Working Together Saving Species

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On July 11, 2016, I made the official announcement I’d been waiting to share for weeks:¬†Partnering with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and Frito Lay for the conservation initiative S.A.F.E (Saving Animals From Extinction). This new venture would take me on an exhilarating press tour in New York. It would also introduce me to new faces, new animals, and new ways to raise awareness about saving wild animals in wild places. Simply put, it was living a dream I’d dreamt since I was a kid.

White Alligator at the Knoxville Zoo.

White Alligator at the Knoxville Zoo.

As a kid, I was obsessed with zoos! Coming from a small town in southern Idaho, zoos were the only place I was able to see animals found throughout the world in one day. And yes, I was “that kid” who would stare at a motionless alligator for hours!

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Three month old Clouded Leopard Cubs “Taylor” and “Decker”.

I’ve never been good at faking anything. If I’m not passionate about something, you won’t hear me talk about it. (Hence why reading off scripts has never been my forte!) When I was approached about teaming up with the AZA and Frito Lay, I could not have been more excited. AZA zoos and aquariums alone, donated over 160 million dollars last year to field conservation. Frito Lay 2-Go variety packs offer a free kids pass, encouraging kids and their families to learn and get excited about wildlife. And the best part: Every time you walk into ANY accredited zoo or aquarium, a portion of your ticket is donated to conservation. There isn’t anything better than that!

Visiting the Columbus Zoo in 2008.

My first visit to the Columbus Zoo in 2008.

I was beyond thrilled to find out the animals I’d be working with, would be coming from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Rated as the #1 zoo in the nation, the Columbus Zoo has become a household name due to famed Jungle Jack Hanna.

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First stop, The TODAY Show! This appearance would mark my first time working with TV legend, Regis Philbin. It was also a dream booking, considering I’d just appeared less than 3 weeks prior.

Backstage with Mrs. Walowitz the 8 month old Red Kangaroo.

Backstage with Mrs. Walowitz the 8 month old Red Kangaroo.

Did you know that newborn kangaroos or “joeys” are the size of a jelly bean!?

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Behind-the-scenes on the set of Studio 1A.

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Never in the history of The TODAY Show, have they ever featured the rare Clouded Leopard. With less than 10,000 left in the wild, along with their reclusive nature, not much is known about their behavior. The majority of what we do know, has come from studying them in zoological settings.

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Pictured with Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford.

Working with TV icons, Regis and Kathie Lee, was a definite highlight of my 13 years in television. Moments like this make all the years of hard work, drive, and tenacity well worth it. It was also my 27th birthday. I would not have spent it any other way!

Family Circle Magazine. (Photo Credit: maggieblattel)

Family Circle Magazine. (Photo Credit: maggieblattel)

Next stop was the offices of Family Circle Magazine. Animals literally took over the conference room, as anxious editors scrambled for their Iphones! The intimate setting was a great way to convey our key messages for S.A.F.E. as well as answer any questions.

Filming at PEOPLE Magazine.

Filming at PEOPLE Magazine with Trout the African Penguin.

The great thing about Facebook Live, is being able to interact with a live audience from around the world. Another memorable moment was being able to work with Trout the Penguin, hands-down one of my favorites. Trout, unlike the other penguins at the zoo, prefers to be with people instead of his own kind. He was the perfect ambassador for his species, which is considered endangered due to pollution and over fishing. A penguin is also one of the animals you can find on specially marked Frito Lay 2-Go variety packs.

You can watch the live segment here: https://www.facebook.com/peoplepets/?fref=ts

Brian and Suzy from The Columbus Zoo.

Brian and Suzy from The Columbus Zoo.

Working with Jack Hanna’s team at the Columbus Zoo was definitely a surreal moment.

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Filming at Little Things LIVE.

The Little Things LIVE interview was a fantastic experience. Using Facebook LIVE we were able to answer questions and help people get involved in participating in SAFE. And as I write, the segment is already at over 103K views, the most watched of any in-studio segment!

You can watch it here: https://www.facebook.com/littlethingscom/videos

Filming at The Wall Street Journal.

Filming at The Wall Street Journal.

There are some things in life you never expect…like filming with leopard cubs at the Wall Street Journal! It was a fantastic way to wrap up a successful press tour in New York.

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And this is what makes it all worth it! THANK YOU everyone for taking the #FL2Go challenge and supporting your local accredited zoo/aquarium. If you haven’t already, pick up a specially marked Frito Lay 2-Go variety pack (look for the animals!), collect your free kids pass, and take a picture. It’s as simple as that.