FEATURED FELLOW: BRIAN KEATING
Brian Keating has spent his career sparking a love of nature in Canadians through his contagious enthusiasm for wild animals and places. The former head of Conservation Outreach at the Calgary Zoo and recently retired professor of anthropology at the University of Calgary spends much of his time in the most ecologically unique places on the planet for his nature-travel organization Going Wild, and often shares his adventures and conservation messages on CBC Radio and the Discovery Channel. Here, he discusses his early passion for nature, celebrating Canada’s conservation strengths and the upcoming release of a new show.
On finding his lifelong passion
I’ve been at this since I was 12 — that’s when I discovered binoculars and birds. I remember walking through the woods with a garbage pail lid on my head because it was raining. Suddenly, I looked up and maybe two metres away was a summer tanager, one of the most beautiful birds on the planet. The orange feathers looked like they were glowing from within. That bird kick-started me into keeping a wildlife sightings list. I was overwhelmed with awe, and I’ve been out there ever since.
On inspiring new generations of conservationists
There are huge environmental issues looming — I don’t want to soften that — but we also have reasons to celebrate. Celebrating our conservation successes inspires people, it encourages a level of knowledge that evolves into dedication and perhaps even a love of nature. Through years of running hundreds of education programs at the zoo, I’ve seen kids grow up with strong conservation ethics. They are going to be the conservationists of tomorrow. We must have this groundswell to motivate systems to work to ensure future ecological sustainability.
On his upcoming nature show
I’ve been working on a four-part series that’s airing this fall on the National Geographic channel called Going Wild with Brian Keating. Each episode celebrates nature in different parts of the world — including our own Alberta backyard. Now we’re even taking that to the next level, working on getting funding to produce what we call “Nature’s Library,” an online access point to information and inspiration about nature that includes 50 short videos about Canadian wildlife.
Brian Keating in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, one of the African countries in which he leads safaris.