Marlin Perkins (1905-1986), zoologist, was the director emeritus of the St. Louis Zoo, and best known as the host of the long-running television program Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.
Born the son of a judge in Carthage, Missouri on March 28, 1905, Perkins was interested in animals at an early age, constructing his own zoo - albeit of small animals from his aunt's farm - by age 7. A stint at the University of Missouri (Columbia) ended with his quitting to work as a groundman at the St. Louis Zoo; his love of reptiles resulted in a position to oversea the small reptile collection (six specimens), and his care and future designs for these animals caused him to be promoted to the position of curator within two years. His reputation grew to the point that he was hired as the director of the New York Zoological Gardens (Buffalo) from 1938-1944, and as director of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois from 1944-1962.
It was in Chicago that Perkins became familiar with the growing medium of television. In 1945 Perkins created a show titled Zoo Parade, in which he gave an entertaining story of a particular animal's life, habitat, and other features while displaying the animal live. It became an instant hit in Chicago, then went nationwide in 1949 as the medium expanded rapidly.
In 1962 Perkins became the St. Louis Zoo's second director, and began work on the show that would earn for him four Emmy Awards: Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Retaining the previous style of monologue and display of animals, Perkins added the addition of traveling to the habitats of his subjects to give to the viewing audience the reality of animal life, with additional help from zoologist Jim Fowler. The program itself ran to 1983, viewed weekly in more than 40 countries.
Perkins received honorary degrees from several universities after he retired from directing the St. Louis Zoo in 1970. He died June 14, 1986, in Clayton, Missouri.