If Marguerite Perkins Garrick’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s been a part of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom family since birth. Her dad was the show’s original host, Marlin Perkins, and she’s carried on his legacy by working in conservation.
“My dad discovered that you need to respect the natural world and the creatures in it and that you need to conserve it,” Marguerite said.
Growing Up with Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom
As a child, she remembers when her dad would come home from Wild Kingdom filming trips and her family would watch the show together on television. Even with Marlin safe at home, Marguerite recalls the thrill of Wild Kingdom getting to her family.
“There would be something like that famous anaconda show,” she said. “He was sitting right there, and we were thinking, ‘Oh gosh, oh gosh, it’s going to kill him.’”
The family would hear behind the scenes stories firsthand, like one trip to India where Marlin filmed an episode about elephants. Marlin walked a bit too close to the animals and an elephant picked up its trunk and pushed him through the air, causing Marlin to break nearly every bone on his face — a great reminder to observe wildlife from a distance, even if you’re a trained professional! (Check out tips from Peter Gros on how to keep your distance.)
But Wild Kingdom hadn’t finished filming the episode. So, Marlin waited out a 10-day healing period until his bruises could be covered with makeup. During that time, he visited an Indian apothecary, where he had an extraordinary time.
“The shop owner was fascinated with animal skeletons and had a huge collection that he collected during his life,” Marguerite said. “The thing that my dad came away with was confirmation of the amazing recuperating abilities of animals, because so many of them had broken bones and had healed.”
While the Perkins family reveled in Marlin’s incredible stories, they were always happy to have their dad back home.
“He always wanted to hear our news first, like if I got the part in a play,” Marguerite said.
Visiting the Wild Kingdom set
On a couple of occasions, Marguerite visited her dad on location for Wild Kingdom. One exciting trip was to Chincoteague on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for its famous pony roundup. It a special shoot for Marguerite, who loved the “Misty of Chincoteague” novel, based on the true story of a young foal raised by a local family. (Watch the episode, “Chincoteague Roundup.”)
“I was a huge fan of the books. It was lots of fun to be there. We filmed on the beach, and they let me hold the clipboard a few times,” Marguerite said.
She also traveled to Kangaroo Island, Australia, where she saw many native species.
“There were sea lions on the beach and kangaroos hopping around everywhere,” Marguerite said. “One koala was familiar to the rangers, and they lifted it out of the trees and put it in my arms.”
The Wild Kingdom Legacy Continues
Today’s Wild Kingdom continues with the new series, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild, hosted by Peter Gros and Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant.
In Peter, Marguerite sees traits of her father, someone with a “gentle, enthusiastic quality for sharing the wonders of the natural world.”
“I think Peter Gros is the perfect choice to carry on his legacy of sharing great conservation stories that will give people hope, make them care and make them think,” Marguerite said. “In the coming years, I know Peter and the new Wild Kingdom team will also inspire generations of young people to become engaged in wildlife conservation work.”
And after meeting Dr. Rae, Marguerite saw the passion for wildlife conservation, noting that the newest host will add “a lot of wonder and fun to the show.”
“I just fell in love with her,” Marguerite said. “She’s just so perfect. She’s so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Dr. Rae and Peter are going to balance each other out so well. They’re perfectly different.”
Marlin Perkins’ impact continues
Throughout her life, Marguerite has seen the great impact that Wild Kingdom has made on so many people.
“All my life, conservationists, veterinarians, zoologists, field biologists and people who have been moved to volunteer and support wildlife organizations have told me my dad and Wild Kingdom were their inspiration to want to work with and conserve animals,” Marguerite said.
In 1971, Marlin and his wife, Carol, founded the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri. The center is a leading conservation organization for endangered wolves, foxes and African painted dogs. One way Marguerite continues her parent’s legacy today is by staying involved with the great work at the center.
Another heartwarming reminder of her dad’s legacy happened earlier this year while Marguerite was on a safari in Kenya with Anthony, someone she’s known since her childhood. His father used to drive for the Perkins’ safaris, and now Anthony took over the safari business.
“I had a group of people with me who started talking about trophy hunting and the fact that there’s no hunting in Kenya,” Marguerite said.
“Original safaris had been hunting safaris and it wasn’t until the 1960s that photographic safaris became popular,” Marguerite told them. “Anthony turned to me and said, ‘Your Dad was hugely influential in fact instrumental in making photographic safaris popular!’ I teared up and said, ‘Really?’ He said ‘Yes, because of his international popularity through Wild Kingdom, he taught people to love wild animals and to enjoy watching wildlife in the wild rather than wanting to shoot them.”
Sixty years after its debut, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom continues to make a positive impact for wildlife conservation and inspires the next generation of conservationists.
Marguerite’s excitement for the new Wild Kingdom series
“I am so excited that Wild Kingdom is returning! By sponsoring this program beginning in 1963 with my father, Mutual of Omaha’s commitment to wildlife conservation and habitat protection has been the source of entertainment, learning and inspiration to generations of children and adults,” Marguerite said.
And the new series’ home on NBC holds a special place in the heart of the Perkins family.
“It really means the world to me that it’s happening again and on NBC,” Marguerite said. “It was the network that my dad’s first show, Zoo Parade was on. He started off in TV when there were about 200 receivers in the Chicago area!”
Marlin’s dream lives on
So, what would Marlin Perkins think of Wild Kingdom today?
“He’d be so touched and so thrilled that his legacy is being carried forward by two fabulous people, Peter and Dr. Rae,” Marguerite said. “I feel in my own heart, that he does know, that he’s filled with that joy once again, that there’s this wonderful venue to reach people’s hearts and minds.”
“Thank you to Mutual of Omaha for continuing all these years as part of the fabric of its company’s culture, not only to care about protecting wildlife and wild places, but for its renewed commitment to tell their important stories.”
Plus, check out this video of Marlin Perkins getting his hands dirty as he attempts to capture an anaconda. Do you know what happens?