I’ve been obsessed with animals for as long as I can remember. I was the kid transfixed by the motionless alligator at the zoo. The kid that had more animal friends than human ones. The kid that always talked about animals to anyone who would listen. Never in my wildest dreams (no pun intended) would I imagine I would grow up to one day work with some of the most incredible animals on earth. On top of that, to have the opportunity to get people excited about them on America’s #1 morning show. In my latest blog, I go over highlights of my recent trip to NYC for The Today Show!
Meet Nandi and her puppy companion, Bowie. Both are residents at the Turtle Back Zoo, where they are apart of the animal ambassador program. Nandi’s mother was not taking proper care of her, so zoo professionals stepped in. Accredited zoos will often raise cheetah cubs with a puppy. They give the cheetah confidence and lifelong companionship.
The numbers are shocking. There are less than 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild. They used to be found all over Africa and Asia. Now, they are found in only 9 % of their original range. Using educational animal ambassadors like Nandi are essential for raising awareness about her wild counterparts.
Words cannot begin to describe what it was like meeting Nandi for the first time. My whole life, I’ve wanted to work with a cheetah ambassador. My first impression: Wow, she reminds me of my dog Zoey. She even has the same dog bed!
Being a true reptile fan at heart, I was just as excited to feature False Gharials on the show. These incredibly rare reptiles had never been featured. Many people (including the anchors) had never heard of such an animal!
Found in Malaysia and Indonesia, these crocodilians are characterized by having an extremely slender snout equipped with up to 84 needle-sharp teeth!
Another fan favorite came to the show! My favorite penguin in the entire world, Aurora. African Penguins are considered endangered and Aurora is part of a very important species survival program. Rumor has it she has a boyfriend…So fingers crossed she’ll lay an egg!
It’s like meeting up with old friends! It was so great to reunite with Jenna Bush and Natalie Morales. Many people ask me how they are in person. They are exactly how they portray themselves on TV; kind, smart, and funny!
To keep Nandi and Bowie comfortable on set, Trainers Andrew and Sam had treats ready to go! Meatballs for Nandi, and dog treats for Bowie (although I think Bowie was eyeing the meatballs).
With all the months of planning and preparation, it was finally show time!
My favorite picture of Nandi during the segment. She was so fascinated with the camera guy, she wouldn’t take her eyes off him! Cubs in general are naturally curious creatures.
Classic first reaction to the unusual False Gharials! This was a milestone moment for me on the show.
I tried to convince Natalie and Jenna to hold one of the 10-month-old babies. Natalie wasn’t having any of it, while Jenna was confident holding my hand with one!
Natalie was all for touching Aurora the penguin!
Check out the full segment below!
Special thanks to my producer Andrew and the whole staff over at The Today Show for always making me feel so comfortable and at home. Thanks to the AMAZING and dedicated staff at the Turtle Back Zoo. You are always a favorite to work with and I look forward to future segments. Last but absolutely not least, THANK YOU to every single one of you who watched the show and followed my journey along the way. Without you watching, there would be no show.
The best way to end a day? Getting a kiss from a sea lion! Until next time….