Monday, August 16, 2010

Frank Buck

In honor of the citizens and police officers of Carmichael, California, who became impromptu zebra wranglers (caution - language) yesterday, meet legendary wild animal collector Frank "Bring 'em back alive" Buck. Buck (1884-1950) began collecting birds and small animals as a child in Gainesville, Texas. Later he went to Brazil and made good money bringing exotic animals to New York, but lost it all in the stock market crash of 1929. His 1st book about his animal collecting adventures became a bestseller in 1930 - by which time he was the world’s leading supplier of wild animals - and was followed by more books, a stint at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and several TV documentaries and feature-length films. He furnished his "Jungleland" attraction - which featured rare birds, reptiles and other wild animals, a trained orangutan, a trio of performing elephants, 600 monkeys, and camel rides - for the 1933 Century of Progress in Chicago and the 1939 World's Fair in New York.

Frank Buck supplied animals to many of the world's zoos and circuses, and the Gainesville Zoo in his hometown is named in his honor. By his own account, he estimated the following captures over his lifetime:
  • 120 Asiatic antelope and deer
  • 100 gibbon apes
  • 90 pythons
  • 63 leopards
  • 60 tigers
  • 60 bears
  • 52 orangutans
  • 49 elephants
  • 40 kangaroos and wallabies
  • 40 wild goats and sheep
  • 25 giant monitor lizards
  • 20 hyenas
  • 20 tapirs
  • 18 African antelope
  • 15 crocodiles
  • 11 camels
  • 10 king cobras
  • 9 pigmy water buffalo
  • 5 Indian rhinoceroses
  • 5 Babirusa wild Asian swine
  • 2 giraffes
In addition to this, he caught more than 500 different species of other mammals and more than 100,000 wild birds. In his day, there were no tranquilizer darts, so Buck devised traps and snares to catch animals without injuring them. He always made certain the captive animals were well-treated, by accompanying them aboard ship and by ensuring his clients had an impeccable reputation for animal care. After their divorce, his 2nd wife Nina C. Boardman, who used to accompany him on jungle expeditions, told reporters, "As long as I live, I don't want to see any animals wilder or bigger than a kitten."

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