Nature explores wild parenting in My Life as a Turkey
Wednesday, November 16, 2011 on PBS
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When wildlife artist and naturalist Joe Hutto wants to “talk turkey,” he means it literally. Having spent more than a year as the full-time parent of a clutch of young turkeys, he learned much more than just how to speak their language. What started as an informal science experiment became a very personal, very emotional journey that ended up changing his life in ways he could never have imagined. Based on his true story, Nature’s My Life as a Turkey recreates Hutto’s moving tale of raising wild turkey hatchlings in Florida’s Flatwoods. The film premieres Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 8 p.m.(ET) on PBS (check local listings) and will stream online at pbs.org/nature. DVD of the program and Hutto’s book with illustrations about his experience, Illuminations in the Flatwoods (The Lyon Press) will be released to coincide with the broadcast.
Celebrating its 30th season, Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association withWNET New York Public Media, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations and operator of NJTV. For nearly 50 years,WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local documentaries and other programs for the New York community.
Fred Kaufman, series executive producer, says, “How could a story about raising wild turkeys be so emotional? Joe Hutto’s experience is unlike anything I have seen in 30 years of Nature.”
Already possessing a broad background in the natural sciences, Joe Hutto had a life-long interest in and experience with “imprinting” young animals. Imprinting refers to that first moment of life when some creatures form an instant connection with the individual they forever recognize as their mother. It had long been Hutto’s hope to learn about the secret world of wild turkeys by having young chicks, called poults, imprint on him. When this rare opportunity came, he had no idea what kind of relentless task he was about to commit himself to.
He began speaking with them before they hatched and bonded with them as they emerged from their shells. He lived as a full-time turkey mother of 16 chicks. It was a role he would learn from scratch and leave him caught up in wonder. He could teach them little that they did not already know. It seemed they had much more to teach him. He learned their individual idiosyncrasies and voices, and became especially fond of two he named Sweet Pea, a snuggler, and Turkey Boy, the bold rascal of the bunch.
During their time together, Hutto dutifully cared for his charges around the clock, immersing himself in their world. In the process, they revealed their charming curiosity, survival instincts, and surprising intellect. Life was good. Eventually, things changed. His children grew up, and Hutto had to let them go off on their own. It was harder than he ever imagined.
Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for PBS. Fred Kaufman is executive producer. My Life as a Turkey is a production of Passion Pictures, THIRTEEN and the BBC in association with WNET New York Public Media. Produced by David Allen.
Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers. The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.
Nature has won more than 600 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities, and environmental organizations including 10 Emmys, three Peabodys and the first award given to a television program by the Sierra Club. In October 2010, the series won the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award, given to “an organization or individual that has made a globally significant contribution to wildlife filmmaking, conservation and/or the public’s understanding of the environment.” The award, given by the Wildscreen Festival inBristol,England, is one of the wildlife film industry’s highest honors.
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