The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Jim Fowler

Jim Fowler
of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom

Fowler with UTC graduate students
Fowler discusses aerial photography with UTC graduate students.

Fowler with wildlife officer and organizers
Fowler meets with Wildlife officer and organizers from UTC at the rehabilitation site.

Lupton Funded Project Brings Renowned Naturalist to Chattanooga

Naturalist Jim Fowler, best known as field host of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" and for his appearances on TV talk shows, recently visited UTC to consult with Dr. Robert Keller on the development of a wildlife rehabilitation center and field research station.

The project of the UTC Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences is a partnership with the Tennessee River Gorge Trust and is funded with a $350,000 grant from the Lupton Renaissance Fund. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust is making available a portion of its land for animal rehabilitation and research.

"There are two ways to look at our relationship with animals and ecological parks," said Fowler. "We can either be custodians of animals. We are their keepers. Their care is our responsibility. And we can be rehabbing animals. Bringing them back to health and reintroducing them into nature when possible.

"The ultimate goal is to lead people to make the connection," said Fowler. "They have to care about nature. How we treat this earth is the single most important action we take to affect our social welfare. This planet is an island, and we can't get off of it. Ecological parks and animal rehabilitation centers, where families can come and learn about animals and experience nature, are really a service to humanity in a way that zoos and aquariums can't be because they are artificial environments."

Keller and his students have begun renovation of two facilities. The first will serve as an animal hospital where the public can bring injured animals for immediate care. The second site, which is much more remote and will not be open to the public, will be used to reintroduce animals into the wild and for rehabilitation research.

The facilities are expected to begin operation this fall.

"Working hands-on with animals is such a motivating experience. There's no better way to see what you learn in class brought to life than through field research," said Jim Brinson, a UTC graduate student in environmental sciences who is working on the project.