There's no doubt about it. The opportunity to work with zoo animals is awesome! But as any pet owner knows, traveling with animals can be a headache. Especially when the animals are babies and the trip is 2,000 miles each way!
So when our friend and colleague Jack Hanna asked us to help him with a recent appearance on CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman, I was a bit uncertain we could accept his invitation. That is, until I called our friends at Southwest Airlines.
From the moment we presented the challenge—getting two Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium zookeepers and four baby small clawed otters from Phoenix to the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York City and back again—the people at Southwest Airlines were fantastic.
The ground crews in Phoenix and Newark were great. They helped us by alerting security and escorting us through TSA checkpoints. And speaking of TSA, they could not have been more helpful. As you can imagine, we do our best to prepare all of our animal ambassadors for the new sights and sounds they may experience during any trip by taking our time and giving them positive reinforcement for a job well done. For otters, this usually is in the form of their favorite food—raw shrimp!
So it sure does help us, and more importantly, the animals, when airline and TSA personnel patiently give us the time to get animals calmly and successfully through screening as they did in Phoenix and Newark. We also appreciated the patience of fellow travelers, too!
Of course, it's not every day you see an otter in an airport, so it was fun to share the experience with some Southwest passengers and crew members waiting at our gate. And I have to say, outbound pilot, Captain Abel, had the best tie ever. He seemed really pleased to have special passengers onboard as he announced their presence to the rest of the passengers while describing our flight plan over the plane's intercom.
The segment on the Late Show went off as expected. Lots of oohs and ahhhs at the sight of cute otter faces as they munched on more fresh shrimp! Though I doubt most people in attendance or viewing at home could have imagined just how many hours of preparation by so many people made those few minutes of TV time possible.
Thank you, Southwest Airlines. We hope to see you on the next trip!