Jim Fowler, who hosted “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” for years and was a fixture on talk shows with his appearances with wild animals, has died.
The New York Times reports that Fowler died Wednesday at his home in the village of Rowayton in Norwalk, Conn.
Fowler reportedly died of complications from heart ailments. He was 89.
Fowler partnered with zoologist Marlin Perkins to introduce generations of television viewers to wild animals in their natural habitats on “Wild Kingdom,” which premiered on NBC in January 1963. The Times notes that at the time “seeing elephants, cougars and other exotic beasts on television was still a novelty.”
“Mr. Fowler, a naturalist, had been working with birds of prey, and Mr. Perkins had seen him on the ‘Today’ show exhibiting an imposing harpy eagle, a bird native to the Central and South American rain forests. He invited Mr. Fowler to join him on ‘Wild Kingdom,'” The Times reports.
“Mr. Perkins, 25 years older than Mr. Fowler, was the host, and Mr. Fowler was his sidekick, often doing the bulk of the work — or so it seemed to viewers of early single-camera episodes,” The Times reports. “But that had actually not been the case, Mr. Fowler said in a 2015 interview with Connecticut Magazine.”
Fowler is quoted saying in the interview: “Marlin was just as active, but the camera cutting back and forth between us gave viewers a false impression. Once we had more cameras, it looked better.”
Here’s an appearance by Fowler with Johnny Carson on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” from June 23, 1983 …