Coming soon to NBC’s “The More You Know” programming block … Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild! We can’t wait to show you new stories of conservation success.
The Wild Kingdom crew is getting ready for the Oct. 7 premiere by traveling across the United States to film episodes. Hosts Peter Gros and Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant are thrilled to share amazing stories with a new generation of viewers.
“My hope is that viewers will be transported to exciting places far and near that are rich with stories of conservation hope,” Dr. Rae said. “I hope viewers are captivated by the largely invisible world of wildlife conservation and inspired by the stories of wild animals and the heroes that are protecting them. Most of all, I hope viewers are able to see all the ways they can be a part of creating a healthy, balanced planet.”
Peter echoes Dr. Rae’s excitement, saying, “To have Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom return to NBC, the network where it all got started, is such a special moment. It’s rewarding to see the series that started in 1963 with Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler still at the forefront of wildlife conservation 60 years later. It demonstrates the show’s lasting impact and how receptive audiences have been to learn about wildlife conservation. Marlin and Jim would be proud to know that we’re continuing their life’s work, and I am honored that I get to be a part of the continued legacy.”
Get a sneak peek of what’s to come in the new series by reading about the three filming locations our crew visited has visited so far.
Protecting the Wild filming locations
Mojave Desert, California
Animals living in the hottest desert in North America, the Mojave Desert, know how to adapt to a myriad of weather conditions. Mornings are cool and windy, afternoons are brutally hot and evenings bring cooler temperatures once again. Yet, native wildlife has survived in these conditions for over 20 million years.
To see the full range of wildlife and weather, the Wild Kingdom crew started filming at dawn and continued throughout the day. Wildlife in the desert isn’t always easy to find, Dr. Rae said.
“The wild animals aren’t always obvious out in the desert. They spend much of their day hiding from the intense sun, finding comfort in underground burrows in the shade of the few trees that dot the landscape,” Dr. Rae said.
The hosts were able to see the work that biologists, a local zoo and government agencies are doing to protect endangered species from predators. Dr. Rae and Peter explored the biologists’ laboratory and saw their work out in the field. As someone who has always worked with mammals in her conservation work, Dr. Rae enjoyed seeing the reptiles and birds that call the Mojave Desert home.
“This is one of the most profound things about hosting Wild Kingdom — it’s allowing me to translate my ecology knowledge across ecosystems and species, which for a scientist like me, is a dream come true!”
Channel Island, California
Off the coast of southern California are the Channel Islands, an archipelago of eight. These islands have diverse wildlife including many endemic species. Peter and Dr. Rae traveled to the Santa Cruz Island via catamaran from Ventura on the mainland.
“During the boat ride we passed two large pods of dolphins that swam alongside us. Many of them were mother and baby pairs,” Dr. Rae said. “We waved at sea lions sunning themselves on buoys and we watched seagulls and pelicans dive for fish.”
The wildlife adventure had only just begun. Once on the island, our Wild Kingdom hosts saw many species thriving in their natural habitat. But this hasn’t always been the case.
Santa Cruz Island’s story is one of conservation success. For many years, the island was populated with cattle, sheep, horses and feral pigs which contributed to the demise of its natural ecosystem. Today, the island is primarily owned by the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service and is only home to California wildlife and mostly native vegetation.
The hosts learned how the Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, the Santa Barbara Zoo and other conservation organizations brought back the island’s natural ecosystem to save animals from local extinction.
One such animal is the Santa Cruz Island fox, who is believed to first have arrived on the island more than 18,000 years ago. The four-pound fox was once endangered with only 30 foxes remaining on the island. Thanks to the help of many conservationists and breeding programs, the foxes are now off the endangered species list.
“I was delighted to see how Santa Cruz Island had been returned to its original state,” Peter said. “As I observed the progress made, I thought to myself this must have been how the California coast looked 200 years ago.”
The Wild Kingdom crew learned that success of Santa Cruz Island will only continue if we keep it as untouched as possible. While the public is allowed to visit, we must uphold the great conservation work to ensure a vibrant future.
Eastern Egg Rock Island, Maine
A tiny island off the coast of Maine, Eastern Egg Rock Island, is now home to Atlantic puffins — all because of a conservation success story!
In 1979, Marlin Perkins traveled to Great Island, Newfoundland, Canada, to film Wild Kingdom season 17 episode, “Return of the Puffin.” At the time, researchers were looking to gather puffin chicks to reestablish the puffin at its former breeding sites, including Eastern Egg Island, Maine.
“I remember Marlin Perkins’ hopeful comment at the end of his puffin show, that there’s a possibility this reintroduction program would be successful. Well, it was!” Peter said.
Puffins inhabited the island until the 1800s. After scientists’ work in the late 1970s, puffins began returning to the island in 1981 and have been returning ever since. The puffins will nest, lay their eggs and raise their young for three months until they have their adult plumage and are ready to fly.
Maine is the puffins’ southernmost ground — most puffins are found closer to Iceland. With changing climates warming Maine waters faster than anywhere else in the world, it’s possible that despite decades of conservation efforts, the species may leave Maine for more livable conditions, Dr. Rae said.
Today, scientists are using decoys and audio recordings to track breeding pairs of puffins to the islands. And once on the island, biologists are closely monitoring their population. Natural instincts also play a part in leading puffins back to where they were born to start families of their own.
“I continue to marvel at how nature’s instinct inspires their flight to the ocean,” Peter said of the puffins. “They start feeding at sea for months before returning instinctually to the island where they were hatched.”
Next up for Wild Kingdom
Filming continues for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild. These next filming sites take the crew further inland, from caves to the coastal prairie to the highlands. Stay tuned to see where we go next!
And mark your calendars for the premiere of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild, on Oct. 7 during NBC’s “The More You Know” programming block.