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July 9, 2008
She lives among exotic animals.
Film crews from Animal Planet spent more than three months documenting the training of three interns at PAWS wildlife sanctuaries in Galt, San Andreas and Herald. The result is the series "My New Wild Life," airing this month on Animal Planet.
Check local listings for the schedule, or go to www.animal.discovery.com and search for the name of the show.
The series traces the interns as they care for elephants, tigers and other creatures under the supervision of PAWS founder Derby and her partner, Ed Stewart. The work is dirty and backbreaking, and the footage is not always pretty, Derby said.
"Unlike a lot of TV shows that just want to portray baby animals and cutesy stuff, this is real," she said. The series explores, among other issues, alleged abuses of animals before they arrived at PAWS, mistreatment of exotic creatures by trainers, and captive breeding.
While the show's focus is on the three interns, Derby and Stewart are cast as the "Donald Trumps" of the sanctuary, evaluating interns on camera about their skills as keepers.
"Overall, they were very good," Derby said of her charges. "I was impressed by them."
PAWS has a long history of training students from throughout the country who are pursuing careers in exotic animal care. A few remain in the field, but many others discover that it's less glamorous than they anticipated.
"Many are called," Derby said, "but few are chosen."
Derby and Stewart welcomed the Animal Planet crews, but their presence complicated life a bit.
"We always work seven days a week, and our days are always full, but we worked really, really long hours while Animal Planet was here," she said. The pair was sworn to secrecy about the project until it began airing.
Derby has seen the first two episodes and said she is impressed.
"It really is a good show," she said. "It's raising public awareness about these issues, and that is always our goal. It's rare to get this kind of opportunity, so we are grateful."
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