“Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” is back and filming in Orlando for its new series “Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild” to bring light to conservation efforts and highlight animals showing signs of success. What’s coral-er than that?
Peter Gros, host of the original “Wild Kingdom” and conservationist with over 30 years of field experience, hopes that this series will help the new generation become committed to conservation and the protection of the natural world.
“Wild Kingdom” will film at the Florida Coral Rescue Center, a facility with the largest collection of coral reefs in the country. The center fights coral reef loss by providing homes for corals that otherwise might be lost due to disease and encouraging those corals to reproduce to repopulate the reef in the future.
Florida Reef Tract
Stony coral tissue loss disease is running rampant down in the Florida Reef tract, which is about 360 miles worth of reef. It affects 22 of the 45 coral species out on the reef. In response to the spread of disease, it was determined by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, that it was best to keep these corals safe.
As a response to the call from state and federal agencies to bring these corals into safekeeping, the Florida Coral Rescue Center was born and now houses over 700 coral colonies, according to Jim Kinsler, manager at the Florida Coral Rescue Center.
“About 25% of the animals out in the ocean spend at least some part of their life on the reef, its nursery habitat and its living habitat for all kinds of different invertebrate species as well,” Kinsler says. “With the Florida Reef tract, we’re talking about 360 miles of reef, which effectively protects the Florida coastline from storm surge and other storm activity. So it has a real role not only for the marine environment itself but also the terrestrial environment.”
The reefs have a significant economic impact as well— the reefs are an $8.5 billion dollar engine for the revenue of the state of Florida, Beth Firchau, Florida Reef Tract Rescue Project Coordinator at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) says..
Firchau hopes that “Wild Kingdom” will not only inspire the next generation but teach that while conservation seems like a big issue, when you work together anything is possible.
“Coral polyps are our little animals that live together and create these giant reefs. They got it right millions of years ago, you know, when you work together, you can make a huge impact,” Firchau said. “And that’s really what we’re hoping to have come out of this partnership with ‘Wild Kingdom.’”
While watching “Wild Kingdom” will help to educate viewers on successful conservation projects and the people working hard to keep our wildlife safe, the experts also call for people to physically become immersed in nature. This can be done by attending an AZA-accredited zoo and learning about the animals up close and personal. Gros says that it’s imperative to get young people involved as well since the future of our planet is in their hands.
“Our efforts are all about hope,” Firchau says. “And at a time when things don’t always seem as bright as they could be, we hope that our story and our program is something that inspires people and gives people hope that we can make a difference.”