6 of the Most Inspiring Wildlife Heroes

We're saluting some of the best wildlife advocates from throughout the years.

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With the undeniably adorable series Meet The Penguins currently airing on Animal Planet, we’ve teamed up with Sea Life to allow our viewers to become honourary Animal Planet Rangers. In this spirit of conservation, let’s salute the best wildlife advocates from throughout the years, and look at their long-lasting impact on this planet we all bounce around on.

Sir David Attenborough

There’s a reason that Attenborough has a ‘Sir’ in front of his name, and it’s not entirely because his golden voice seems to command such a lofty title. No, it’s due to his groundbreaking work in bringing the urgency of wildlife conservation to a mass audience, as well as his work as president of the Butterfly Conservation. Between the gorgeous ‘Planet Earth’ series and the groundbreaking ‘Life’, Attenborough has arguably done more to further the plight of conversation and showcase the immense, fragile beauty of our ecosystem than any living human.

Jane Goodall

Goodall put a very public face to the unmistakable primal bond between humans and chimpanzees with her groundbreaking studies in the field. She has lived with, and studied, the creatures for over half a century, being the first to discover that chimps can construct tools, and to debunk the commonly-held belief that they are strict vegetarians. She has further personalised the creatures by refusing to use numbers to identify them in her studies, choosing names such as Goliath, Flo, and Frodo when referring to her case subjects.

Her books have sold in the millions, she constantly appears on TV, the Jane Goodall Institute is the global leader in the protection of chimps and their habitats, and she has recently partnered with Australia’s ‘Voiceless’ organisation to help stamp out factory farming. What a renegade!

Jacques Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau blended his love for film-making, photography, and invention with his deep passion for ocean conservation, and managed to create an experimental, educational masterpiece. His 1956 documentary The Silent World introduced the wonders of the deep sea to the wider world for the first time, with vivid footage helping kickstart conservational efforts in the deep blue, despite the documentary itself being less-than-careful when it came to its own trail of accident environmental damage. Cousteau became further involved in conservation in his later years, fighting commercial whaling, and being referred to as the “father of the environmental movement” by no less a figure than TV tycoon Ted Turner.

Steve Irwin

Crikey! Australia had a fantastic wildlife ambassador in Steve Irwin, the always enthusiastic Crocodile Hunter who infused children and adults alike with a passion for conservation. It helped that he made it look like an exciting adventure: part Jackass, part living Attenborough doco. It also helped that Americans loved the energetic Aussie. Irwin was more than a TV star, though, launching the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation, Iron Bark Station Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility, International Crocodile Rescue, and the Lyn Irwin Memorial Fund during his short life. He was taken too soon, but his great work and shining legacy live on through his wife and children, who have taken on the family business.

Marlin Perkins

Marlin Perkins is the O.G. of nature programming, hosting the groundbreaking Wild Kingdom from its inception in 1963 until he retired for health reasons in 1985. The program introduced many Americans to the idea and importance of protecting wildlife, and his day job as director of the Lincoln Park Zoo gave him credentials.

In the ‘early ’70s he founded the Wild Canid Survival and Research Centre to help with the protection of wolves. Happily, Wild Kingdom was revived in 2002, giving yet another generation the chance to learn about our fragile planet through the program.

Jack Hanna

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From 1993 until 2008, zookeeper Jack Hanna was the face of exotic animal adventures through his program Jack Hanna’s Into The Wild, which was a huge hit with younger audiences. Hanna quickly became the official wildlife correspondent for everyone from David Letterman to Larry King to Ellen. Hanna’s programming has a heavy conservation lean without seeming preachy, which is no doubt the secret to his last-longing screen success. He launched Jack Hanna’s Heroes to further his conservation work, and can currently be seen on the more lighthearted Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown.

Want to meet the penguins and be an Animal Planet Ranger these school holidays? You can do just that at Sea Life Aquariums around Australia and New Zealand, and Wild Life Sydney Zoo. Buy tickets here!

– Posted by Nathan Jolly