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Marlin Perkins

Marlin Perkins

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Richard Marlin Perkins was a zoologist
Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

 best known as a host of the television program
Television program
A television program , also called television show, is a segment of content which is intended to be broadcast on television. It may be a one-time production or part of a periodically recurring series...

 Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom
Wild Kingdom
Wild Kingdom, sometimes known as Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, is an American television show that features wildlife and nature. It was originally produced from 1963 until 1988, and was revived in 2002...

from 1963 to 1985.

Biography


Marlin Perkins was born on March 28, 1905 in Carthage, Missouri
Carthage, Missouri
Carthage is a city in Jasper County, Missouri, United States. The population was 14,378 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Jasper County and is nicknamed "America's Maple Leaf City."...

, the youngest of three sons of Joseph Dudley Perkins and Mynta Mae (nee Miller) Perkins. He attended public school there through eighth grade. In the fall of 1919, he entered Wentworth Military Academy
Wentworth Military Academy
Wentworth Military Academy and College is a private four-year college preparatory high school and military junior college. It is located in Lexington, Missouri, part of the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Wentworth is the oldest military academy west of the Mississippi River, and the...

. There Perkins demonstrated his fascination with snakes by keeping blue racer snakes in his room. One afternoon, while exercising them on a lawn back of the barracks
Barracks
Barracks are specialised buildings for permanent military accommodation; the word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes. Their main object is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training and esprit de corps. They were sometimes called...

, he was spotted by a faculty officer and got in trouble for handling them.

Perkins briefly attended the University of Missouri
University of Missouri
The University of Missouri System is a state university system providing centralized administration for four universities, a health care system, an extension program, five research and technology parks, and a publishing press. More than 64,000 students are currently enrolled at its four campuses...

, but quit school to become a laborer at the Saint Louis Zoological Park
Saint Louis Zoological Park
The Saint Louis Zoological Park, commonly known as the St. Louis Zoo, is a zoo in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri. It is recognized as a leading zoo in animal management, research, conservation, and education...

. It was the start of a brilliant zoological career. He rose through the ranks, becoming the reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

 curator in 1928. After being hired as a curator of the Buffalo Zoological Park
Buffalo Zoo
Founded in 1875, the Buffalo Zoo located in Buffalo, New York is the third oldest zoo in the United States. Each year, the Buffalo Zoo welcomes approximately 400,000 visitors and is the second largest tourist attraction in Western New York, second only to Niagara Falls...

 in Buffalo
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, Perkins was eventually promoted to director in 1938. He then served as director at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo is a free zoo located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. The zoo was founded in 1868, making it one of the oldest zoos in the nation. The zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums ....

 in Chicago, Illinois, from 1944 until 1962, when he returned to the St. Louis Zoo, this time as director. During his time at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Perkins joined Sir Edmund Hillary
Edmund Hillary
Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, KG, ONZ, KBE , was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and philanthropist. On 29 May 1953 at the age of 33, he and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest – see Timeline of climbing Mount Everest...

 as the zoologist for Hillary's 1960 Himalayan expedition to search for the legendary Yeti
Yeti
The Yeti or Abominable Snowman is an ape-like cryptid said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal, and Tibet. The names Yeti and Meh-Teh are commonly used by the people indigenous to the region, and are part of their history and mythology...

.

Perkins was the host of Zoo Parade, a television program that originated from the Lincoln Park Zoo when he was the director there. During a rehearsal of Zoo Parade, he was bitten by a timber rattlesnake
Crotalus horridus
Crotalus horridus, the timber rattlesnake, is a species of venomous pitviper found in the eastern United States. This is the only rattlesnake species in most of the populous northeastern United States. No subspecies are currently recognized....

, one of several bites from venomous snakes Perkins suffered throughout his career (over the years he was also bitten by a cottonmouth
Agkistrodon piscivorus
Agkistrodon piscivorus is a venomous snake, a species of pit viper, found in the southeastern United States. Adults are large and capable of delivering a painful and potentially fatal bite. When antagonized they will stand their ground by coiling their bodies and displaying their fangs...

 and a Gaboon viper
Bitis gabonica
Bitis gabonica is a venomous viper species found in the rainforests and savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa. This is not only the largest member of the genus Bitis, but also the world's heaviest viperid and it has the longest fangs ,and the highest venom yield of any venomous snake...

). Although the incident occurred during a pre-show rehearsal and was not filmed, it has become something of an urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

, with many people "remembering" seeing Perkins receive the bite on television.

As a result of his work on Zoo Parade Perkins was offered the job in 1963 for which most Americans remember him: host of the famed nature show Wild Kingdom
Wild Kingdom
Wild Kingdom, sometimes known as Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, is an American television show that features wildlife and nature. It was originally produced from 1963 until 1988, and was revived in 2002...

. The enormous fame he gained in his television career allowed Perkins to become an advocate for the protection of endangered species
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

, and through Wild Kingdom he gave many Americans their first exposure to the conservation movement
Conservation movement
The conservation movement, also known as nature conservation, is a political, environmental and a social movement that seeks to protect natural resources including animal, fungus and plant species as well as their habitat for the future....

. Perkins also helped establish The Wild Canid Survival and Research Center
Wild Canid Survival and Research Center
The Wild Canid Survival and Research Center is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving wolves and other wild canids through preservation, breeding, and research. The research area is commonly known as the Wolf Sanctuary...

 (WCSRC) near St. Louis in 1971. This wolf sanctuary has been instrumental in breeding wolves for eventual re-placement in to their natural habitats.

Perkins retired from active zookeeping in 1970 and from Wild Kingdom in 1985 for health reasons. Perkins remained with the Saint Louis Zoo as Director Emeritus until his death on June 14, 1986, when he died of cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

.

Because Walt Disney
Walt Disney
Walter Elias "Walt" Disney was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, entertainer, international icon, and philanthropist, well-known for his influence in the field of entertainment during the 20th century. Along with his brother Roy O...

 had fabricated footage of a mass suicide of lemming
Lemming
Lemmings are small rodents, usually found in or near the Arctic, in tundra biomes. They are subniveal animals, and together with voles and muskrats, they make up the subfamily Arvicolinae , which forms part of the largest mammal radiation by far, the superfamily Muroidea, which also includes rats,...

s in its film White Wilderness, then CBC
CBC News
CBC News is the department within the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the news gathering and production of news programs on CBC television, radio and online services...

 journalist Bob McKeown
Bob McKeown
Robert "Bob" McKeown is an investigative reporter with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has also worked with NBC and CBS. McKeown returned to the CBC in November 2002 to host its investigative programme, the fifth estate, a show which he had hosted from 1981 to 1990...

 asked Marlin Perkins if he had done the same. Perkins, then in his seventies, "firmly asked for the camera to be turned off, then punched a shocked McKeown in the face."

In 1990, Marlin Perkins was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame
St. Louis Walk of Fame
The St. Louis Walk of Fame honors well-known people from St. Louis, Missouri, who made contributions to culture of the United States. All inductees were either born in the Greater St. Louis area or spent their formative or creative years there...

. A statue of Perkins also stands in Central Park in his hometown of Carthage, Missouri.

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