Jim Fowler, naturalist and television personality, presented film clips of his younger days as co-star of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” wrestling elk and giant Andean condors. Fowler told an Albany civic club the greatest challenge of today is reconnecting children with the natural world.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Home-grown naturalist and past television personality Jim Fowler began his Monday address to the Dougherty County Kiwanis Club with a series of jokes and humorous animal stories, and only a few minutes into the talk he had to pause and wait for laughter to subside.
“The challenge today is to reconnect our children with the natural world,” Fowler said. “It’s getting serious, folks.”
No children were present, though, at the meeting room of the Hilton Garden Inn, and so Fowler spent his time reminiscing about his 28-year tenure on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” — most of that as sidekick to show host Marlin Perkins.
“Johnny Carson used to say I got the job because I was the only person dumb enough to do the things Perkins wanted,” Fowler said. “I wasn’t worried, though, because I had Mutual of Omaha insurance.”
Club members were entertained by clip after clip of the now 80-year-old Fowler executing such maneuvers as jumping from a helicopter to “bulldog” Colorado elk — “We could tag about 11 elk a day, many more than using tranquilizer guns”;
Facing off with an angry African bull elephant — “When you see his ears go back like that, you’d better get out of there”;
Diving for a 100-pound alligator snapping turtle and bringing it to the surface — “Those jaws could take off an arm or a leg, but they don’t bite so often when they’re in the water”;
Or snatching a giant Andean condor from its nest in the crevice of a rock face while dangling 200 feet above the ground — “It was hard to keep my mind on wrestling him the way he was trying to bite me with that razor-sharp beak.”
Throughout those hazardous interludes, Perkins seemed to maintain a supervisory role from the safety of a jeep, boat or cliff-top.
At the end of Fowler’s filmed presentation, Chehaw representative Jackie Entz displayed two animals from the zoo: an 8-foot Colombian red tail boa and a kestrel falcon native to the Georgia region. Entz said the boa was abandoned by its owner after growing too large.