Noted Wildlife Educator & Entertainer Loves Charleston & Annual Expo
By: Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
For over two decades conservationist and Emmy Award winner Jeff Corwin has been entertaining and educating young and old alike about nature and wildlife. A lifelong enthusiast of animals and the environment Corwin began to gain national attention in the early 1990’s with National Geographic, taking his profile to a higher level in 1997 when he hosted a TV show for the Disney Channel titled Going Wild with Jeff Corwin. The show ran two seasons on the Disney network.
In Early 2000 he began his next projects partnering with Animal Planet and Discovery Communications serving as executive producer and host of two series, The Jeff Corwin Experience from 2000 until 2003 and Corwin’s Quest that ran for a single season in 2005 into 2006. His work lead to becoming a regular on the Travel Network and an environmental correspondent for CNN.
51 years young, Corwin admits his love for wildlife began at an early age in his hometown of Norwell, Massachusetts (outside Boston). “I have been fascinated by nature and animals my entire life. I was the kid always looking for frogs and lizards. By the time I started elementary school I had a make shift nature museum in the apartment where we lived. But most of my childhood I spent outdoors. Even today roaming thru the jungle or in the ocean is where I love to be.”
He attributes his love of animals with his frequent trips to the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. “My father was a police officer for the city of Boston, so to keep my busy and out of trouble he would drop my off at the zoo. He knew my interests and encouraged me. I could spend the whole day at the zoo. Growing up in an apartment often I was nature deprived. The zoo fed my nature and wildlife fix.”
What really peaked Corwin’s interest in conservation was the overall indifference the vast population have in all things nature. “What inspired me most, was seeing the poor relationship people have with wildlife in general. Nature, and animals, I’m talking those on land, sea and sky, have significance in the overall ecosystem. When people take time to understand the environment around them, they become more aware of how important wildlife and rain forests are to humankind.”
Becoming somewhat of a noted fan of wildlife at an early age especially in bats and snakes, Corwin had his real taste of rain forests when he visited Belize at age 17. “Beautiful country and such a lush forest.” He admits that trip helped solidify his life’s ambition. “We have a lot to offer in the United States but when you get to see what nature has in store around the world it’s truly fascinating.”
He’s quick to note there are rain forests around the world. “A lot of people think about South America when you mention rain forests, but there are rain forests all along the equator and around the world. You have beautiful rain forests in Africa, Australia, Central America, India, and South America. They are all breathtaking.”
Corwin would go on to major in biology and anthropology at Bridgewater State University in his home state, picking up a masters of science degree in wildlife and fisheries at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “I was trying to immerse myself in every facet of wildlife and the environment. I didn’t know what path my life would take after college, but I knew I wanted to be well prepared for whatever doors that opened. The only thing I knew for sure is that wildlife and the environment fueled a passion in me, and would become my life’s work.”
Twenty five plus years into a television, speaking, and educating career Corwin is just as passionate today as he was at age five. “I can’t see me slowing down. There’s so much more to learn about and to experience when it comes to the environment, and the wildlife we share the planet with.”
His work has made him a world traveler. “I’ve been fortunate to visit and work in some really unique places, and to take audiences on some really cool adventures. Recently I got to visit Tanzania and that was amazing. I believe it’s important to show people what’s happening around the world in regards to the environment. I love taking trips to Africa. Whether I’m up close to a lion or sitting in on a lecture about venomous snakes, there is always something new I discover from my journeys.” Are there places that remain on his bucket list. “I’m still hoping to visit Antarctica in the future.”
His latest television series produced in part by Litton Entertainment here in Charleston, is ‘Ocean Treks With Jeff Corwin’, a spinoff of his 2011-16 ABC-TV Saturday morning show ‘Ocean Mysteries’. The new format began in 2016 presents Corwin’s travels around the world to remarkable destinations, showcasing unique underwater worlds to the television viewers. “There is still so much we don’t know about the ocean and sea life. That world still fascinates me.” ‘Ocean Treks’ is sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines. “I get to visit exotic locations and film my experiences. I have the best job ever.”
Although he travels the globe throughout the year he finds time to visit Charleston. In 2015 the South Carolina Aquarium honored him with the Aquarium’s Environmental Stewardship Award. “I love Charleston. I love it for the history and the beauty the city presents. Charleston is home to one of my favorite aquariums and I was honored to receive the award. I especially love what they are doing to help sea turtles and to raise awareness.”
He’s participated in several Southeastern Wildlife Expos (SEWE) and will again in 2019. “I thoroughly enjoy taking part. I love educating and talking to people about my work and about animals.” He admits he looks forward to SEWE but likes to change it up every time. “It’s one of my favorite events to take part in but I don’t do it every year. I usually attend every other year because I want to make it fresh for those attending my shows.”
What can followers of Corwin expect at SEWE this year. “Because I like to keep it fresh I look to bring in new critters you don’t get to see everyday, or even up close and personal. I realize there has to be a bit of excitement and thrill factor to my show. I not only want audience members to have fun and experience a wow factor, I also want them to learn something about the animals I showcasing or about their environment. Teaching others about what I do and what I’m passionate about is very important to me.”
Why is Corwin so adamant about educating the younger generation on wildlife and conservation. “We live in a technology driven world, that gets busier everyday. Social media and the internet are great when it’s used for good, and you can discover a lot about nature and animals on the internet, but if you want to truly experience it you have to start outside. I encourage people of all ages to get out and experience the joys of nature. Take a break from technology and go fishing or climb a tree. Sometimes you have to get dirty to take in all nature has to offer.”
Those who want to experience Jeff Corwin in person can catch him when he’s in town for SEWE, running February 15th-17th. Corwin will host a Live Animal Show on Friday and Saturday at the Gaillard Center. When not acting as a host he likes to take in other exhibits. “I try to catch as much as I can and certainly events that peak my interest. Often I’ll go in un-announced, not to draw attention to myself and just enjoy the event as others do. I am constantly trying to learn something new.”
Those who don’t get to see Corwin up close and personal at this years SEWE can continue to catch his latest show, “Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin’ when it airs on Saturday mornings 9:30am on our local ABC affiliate WCIV. One thing Corwin admits he will try to do during his down time when taking part in SEWE is to visit one of his favorite restaurants. “I love Fig. I love the food and the atmosphere. I plan to make reservations before I come to town.”
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