - 03:33:42

What about wild animal park in Bonifay, Florida?

03:33:44 - 03:34:41

I’m pretty stubborn, and I’ve always wanted to do one of the big parks and this always been a challenge for financing. The one in Bonifay, Florida, we had 2000 acres and we had a wonderful situation. It was on I-10, and there were several mistakes made with that in the process of getting it funded. First of all, the downturn in the economy (chuckles) hurt us pretty badly. And the secondly, they had a regulatory agency aid organization, you know, of the county commissioners is really who they were. And those meetings with the county commissioner were open to the public. So the newspapers could come in and listen to everything and then comment on it. I knew better.

03:34:41 - 03:35:26

My philosophy is you don’t want to ever get the press involved until you get the park funded and pretty well finished. Then you should do it because otherwise you have people that’ll look at your holding areas. I was hired by Ringling brothers to design a park in Haines City, Florida. It was going to be called, oh God, sorry about that. But it was primarily a retirement home for some of the circus animals. I’ll think of the name. (laughs) And that also got into the newspapers a lot. And there were people wondering about this, that and the other. And it did get off the ground.

03:35:26 - 03:36:07

That one did get off the ground as the zoological park, but it was quite different. Alf Feld who owned Ringling brothers. One of the main restaurants was a 50 foot tall elephant that you went up escalators or elevators through the legs up to the top. And I designed an African section where you could see elephants out in the open and lions and the whole thing. And that got about halfway through it. And the stock for Ringling Brothers went from like 35 to zero. They were owned by the toy company, Mattel. And Mattel stock went down.

03:36:07 - 03:36:49

That’s really what happened. So that one didn’t really pan out completely. I had control of the design for awhile, but I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t give up. I was almost completely designed a park in Brunswick, Georgia called Life in the Wild. And that was also a thousand acres or so more than that, (clears throat) right on 95. But the time that we had to do the fundraising and really get the money, the World Trade Center was bombed at that time. So that went down the drain a little bit. It’s still there.

03:36:49 - 03:37:31

It’s still possible. But I… So I’m sort of stubborn. I used to keep working away because I believe so strongly in there’s another way to present animals to the public than just an urban zoo. We’ve got to learn to do something that will compete with shopping malls. By the way, urban zoos are great. They have a captive audience with millions and millions of people captivated in a packed area that needs some exposure. But when you’re trying to do something that’s outside the urban environment, you have to make sure that you have the demographics on your side.

03:37:31 - 03:37:34

How many cars go down 95 each year?

03:37:34 - 03:38:42

And you can show that, but you also have to do things that’ll hold the tourists for a short while up there, rather than all going down to Disney World. So it gets complicated and I’m still working on some of the… I still have some good possibilities of doing a major park, not just a small park. Oh, by the way, let me just say this, there’s a need in so many communities for one of my smaller ecological parks and I’ll tell you why, almost every community is looking for ways of increasing their revenue. And if you can attract people, if you’re in the south and you can attract those people from Ohio like they’re pouring down the highways going down to Florida. If you have something that’s exciting enough to attract them, it’s good for the city. And you’ve got to realize that if you don’t bring revenue into a community, you’re not gonna survive. But my ecological parks are designed to bring people off those highways and make them stop by for a while.

03:38:44 - 03:38:56

You’ve had in your career a number of quotes that you’ve talked about. I’d like ask you about a couple of them. Okay. [Mark] You claimed that the hotspots have been destroyed and there’s almost no wildlife.

03:38:56 - 03:38:58

Is this irreversible?

03:38:58 - 03:39:04

What can be done to stop the destruction of open spaces and natural habitat?

03:39:04 - 03:39:44

Well, first of all, I never… You were saying that I said that there were hotspots were disappearing and all that. I’ve never really said that, I’ve said that we’re in danger of losing some of the open space we still have left on earth. No, there’s still a great portion of this planet that still some of it’s still unexplored. But in our developed areas and some of the places where human beings are populating this shirt so rapidly, I think we have to plan for the future that’s what I’m into. I’m not a negative person.

03:39:44 - 03:39:55

I don’t say that it’s all gone, but there are some ways that we have to get out to the public to let them know I think what some of the solutions are?

03:39:56 - 03:40:06

And maybe I have said that in some places we’re coming to the very close to the, what we call the tipping point.

03:40:08 - 03:40:26

By the way, let me correct a couple of things, ’cause this brings up the question, what are the main missions of science and what are the main subjects that we should talk about in zoological parks or among ourselves, or even on talk shows?

03:40:26 - 03:40:36

There’s something that’s being left out, and there’s a good reason for it. In universities we learned a little bit about the laws of nature that support life on the planet.

03:40:36 - 03:40:40

We’re pretty good at teaching some of those things, but guess what?

03:40:40 - 03:41:15

We never talk about that after we get out of the universities because it’s communication and you don’t get a job in communication, necessarily. You get jobs in management, in research if you’re in our field. But you’re really not taught to communicate ’cause it’s hard to get jobs. Just people don’t know what it is when you have a get a job in communication, especially trying to influence public opinion. So is sometimes left out. The scientists generally are not communicators.

03:41:15 - 03:41:16


03:41:16 - 03:42:02

Now, if we’re gonna communicate, we have to train people to learn how, as I was saying, learn how to use television, use the media and how to communicate the right messages without annoying people. You can’t come out and say, the world’s gonna end, global warming is gonna raise the ocean up six feet and kill us all. You can’t go around just talking about that. You have to know how to communicate. Now, there is one thing that’s being left out also. And I think the reason for this is, it’s an important communication concept. You don’t necessarily get jobs in this, but here’s the thing that really counts. And I wanna focus on that a little bit real quickly.

03:42:02 - 03:42:30

One of the things that I’ve learned is that, there are things called the basic laws of nature that support life on this planet. That’s what we should be talking about. There’s nothing more important than understanding what those are. I mentioned something about phytoplankton in the oceans, but they’re physical, chemical and biological laws that are not controversial, and those are the laws that govern life on this planet.

03:42:30 - 03:42:32

Now, how could anything be more important than that?

03:42:32 - 03:43:36

Let me explain the physical laws of nature deal with things like, oh, they’re also chemical laws. But the physical laws of nature deal with things like the underground water systems and the theory of isostasy (coughs) which is, excuse me. The theory of isostasy is the physical movement of continents. How there’s adjustment. Some land is going up, some lands going down. And there are all kinds of pressures that change (clears throat) the positions of the continents and the whether the sea coast is being eroded or whether it’s being build up, things like that. We have to know about wetlands are incredibly important. That’s one of the physical laws of nature, that water is percolated and filtered through the wetlands, and that you have to have water in the underground water system.

03:43:36 - 03:44:18

That’s very key just to survive a life on earth. One of the other things that we have to start focusing on, is that life on earth is made possible by six inches of topsoil and rain. Without that you won’t have much life on the planet. So rain and the repercussion and the humidity in the air, all that’s very important. And by the way, I once made a statement that the rainforest are very important. Prince Charles calls them lungs of the planet. Well, that’s true up to a certain extent. They absorb carbon dioxide, they give off oxygen.

03:44:18 - 03:44:59

And I said, it’s the currents, the warm climate from the rainforest that circulates up to the north, and it causes a lot of the rainfall that we have when you collide with warm weather and cold weather. And I had a guy from Woods Hole, a scientist who was a marine ecologist. And he said, I was on a ship once giving a lecture. And he said, Jim, I like what you said, but it may not be true. He said, it’s not the rainforest that create our weather. Good example, the Henry Doorly Zoo put in a $20 million rainforest exhibit there.

03:44:59 - 03:45:04

They didn’t say one word about why the rainforest is important to we humans?

03:45:04 - 03:45:32

So I was trying to point out how the convection currents from the Amazon effect the weather. He said, no, it’s the oceans that affect the weather by far. Well, these are some of the things you have to learn. That’s a law of nature. But these principles– Let me just finish this last thing. There are also biological laws of nature. Now, let me give you a good example of that. I started realizing there are different terms that are used different ways.

03:45:32 - 03:45:40

I should have known that a long time ago, but they’re political terms, they’re communication terms.

03:45:40 - 03:45:41


03:45:41 - 03:45:52

That we use all the time. And some of the political terms we use, like whether it’s climate change or global warming, those start to be political.

03:45:52 - 03:45:53

But guess what?

03:45:53 - 03:46:16

Overpopulation is a political term. We need more people in the marketplace. So that’s one reason why we’ve never really done much about the people coming into our country. So but guess what the biological term is for overpopulation, it’s very interesting. The biological term is overcrowding.

03:46:17 - 03:46:23

Now, we know from tests that we’ve done in experiments, what happens when you overcrowd?

03:46:23 - 03:46:42

So that says overcrowding is a communication term. There’s another biological term that’s very, very clear and that’s called predation, but we misinterpret what predation is all about. Some people think it’s cruel that we have animals out there killing other animals.

03:46:42 - 03:46:43

Guess what?

03:46:43 - 03:46:53

When you look at my zebras in Albany, Georgia, they all look beautiful, they’re all fat, they have the same coloration. It’s a little hard to even tell one from the other.

03:46:53 - 03:46:54

You know why?

03:46:54 - 03:47:23

Because the predator eliminates the weak, the sick and the stupid from the population. So it’s a way of maintaining, sustaining the vitality of the species by having, in nature you have to do this. You’ve got to be able to sustain the best of the population as your breeders. Now, these principles are all fine. Yeah. These are the principles of biological. Yeah.

03:47:23 - 03:47:33

But how can television, which you’ve got expertise in, how can television emphasize what’s going on with animals?

03:47:33 - 03:47:35

How can they get people on board?

03:47:35 - 03:47:42

And specifically, if you had the money and the backing. Right.

03:47:42 - 03:47:45

What television show would you create?

03:47:45 - 03:47:52

How do I get these concepts and the basic laws of nature out to the public?

03:47:52 - 03:48:43

Well, there are 140 million people going to zoological parks in America every year. And the main emphasis on getting out to those people is to start talking about the basic laws of nature in every exhibit in a zoological park. There’s an example of the basic laws of nature. And we need to start educating the public with some really strong messages at zoological parks. There’s no reason at all, why you can’t… There are physical, chemical and biological laws. And the chemical laws are extremely important. There are things like the ozone layer, and you can point out in the zoological park that a lot of the sheep and the animals in Southern Chile they’re blind, because of the ozone layer is a disappearing.

03:48:43 - 03:49:32

And the ozone layer filters out certain race. That can be incorporated almost every one of these biological laws, which by the way, is the mission of science can be talked about in the zoological park without being controversial. That’s the interesting. You can talk about predation as being a biological law and why it’s important. You can talk about the zoo, the phytoplankton and the fact that the fur seals can only have a certain population, because of the effect of the phytoplankton in the ocean. So we can talk about where the oxygen comes from, in a zoological park. It’s not being done. So, first of all, you can do that to 140 million people a year in the zoological park.

03:49:32 - 03:50:01

That should be their mission. And the second mission of a zoological park should be to get people to reconnect with the natural world by making the natural world fun, exciting and adventurous. That should be part of every single logical part. Now, some zoos take people out in the summer, kids out in the summertime, but it’s gotta be more than that. Now, getting back to television there, we have to use television. You have unlimited funds. Yeah. Well, if I had unlimited funds.

03:50:01 - 03:50:36

What show would you– Well, the first thing I would do would be to create a channel that most of the conservation organizations would hopefully belong to, where we could use our knowledge about the natural world in a way it was compatible with television. In other words, we don’t wanna go up there. I mean, I’m willing to listen to PBS all day long. I just saw David Attenborough do some amazing things and credible knowledge that they have out of BBC.

03:50:36 - 03:50:38

Guess what?

03:50:38 - 03:50:48

David Attenborough never mentioned one word about what he was saying, why it was important to human beings or open space, wildlife and wilderness. He never mentioned it.

03:50:48 - 03:50:50

How does it affect human welfare?

03:50:50 - 03:51:24

We are not communicating with the public. You listen to one of his shows and he’s a great solologists let’s face it. And a good speaker. But when it’s over, it’s over. And people say, “Hey, that’s interesting. “I didn’t know that.” But that doesn’t necessarily hook them on understanding that we’re on what we call a fragile planet. There’s an astronaut that wrote a book called “The Fragile Planet” when Armstrong was on the moon. This guy was flying around it.

03:51:24 - 03:52:07

And I’ve forgotten his name. But when he looked back at the earth for the first time, he recognized that this planet is extremely fragile and we gotta be careful how we treat it. People still don’t understand that. So that’s one of the missions of a zoological park is to talk about how this earth works. That’s they have the opt… They could be the leaders, the zoological parks could be the leading communication organization in informing the public about the challenges of the 21st century when it comes to communication and messages. That’s number one. Television, we’ve got to learn to use.

03:52:07 - 03:52:57

There should be a channel. And we know how to make something interesting to the public. We know how to do it. I mean, we’ve been around with television a long time. There’s no reason to have to talk about this planet in a way so it’s dull. We can relate it to human behavior, we can relate it to your neighbors, we can relate it to all kinds of things, we can make it sporting, we can make it fun, but we got to start using television with a program. I’ve got several show ideas if I had the money, I would, first of all, I’d do an NPR show, a radio show, a call-in where we can discuss some of these issues we’re talking about. PBS is playing a very good role in communicating with the public on some pretty serious issues.

03:52:57 - 03:53:04

But I would do something that related to your life on this planet and why it was important?

03:53:04 - 03:53:41

I would also do a television show. I’m giving away some of my secrets now, but maybe I’ll go ahead and do it. I would do a program called a New News at Zoos. The zoos are doing some very interesting things that are compatible with television that get good audiences. And I would start highlighting some of the zoological park and what they’re doing. It’s all in the name of a word that I don’t necessarily like called conservation. That’s another subject I’ll have to talk about. But we need to get the zoological parks out before the public more.

03:53:41 - 03:53:47

And thirdly, we need to teach people what fun it is to get out in the outdoors.

03:53:47 - 03:53:52

Not just hunting and fishing, but why it enriches your life?

03:53:52 - 03:53:58

And also we need to talk about when we destroy resources, what happens to us?

03:53:59 - 03:54:11

We need to relate it more to humans. That’s sort of my answer on that. You’re an elegant spokesman and we’ve been called televisions cowboy naturalists.

03:54:12 - 03:54:13

How do you feel about that title?

03:54:13 - 03:54:18

That was from Charles Siebert, Harper’s Magazine, 1993. Oh, my goodness.

03:54:18 - 03:54:27

Do you think that those who have followed in your footsteps are any different than what you have been trying to tell the public?

03:54:28 - 03:55:02

Well, I don’t think we’ve progressed very far in trying to inform the public, because our politicians basically, they don’t even talk about some of these things that I’m talking about. Or how we treat the earth. That’s not even on the platform of most politicians or even our president. We’re talking about the television personalities. Oh, the tele, yeah– Marlin may have been an original, but you followed obviously closely behind him, but many people followed behind you many– Yeah, yeah. Oh sure. Oh yeah.

03:55:02 - 03:55:04

Are they any different?

03:55:04 - 03:55:09

Are they bringing the correct message, i.e television?

03:55:09 - 03:56:00

Well, I’ll say this and I don’t wanna be, I’m certainly not critical. There are a lot of people that have picked up the credulous, so to speak, but still they need to be focused, not on themselves, but they need to be focused on why it’s important to show wildlife to people. They don’t need to go out and scare people with animals. They need to show the respect for animals as they’re gonna be out for the public, and let that rub off on the public. Unfortunately, we have people today and I won’t… I’m not really criticizing some of them, but they’re more interested in promoting themselves rather than the animal. And they don’t know how to promote the animal. They sometimes try to make it look dangerous in front of the public.

03:56:00 - 03:56:37

That’s not necessary. You need to show the respect and the fact that this is one of the most miraculous things on this planet, is the biodiversity of all the different species. It’s an absolutely incredible the number of species that are on this planet. And you need to put it within that context. I would say that some people get a little bit of flack from the animal rights people, but if they had strong educational messages, they wouldn’t be getting any flack from them.

03:56:38 - 03:56:44

What do you believe makes you a good television spokesperson for the natural wild?

03:56:44 - 03:56:44


03:56:44 - 03:57:36

Yeah. Well, I certainly am dedicated to trying to do something to make sure that we humans as we progress in our awareness. We’re just in this incredible period of, I’m not gonna get into how we became aware that’s a whole different story, but there’s no question that we’re one of the few species on this planet that has the ability to be aware. There are two things. I call one of them, the burden of awareness. It’s the old question of what you don’t know, doesn’t hurt you. We have a burden because we know what our predators can do with us, for example. A zebra goes out and sleeps pretty well at night, but if there’s a fast movement he’s out of there.

03:57:36 - 03:57:51

I have a little trouble sleeping. I was with Kalahari Bushmen, they would lie down next to a fire. There were lines 20 feet away, but they knew the habits of the lion. And they knew they went right ahead and slept. And to me, I didn’t get much sleep on it.

03:57:51 - 03:57:54

So the burden of awareness, you see what I mean?

03:57:54 - 03:57:57

Now, we also have the blessing of awareness.

03:57:57 - 03:58:06

We’re the only species that has the capability of finding out who, what, why and where we are?

03:58:07 - 03:58:09

And I’ll tell you why that’s important?

03:58:09 - 03:58:26

We have that ability and we’re beginning to find out some of these things, but we’re just in the early stages of trying to understand that we’re in a universe and this is a fragile planet and all those things. We’re just suddenly starting to become aware of that.

03:58:26 - 03:58:27

But guess what?

03:58:27 - 03:59:23

A lot of the turmoil in this world that we humans are now custodians of, is caused because we don’t know. We think we’re very insecure. A lot of the people on this planet are fairly insecure because they wanna be taken care of. And the afterlife is a mystery to them. So they start believing in very radical ideas because that gives them security. And guess what radical ideas lead to envy and hatred and defensiveness, and wanting to get somebody to give you something, a feeling that you know you’re gonna be taken care of. These are all basic instincts, but the more we know about where we are, and what’s going on and how we got here, it will help clarify some of this insecurity. Now, the other thing, that’s the mission of sci…

03:59:23 - 03:59:35

Well, it’s mission of the Explorer’s Club, but it’s also the mission to humanity. I dare say, you may not want me to be daring enough to talk about something called the mission of humanity.

03:59:35 - 03:59:40

I’ve never heard anybody talk about what is the mission of humanity?

03:59:40 - 03:59:48

And the reason is is that we’re just getting to that point where we can start understanding there is a mission. The mission of humanity.

03:59:48 - 03:59:54

If I don’t mind saying so, but it’s also the mission of exploration, is to find out who, what, why and where we are?

03:59:54 - 04:00:19

We have that capability, but it’s also to create a quality of life for all people on this planet. We’ve had a very, very aggressive, violent history, and we’ve gotta stop killing each other and the quality of life, if we start looking into that, that’s obviously religion science and all that, developed helps develop quite a life.

04:00:19 - 04:00:22

With that said, you know, what’s happened?

04:00:22 - 04:00:56

I gotta mention one thing more about that. I know some people in the south, they’re also up here who maybe have given up their quest for getting a good job or for working hard for a living or for making money. A lot of people don’t think that’s possible for them to do that. So I went to one of these guys down in Georgia, who is on welfare. He doesn’t even bother working anymore. And I said, you’re part of something, you’re part of a mission.

04:00:56 - 04:00:57

He said, what do you mean?

04:00:57 - 04:01:15

I said, well, you’re a part of the mission that’s right now, it’s like a pyramid. It needs a lot of support down here, no matter what you’re doing to enable some of the few people, the brilliant scientists who are going to Mars pretty soon and things like that.

04:01:15 - 04:01:19

And the thinkers who are trying to figure out where we are, who, what, why, where we are?

04:01:19 - 04:01:21

I said, you’re part of that.

04:01:21 - 04:01:22

And you know what?

04:01:22 - 04:01:52

It made a difference. They started feeling like they were part of something, which they had never felt before. And no matter whether you’re a ditch digger or whether you’re a scientist or whatever, you’re working together to try to accomplish a mission. And it helped him. So I talk a little bit about that. It’s not a religious thing I was talking about, because but religion is very important because that helps create a quality life. When you’re trying to help the animals… Now, we’ll go back to that.

04:01:52 - 04:02:13

Yeah. Well, but in trying to help animals. And there’s some controversial things. Right. Given that the horrendous deaths by poachers worldwide. Yeah. A lot of money is spent as you very well know in zoo exhibits that go to the tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars.

04:02:13 - 04:02:29

Would it not make more sense for a chunk of this money that goes to these exhibits, be put into supporting the efforts of enforcement and the countries that are seeing all of these killings, whether it be rhinos or elephants or tigers, as you mentioned?

04:02:34 - 04:02:45

How can a zoo justify or should it be able to justify putting together such a large exhibit with all that money and yet maybe not taking any of it, or should they not take any of it or should they?

04:02:45 - 04:03:06

Well, you’re asking the big question about the justification for spending money on exhibits or a zoological park that in an urban environment, it costs a lot of money. I was talking to the Bronx Zoo people the other day, and he said, Jim, you see that building over, that’s gonna cost us $45 million.

04:03:07 - 04:03:13

The question is, what effect is that gonna have on public opinion?

04:03:13 - 04:03:20

And how is it going to make people care about the tigers that are disappearing in India?

04:03:20 - 04:04:14

And I could go through a whole slew of things, you know. One of the things is to try to get the media convinced that you’ve got something really good to say that should be revealed to the public on the media. So that’s where this specialized channel or a wildlife spot somewhere that we can talk about these things in the media. The media is one of the important things. But the other thing is is that, zoological parks, thank God that they’re around because they’re keeping urban people who don’t even wanna walk in the woods anymore. They’re keeping them informed about other forms of life on the planet. That’s one of the main, main things for zoological park do. I think the zoological parks can take a bigger role to the public.

04:04:14 - 04:04:30

First of all, there should be a lot more educated communicators in zoological parks who know how to get on use television, know how to talk to schools, what the messages are?

04:04:30 - 04:05:10

I think we… Hey, listen, everything is in an evolutionary process of awareness. Zoological parks have come from collections of animals of strange animals to now very, very attractive exhibits with animals out of the wild that have been brought so people can see them. But now there’s another step in the future. Zoological parks can become the communicators to the public, through the media, through what they talk about at the zoological parks. And they have to realize that they can be the key to communication, because so many people come to zoological parks. But they have to have the right message.

04:05:10 - 04:05:18

I think a lot of this you ask how can zoological parks be more effective instead of a building concrete?

04:05:18 - 04:05:19

How can they help?

04:05:19 - 04:05:57

It’s not just going over and helping the rhino. That’s part of it. But it’s influencing people to be aware of some of the conditions on the planet that affect all of us. That’s the key to it. It’s even in Africa, there are two things that make the Africans maintain a national park and all the animals in it. One of them is economics. The people that come over there, tourism, is a tremendous asset to some of these countries that are crowding out the natural areas. So we have to promote the economics.

04:05:57 - 04:06:45

But secondly, we have to start telling them that what you’re we have to predict the lives that they’re creating for themselves. A lot of people, unfortunately from the remote areas are coming into the cities and we call it poverty. Where they came from, it wasn’t poverty. They had a very… I’ve seen people that have a better quality lives that have nothing, than I have a lot of people that have everything. So quality of life is sort of strange that way. But often when you put urban peop… I mean, people from remote areas suddenly into a big city, and they suffer, ’cause there’s not enough of a clear mission for them, and it’s all based upon making enough money to survive.

04:06:45 - 04:07:30

So, anyway, that’s one of my long answers to your question, ’cause we have to influence not only people in this country, but we have to learn to influence people overseas. And it’s not just that we should stop poaching. I don’t think zoological parks… I think they can do more with communication that they can with diverting their money from, you know, putting an animals (indistinct). You’ve traveled the world, you’ve seen zoos all over the world. What zoos… Give me three zoos that you admire or that you visited and you thought they’re doing the right job. Well, I can name more than just three zoos.

04:07:30 - 04:08:28

I personally am not into pouring concrete, but if you’re in a limited spatial area, you got to, you gotta create a nice exhibit for people. I would say that first of all, the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is doing, I think, a very good job. They have space. I tend to go toward the zoological parks that have a little bit of space. They’re redesigning the Henry Doorly Zoo now. And I think they’re using some of the concepts that I talked about. For me it doesn’t pay to put in a really, you know, there’s a rainforest exhibit in Omaha, but it needs to have a different focus where we’re talking about far away places often, that we never will get to, and you have to answer the question basically, which they don’t do in their rainforest exhibit.

04:08:28 - 04:08:31

Why is the rainforest important to humans?

04:08:31 - 04:08:50

So it all comes back down to that communication. I would say that there’s a bird park in Singapore that’s very effective that I think in the right direction. And I hear some good things about some of the… Well, there’s one in Hong Kong that I hear pretty good things about.

04:08:50 - 04:09:06

But you see, once again, it’s taking things out of the wild and trying to put them in an artificial background and you have to answer the questions, so what?

04:09:07 - 04:09:53

And therefore we have to work I think a lot harder on the programs zoological programs and how they affect people. There are a couple others zoological parks. There are quite a few of them that I enjoy. the San Diego Wild Animal Park is certainly done. It’s evolved to the point where it is adventurous to go through the San Diego wild animal park. And they also have programs there where they fly birds of prey and vultures and things like that in front of the public. We need everything possible to get people to come out to a zoological park on a frequent basis. So your displays have to be changing.

04:09:53 - 04:10:12

They have to be new and different in some way that’s why a lecture demonstration is so important because it changes. And you can go to a lecture demonstration about reptiles or birds of prey or whatever at a zoological park. And it changes from time to time.

04:10:13 - 04:10:16

Should every zoo strive to have a breeding program?

04:10:17 - 04:11:15

There are three reasons that justifies zoological parks. One is obviously the breeding of some of the endangered species in the hopes that someday those animals can be, we can learn how to put them back in the wild. We can’t breed a lot of animals and then have no place to put them. I think the there’s… I read the other day, there’s this zoo in Germany that are now euthanizing a lot of the babies that are born because they don’t have room for them. So I think we need to emphasize a lot more about how we can raise an animal so they can eventually be introduced back to the wild, if there’s enough room in the wild left. There are certain areas that we’re getting a little short. We can’t put tigers back in India, unless you’ve trained them as you’ve raised them to be afraid of humans.

04:11:16 - 04:11:53

You can’t stick in a captive lion or tiger out there. But so there are some techniques there that we need to learn in geological parks, if we’re gonna breed animals, especially some of the bigger predators. We gotta to learn how to be able to reintroduce them. There are lots of smaller animals that, yes, the marmosets and quite a few of the species of primates have been reintroduced to the rainforest very successfully. But it all has to do with preserving the habitat. That’s the key. So we need to talk one… It all comes back to communication in my opinion.

04:11:53 - 04:12:04

Oh, there’s some pretty unique zoos around. I would say that there are certain elements of the Miami Zoo that are really effective.

04:12:04 - 04:12:13

What I look at is how often do people come to zoological parks and why?

04:12:13 - 04:12:16

And then it’s a successful zoological park.

04:12:16 - 04:12:23

What was the most important piece of advice that you received that’s kind of stayed with you throughout your career?

04:12:23 - 04:12:26

Advice on what basis personally or?

04:12:27 - 04:13:06

Professionally– Oh, I’ll tell you. (indistinct) that has guided you– I think I can answer that. (laughs) I’ve had to rely on a lot of advice. ‘Cause I had quite a few brothers and they’re always telling me what to do. But no, when I went to college, I went to the same college that my father had been at in 1915. And he became a soil scientist. I have a lot of relationships with his brothers and fathers that are scientists. But my father said an interesting thing to me when I went to Earlham College.

04:13:06 - 04:14:01

He said, “Jim, just to remember, “the one thing you need to do is learn English, “vocab study and speech.” That’s the best advice I ever got, because I was not necessarily focused on speech, but I learned not just because he told me, but I learned through experience that if you can communicate and express yourself, no matter what field you’re in, that it helps. And I think that’s some of the best advice ever got. And let’s see what other advice. Well, I’ve gotten advice on how to handle income, but I have made that much money through the things I’ve done because I’ve been doing them for a different reason than financial rewards.

04:14:01 - 04:14:07

Do you think that zoos and aquariums are doing enough to support in situ conservation?

04:14:09 - 04:14:39

Boy! Now you’ve gotten me really in a tough spot. It all comes back to communication again, because the word conservation is not a communication term. So when you use the word conservation, let me say a couple of things about that. They shouldn’t use the word conservation loosely ’cause nobody knows what it means. Generally, the public doesn’t know whether conservation is for plants, animals or people.

04:14:39 - 04:14:48

Now, the fact is, conservation comes from the days of the, what do you call it?

04:14:48 - 04:15:07

When the soil was being blown away out of the Midwest. It was soil conservation that’s how it started during the big, you know– (indistinct) Pardon. The dust bowl. Yeah, the dust bowl. That’s where soil conservation came from. Sorry. (laughs) So I’ll say it again.

04:15:07 - 04:15:18

The word conservation from the days of the dust bowl, when we were losing the soil, and we’ve hung on to that term and I’ll tell you why?

04:15:18 - 04:15:29

Bureaucratically, it’s safe. Nobody’s gonna be against you if you talk about conservation. But I don’t think it’s a communication term. It doesn’t tell the public, the person you’re talking to.

04:15:29 - 04:15:33

What really is conservation all about?

04:15:33 - 04:15:39

I’ll give you a good example. I gotta cut away from that for a second.

04:15:39 - 04:15:46

Can I tell a little bit of a joke about the difference between conservation and another term that should be used?

04:15:46 - 04:16:14

Okay. Well, I was on a freighter, a Russian icebreaker going up to the north pole. And there was an advertising person there, and I recognize the fact that in our day, you know, things haven’t changed a whole lot ’cause some of our communication terms are not strong enough to make the public realize what we’re talking about. I said, one of those terms is conservation.

04:16:14 - 04:16:20

So what term can I use that’s more powerful than the word conservation?

04:16:20 - 04:16:25

Now, this was before the days that the ideas sustainability got popular.

04:16:25 - 04:16:27


04:16:27 - 04:17:03

But we’ve used words like the balance of nature and ecology and ecosystems, conservation. Some of those mean a lot to the public, some don’t necessarily mean much. So anyway, I said, we gotta come up with something else. So I started thinking about it. I came up with a term that is a law of the universe. Conservation is not the law of the universe. And there’s a story about it the… (laughs) I started using this term, oddly enough, because the chairman of Mutual of Omaha that I work for, he’s not only a hunter, but he’s a killer.

04:17:03 - 04:17:25

And if I use the word environment, he’s okay with the word of conservation, but you talk about environmentalism to you and he doesn’t like that at all. As most many businesses and industries don’t like the word environment, because it gets restricted. Environmentalism is restricted. So I came up with this other term.

04:17:25 - 04:17:27

I started using it with him and you know what?

04:17:27 - 04:17:53

He was very comfortable with it, because it disarms business and industry. And I finally started calling, I talk a lot about it now, the way the universe works and the way they use the earth works, everything on this planet is a consumer from that big to an elephant. So I put the two together, not a sustainable use, not sustainable development.

04:17:53 - 04:17:56

What the heck does sustainable development mean?

04:17:56 - 04:18:40

But guess what the term is, is sustainable consumption. Now, that’s the way the universe works. It’s also a human term. Your body has to be sustainable and your consumer, but if you don’t use it right, you’re short-term. (chuckles) It even relates to the baseball season when they were charging so much money in their contracts, they ended the season. Sustainable consumption. They were consuming beyond the point of sustainability. Okay, the fish in the off New England, the commercial fishing is no longer possible because they have consumed the fish in the Atlantic Ocean beyond the point of sustainability.

04:18:40 - 04:19:10

So I started using that term. You will never get rid of the word conservation, but you got to start thinking about the law of the universe, which is sustainable consumption, and business and industry understand that. So that’s the term I use. Now, with that said, there’s a story about conservation versus sustainable consumption. There was an old farmer and the guy from Mutual of Omaha, a salesman, went up to his house which is kind of a cabin.

04:19:10 - 04:19:18

And he said, sir, I’d like to sell you some insurance, but first of all, why does that pig in your backyard have a wounded leg?

04:19:18 - 04:19:29

He said, well, son, you may not believe this, but my house caught on fire, that pig came all the way up to the bedroom, grabbed my covers, pulled them out and woke me up and saved my life.

04:19:29 - 04:19:36

And the salesman said, (laughs) sounds implausible, but why does the pig have a wounded leg?

04:19:36 - 04:19:57

He said, now, look, you may not believe that first one, but you gotta believe this. I drove my tractor out in the back 40 and I hit a furrow and a tractor flipped upside down on top of me. And that pig came out and dug a hole under me, grabbing my collar, pulled me out and saved my life. And now the Mutual of Omaha salesman was getting pretty stressed out.

04:19:57 - 04:20:02

And he said, yeah, he said, but why does the pig have a wounded leg?

04:20:02 - 04:20:07

And the farmer said, well, son, if you had a pig like that, you wouldn’t eat it all at once, would you?

04:20:07 - 04:20:09

You probably heard that story?

04:20:09 - 04:20:10


04:20:10 - 04:20:39

Well, that’s like conservation versus sustainable consumption. If you’re a farmer, you gotta have a couple of fields you rotate. You know you’re gonna pick the best of the pigs and then harvest the rest of them. But there’s a guy named Charlie Fraser who built Hilton Head. This is a good example of what conservation is. Sustainable consumption is when you consume those things that maybe are expendable.

04:20:39 - 04:20:41

All right?

04:20:41 - 04:20:57

You can also over-consume, so your short-term, if you want to. But at Hilton Head, Charlie Fraser built a very, very modern community down there at Hilton Head. And it’s golf courses and everything else.

04:20:57 - 04:20:58

But guess what?

04:20:58 - 04:21:07

He reserved conservation areas that were wetlands places that weren’t very good and building houses, and he called him conservationaries.

04:21:07 - 04:21:09

Well, guess where they are now?

04:21:09 - 04:21:47

As the price of the land went up, they were all filled in with soil and now their houses on the conservation areas. They ate the pig down in Hilton Head. So there’s a good analogy there. And so I use the word sustainable consumption whenever I can. And interestingly enough, a lot of the wildlife departments and various wildlife groups now are talking about sustainability. They don’t use the word consumption, but we’d have to start linking those two things together. By the way, sustainable development is not a communication term. It’s a political term.

04:21:47 - 04:21:51

Nobody knows what sustainable development means.

04:21:51 - 04:21:52

Is it more houses?

04:21:52 - 04:21:53

Is it…

04:21:53 - 04:21:54

What is it?

04:21:54 - 04:22:13

When you speak about the sustainable consumption, how should zoos or people feel about, and is there a place for those ranchers in Texas who may have more black buck than in all of India (indistinct) hunt them?

04:22:13 - 04:22:21

Yeah. But they are conserving so to speak with sustainable consumption, those species.

04:22:21 - 04:22:23

Are they an asset?

04:22:23 - 04:23:12

Well, I’ll tell you about some of the ranches that allow people to have them in. I’m not necessarily in favor of that. I think I know the real hunters in this world, and they’re people like the Kalahari Bushmen who will shoot a poisoned dart into an animal and spend a whole week tracking it. That’s the real hunter. Or using a modern weapon and standing it up on a stick and shooting a mile away is not necessarily related to hunting. So first of all, we have to design, hunting really should be to feed yourself. It should be a tradition that’s passed on from a long time ago. Our instinct to go out and get meat for the table.

04:23:12 - 04:24:07

That’s basically natural, but not sometimes in the way we’re doing it, or shooting an elephant with a cannon, for example, in my opinion, that’s not the right kind of… There are three kinds of hunters. They’re slob hunters, they’re hunters that get (indistinct) because they wanna get out in the outdoors and enjoy the outdoors. They don’t care whether they kill somebody or not. And then there’s the trophy hunter who unfortunately shoots for another reason. But we have to understand that if people will give money to conservation or sustainable consumption as a result of their desire to hunt. We need to get those people in the outdoors and we need to allow them some flexibility, because that’s a very ancient instinct. I mean, I know people to live off the land now in our planet that don’t even know we exist.

04:24:07 - 04:24:44

But maybe we humans are evolving to a point where we don’t need to go out and live off the land. I don’t know yet. But anyway, that’s the one thing I was gonna say that the other thing is that, we’re in such a desperate situation to get people to respect the natural world and wanna save it. We need to use every way we can to try to save open space, wildlife and wilderness. If you had the insight on how to engage young people, I’ll say teenagers. Yeah. In this animal surviving– Yeah, I think so.

04:24:46 - 04:24:49

Oh, can I make one more comment on the game parks?

04:24:49 - 04:25:40

I mean, on the private– Yeah, that’s fine. Ranches. Then we make that comment. I wanna make a comment about the justification of animals in private ranches. The head of the South Carolina Department of Wildlife came up to me once, I knew the guy pretty well. And he said to me, “Jim, we got a problem here “in South Carolina cause we have people “that are fencing in large tracks of land “and raising deer in these big tracks attracts the land. “They even are bringing some of the Canadian deer down “and have bigger antlers, you know. “Then they let people come into their private place “and go hunting.” And I thought about that for a little while because the game commission wants to control the hunting of deer cause they get hunting license fees and they bring in revenue that way.

04:25:40 - 04:25:43

So I said to him, well, what would you rather have?

04:25:43 - 04:25:51

Would you rather have that farmer who has put a fence around a big area, put deer in it?

04:25:51 - 04:25:55

Would you rather him open that up for housing developments?

04:25:55 - 04:26:27

And you’re putting up office buildings on the land. What would you rather have? (chuckles) So there is a justification, by the way, when you look at that. The alternative if somebody’s trying to develop income is to sell the property for development. So there is some justification of keeping it open. Put it that way. Go back to teenagers. Okay, teenagers. Well, I’ve noticed that…

04:26:31 - 04:27:18

Yeah, I think what happens is is that, I’ve seen people change. I’ve seen people absolutely change their thinking. Some people think animals stink and are dangerous to them. A lot of people do. And they don’t want that dirty thing around my house or whatever. And sometimes teenagers are so distant from that, any connection, maybe with a dog and cat, but some people nowadays don’t even wanna bother taking care of dogs. Here’s one of the things that happens, and you gotta be very careful with this. People have a yearning to be able to touch an animal.

04:27:19 - 04:27:30

Unfortunately, that’s being outlawed very rapidly by the USDA and by the AZA and other organizations. You don’t wanna touch something.

04:27:30 - 04:27:36

But can you blame somebody who’s never been able to touch an animal for not being interested?

04:27:36 - 04:28:26

So I think we have to be very careful how we control that, but I’ve seen people’s teenagers who didn’t give a digitally about wildlife. If they get to touch it, even a snake, they change. They said, they realized this is something that is interesting. That’s one way to do it, but you have to be careful through our organization called SPEAK. We’re limited as to what we can do by the regulations. But I think everybody wants to be able to touch something and know that it loves us. And that’s why we liked dogs and cats (indistinct). But anyway, the other way is to do things that look adventurous, because teenagers love adventure.

04:28:26 - 04:30:00

And we need to start talking much more to people about how great it is to get involved with the outdoors and the mystery and the adventure of it. Not be afraid of going camping, how to innovate, you know, there some survivors shows out there right now, but unfortunately some of those survivors shows they have a housing, I mean a mobile home, or just off camera that they’re living in, It’s showing others, but it’s not. I think that’s the wrong concept. I think we have to learn about how integrate our modern society into providing for ourselves, but not, let’s say revert to some other time which it’s no longer necessary whether internet and our cell phones all like that. We have to bring that survival thing more into a psychological survivor, by believing in ourselves and also having self-esteem. Right now we’re making it very difficult for people growing up to have self-esteem because the world has become very competitive. So I think what will help with that is to focus on your passions and teach people, young people, how to develop passions about things, following their passions. You’ve said that, and we’ve talked about it a little with the designing and space.

04:30:00 - 04:30:03

You said that animals need space, open space.

04:30:03 - 04:30:07

Are the open space as possible now in the US or around the world?

04:30:09 - 04:30:11

What happens when there’s no open space?

04:30:11 - 04:30:12

How can animals survive?

04:30:12 - 04:30:39

I’m talking about now in zoos– I understand, yeah. But even national parks. Well, there are some states now that are beginning to have wildlife corridors. They’re talking about, for example, a place that comes up from Central America and goes all the way up to Alaska called the Paseo de… Paseo… Passage of… I’ve forgotten the last term. I’m sorry about that.

04:30:39 - 04:31:15

Paseo de something. It’s an open space. It’s linking through a corridor, wildlife habitat and open space. And they’re trying to make this part of the planning of the future. Florida is doing it. They have a wildlife corridor now. I had just had a friend do a film on, and it goes from Lake Kissimmee all the way up to the border of Georgia. I think this will help somewhat the, oh, I know what the one was in Central America, I’m sorry.

04:31:15 - 04:32:18

It was called the Paseo de Pantera. I don’t know if you knew it, but jaguars are found all the way up into Southern Texas. But this is a Paseo de Pantera where a mountain lion or a panther could move all the way up to Alaska from South America. Those are possible and they’re pretty darn exciting. Then there is a program that’s been in effect for some time where you buy sections of rainforest and habitat and you pay for them through public donations and things like that to protect them. It’s the debt that for lands programs that they started innovating, but I think there’s something else that has to be done. And if you don’t mind my being a little far out talking about it. Okay, I can take a billboard on my back and stand on a corner in New York City and say, the Earth’s gonna come to an end if we get rid of our wildlife.

04:32:18 - 04:33:06

And probably nobody would listen to me, but there is a possibility of doing some writings about projecting what our world is gonna be like at year 4,000. 2000 years from now, if we don’t take care of certain problems facing on this earth. Now, when I started looking at that, it became very obvious to me that we have to start using some of these basic biological laws of nature to our benefit. We have to stop building cities on watercourses. All the pollution flows right into the ocean. We’re gonna start recycling buildings. We’re already doing it. In the old days they had buildings that would last for seven, 800 years.

04:33:06 - 04:33:35

Now, we’re starting to build buildings that don’t have a necessarily a long life, but we do need to start focusing on where we build cities. China is now building a huge city that incorporates a regime, Shanghai and it’s gonna be the biggest city in the world. Well, they’re forced to do that, but we can still start choosing this is something of the future, choosing where we put cities because of the pollution problems.

04:33:35 - 04:33:36

All right?

04:33:36 - 04:34:24

The next thing we have to do is start rotating our sections of wild lands over a four or 500 year period. Right now they’re planning on going in, and cutting some of the only really pure undisturbed rainforest in Guyana in the Amazon. And we’re doing more and more. We’re eating up the Amazon, just like a big amoeba reaching out there. We need to start learning that, if we’re gonna harvest the Amazon, we’ve got to learn what the farmers know, and that is to rotate (clears throat) areas over four or 500 year period. (clears throat) We can go in and harvest the timber on one place, but then we have to let that be left alone for a long time.

04:34:25 - 04:34:27

And I’ll tell you why?

04:34:27 - 04:35:37

When we lose the fertility of the soils, we as a species on this planet are done for. So we gotta let the forest, the only thing that can heal that is that the forest will grow, then we can go over there like a farmer knows so well and utilize the other section for 400 years. But we gotta start thinking about this planet in long-term rotations, because once we get 50% of this earth more or less occupied and created into something that’s artificial, we’re on a dead end street. So whether we like it or not, we’re gonna have to… And by the way, the areas that are being rotated, the ones that are regrowing. Some of that, that’s where we can bring tourism from all over the world to bring in income on the forests that are still there. The ones that are primeval forest, and we can use those to (indistinct) just like we send people to the forest to (indistinct). We can earn money off the wildlife.

04:35:37 - 04:35:58

Otherwise, by the way, if we don’t rotate, we’re gonna terminate biological evolution. Right now, animals can’t move from one section to the other, like they used to in Africa, they’re restricted into. A lot of them are fenced in reserves. Speaking of longevity. Yeah.

04:35:58 - 04:36:06

Do you have any opinion on the maintaining of elephants in captivity?

04:36:06 - 04:36:46

Absolutely. I’d like to hear that. Well, first of all, let’s talk about the maintaining of elephants in the wild. There’s some real problems there, because many of the roads in Africa are old elephant trails. They used to migrate long distances depending on the access to water. Well, if we’re gonna have elephants around, we probably are gonna have to do the same. We’re gonna have to rotate certain areas in Africa over long-term rotations. And we’re gonna probably have to confine elephants in many other forms of wildlife into these long-term rotations.

04:36:46 - 04:37:52

The pressure from human occupation is gonna be so strong that it always wins out. I know around Kilimanjaro, the Africans are now beginning to develop their farms, et cetera, ’cause the needs of farms for Africans is the highest political priority. It’s not the elephants is not the animals. But we’re gonna have to learn to probably rotate areas that are still wilderness in long-term rotations where the elephants are going to have an exclusive place to live in. Now, there are some ways of keeping elephants to wandering around and eating our crops. That’s usually the big problem, but we also have to learn how to breed elephants out of the wild in our captive zoological parks. There are some zoological parks that are now raising elephants. In fact, the circus is one of the biggest breeders of elephants, ’cause they have an incentive.

04:37:52 - 04:38:45

But we probably are gonna have to get exclusive areas where we can raise elephants or else the gene pools are also gonna start disappearing. I don’t know about that problem. I mean, it maybe easier to save some of the ocean species, you know, like whales, because the ocean is pretty big and it’s not, so far we’re just beginning to destroy the systems in the ocean. We’ve got a long way to go, because we haven’t even explored quite a bit of the seabed of the ocean. But that’s a good question about elephants. I think I haven’t thought about that as much as I probably should, but we need to allow elephants to migrate. Absolutely. And the key to the saving of elephants, oddly enough, is going to be nature-based tourism.

04:38:45 - 04:38:53

They wouldn’t be in Africa right now, if it weren’t the fact that they’re bringing in, a lot of money. So we really have to face that.

04:38:53 - 04:38:57

Why should we save elephants?

04:38:57 - 04:39:34

That’s a good point. To what extent do you continue to be active in the zoo field or the, I will say conservation field with the sustainable… Right. Consumption. Well, I’m getting a little long in the tooth. I’ve been around a while, but I’m just getting started. And one of the reasons is that my sensitivity about this planet has evolved from someone who was showing things to people that sometimes they’d never seen before, into somebody who has now a message. And my challenge is to be a spokesperson for the natural world.

04:39:36 - 04:39:46

Not talking about myself anymore, but every zoological institution should have a spokesperson that is known by the public.

04:39:47 - 04:39:51

How many spokespeople are there out there now?

04:39:51 - 04:40:24

You don’t know who the spokesperson is for World Wildlife Fund. And very few zoos have spokespeople, but you need to have people that are trained in learning how to speak. I’m just getting started, because I feel like… I am beginning to feel I have something to say. I’m very stubborn. I’m going to… If I had the access to financial resources, I would start trying to encourage people to build the ecological park idea, because that should be part of every community in America should have a…

04:40:24 - 04:40:27

And I’ll tell you why this is important?

04:40:27 - 04:41:30

We now are having our national parks so crowded with motor homes and everything else. They’re limiting access to national parks. Well, in the community if you have a ecological park there as part of the community, that should play as an important role as a baseball game or a shopping mall, and it should be part of the community so that people can remain centered and exposed to these very things I’m talking about, which are the laws of nature that support life on the planet and how we treat the earth is important to humans. That should be the message. I wish that PBS and a lot of these other programs that are so amazing, Attenborough and all the others would start talking about that, ’cause that’s the thing we’ve gotta do in the future. At the dinner last night you met a young man who worked at (indistinct) people there, but there’s many other young people.

04:41:30 - 04:41:43

Are there any suggestions for those aspiring that you would give them to make a difference in the natural world or the world of zoos that is trying to help the natural world?

04:41:44 - 04:42:39

Well, you’ve got to learn how to have a job, but you also.. I mean, you get specialized in that area so you can have a job in research or whatever. There are wonderful field researchers out there, that are still studying our planet. And that’s very, very important. But in the end result is, I tell a lot of young people that there’s an opportunity for them to become a spokesperson for the natural world. And you can make money doing that. You can lecture for a fee at a lot of places, but no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re a physicist, whether you’re a bus driver, whether you are one of the ordinary type jobs, you know, in financing or a school teaching, you could be a spokesperson for the natural world. And I’ve told that to quite a number of people.

04:42:39 - 04:43:16

So what you do, you have to go through and be educated in that sense to learn the details, so you know how to put the big picture together. So then you can be a spokesperson. I wanted to kind of get back to one of the things we had talked about relating to television and Johnny Carson. And that is, whether can you relate a story or stories. Were there any times when you were on the show where you said, I really, for lack of a better term, hit a home run. I mean, I really got my message out. You’re right.

04:43:16 - 04:43:22

And it all came together, and now conversely, why don’t you tell me that story?

04:43:22 - 04:43:58

Were there any time when you said, “Oh, my gosh! I know I can work these animals, but look what they did on the show and you know animals being animals. Yeah, well, that’s a good question. I mean, I shouldn’t say that’s a good question. You’re asking… I mean the question is about the Johnny Carson Show. I’ve gotta answer that in one way. It’s tough to always get a message out. But I found out from a survey that the Today Show did, I was on the Today Show for about 15 years, every two weeks with animals.

04:43:58 - 04:43:59

And guess what?

04:44:01 - 04:44:12

They did a survey and they found out that a lot of teachers were putting that on their curriculum to watch me on the Today Show in the morning where they’re in school.

04:44:12 - 04:44:16

And then they started figuring out what did these kids learn?

04:44:16 - 04:44:18

You know what they learned?

04:44:18 - 04:45:15

They learned that I enjoyed working with animals and it looked like it was fun and it was exciting. And that’s one of the things that those kids went away with. It wasn’t all the knowledge and the things I was saying, it’s how I acted with the animals and how the animals were related to me. Well, I think to a certain extent that was true on Johnny Carson. I could tell if things were going well, and I’ll tell you how I did it. (laughs) Johnny was so quick and he was so great at responding to a situation. I had to force myself to concentrate very carefully on what Johnny was saying. I had to separate the audience from anything that was happening between Johnny and me. But occasionally I would hear the audience laughing was what we call belly laughs.

04:45:15 - 04:46:09

And they were really into it. So I knew it was big successful. And I started realizing that Johnny Carson like a good book or a television show or anything else, it was a spontaneous things that happened that were unpredictable. And it was surprising. I have a collection of those shows on DVD and I look at them, and sometimes I’m surprised even today, how some of the little things that happened got such big reactions. Those people often in the audience had not seen the behavior and those animals that I had on Johnny Carson were expressing natural behavior. And I tried to explain that to Johnny. I had four little wolf puppies who got in a big fight on the floor cause I gave one of them a chicken neck.

04:46:09 - 04:47:01

And all of a sudden there were four little wolf puppies, all pulling as hard as they could with his chicken neck in the middle. And the people loved it because it was unpredictable, and they noticed that the little wolf puppies are very competitive. Yeah, but that’s sort of basically (indistinct), I could tell whether something was going well. Now, I also knew that Johnny Carson knew how to handle unpredictable situations. One of the things, there are many things there that almost got me in trouble. By the way, if there had ever been any blood showing on Johnny Carson, that’d probably been the end of my spot because he was pretty sensitive to that. Yeah, he saw me pull away from one animal that sort of nipped me a once a little bit. And he was a little bit surprised with that.

04:47:01 - 04:47:20

But yeah, (laughs) I was just gonna say that he was so quick I had to eliminate and start listening to the audience in the distance. I didn’t pay attention to the audience. I was a straight man for Johnny.

04:47:20 - 04:47:22

Do you have any embarrassing moments?

04:47:22 - 04:48:03

Oh, yeah. There was one time, a lot of embarrassing moments. Johnny was so quick. I had a Celebes ape on named Doc. And a Celebes ape is one of the, from a human standpoint, anthropomorphically is one of the worst looking animals around. They are black with a mohawk hairdo and they have great incisors, you know. And this Celebes ape was part of a group of animals that were actually worshiped in the Celebes Islands. They look so human that the native used to come along and throw out food on the beaches for them and everything like that.

04:48:03 - 04:48:49

They were sort of worshiped. Anyway, Doc was sitting on my hands with his back to me and I knew the trainer. I’d met Doc once before, but I knew he was fairly young animal at that time. And he stood about that tall and he had this incredible grimace. So I was about to go out on the Carson Show and the trainer came by and said, “Jim, I hate to tell you this at this late date.” He said, “But you wanted me to bring Doc out here. “But I hate to tell you that he’s reached puberty.” And now if another male stares at him, he tends to go crazy. I said, well, thanks a lot. ‘Cause that was about two seconds away of being introduced.

04:48:49 - 04:49:35

And then he said, “Yeah, Jimmy.” He said, “Doc is so bad now with other males “that I tried to castrate him, “but I didn’t have time.” And then they said, “Here’s Jim Fowler.” So I had to go out with Doc. And I knew that I wasn’t gonna put him on Johnny’s desk because he had his heirlooms on the desk. And Doc had a habit of just going crazy and throwing things in the air. Which was the extent of the humor on the Johnny Carson Show. that’s why I had him on. So I had a table sitting out there with a chair on it, and other things. Well, I got Doc on the table and I thought this is gonna work. So he started kicking the table, the chairs, this has gone down in the history of the show.

04:49:35 - 04:50:21

He was kicking the chairs off the table, doing a war dance on the table and jumping up and down and making a lot of noise. He was something else. So Johnny came over and he started staring at Doc, put his head down, and all of a sudden I had the leash of Doc in my hand and I jumped to the left trying to control him. He came six feet to the air and shoved Johnny right up here. And Johnny went back. If it had been Merv Griffin or some of the others, they would attempt he towed out there immediately. But Johnny came back with a karate chop like this, and Doc was so incensed. He blew up his hair like a pin cushion.

04:50:21 - 04:50:50

And I thought, this is not gonna work. I said, this is gonna be trouble to myself and I jumped to the left. Doc, came through the air and clipped Carson in the face. And Johnny said a couple of expletives. And he said that blank, blank, blank hit me. And I knew I had to get out of there in a hurry. So I got Johnny back at the desk and I took Doc and sat down with him. He was so aggressive.

04:50:50 - 04:51:15

If I had had eye contact with Doc, the Celebes ape. He was on my lap. I had to force myself not to look at it. If I had an eye contact, he could have gone from my throat. So Johnny found some grapes. This is the end of the story. He found some grapes preset back in the back. So he brought these grapes out and Doc is right here.

04:51:15 - 04:51:47

I’m sitting here and Johnny would take the grapes and start eating them. Then he would offer them to Doc and then he’d take them away and put them in his mouth. And Johnny started making faces. He started chewing the grapes, spitting them out. Doc was just about to tear him apart. And I got out and walked out from the curtains very quickly. But Doc was so enraged. I never told Johnny that until my wife and I took Johnny on safari to Africa.

04:51:48 - 04:52:29

About the few months after he stopped doing the show, he wanted to get reacquainted with his family. So his wife and his two sons, we all went to Africa to Tanzania. And around the table in the evening, (laughs) John is very private person and he doesn’t talk just to be talking. But around the evening he would start imitating animals. And he had a great time. But I told him about the danger that he was in with Doc. And he was very sensitive. He laughed at that cause he thought Doc was one of the best animals I ever had on.

04:52:30 - 04:52:38

Now, speaking of wild animals, are there any animals that you are fearful of?

04:52:40 - 04:53:20

I won’t be. I won’t take advantage of that, and talk about several humans I’ve known. But I know what you’re saying. I’ll tell you what, I have been so involved and so totally impressed with the life forms on the planet. I don’t necessarily show fear of something, but there are a few animals that get under my skin. See fear is a lack of knowledge. So if you know about something, you don’t really have to be afraid. I’m not afraid of them.

04:53:20 - 04:54:03

I know how to act around a wild gorilla and I know how to act with a big snake and all those other things. But I must have say there’s one animal that gets under my skin a little bit. Hyenas are very strange animals. They’re extremely mysterious. I’ve been with situations and hyenas where they sort of appear out of nowhere. And I’ve been in tents in Africa where there was a little bit of firelight and I see a shadow crossing in front of my tent. But before that, a half an hour before that, I had heard the call of hyena, which is a kind of a call you’ll never forget. And they were off in the distance.

04:54:03 - 04:54:37

And then a little bit later, half an hour later, I heard the call much closer. So I knew they were checking out my campsite. And the call is very interesting. I would like to imitate that call, because it’s a haunting sound that you’ll never forget. It starts very low and it peaks up. It goes like this. (clears throat) (groans) And they call back and forth. And that’s a signal that they found a carcass somewhere or a weak animal.

04:54:38 - 04:55:22

A hyena will sit and wait till there’s no movement, an animal that’s dying. They won’t go after it, if it’s moving its face or one of his legs, but the minute there’s no movement, they’ll go ahead and kill it. But anyway, one night I heard hyenas coming in closer and closer. And by the way, (laughs) the hyena is worshiped by a lot of the really remote villagers as kind of a spirit. They’re afraid of hyenas. And it’s because they have this mysterious way. They go down holes backwards, for example, so they can protect themselves if they’re trying to escape from something. Very strong jaws.

04:55:22 - 04:55:59

They consume the bones of a lot of animals to get the marrow out of the bone. They have very, very strong teeth. And you look into the eye of a hyena and it has no depth to it. I mean, it’s just black. So anyway, these hyenas I knew were gonna come into my camp. So I did see a shadow go in front of my camp. And then I heard a little bit of noise, but I had taken a zebra hide that I had skinned from a zebra and I’d put it probably 15 feet up a thorn tree. And I thought it was safe up there, ’cause I wanted it to dry.

04:56:00 - 04:56:40

And those darn hyenas, I all of a sudden heard them after they had gotten the hide down somehow. And then they drag it and run away with it. And that’s when you hear the cackle, which is called the laugh of a hyena, is the cackling when they have something and they’re competitive with other members of the group. I found that hide the zebra a well over half a mile away and they tried to chew it all up. They didn’t consume all of it. But hyenas are very mysterious and very special. By the way. It’s a very good imitation.

04:56:40 - 04:57:04

Thank you. That was very good. Yeah. (indistinct) You are currently the executive director of Mutual of Omaha’s Wildlife Heritage Center. A job that entails visiting zoos, nature centers around the country.

04:57:04 - 04:57:08

What have you discovered or learned as you visited these sites?

04:57:08 - 04:57:09

And am I correct in my definition?

04:57:09 - 04:57:31

Well, yeah, I was at one point Mutual head of program that did get involved in that. And it was very exciting because they knew that I had certain things to say and talk about. In addition to showing animals, but it was a… Yeah, we did that for quite a while.

04:57:32 - 04:57:34

And your question was, what did I?

04:57:34 - 04:57:39

What did you when you’re doing it, what did you learn or you discovered as you visited these sites?

04:57:39 - 04:57:55

Yeah. I think I learned a little bit on how to get the… I already knew how to get the attention of the audience, but I started refining what I was talking about.

04:57:56 - 04:58:12

At that time I was evolving intellectually and trying to figure out what should I be talking about so that people would remember what I said, and why it was important to the big picture?

04:58:12 - 04:59:03

So I think that was a time when I was working some of that out. I pretty well knew, I had certain routines I’d go through that I knew how to capture an audience, but I think I refined that a little bit because I like to feel an audience out in the beginning. There are certain things that I talk about, and I can tell from the reaction whether they’re gonna enjoy it or not. By the way I think it was during one of those times that I ended up in Texas at one, I think it was Abilene, Texas. And I had to give a talk to a big group of people. It was in a big convention center. I mean, there were a lot 1500.

04:59:04 - 04:59:05

And guess what?

04:59:05 - 04:59:12

They were 1500 forth graders. That’s the most frightening situation I’ve ever been in.

04:59:12 - 04:59:15

How do you get the attention of 1500 forth graders?

04:59:15 - 05:00:01

So I had a backstage. I had a guy that had a lot of hissing cockroaches in a jar. So I stuck… That’s why these pockets are so great. I loaded my pockets with this pocket with part with hissing cockroaches, and then I took a ball snake, you know, the little constrictor and a ball Python and I put that in this pocket. And then I walked out into the audience and they didn’t know what to make of me, but when I got out there, the ball pythons stuck his head out of my pocket, started crawling out and the cockroaches started crawling up on my bush jacket all over. I had that audience, I’d tell you what, I really grabbed them in a hurry. They couldn’t believe it.

05:00:01 - 05:01:00

And then I had one of the kids come up and help me find the cockroaches by putting them back in my pocket. So I started developing. I was scared of 1400 forth graders in a big auditorium, but I started perfecting ways that I could capture the audience’s attention during that period. And I think we had a pretty good effect, ’cause it was a way that a commercial company like Mutual of Omaha could get their name out there to a younger crowd, you know, ’cause the parents would often… The kids would go back and tell their parents what happened. And then the parents became interested. (clears throat) Let me say somebody about Mutual of Omaha. It turned out that the agents for Mutual of Omaha, they could go into a house, door open, you know, the screen door or whatever the prior to the house would come out.

05:01:00 - 05:01:45

And they would say, we’re the people from Mutual of Omaha and Wild Kingdom. And there’d be a smile on the person that lived in the house face and they’d let him in. He would open them up for a conversation by just talking about Wild Kingdom. So that was one of the payoffs. And that’s why they had the Wildlife Heritage Trust because it gave us a legitimate opportunity to… And it’s to their credit that we were seriously showing things to the public for a good reason, educational reason, not just out there joking about them or saying how dangerous they are. Is the group speakers that you talked about– SPEAK, yeah. SPEAK.

05:01:45 - 05:01:46

Is that group part of…

05:01:46 - 05:01:51

Is that your individual effort or is that connected to Mutual of Omaha?

05:01:51 - 05:02:27

It’s not connected with Mutual Omaha. Like I say, I’ve tried to form groups in the past. I had one group called O-W-L. Organization of Wildlife Lectures, but it’s been difficult cause I’ve strung myself out a little bit too thin. But I really am enthusiasts. Now, I have about 45 founders. These are professional lecturers who very dedicated educators as a founders group for my organization called SPEAK. And our next step in there…

05:02:27 - 05:03:39

And like I say, they’re probably a thousand people from nature science centers from zoological parks, private individuals who are dedicated to go out and talk to groups without live animals. Or they don’t have to have live animals. They can be show film or they can do whatever they want, but there are certain requirements for being in our organization. But one of the main requirements is to have a message that really works. So we’re looking, trying to get a session going first where we have a kind of an open forum in regionally. These are retreats of ex of lectures so we can get this whole thing started and listen to other lectures, a group of lectures could listen to somebody else and see what they’re saying to perfect them. These are a lecture, there’s a name for it, and I can’t think of it right now. But they’re individual things that are regional, they’re regional situations that we bring people together.

05:03:39 - 05:04:20

Then we wanna eventually work for a convention and have people who represents this is a regional, the right word that I was looking for. We’re gonna start with regional workshops. And then the regional workshops will help elect this organization, the leaders of it and the people who represent it. Then we wanna have a conference and the conference will also be involved with the election process. And we wanna have two conferences, one in the west and one in the east, ’cause the potential is so great for this organization. Yeah.

05:04:20 - 05:04:23

To what extent are you still involved with Mutual of Omaha?

05:04:23 - 05:05:02

I’m a private contractor with Mutual of Omaha. And I’m glad you mentioned that, because this year 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Wild Kingdom. And so we’re gonna be celebrating, Mutual is gonna be celebrating the 50th anniversary the whole year. And it should be promoted on television. And I’m gonna have to speak to a lot of groups during the year for them. So it’s great. I told them it couldn’t be 50 years celebration ’cause I’m not even 50 years old yet, but that didn’t help much. But anyway, they haven’t put me out the pasture.

05:05:02 - 05:05:43

That’s the interesting thing. I’m still a private contractor, I guess, is the right call. And they’re using me. But you know, I have a partner in this whole thing with Mutual of Omaha. His name is Peter Gross and he has gotten pretty well-known by being on, or first Regis and Kathie. And then now it’s Kelly and whoever. But Peter has been on that program quite a lot with live animals. And he often will represent Mutual of Omaha out west, he’s from California.

05:05:43 - 05:05:52

But he’s a great guy and he was two years or so on Wild Kingdom, but he’s been my partner in Wild Kingdom for quite awhile.

05:05:52 - 05:06:02

To what extent has your celebrity been able to open doors for your message?

05:06:02 - 05:06:53

I probably haven’t utilized whatever celebrity I have, to the point that I should have. I have a lot of things dangling there that I should have probably been more efficient in exploiting them. But it has opened some doors. Yeah, I spoke at the Bill Clinton Global Initiative in New York at the Sheraton Hotel last year, a few months ago. It’s very fascinating who comes up to me about Wild Kingdom. Yes, it can open doors. I need to be more exploitive in that, because I’m trying to write a book and I’m trying to get back on television. I think I have some things to say, and I can host a program.

05:06:53 - 05:08:00

By the way, my son mark is a documentary film producer and he’s done three or four shows for National Geographic that had been very successful. I told my son, I said, Mark, you’re not as smart as I was, because when I came out of the shoot, I worked for somebody else for a while. You’re a independent documentary producer. There are only 3000 other independent documentary producers trying to do the same thing you’re doing. But he’s been fairly successful in that field because he was with me on a lot of trips and he got fascinated by production and his wife had gone to the USC Film School. So she’s a director and they’re having fun doing that, but I’m more or less just getting started. I see some potential, a lot of potential in trying to get some of these messages out in a pretty cool way on television and having something that it… I did Charlie Rose a couple of times.

05:08:00 - 05:08:49

And Charlie’s a pretty good guy to be on. I don’t wanna fool around with some of the talk show hosts nowadays, because some of them are having some of my colleagues John who are more interested in scaring the host or joking about an animal than they are being serious. But I might do things like Charlie Rose again, I’ve had some opportunities to do that. Well, let me tell you something about Charlie Rose. I got on and I thought, boy, this is gonna be great. I’ll have a half an hour to talk about substantial things. Well, I went on with a young chimpanzee and a young orangutan that were from a little zoo down in Florida a friend of mine had. And I set them on the table you were pretty intimate with Charlie Rose.

05:08:49 - 05:09:19

It’s a black background and you’re sitting at a table. Well, I had some apples cut up and these were sitting right in front of me. The first thing I knew, Charlie Rose was extremely enthralled. He’d never seen anything like it. So he was giving these pieces of apple to the chimpanzee and to the orangutan. And his were big as apples. He didn’t ask me one question in 20 minutes, he was so enthralled with what he was seeing. He was speechless.

05:09:19 - 05:09:36

And then I brought a condor out with a 10 foot wing spread and boy, he didn’t say a word. So it didn’t quite work out like I wanted, because I can’t be talking philosophically about something with Charlie Rose, feeding. And he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

05:09:36 - 05:09:40

So you brought out the wild animal and the aaw animal?

05:09:41 - 05:10:05

I brought out the ones that reflected human emotions. And he was taken by it. But some of those people believe me are very disconnected from anything that’s natural. Urban people often that have some of the talk shows. Now, in soming up here, I got two questions.

05:10:06 - 05:10:11

What do you know about the profession that you have devoted so many years of your life?

05:10:14 - 05:10:20

No, the question is, what do I know about my profession?

05:10:21 - 05:10:56

That’s pretty interesting. I guess it’s… There are other people that have been leaders in this profession that really have. There are people long before me. I think that we’re lecturing. (laughs) Melissa and Martin Johnson. They used to go around and lecturing all over the world. And somebody sent me a DVD the other day, and I’m not comparing myself with these people.

05:10:56 - 05:11:46

Don’t get me wrong. Osa and Martin Johnson were very involved in the Chautauqua circus. They used to have long ago before radio and television. They used to have get-togethers they call Chautauquas. And they would all get together and bring a speaker in. But yeah, there used to be a guy named Frank Buck and he was known as Frank Buck bring him back alive. And I saw some of his CD, the films he did in the thirties and to a guy like me, they’re absolutely hilarious. He was in Asia trying to trap a leopard, and he had all his people like 20 different African or natives pulling a palm tree down with a big rope, putting it under tension.

05:11:46 - 05:12:24

Then he would set a trigger down here at 60 feet away with a net and the leopard would come up and get near the bait and triggered. And the cat would go zooming up to the top of the tree in a net. These are amazing things they used to do in those days. But anyway, I don’t compare myself. David Attenborough has been a spokesperson for the natural world for a long time. And there’ve been other people too. But television and has really revolutionized that opportunity to reach a lot of people.

05:12:24 - 05:12:26

How would you like to be remembered?

05:12:27 - 05:13:27

Well, probably because of my family, you know, I got brothers and sisters or not sisters, but sister-in-laws and my present family, I just became a grandfather. I could never believe that I would end up with a grandchild, but she’s a real keeper. And those are the things that you are really rewarded with in life, is family. And probably, I think the thing has given me some comfort is that I know that I’ve reached some people with a pretty strong healthy message. And I hope that I’ve had something to do with people’s attitudes. Yeah, and careers. But that wasn’t my… I didn’t really think about that that much.

05:13:27 - 05:14:14

This is a little bit of hindsight. But like I say, I think that life is such a incredible thing to try to figure it all out. I’m still very fascinated about, I think about it all the time about how we got here and what the universe is all about, and those things we may never, never find out. But I don’t know how we humans have gotten to the point where we can even think about those things. I mean, that’s amazing to me. I see a big picture of life on this planet and how it’s evolving and how diverse it is, which I’m part of that. That I can always take that with me anywhere I go.

About Jim Fowler

Jim Fowler
In Memoriam
Apr 9, 1930 - May 8, 2019
Download Curricula Vitae


Host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

Zoologist & Television Host

Jim started his career with animals at John Hamlet’s Birds of Prey in Florida as a trainer and lecturer. Stints in Africa and South America studying the Harpy eagle gave him invaluable field experience. His first exposure to Marlin Perkins was in 1955 when he did a Zoo Parade television show that was filmed in Florida.

When Marlin transitioned from Zoo Parade to a new show called Wild Kingdom he called Jim to join him as co-host in 1963. Jim was involved with the Zoological Association of America and helped to design exhibits at Chehaw Zoo in Georgia.

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The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive or those acting under their authority.