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'Wild Kingdom' returns to TV to inspire the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Geoff Bennett: After it first debuted on TV more than half-a-century ago, the O.G. nature show is back airing on NBC.

Stephanie Sy has a look at the return of "Wild Kingdom."

Vanessee Lindo, Discovered Eagle: She was standing perfectly still.

Stephanie Sy: It was Fourth of July weekend, when Vanessee Lindo made a surprising and most patriotic discovery, this.

Vanessee Lindo: There's an eagle in the yard.

Stephanie Sy: Lindo of Yakima Nisqually descent thought the eagle's presence was auspicious.

Vanessee Lindo: We believe that the eagle flies highest to the creator, so the eagle takes our prayers to the creator and delivers blessings back to us.

Stephanie Sy: But she soon discovered this eagle couldn't fly.

Vanessee Lindo: When she raised her wing, I could see blood on her, and I knew she wasn't going to leave. She needed help.

Stephanie Sy: Lindo drove the bird in a crate to PAWS, an animal welfare organization north of Seattle.

Vanessee Lindo: I talked to her the entire time. I was saying, I'm going to help you. It's going to be OK.

Stephanie Sy: Her bald eagle encounter is featured in an episode of "Wild Kingdom: Protecting the Wild."

It's a reboot of the original nature show first broadcast 60 years ago.

Marlin Perkins, Former "Wild Kingdom" Host: Welcome to Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom."

Stephanie Sy: Naturalist Marlin Perkins and zoologist Jim Fowler got up close and personal with endangered wildlife, bringing far-flung habitats into Americans' living rooms.

Peter Gros, "Wild Kingdom" Host: It was a template that many other wildlife shows followed.

Stephanie Sy: Peter Gros joined the show in 1985 and returns for the reboot.

Peter Gros: I thought it would be an opportunity for me to be able to affect as many attitudes about conservation as I could and had no idea that I would be standing here with you now hoping to influence attitudes of the next generation about conservation.

Stephanie Sy: The next generation includes his new co-host, wildlife ecologist Rae Wynn-Grant, who was inspired by the original program.

Rae Wynn-Grant, Host, "Wild Kingdom": I used to sit on my grandparents' living room floor and watch these shows, and I would tell my family I want to be a nature show host when I grow up.

Stephanie Sy: Wynn-Grant says filming "Wild Kingdom" has come with some unexpected animal encounters.

Rae Wynn-Grant: I can now say that I have been bit by a bat inside of a bat cave.

Stephanie Sy: The show returns at a time when wildlife is more threatened than ever. Today, an estimated 40 percent of animals are at risk of extinction.

Rae Wynn-Grant: Human development has bisected so much of their habitat. That's the main thing.

Vanessee Lindo: She was right over here.

Stephanie Sy: For now, the crew is focused on stories right in our backyard in the United States, with hopes to highlight wildlife abroad in a future season.

Peter Gros: Now that you have turned off the anesthesia...

Stephanie Sy: Gros wants to educate viewers about what they can do.

Peter Gros: This is such a good example of why people should put stickers on their glass windows to prevent birds from flying into them and getting these serious injuries.

This generation of ours has grown up hearing so much gloom and doom about the state of our natural world. I think the message is, it is not too late, if we all become proactive and see what we can do to participate in conservation, and some of these species will be resilient with our help and can make a comeback.

Stephanie Sy: Take the bald eagle. Once threatened with extinction and protected by the Endangered Species Act, its populations have since recovered and are growing.

Peter Gros: I think the fact that we're now talking about a highly endangered species that almost disappeared that is off the endangered species list now is a great story for us to be telling.

Stephanie Sy: But the story of the eagle Vanessee Lindo found in her yard shows that threats remain.

Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen, PAWS: There was a wound on her left shoulder, and there were metallic fragments, so she had been shot.

Stephanie Sy: Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen Is a wildlife veterinarian at PAWS.

Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen: Where you can see that bright white, that's metal, and these are bone fragments.

Stephanie Sy: Linda couldn't believe it.

Vanessee Lindo: It really made me angry to think about our national bird being shot on Independence Weekend, nonetheless.

Stephanie Sy: According to Dr. Rosenhagen, shootings are all too common.

What would have happened had she not been brought in?

Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen: She wouldn't have been able to survive, right? She can't feed herself. She can't avoid predators or humans, dogs, anything like that. So she probably would have succumbed to the injury.

Stephanie Sy: Rosenhagen and her team were able to treat the wound. They cleaned the gunshot site and removed bone fragments. The eagle's wing was immobilized in a wrap. She was also treated for lead poisoning.

Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen: In almost all cases, they're ingesting it, and so the most common reasons that there's lead ammunition, an animal that comes along, especially like an eagle, they're a scavenger and they're going to ingest that. We're also just seeing it in the soil.

Stephanie Sy: In the months that followed, the eagle did physical therapy. As she recovered, the team studied her flight and stamina.

Dr. Nicki Rosenhagen: We were looking to see, can she fly from the ground to the highest perch? And she finally did that last week.

Stephanie Sy: So, early one recent morning at a park south of Seattle, with "Wild Kingdom" cameras rolling and Lindo on hand to watch.

Rae Wynn-Grant: All right, well, I'm ready. Are you all feeling ready?

Peter Gros: Let's do it.

Stephanie Sy: Wynn-Grant and Gros opened a crate holding the fully rehabilitated bald eagle. This national symbol of freedom soared back into nature.

Vanessee Lindo: It's like my girl is free and she's back where she belongs. So I'm just thrilled. I'm happy.

Stephanie Sy: Gros hopes stories like this spur the next generation of wildlife enthusiasts into action.

Peter Gros: Each person can make a change personally to preserve our natural world.

Stephanie Sy: The threats to wildlife are very real, but the message of "Wild Kingdom" is, there is hope.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy in Seattle.

Geoff Bennett: Such a great story.

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