When you’ve been around animals as long as I have, you’re bound to have some special memories. Some are exciting, some sad, others rewarding and some dangerous.
I grew up like you – an animal enthusiast – but sadly had to get a “real job” and not one that allowed me to work with wildlife. Anyway, you’ve had the opportunity to experience all the things I’ve dreamed about (and more). What are some of your best/most exciting/most rewarding animal “experiences”? – JD
Great question! This gave me a great opportunity to look back and reflect … So here’s my Top 10 list!
10) Working with the great staff at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya: Started by Daphne Sheldrick many years ago, this facility takes care of baby orphaned elephants. When we filmed there, I got to play with about a dozen little pachyderms. I bottle-fed and gave them mud baths.
9) Diving with dolphins: In the Bahamas, I was able to SCUBA underwater with wild dolphins, and very curious ones, indeed. Their beauty and grace was truly incredible.
8) Zoo Births: Since being at the Columbus Zoo, I’ve witnessed several amazing births. Among them were twin lowland gorillas, an Asian elephant and polar bears.
7) Exploring Australia: This area has some of the most intriguing creatures in the world. All but two of the native mammals are marsupials and care for their young in pouches. The other two are called monotremes (platypus and echidna) and actually lay eggs.
6) Walking among wildlife on the Galapagos Islands: Of course, I’ve always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands since reading all the research by Charles Darwin. But I was amazed that the animals weren’t afraid of people. Since the islands are so isolated and most have never been populated by humans, the animals have never been hunted so you can walk very, very close them – especially the blue-footed boobies!
5) Chimpanzee encounter: While in Kampala, Uganda, I visited a center that cared for young, orphaned chimpanzees. These wild little critters jumped all over me, pulled my hair, and just had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. (By the way, chimps are apes – not monkeys.)
4) Fun with lemurs: At the Chester Zoo in England, I was invited into the ring-tailed lemur habitat for a look at these really primitive monkey-like animals. They are native to only the isolated island of Madagascar, and I was able to hand-feed more than a dozen of them. They jumped and romped all over me – I could barely hold onto their food!
3) JJ the whale: JJ was an orphaned California gray whale who was being cared for at Sea World in San Diego. After months of rehabilitation, she was released in to the wild blue ocean.
2) Air Bud: I met “Air Bud,” a canine athlete and movie star. This dog played baseball, basketball, football, and hockey better that I ever could!
1) Rhino Baby: We were scheduled to film at the Chipangali Animal Orphanage in Zimbabawe. When we arrived, the staff had a special surprise for us – a baby black rhino was born 19 days ago, and its mother couldn’t care for it properly. So, the staff had to give the little rhino 24-hour-a-day care, and I got to help. Its name was “Thunder” (with good reason) because all he wanted to do was charge and hit me with his tiny horn.
Remember to e-mail me your questions at email@example.com.
Read Jack’s previous post: Giant Panda.
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