Why Jake's wild about animals

PUBLISHED: 12:02 18 January 2007 | UPDATED: 14:57 12 May 2010

Jake Willers with a Dwarf Caiman Crocodile – one of the residents at Shepreth Wildlife Park - Pic: Daniel Wilson 2125DW2

Jake Willers with a Dwarf Caiman Crocodile - one of the residents at Shepreth Wildlife Park - Pic: Daniel Wilson 2125DW2

TELEVISION wildlife expert Jake Willers has had his fair share of jobs - but he says nothing beats travelling the globe and working with the planet s most fascinating creatures. Jake s career has gone from strength to strength as one of the country s mos

TELEVISION wildlife expert Jake Willers has had his fair share of jobs - but he says nothing beats travelling the globe and working with the planet's most fascinating creatures.

Jake's career has gone from strength to strength as one of the country's most promising wildlife presenters - fronting shows for both the National Geographic Channel and Channel Five.

And after the success of Insects From Hell and Rogue Raiders, Jake has embarked on a new show - Wild Events.

"It's been unbelievable. The shows have been really well received and I'm thoroughly enjoying being part of them," said 35-year-old Jake, who works at Shepreth Wildlife Park, which was created by his father Terry, in 1979.

"Wild Events lets me get up close and personal to some of the world's most fascinating animals."

The first show, which aired two weeks ago, saw the world's biggest wildebeest migration travelling through the Serengeti and Masai Mara.

The series also includes the planet's largest colony of bats, a sardine run, a macaw gathering, and a march of hundreds of crabs.

But Jake said: "From filming, you can see that the weather is affecting the animals in a variety of ways. I believe the reason is global warming.

"The animals will be the first to be affected, and once the animals go - we will be next."

Jake says his dive into a bait ball of sardines off the western coast of Australia was his personal highlight of the series.

He and his team lay in wait for a school of sardines 15km long and 3km wide.

"It was an incredible moment. And at one point we were surrounded by hundreds of dolphins," said Jake.

"Swimming with them was exciting, but at the same time I was very apprehensive, knowing that the dolphins wouldn't be the only ones waiting for their feed - and I was right.

"If there's one thing that I'm scared of, it's sharks. And there were plenty of copperhead and whaler sharks around. They brushed past my legs a few times and it's moments like that, that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end."

Despite growing up at Shepreth Wildlife Park, Jake had never contemplated a career in animal welfare.

It was only until a bout of homesickness and a diving encounter with a shark that his love stirred.

Jake said: "I did think about other paths. It was only when I was travelling Australia that it really hit home.

"I had always had a strong empathy with animals. So I suppose it was the natural thing to do. And I was very fortunate that I had the park to turn to."

Before returning to Shepreth, Jake worked as a chef, built aircraft parts, ran a fruit and veg stall, and even did a stint as a Harley Davidson chauffeur.

Working with dangerous animals is now a regular occurrence for Jake.

He has worked with Brazilian wandering spiders and deathstalker scorpions.

He has also been attacked by a baboon and bitten by an alligator, boa constrictor and huntsman spider.

Jake said: "I never worry about the dangers. I always say that if you understand and have knowledge of whatever you are dealing with, you'll be OK. You've got to expect the risks, they come with the job."

Even so, the death of Australian environmentalist Steve Irwin, who was stung by a stingray, came as a shock.

Jake said: "Steve was one of the most passionate people on the planet and you have to admire all that he did.

"What happened to him hasn't affected the way I think too much, although it has made my family worry a bit more.

"But I would rather die doing a job I love, and I think Steve would have thought the same."

"I'm extremely privileged. I've been given the chance to visit some of the greatest places on earth and get close to its most amazing creatures. I really couldn't think of a better job to do."

- Wild Events is shown on Channel Five on Friday's at 7.30pm. For more information on Shepreth Wildlife Park visit www.sheprethwildlifepark.co.uk

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