Stories From The Wild

Jeff Corwin Visits Bridgewater College


Katie Baker

During his lecture at Bridgewater College on Nov. 10, renowned wildlife conservationist Jeff Corwin told many tales from his experiences in the field. Corwin animatedly shared the story of his first wildlife encounter with his beloved Gladys the garter snake, who he is illustrating here.

Sammie Herbst, Staff Writer

Bridgewater Va. – On Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m., Emmy-winning TV host, conservationist and wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin told stories and urged action in a nearly 90-minute program in Cole Hall. The combined in-person and live-streamed audience was approximately 400 people.

President David Bushman opened the event with a trailer for Corwin’s newest show, “Wildlife Nation.

“It’s a part of my biology class with Dr. Bushman to come, but I think that it is a great opportunity to learn more about who Jeff Corwin is,” said junior Abby Fraley. 

Corwin began by introducing his career. His first show, “Going Wild with Jeff Corwin,” was a massive success. In addition, Corwin has written 10 books over his career that has spanned two decades.

Then he moved on to telling the audience about the first time he ever saw a snake. The garter snake, named Gladys, was Corwin’s discovery of wildlife and soon developed a passion. However, after two years of studying Gladys, the snake’s life came to an end when the neighbor shoveled her head off. That was the day Corwin became a conservationist.

One of Corwin’s most memorable times on “Going Wild” was filmed during an episode concerning baboons. During filming, however, a large elephant came charging into the scene and ended up chasing the crew. Piling into their vehicle, they left Corwin alone with the elephant (and the baboons), but ended up being chased themselves. They did go back for him once the elephant lost interest.

Another memorable elephant tale Corwin spoke about was when he and his crew were surrounded for hours by a herd of 40 elephants in Borneo, Africa, without even realizing it. With one cameraman worrying about psychic energy and the other in tears, the rest of the crew was left to their own devices as they were led to the mothers and their calves, who did not take too kindly to them.

A third elephant story was when his crew went to the Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Orphanage in Nairobi City, Kenya to study orphaned elephants. Without a mother, many infant elephants were often sickened from a lack of formula and motherly love. Corwin ended up spooning a baby elephant and calmed him during a nightmare. The baby elephant, curled up with Corwin, caught a lock of his hair with its trunk.

Corwin said that this memory came home when he had a child of his own. After she fell from the couch as a baby, he calmed her, and she also caught a lock of his hair to comfort herself.

Once, Corwin and his crew visited a rare bird in Hawaii. The last of its kind, the caretakers were desperate to find it a mate. A few years later, Corwin received an email that said the bird was no longer endangered, but extinct. The moment he heard that news, it broke his heart. After all, it was humans’ fault the species died out.

Humans allowed the mosquito population to exist on the island when a group of men brought them over out of revenge towards the nuns who refused to let them settle there. Pigs were brought to the island, causing the mosquito population to soar, as well as nonnative diseases.

The evening ended with a question and answer session, which Corwin allowed to go over the normal time limit to answer as many questions as he could. One student asked about his opinion on zoos.

“I look at zoos the same way I look at a dentist. I’d rather not go to a nineteenth century dentist,” said Corwin. He further explained that the same was true about zoos. Modern zoos were often the funders, or even the conservationists, who helped aid wildlife.

Corwin was the final speaker in the fall semester’s Endowed Lecture Series. His visit was sponsored by The Harold H. Hersch Educational Fund.