Matt Wright saves crocodiles. That sentence probably elicits a lot of head scratching. Crocs are generally viewed as the prehistoric apex predator you run from as fast as your feet will allow — not something that needs saving. Well, that’s what makes Wright’s work extraordinary.
It’s easy to start comparing what Matt Wright’s doing for animal conservation in Australia with Oz’s other favorite animal wrangling son, Steve Irwin. It makes sense. Irwin was also a bushman with an insatiable desire to educate people about the scariest beasts on the planet. It’s a noble endeavor that takes a level of grit rarely found these days.
Wright — like Irwin — cares deeply about helping animals and humans coexist without either resorting to killing each other. He’s been able to find a way that sates the consumer market for edible croc meat and saleable leather while nurturing and literally bolstering wild croc populations, instead of decimating them. Crocs were on the verge of extinction only 40 years ago. Now, their numbers are higher than ever. It’s a miracle that education, capital, and hands-on conservation worked together to save the croc: A conservation story we all can learn from.
Wright has parlayed this all into a show called Monster Croc Wrangler. The show’s premise is harrowing: Matty and his mates, Willow and Jono (you gotta love those Aussie names), save people and crocs by catching and moving crocs to safer homes. The show also takes its time to teach us the importance of not taking the easy way out when dealing with animal conservation. It’s about patience and, most importantly, understanding our role in the wild.
We caught up with Wright on his most recent press tour for season three of his hit Nat Geo WILD show and had a quick chat about how Australia succeeded in saving the croc and what lessons the rest of the world can take from that victory.