Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Marlin Perkins is perhaps one of the most famous zoologists in the world. What is amazing is he did not have a college degree. He was born March 25, 1905 in Carthage, Missouri to Joseph Dudley Perkins and Mynta Mae (née Miller) Perkins. He was the youngest of three sons. From an early age Perkins showed a fascination with wildlife. He attending public school in Carthage until eight grade when he entered Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri. There he got in trouble for keeping snakes in his room. Perkins after graduating Wentworth attended the University of Missouri. He dropped out to take a job at Saint Louis Zoological Park (the Saint Louis Zoo). There he helped maintain the zoo grounds, and gradually worked his way up to curator of reptiles in 1928. He then took a job at the Buffalo Zoological Park in Buffalo, New York where he became director in 1938. From there he went to the Lincoln Zoological Park in Chicago, Illinois where he served as director from 1944 to 1962. He then returned to the Saint Louis Zoo where he served as director until 1970 when he became director emeritus. Most folks know him from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom which aired from 1963 to 1988 in its original run. Perkins was involved with it from its start until 1985 when he retired for health reasons. Wild Kingdom was not his first TV show however. From 1950 to 1957 he hosted Zoo Parade which ran on WNBQ (now WMAQ) in Chicago. The show featured animals from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Perkins would show the animals and tell a little about them. After returning to the Saint Louis Zoo, Perkins worked with producer Don Meier on a new show. That show was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom which premiered January 6, 1963. Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom was one of the first series to show animals in their natural habitat. The show would build a story around the activities of the show's crew's attempts to document animals in the wild. It would then show the animals as they went about their activities leaving out any violence. The show won four Emmys during its run. Perkins due to his fame was able to work on efforts to save endangered species. In 1971 he established the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center which has helped restore wolves to the wild. In 1985, he developed cancer forcing his retirement. He died June 14, 1986 at the age of 81.His body was cremated. A statue of him stands in his home town.