News

Into the Wild

Nat Geo WILD host Casey Anderson takes kids on a wildlife adventure in Kinect Nat Geo TV for Xbox 360

September 07, 2012
GRIZZLY CREEK FILMS

Nat Geo WILD host Casey Anderson uses his bond with Brutus the bear to raise awareness about wildlife conservation.

Wildlife expert and naturalist Casey Anderson is the host of America the Wild and Expedition Wild on the Nat Geo Wild channel. Sometimes, Anderson’s best friend Brutus—a grizzly bear that he rescued as a cub—joins him on the show. When Brutus is not helping Anderson teach humans about wildlife conservation, he lives with other bears at Montana Grizzly Encounter. It is a bear sanctuary that Anderson started in Brutus’ honor.

Anderson and Brutus are also the stars of a new interactive TV-game, Kinect Nat Geo TV for Xbox 360, available in stores or through an Xbox 360 live download on September 18. Through eight episodes of Nat Geo WILD TV programs combined with the Kinect for Xbox 360 technology, kids are transported virtually into animal habitats around the world to learn more about how the animals live in the wild. Recently, TFK talked to Anderson about the game and his career working with wild animals like Brutus.

Players become virtual bears in the Kinect Nat Geo TV game

MICROSOFT
Players become virtual bears in the Kinect Nat Geo TV game

TFK:

What did you think when Xbox 360 approached you about doing the Kinect Nat Geo TV game?

ANDERSON:

I was so excited because it’s something I believe in. I feel that with wildlife and conservation education, no one has been thinking outside the box too much. In producing my television show, we always tried to think outside the box. When this opportunity came, it seemed to be the perfect way to infiltrate a media that already exists—and that we knew kids were excited about—and do it in a way that’s educational and fun at the same time. I thought it was innovative.

TFK:

How do you think the game turned out?

ANDERSON:

I think that kids are going to be really excited about it. Kids love my show already, and for them to have the opportunity to actually go on a hike with me and interact with me and learn new things and take their hunger for learning farther to the point of actually immersing themselves in the wild—it’s just really cool technology.

TFK:

What do you hope that the game teaches kids?

ANDERSON:

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Montana, and my dad would take me on hikes. I know that [most] people do not have that opportunity, and this would be the next best thing. I feel it will inspire kids to go from the game out into the wild and learn more. My hope is that kids will want to go to that next level and experience this first hand.

TFK:

What is your favorite part of the game?

ANDERSON:

There are eight episodes, and I would have to say of the episodes, there is one about Kodiaks. In that show, I’m actually trying to teach a bear that I rescued named Brutus how to fish like a wild Kodiak bear, and I think it’s going to teach this very strong lesson about how important the relationships between mother and cubs are in the wild. Kids will see a lot of child-like things coming out of this 800-pound grizzly bear. Then, in the game, [players] actually become that grizzly bear and try to learn how to fish too.

TFK:

Speaking of Brutus, how do you think he feels about costarring in the game?

Available September 18, 2012

MICROSOFT
Available September 18, 2012

ANDERSON:

Well, Brutus, in general, is a bit of a ham, for lack of a better term. He enjoys attention. During the making of it, he got to do a lot of really fun things. Almost all the animals in the game [are] ambassador animals—these are animals that could not be in the wild, so the next best thing is to represent their wild cousins. Brutus loves it so much. He gets to be a bear at the sanctuary 90% of the time, living with other bears, and then he has this other 10% where he gets to do these fun things. We have this trailer that we move him around in. When his trailer pulls up, it’s the equivalent of grabbing the leash for the dog, and the dog sees that leash and jumps up and starts wagging his tail. Brutus feels the same way.

TFK:

How did you met and rescue Brutus?

ANDERSON:

He was born in a wildlife park I was a consultant at. Essentially, they had no room for him at all. They are a little unethical. They basically had a mating program that went to kind of a dead-end street. Brutus actually prompted me to start Montana Grizzly Encounter, which is my sanctuary. He was my first rescue. Off the bat, [because of] his own character and charisma, I could see he was something special. He had this way of connecting with people. The funny thing is, at this point I was relatively anti-captive-wildlife. In a perfect world, I wish they were all in the wild, but I realized also that we don’t live in that perfect world. I could see how we could connect the dots to the wild for people that don’t have the opportunity.

TFK:

You use your bond with Brutus to raise awareness of grizzly bear conservation. What are some of the other threats that they face?

ANDERSON:

The number one threat they face is habitat loss. As the population of grizzlies goes up, there is a need for more habitat for the grizzlies to be healthy. Humans are already taking away their resources, whether it’s actual space or food sources. The other biggest threat to a lot of animals like bears is misinformation about them. There is a good amount of people who have a general fear of bears. They don’t want to go camping because they think bears are going to attack them or eat them, and that’s so far from the truth of their real nature.

TFK:

Brutus is a grizzly bear, and you’ve described yourself as a “grizzly guy.” So what does it mean to be a grizzly?

ANDERSON:

When you think about a grizzly bear, you think of this massive, strong, powerful animal. You think of strength. The truth is, they are very emotional—maybe one of the most emotional animals on the planet. So to be a grizzly, I think that the strength is in the heart.

TFK:

What are some of the things that kids can do to help grizzlies?

ANDERSON:

I think one of the greatest things kids can do is just learn about them and share what they’ve learned with their parents. At the sanctuary, we are open free for schools to come. We teach kids all kinds of great information, and they will go back to their house and start talking to their mom and dad: “We should get a bear proof garbage can, Mom. If a bear comes in the yard and eats garbage, then he’s probably going to be put to sleep, and we don’t want that.”

TFK:

When did you first discover as a kid that you wanted to work with animals for a living?

ANDERSON:

I was always that kid who was so curious about the wild world. It probably started with catching grasshoppers and garden snakes, and then by elementary school I was rescuing porcupines and raccoons. Soon after, the whole neighborhood started bringing me animals because I’d had some success. I even had an orphaned wolf cub when I was in high school. I don’t know if I had a “gift” by any means with animals, but I opened my mind up to animals and concentrated so much on animals that when it came to working with animals as a young adult, I had had a lot of experience that I translated into a career.

TFK:

As a kid, what was your favorite animal?

ANDERSON:

I was pretty fascinated with mountain lions. They are actually featured in this game. They are very difficult and elusive, and I think why I liked them as a kid. I always see their tracks and signs but I never see them.

TFK:

If you could trade places with one animal for a day to see how he lives, what would that be?

ANDERSON:

It would be the wolverine. It’s just this tough, amazing animal that lives in some of the most hostile environments on the entire planet, and it has incredible endurance and tenacity. There’s this peak in Glacier National Park that’s like 11,000 feet, and a wolverine went up and over the top of it in like 15 minutes—that would usually take a human like two days.

TFK:

What can curious kids who love animals do now to get started on a path toward working with animals?

ANDERSON:

I have a little catch phrase I’ve used recently. It’s a little general, but I think it’s very simple. I say, “Dust off the books and get your boots muddy at the same time.” There’s that fine combination of open the books, get on the computer to Google things, play this game, learn more about animals, then go out there and apply it. Everywhere in America—everywhere in the world—there is a piece of wild somewhere, no matter if you live in Hong Kong or the desert of Arizona. It’s learning about something specific in your area, and taking that knowledge and going out and applying it. You have to be safe, you have to be prepared before you go out there, but don’t be afraid.


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