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Interview with Alison Eastwood & Billy McNamara of Nat Geo Wild’s ‘Animal Intervention’
By Jordan Schaul | National Geographic | November 1, 2012
Contributing Editor Dr. Jordan Schaul and the legendary Barbi Twins interview actors/producers Billy McNamara and Alison Eastwood about their new show—Animal Intervention—a featured program on Nat Geo Wild.
Playing opposite the likes of Sigourney Weaver and Gabriel Byrne, William “Billy” McNamara is credited with 65 TV and film appearances. The celebrated actor was formerly trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and has most recently jumped behind the camera to follow his passion as an animal activist. He was featured in the first episode and is an Executive Producer of Animal Intervention—a new series on Nat Geo WILD starring Alison Eastwood, who is also an Executive Producer on the show.
Alison is Clint’s daughter. She has been in front of the camera since the early age of 6. Alison has received 24 film credits to her name and like Billy, continues to do work in front of and behind the camera on behalf of animals as another veteran of Hollywood and as an ardent supporter of animal causes.
Their new show—Animal Intervention—premiered earlier this month on the National Geographic Channel. The Barbi Twins and I interviewed both Billy and Alison about their new show.
Interview with Billy McNamara:
Barbi Twins: How do you describe your show Animal Intervention and your role in the show and behind the scenes. What audience/demographics are you aiming for or will this interest you?
Billy: AI will bring much-needed attention to the ongoing pervasive issue of extreme animal cruelty throughout the US. AI focuses on the exotic animal problem which I bet the majority of Americans have no idea as to its prevalence. Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Primates are living in your neighbor’s backyard or basement, or garage. People are hoarding large and dangerous exotic animals! I think that the show’s demographic appeals to a large audience in that there are so many people fascinated by these exotic animals and there is an equal number of people who are fascinated by the people who think it’s normal to have a 500 pound Bengal Tiger living with their children.
Barbi Twins: Both of you have a Hollywood background and experience in animal rescue, how has your experience helped you with exotic rescue and how is exotic rescue different from companion animal rescue?
Billy: I think my experience in Hollywood as an actor has helped me tremendously because it has given me the ability to talk my way into situations that could be considered abnormal for a “civilian” and talk my way out of some very dangerous situations
Exotic rescue and companion animal rescue are essentially the same thing. Whether we are rescuing chickens or dogs or Bengal tigers, they are living beings who typically don’t have a voice. We are saving lives. Period. To me, life is a life. To me, I see the eyes, which could be the eyes of a child or an elephant or a dolphin.
Jordan: Animal Intervention is a true reality show with real wild animal rescue efforts being filmed. What dangers did you face? Can you provide any examples?
Billy: The biggest danger that I encountered was the producers.
Barbi Twins: How do you find these facilities where animals are in need of rescue?
Billy: I’ve been doing rescue for a long time from dolphins in Taiji with Sea Shepherd in 2003 to Bengal tigers locked in a meth lab in Caddo Mills, TX in 2011. Usually, these things find me… I’m never really looking for these rescues… In fact, I think of myself as the accidental activist. I just fall into these situations…
Barbi Twins: We all know a lot about neglect and abuse of companion animals, but how common are these concerns with captive wildlife. What do you recommend if someone knows of a case of animal cruelty with exotic animals?
Billy: There is so much neglect and abuse of captive wild animals; it is so easy to neglect and abuse these animals. First of all, they are big and sometimes very dangerous so they tend to be locked up tight in small cages. The owners can’t ever let them out to run around. It’s too dangerous. And it’s easy for a captive animal to become malnourished. It is very expensive to feed them and they require very specific diets and it’s hard to find a commercial tiger food at 7-11. I have found people feeding lion cubs and bear cubs dog food!
Barbi Twins: What message are you hoping for Animal Intervention will give to your audience.
Billy: Two things, please turn animal abusers in. People knew about the guy in Ohio, who released his animals and committed suicide. His neighbors knew he was unstable but they were afraid of him so no one complained! And secondly, don’t purchase exotic animals in parking lots or on the internet! Don’t purchase exotic animals, period. Support the federal ban on private ownership of exotic animals.
Interview with Alison Eastwood:
Barbi Twins: How would you describe your show—Animal Intervention— and your role in the show and behind the scenes. What audience/demographics are you aiming for or will this interest you?
Alison: Animal Intervention is a show where my co-hosts, Donald Shultz and Billy McNamara, and I, visit people in the U.S. who have exotic animals. There’s usually a controversy or issue with the animals and we see if we can be helpful to the animals and their owners. I’m hoping anyone who loves or is interested in animals will watch the show.
Barbi Twins: Both of you have a Hollywood background and experience in animal rescue. How has your experience helped you with exotic animal rescue and how is exotic rescue different from companion animal rescue?
Alison: I’m quite new to exotic animal rescue so I’ve been learning as I go along, but I’m thankful to have more experienced co-hosts in Donald and Billy. The difference between exotic rescue and domestic is the level of danger involved with the animals and the fact that a lot of people are more afraid to ask for help because owning exotics is unusual and frowned upon.
Jordan: Animal Intervention is a true reality show, with real wild animal rescues. What dangers did you face? Can you provide examples?
Alison: I definitely had some scary moments with big cats being housed in poorly constructed cages. I almost had my ankle taken off when a tiger pushed his paw under a weak fence and almost grabbed me.
Barbi Twins: How do you find these facilities where animals are in need of rescue?
Alison: As I said, a lot of these people have controversy or negative issues surrounding their animals so using USDA reports and animal organizations’ tips have been very helpful.
Barbi Twins: What messages are you hoping Animal Intervention will convey to your audience. We’re hoping to raise awareness of the plight of exotic animals in captivity. I definitely want people to see that owning exotic animals as pets is not a good idea.
Note: There are many privately owned facilities that do an exemplary job of caring for animals. I have worked for some and with many. Please keep in mind that although some owners of dangerous and ‘exotic’ animals do need to be assisted or require that someone intervenes on behalf of the voiceless, there are others that could teach us a thing or two about animal husbandry.
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MEET THE AUTHOR
Jordan Carlton SchaulWith training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine, and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife, as well as conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska (As Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (As executive consultant 'in-residence' at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition, he was an ex officio member of the council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management.