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Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin Discusses Conservation

After a humorous video featuring outtakes from his television shows, Animal Planet host Jeff Corwin turned to the serious topic of modern day wildlife extinction during a talk at Meredith College on February 25, 2009.

Corwin’s lecture, “Planet in Peril: Environmental Threats of the 21st Century,” explored the challenges of conserving natural habitats and saving endangered species.

According to Corwin, it is estimated that one species is lost every 20 minutes because of what he calls the “perfect storm of extinction” which includes factors such as habitat loss, climate change and the exploitation and degradation of species.

“At my core, I am a naturalist,” Corwin said. “The vehicle I use to tell these stories is television.”

One of his next big projects is an NBC documentary series and book called “100 Heartbeats.”

“The series is about the ultimate club you don’t want to join … being 100 life forms away from extinction,” Corwin said. “There are dozens of creatures that are at the very edge [of extinction] and could go either way,” Corwin said.

Many of the endangered species that get the most attention are those that benefit from what Corwin calls “charismatic creature syndrome."

“People are interested in protecting things we identify with, those that are cute and cuddly,” Corwin said. “Nature doesn’t look at a species as any more worthy than the next … a snake is no less valuable than a sea otter.”

Corwin believes each generation owes it to the next to protect the environment.

“I can’t think of a more profound investment for the next generation than a healthy, pristine environment,” Corwin said.

During his lecture, Corwin offered some contemporary success stories in conservation, including the American Alligator, Bald Eagle and California Condor. Corwin credits the Endangered Species Act for bringing these populations back to more sustainable levels.

“When we focus and prioritize, we can save these species,” Corwin said. “When we save them, we save them not just for them, but for us.”

Corwin, the Emmy-winning host of series including “The Jeff Corwin Experience,” has been working for the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems around the world since he was a teenager. He has Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and anthropology from Bridgewater State College, and an M.S. in wildlife and fisheries conservation from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Corwin’s lecture was part of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Presidential Lecture Series at Meredith College. Through this lecture series, which was established in 2005, Meredith promotes intellectually rigorous discussions that revolve around the College’s annual theme, which for 2008-09 is “Sustaining Our Environment: Developing Our Greenprint.” 

Date Submitted: 2009-02-26

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