I've been appearing on "The Today Show" for nearly seven years. During that time, I've been able to work with some incredible animals and share my passion with some of the best anchors and most recognized people in the entertainment industry. When I found out I was going to be working with Tyra Banks, I was elated. Tyra and I could not be more polar opposites. Tyra's a model, fashion icon, and movie star. I'm none of those things. I'm into animals and Tyra...well, not so much. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at my recent TODAY appearance!
Before I leave my humble abode along the Snake River for NYC, there's A LOT of preparation that takes place. Extra diets are made, carnivorous animals are fed (alligators, pythons, snapping turtles), and (in Napoleon the emu's case) one last head scratch before I take off!
Back in 2009 when I was on tour, way before my first appearance on The TODAY Show, I had the opportunity to visit the Essex's County Turtle Back Zoo. I was immediately impressed with the facility, the staff, and animal exhibits. It was great to reconnect and finally team up for a TODAY appearance.
One of my favorite parts of a TODAY appearance is the downtime backstage with the animals. I meet each one individually and get familiar with their personalities. Aurora was definitely a favorite!
Some animals have a mind of their own! Aurora the penguin was not shy. She happily made her way to the green room, stopping everyone in their tracks. It's not everyday you see a penguin!
I'm always on the lookout for unusual, seldom seen animals for my segments. The TODAY Show is a great platform to shine a light on lesser known species like Gus the Tamandua (Even though he smelled like a college dorm room). Can you believe they can emit a secretion 4 X more powerful than a skunk?
When I say animals are taking over the studio, I literally mean it!
I had never previously worked with Tyra so I had no idea what to expect. She was super nice in person but completely terrified of animals (Poor girl had no idea what she was getting herself into!)
Sheinelle Jones and Keir Simmons with Timtam and Mallee the Red-necked Wallabies.
After a little hesitation, we finally convinced Tyra to bottle feed one of the baby wallabies! At 10 months, these wallabies would still be nursing. At 12 months they are completely weaned.
The tamandua's sharp claws help them grip branches throughout the rainforest. They also use them as a defense mechanism against predators like jaguars, margays (smaller jungle cat), and other animals.
The tamandua's elongated snout is perfectly adapted for eating insects like ants, termites, and bees. Their mouth opening is the size of a pencil eraser and they lack teeth. Instead their stomach grinds up the food!
The size of this Eurasian Eagle owl was shocking. At only three month of age this owl is bigger than most species. When fully grown, they will have a wingspan of up to 6 ft and take down animals like foxes and deer.
Luckily, Tyra had NBC corespondent Keir Simmons to hold onto!
The top of the LED screen was the perfect perch! Too bad all this happened after the cameras turned off.
Special thanks to Tyra Banks, Sheinelle Jones, Keir Simmons, and the entire Turtle Back Zoo team!
Until next time....