Written by David Shivers
Albany, Ga - Jim Fowler is a strong proponent of educating children and families about the human connection to the natural world. It’s a subject he frequently speaks on in public.
At the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County’s December 3 meeting, however, he noted there were no children in attendance, so he focused on relating some of his experiences as a national wildlife expert and television personality.
At age 80, Fowler has much to look back on. The Albany native co-hosted “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” with Marlin Perkins before become the sole host in 1986. He earned for television Emmys and an endorsement by the National PTA. As an animal expert and TV personality, he was official wildlife correspondent for the “Today Show” on NBC and made more than 40 appearances bringing animals onto “The Tonight Show” opposite host Johnny Carson. Fowler even once appeared on “Seinfeld” playing himself.
But this was all gravy on the meat of Fowler’s educational mission. He traveled the world for almost 30 years with Perkins and “Wild Kingdom”, showcasing various animals in their natural habitat and doing much of the heavy work of capturing creatures. He showed the Kiwanians television film footage of himself and Perkins, with Perkins seemingly mostly supervising as Fowler dived to apprehend a giant snapping turtle; descended a sheer cliff face in South America to pull a giant Andean condor from a crevice; trapped a giant gator in a Louisiana swamp; leaped from a low-flying helicopter to tackle and tag an elk in snowbound northern Colorado; and retreated from an angry and charging bull elephant in Africa.
Fowler said he never worried about the difficult tasks that were demanded of him. “I had Mutual of Omaha insurance,”he added, to the laughter of his audience.
Fowler designed the Wild Animal Park at Albany’s Chehaw to display animals in their natural habitats. He was joined at the club meeting by Jackie Entz, Chehaw’s education coordinator, who circled around the room to give members a close-up view of a small falcon, also known as a kestrel, and an eight-foot red tail boa constrictor.
Fowler is the younger brother of the late Bob Fowler, a much-loved and respected coach and athletics director in the Albany community. Commenting on his brother’s athletic abilities, Fowler quipped, “I taught him everything he knew, of course.”