Canadian Geographic - - YOUR SOCIETY - —In­ter­view by Ma­rina Wang

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.

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