By Liesl Jackson with Lindsay Taub
Last week, we got a sneak peek at National Geographic WILD‘s new series “Animal Intervention,” premiering tonight at 9 PM. The series follows animal activist Alison Eastwood and animal expert/extreme adventurer Donald Schultz as they travel around the country trying to rescue wild animals that are confined and housed in potentially hazardous environments.
The MC of last week’s premiere screening at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills was Nat Geo Wild’s EVP and GM, Geoff Daniels. There was a lot of excitement in the theater as the show began.
During the premiere episode, the hosts visit a Midwest magician who had some very – shall we say interesting? – ideas on how to care for his collection of big cats. Then the pair were off to Louisiana where a couple was keeping a quartet of Capuchin monkeys in an RV trailer. As a fellow animal lover, there were moments that were difficult to watch as all of these animals were clearly in distress.
But the highlight of the show and the reason that I will watch the series is for the heart and humor of the two hosts. It was difficult not to laugh out loud at the ignorance and stupidity of the owners, while the facial expressions and body language of the hosts says it all in a subtle and graceful way. Alison Eastwood and Donald Schultz approach each of their assignments as calm and collected as possible – as true professionals with open minds – but manage to respond with sarcasm that is subtle and perfectly timed. All it took was an eyebrow raise from Eastwood or a simple smirk from Schultz to make me crack up.
This humorous quality is very important because the main purpose and goal of the show is anything but funny. Even as Eastwood and Schultz have comedic moments, it is clear that they are on a very important mission to rescue these animals and will do anything in their power to save them.
Did you know that there are 18 MILLION exotic animals in capitivity? There are more tigers in private homes than in the wild.
Most notably, they want to raise awareness, both for the general viewing audience and also those featured in the show, who may decide to change their behavior once they see how cruel and unacceptable their choices are on television. Often in situations like the ones highlighted in the show, not much can be done legally to help the animals, nor does government place a priority on such issues that are not on the forefront of most of America’s brain when bigger issues like the economy and healthcare dominate. So it’s up to the individuals to recognize their missteps and do something to change it.
Following the screening, there was a brief Q & A moderated by Bill Keveney, television reporter for USA Today. At first the questions focused on the show itself and then turned into a heated discussion about what can be done to change the USDA and Fish & Game regulations of the containment of wild animals. I couldn’t help but hope that audiences watching at their homes would feel the same way and will take action in protecting these wild animals.
“My hope is that this is a cautionary tale about how and what it takes to care for wild animals properly,” Schultz said. “If you make it illegal, there’s going to be a black market for it, so I’d rather see us do something to educate people about the real issues.”
Check out “Animal Intervention” on Nat Geo WILD, 9 PM, premiering tonight! Watch the trailer below.
Want to get involved or donate to help? It can be tricky to know whether or not your money and efforts are going to one of the “good” ones. Here are Donald Schultz’s suggestions for four organizations or sanctuaries that he knows and trusts:
National Tiger Sanctuary
African Wildlife Foundation
Shark Research Institute
Liesl Jackson is a writer/actress/comedian/pet sitter living in the heart of Hollywood. She loves the arts, animals, volunteering, traveling, and attempting to learn the acoustic guitar. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @SillyLiesl and follow The Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch.